Sweden is home to more than just a few prominent development companies in the video game industry, including Mojang, DICE and Avalance Studios. Now the country's video game trade organization, Dataspelsbranchen, is pursuing a project to collaborate with Swedish game developers to look into how games made in Sweden portray female characters and the gender roles and issues associated with these characters, according to Gamespot. One facet of this project is a topic of discussion currently being mulled over by gaming big wigs there: Should games promoting gender equality be given a label promoting that fact?
"I do not know of any other project in the world asking this question and of course we want Sweden to be a beacon in this area," said project manager Anton Albiin in an interview with The Local.
While Albiin is not yet sure if all games should come with a label, he is convinced this project's outcome will not be a damper on creative measures studios can take to sell but games and promote diversity and equality. "Of course games can be about fantasy, but they can be so much more than this," he told The Local. "They can also be a form of cultural expression – reflecting society or the society we are hoping for. Games can help us to create more diverse workspaces and can even change the way we think about things."
If video games can promote gender equality – like, say, a woman protagonist who can kick more butt than the a male protagonist – without damaging the appeal to gamers across the genre spectrum on a worldwide scale, then Sweden's attempt to shift toward gender equality gaming could lead to the next big movement in gaming history.
DICE was the developer of the action adventure game "Mirror's Edge," which features a strong female lead in the form of Runner Faith Connors. The game largely received positive reviews, particularly the PC version, which garnered an aggregated score of 81 percent from Metacritic.
The International Game Developers Association recently submitted a report indicating that while the number of women game developers has nearly doubled since 2009, the number is still at a rather small 22 percent, opposed to the 76 percent taken up by men, according to Gamespot.
EA Studios' Patrick Soderland said in July that he believes the reason there are so few major games with female protagonists is that men predominately make these games, which, in a way, reflects the numbers provided by the IGDA. Some of the biggest game development projects, such as "Assassin's Creed," "Modern Warfare," "World of Warcraft," etc., are typically manned by men, so their first inclination may well be to implant a strong male lead. They are likely not considering the issue of gender inequality associated with the game's content – as well as fan perception – in time to implement an female counterpart before the point-of-no-return in development is reached.
This issue comes at a very sensitive point in the video gaming industry's development on a global scale. There was the recent controversy over "Assassin's Creed Unity's" lack of female playable characters in co-op play. Ubisoft Technical Director James Therien claimed that female characters were intended for "Unity" but ultimately had to be cut from the game "because it would have doubled the work," according to an interview with Video Gamer in June.
Also worth mentioning is the recent incident when Anita Sarkeesian, creator of Feminist Frequency, was forced from her home this past August after much online abuse and repeated death threats.