Brink Screenshot

So, a while ago I blogged about Crackdown 2 and how players don't have the ability to have a female avatar. In today's scene, the developers' claims of technical limitations preventing them from including a non-male choice didn't ring true with me, and I was quite disappointed to hear that no efforts were being made to include female models. Still, even though the line about tech limits was their story and they were sticking to it, after getting hit by some of the feedback, they hinted that female characters might be available as DLC later on down the road.

Since most games that feature player customization give people the basic choice between male/female characters as a matter of course, I figured that Crackdown's mono-gendered approach was going to be the oddball exception; a one-off thing, or a blip on the radar that would quickly fade away. Unbelievably, that's not so.

Enter Brink.

A team-based shooter developed by Splash Damage and published by Bethesda, it was recently revealed that Brink has no options for female avatars despite one of its main features being incredibly deep avatar customization. Everything from race to body type to clothing, from the videos I've seen and the interviews I've read, it seems as though there are an absurd number of options for players… except being a female.

Interestingly, Splash Damage CEO Paul Wedgewood has given speeches where he's publicly stated that one of the most important things is to be "AAA" in whatever you do. That's certainly a philosophy I can get behind, although I must admit that I'm having a little bit of trouble reconciling the concept that female characters aren't a part of AAA-level presentation.

So what's behind all this? Did Splash Damage think that no female players were going to be interested in their game, so why bother including them? Was it unthinkable to the devs that male players might want to choose a female avatar? Are they somehow biased against females, or perhaps even incapable of properly rendering female 3D models?

Doing a quick search of the Splash Damage message boards, a few of the threads feature "official" responses which basically state that the developers (allegedly) had a choice between having in-depth customization options for male characters, or having less options for both male and female. In the circumstance described, female avatars got the ax.

Now I can certainly understand the realities of operating under a budget and the drive to turn out the best product possible, but I have to admit that there's something very disturbing to me about having a choice between fifty different pieces of upper torso clothing or including an entire gender, and then deciding to go with the clothing. What does such a decision say about the attitude of Brink's developers, and the studio itself? What message will be taken away by female players who check out the game only to discover that they haven't been given any representation? Not including female avatar options might have seemed like nothing more than a practical choice to Splash Damage, but taking a look at the bigger societal picture and the changing face of today's gaming constituency, it's pretty clear to me that more that should've been taken into account.

Inclusion and respect, or outfits and haircuts? I'll take the former, thanks.

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

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Sara
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Sara

I absolutely love Bioware and Bethesda games. The reason? The games allow me to play as a female and since I am female that works for me. I don’t know why other game developers ignore their female players. It’s as if they somehow think women enjoy role playing as burly men. Hello guys, it’s the 21st century out here so let us be here’s, villains, adventures…and let us customize our characters. If I don’t have the option of gender choice, that’s a real deal breaker for me. I am trying to draw your attention to this HUGE oversight. If I… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

the master chief is male. it has been mentioned that his name is John in halo 3 and in any novel in which he has come out in. also in halo reach they show that female spartans look diferent from male spartans though if its because they use a differen type of armour is uknown

Anonymous
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Anonymous

gears of war 3 has female charcters as well as halo reach. when halo 3 and gears of war first came out there was a very small population of female gamers. sequels of older games that used to lack female avatars now feature them like fable and saints row. CoD never featured any real avatar customization. so for a game to feature character customization and completely blow off female characters is a real disapointment, hell there are no female characters to be found anyhere in the game. in gears of war they at least offer an explenation as to why.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

TF2 doesn’t have much in the way of customization, because all the characters are the same (aside from certain items dropped during play). Everyone seems to look the same in Halo, so there very well could be females under all that armor.

The point of this article was that for the developers to make the game look the way it does, and have all of the customization that it does, there should be an option for female players. They’re saying they would rather have more clothing options for males than include a female archetype at all.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Agreed. I, as a female, will not buy a game that does not allow me to play as a female (with the exception of some nintendo games: Mario, Yoshi, etc). I’m switching to Saints Row (preordered SR3) from GTA (unless GTA 5 allows character customization — which is doubtful judging by the trailer). Mass Effect 2 is one of my all time favs (preordering ME3). There are some fantastic games out there with highly customizable female character options and those will be the games receiving my dollar. Fine, don’t add a female option, lose my business. Watch the compatish pass… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

