Gears of War packs more machismo into its little finger than the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger pack into their ridiculously inflated torsos, but according to Epic’s art director Chris Perna, the franchise is a hit nonetheless with female players, who regard its female characters as “empowering”.
“In Gears you kind of need dirt,” Perna explained to OXM in a Gears of War: Judgment interview – read all about it in our next issue, which hits shelves this Friday, 15th February. “If you want to create this attractive, stereotypical, sexy female – a lot of games do that and it’s kind of cliché at this point.
“You see the implants and the blonde hair and pants and you roll your eyes – it’s almost like the game geek’s idealisation of what a woman should be. I think because we didn’t go that route we have more believability… we’ve got more butch characters.
“They’re still feminine,” he went on. “Anya in Gears 3 comes across as being very feminine, and I think it works.”
Perna discussed positive reactions to these portrayals from female fans at Gears of War cosplay events. “They feel empowered,” he said. “They put on that armour and they walk around with these massive weapons and I think they get a kick out of it – I get a kick out of seeing it.
“From what we’ve heard, when they play the game they feel empowered and they feel good. Some of the feedback I’ve heard from women that I talk to is that if we’d made these women more feminine and more stereotypical it wouldn’t have been so nice.”
Gears of War 3 introduced playable female characters to the series for the first time, in the form of the aforesaid Anya and newcomer Samantha Byrne (other female PCs have been added via multiplayer DLC). Given this move, I asked, is it possible a future Gears game could feature a lady in the starring role?
Alas, it seems the market might have issues with this. “That’s certainly interesting but I don’t know,” Perna mused. “If you look at what sells, it’s tough to justify something like that.”
Judgment introduces Sofia Hendricks as Kilo Squad’s medic. According to a GameInformer bio, “she joined the fight against the Locust after being exposed to the horrors of war as a media correspondent towards the end of the decades-long Pendulum Wars. Having seen terrible things during battle, she sets out to ensure that war is properly waged, and that ethics must not be sacrificed for victory.”
Thoughts? For more on the new Gears of War, peruse this immense single and multiplayer hands-on, and don’t forget our new issue, out on Friday. (Incidentally, the shot above is the work of Gears comicbook artist and all-round comicbook legend Jim Lee.)