It might be 2020, but as far as some developers are concerned apparently we’re apparently still very much living in the early 1990s.
You’ve probably heard of Escape From Tarkov, as the online RPG/loot shooter has seen a huge surge in popularity in recent weeks, which is great! It’s a genuinely interesting game.
The problem, unfortunately, is that the super-realistic military survival sim doesn’t actually give you the option to play as a female character. This, despite multiple requests from the community to offer such an option. That in itself is pretty poor form obviously, but Escape From Tarkov studio Battlestate Games only made things worse when it offered two particularly rubbish excuses for why there are no female playable characters in the game.
The first excuse came from the Russian-based developer on Twitter. They explained that female characters can’t be included in Escape From Tarkov “because of game lore”. Just to be clear, despite being a fairly realistic game, Escape From Tarkov is entirely fictional. From the fictional region it’s based in, to the armed conflict between the fictional private militias. It’s made up! You can do what you like, Battlestate! I don’t think including a woman or two would exactly break the narrative of the game.
The second reason is an all-too familiar one. Battlestate wrote that there would be no playable female characters because of “the huge amount of work needed with animations, gear fitting etc”. This led to much rolling of eyes and scratching of heads, especially because Battlestate had literally just established that it could animate female NPCs for quests and trading and such.
Now, I’m not a developer, but the female form isn’t that different to that of a human male, is it? Last time I checked, women don’t have ten eyes and giant bat wings sprouting from their ankles. They don’t have intricate Roman mosaics for hands and flowing columns of water for legs. To say animating a female character is a “huge” amount of work has to be a bit of an exaggeration, no?
I mean, I don’t know. I could be wrong. I do know that Twitter didn’t take too kindly to these excuses though, as you can see for yourself below.
It’s unclear whether or not Battlestate will ever decide to add playable female characters to Escape From Tarkov, but I doubt it. Especially given the fact that there are plenty of players defending the studio’s decision. They argue that it’s a world of Battlestate’s creation, so to concede and introduce playable female characters would be at the expense of the studio’s artistic vision. Uh huh.
Whatever the case, the criticism Battlestate received – and the naff excuses it dished out in response – are hardly original. Back in 2014, Ubisoft came under heavy fire from fans when creative director Alexandre Amancio infamously said Assassin’s Creed Unity wouldn’t feature female characters in its co-op mode because of “all the extra production work”.
Former Ubisoft animator Jonathan Cooper was quick to wade into the fray, arguing it would have taken a “day or two’s work” to add playable female character models. The ensuing backlash to Amancio’s initial comments seemed to put developers off wheeling out such excuses when it came to female characters.
Franchises like Gears of War and Assassin’s Creed have since gone on to include playable female leads, in some of the best instalments of their respective franchises. Newer titles like Horizon Zero Dawn have also managed it – seemingly without completely derailing development. Funny, that.