I don’t find it to be sexist, or “saying something about the attitude of the developers”, as said, they could have easily put women characters into the game, but, and hear me out on this one, it wasn’t the “feel” they were going for. The game is very much down and dirty, and takes place between two military factions fighting. Now, I’m not saying women aren’t tough and ruggid, or can’t fight, but the factions are fighting to protect the women and children of their side, it would kind of destroy the point of the war to put the women… Read more »

BgT
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BgT

1. REALITY. Males are often overrepresented in war and conflict games due to the simple fact that men (on average) are stronger than women, and due to this fact, throughout history men have usually been the warriors etc (its down to hormones, puberty and a whole list of basic stuff, obviously) sure some women can hold their own against the men, and that’s great! but not what usually happens when it is a test of strength, and guns are heavy… (And a whole load of other points about the differences of men and women that I cant be arsed to… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Uh… Gears 3: Female characters, Halo Reach, female models. Shazam

Anonymous
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Anonymous

There are hints of females, if you pay attention. Apart from Ishmael, in the first of the Security What-Ifs, you can find a bunch of… I think, ‘Art Deco’ style pictures of women.

But yeah, that’s about it.

KIrving
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KIrving

Or just don’t buy the game. Losing money is the ONLY thing the developers will pay attention to.

CJ
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CJ

You mean like Mirrors Edge and Beyond Good and Evil? Games where the protagonist is female only do exist, but they’re usually not quite normal games. Yes, Brink is big for customisation, but would you rather massive amounts of customisation and females added in later (which given their launch difficulties.. Well, makes sense that they didn’t have time. I mean if they can’t even get console networking right.. :P), or would you rather one person for each with a token female like L4D. Token black guy too while you’re at it. The game isn’t endlessly customisable, but it’s pretty good… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Arguing that people are “reading too much into this” might hold some weight if there were similar games where your only option is to be female.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

[quote=Anonymous] I would love to see female models in the game, my wife and sis inlaw would love to play a girly girl pink/white team punkish toon, but simple fact is with current restraints placed on all games in development if you want certain features others are always canXd. People can claim it’s blatant disregard, but facts are facts are facts. Most fps players are male, and most want to play male toons. If this were a pc game with a longer deadline it would probably have ended differently. Since this is multi platform they have to squeeze it through… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Well I mean sure, it’s strange that a game carried by customization would rule out 50% of the human pop. but really is it such a drawback? I for one am glad I can join a game and not be forced to shoot one scantly clad broad after another like other customization heavy games, *cough* lost planet 2…. plus on a shallower note, imagine a heavy-body type female model.. ewwwie…

Kitty
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Kitty

As a female game i saw this game and thought “wow great new fps game” ive seen trailers and my husband has told me about this game. i went out and got the game not know that it didnt have female characters..i was quite disapointed but not deterred ill still play the game.. if a bloke can play a female character why cant a female play a male character.. i think an option would have been nice but its only a game its not real life 🙂

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Come on Splash Damage where are the women characters? I want to play as a Female Engineer with a Heavy body size. Think about that!!

Anonymous
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Anonymous

And this specific issue is why I refuse to purchase and play Brink, which is sad because it looks fun, but as a female gamer being specifically excluded just so the men can look prettier is costing that company my $50 now.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Is it that big a deal in brink , yes in crackdowwn when you spend most of your time looking at the back of your character, but in brink you hardley ever see your character bar 3 things, when your customising him, at the screen where you select what u want to do and in cutscenes and since you don’t see your character that often I really don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl.

P.S you can make ur guy look a bit like a girl by customising him in a certain way

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Canada and Spain are the two armies in the world with the most female soldiers at least per percentage ratio.

That said, it is easier to give differenced features following the same biotipe of the model (male) than give two sets for everytime (male and female)

Transforming a male model into female one is not only giving it boobs and widen their hips. You need to remake almost every feature and texture and even change the way the character moves, walking etc.

Is not as easy as many people here seem to believe.

GF&BF
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GF&BF

This game definitely looks fun, game play wise and such, and with its unique qualities that make it stand out amongst other games. Due to the lacking gender flaw though, it’s not only losing my money, but my boyfriend’s as well. We play everything together, and we play just about, everything. FPS, MMO, Action, RTS…but we rarely play anything apart, and seeing as how this game dropped the ball on allowing girls to be girls, or guys to be girls since i know many who prefer that, it’s off the list. Plenty of other fun co-op games out there or… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Looks like at least one person on this site has a brain.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball.

