Saturday, 17 August 2013

The only limitation has been in your mind

A few days ago, Infinity Ward announced that the upcoming Call Of Duty: Ghosts would provide an option for players to inhabit the online mode of the game either male or female characters. Finally! About 14% of US Army personnel are women, and women are further underrepresented in Xbox and PlayStation users at 10%, and Infinite Ward has joined the ranks of enlightened game publishers, like BioWare, who recognise that they ought to reach out to all their customer demographics, not just the biggest one, because it's the right thing to do, even if they are a bit late to the party (2013, guys).


I want to believe that, really I do. The only problem is that producer Mark Rubin has gone on record explaining that the reason that CoD has never before offered women as playable characters was a technical limitation in the engine. Memory and processing requirements have, until now, been far too significant to provide players with the option of using multiple meshes in online play.

I might be able to believe that, if this were, I don't know... 1996. If I'd never played Quake 3 Arena on a sub-1-GHz system, which comes stock with a wide variety of meshes, and provdes players with the option of installing their own meshes, which would be seen by all players in the arena, all over the world. If I didn't own a copy of Halo 2, which allows players to appear on Xbox Live as either a Spartan or a Covenant Elite. If there wasn't a wealth of evidence supporting the fact that the technology has been out there to do exactly that for almost two decades.

Mark, if your engine can't handle showing characters with two different meshes in this day and age, on modern hardware, you are simply using the wrong engine, or you are abhorrently misusing it. But I find that hard to believe; if your engine was as shitty as it would have to be for your excuse to be realistic, then the Call of Duty franchise wouldn't be remotely as popular as it is.

Just admit it, Infinity Ward. You haven't offered women as playable characters because you didn't consider them a sufficient demographic to justify the expense of creating a second mesh (which, incidentally, would have been... What? 10K? 20? And what's your budget on these games?). You'll feel better, because you can also admit that you've been doing the wrong thing, and you want to make it up to the devoted women who play your games. That you want to encourage more women to play your games (because why wouldn't you? At 51% of the population, it's a huge market). That women deserve a hell of a lot better than the shit they receive from both the gaming industry and community, each and every day they play the games they love to play.

Anything other than the most bullshit copout to (dis)grace my screen in the last several months.

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