That is all.

Dessert_Fox
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Dessert_Fox

I would love to see a poll. In your opinion males are more dominant in this genre of games, but from what i understand there are plenty of female gamers who love these types of games. So even though the game makers had a tough decision and would have been looked down upon with either choice, I believe they made the wrong one. Of course we all have our opinions, but I hope you’re right. I would truly like to see a female option soon.

SakuraSan101
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SakuraSan101

This is one reason why I dislike many FPS games, besides the fact that I’m terrible at them. I like making male characters, sure, but I also really like having the option to make a female, considering I am a chick. :/ Seriously, Game Companies of the world, give us some damn respect! I hate to compare them, but at least Fallout has gender options…

Dessert_Fox
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Dessert_Fox

In most entertainment fields, females get represented, but only to please a male’s degrading view of a woman. Who in their right mind would go around with a grenade launcher wearing only a strap of cloth? There are some games, however, who represented both males and females equally like Mass Effect and Knights of the Old Republic. I liked those games, not only because I felt it had a good story line and what not, but because I felt I could truly create a character that represented me. I was super excited about Brink, when they spoke about all the… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

“…it fails to represent half of it’s potential customer base.” Stop making up numbers. Yes this is an issue, but lets not make up numbers to bolster our claims. Women aren’t represented because of simple numbers. It’s unfortunate but with resources and standard publisher deadlines you can’t truly expect a “revolutionary” product every time a company comes along and says it. I would love to see female models in the game, my wife and sis inlaw would love to play a girly girl pink/white team punkish toon, but simple fact is with current restraints placed on all games in development… Read more »

Beth
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Beth

I was actually really surprised that I couldn’t be a female character. In most games that you can customize your character, you can choose to be female. I’m not really offended, I know a lot of girls who don’t really like shooters, but still. In a game that gushes about it’s character customization, I would expect to see a female option. On the other hand, if the main character is male and it is crucial to the story (i.e. Ezio Auditore from Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood), it’s perfectly fine, and it’s sometimes better. I don’t know, I was just… Read more »

ArcangeliC
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ArcangeliC

Hi I am a female hardcore gamer known as Arcangelic, Arkani and Darkangelic.
Girls, you don’t have to blame them for excluding the female avatars, do as I did, DON’T BUY THIS GAME, wait for the competitor game. If you buy, you will be supporting their decision of excluding female avatars.

I don’t care if you boys don’t care about “-female” in game.
But developers, my money, you will never take 🙂

Anonymous
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Anonymous

I’m a female gamer, and I speak with my bank account. I was interested in it initially, but after finding out I can’t be my own gender, I won’t even consider it. I’m tired of this blatant disregard for women.

Camikio
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Camikio

While we’d love Female TF2 characters. Don’t forget that a large part of tf2 was also the Personalities behind their classes. They were given lives of their own in their own way. Tf2 wasn’t as much about character customization. as customizing characters that have full personalities and mannerisms. If this game was made for serious customization and a make your own character style then usually gender is one of the options you see in its peers.

Blackcat7k
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Blackcat7k

The game designers can’t win at all can they? They have limited time, resources, and are constantly getting hammered with new features they have to put in at the last minute. The developers made a sound decision: “Have the few things we need really polished and ready to go because we’re going into a market that already has other studios that are making similar titles that have much more resources.” If they released both female and male they would have less to offer point blank, and then bloggers, reviewers and everyone else would can them for the limited character selection… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

To be honest I prefer to have 50 different customization options than being a female.

Ian Cooper
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Ian Cooper

[quote=Anonymous]SD said one of their concerns with adding female characters was that the hit-boxes would be differently sized.[/quote] Hit boxes are not tied to the actual shape of the body – it’s not difficult to make the female hit boxes exactly the same as the male version while having the visible models be slightly different in shape. Anyway, women aren’t that much different, especially when they’re wearing armor. Heck, if body shape is an issue, body size must be even more of an issue. Hopefully we aren’t all going to have to be exactly 6ft tall. I mean seriously, if… Read more »

Ian Cooper
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Ian Cooper

Somehow I see this ‘no women’ thing as a subtle hint that this game is overhyped. I mean how good can a game be if it fails to represent half of it’s potential customer base. Personally, I’m buying the game, but I’m going to lodge an in-game protest by choosing pink as the colour of my outfit. I know, pink as a woman thing is sexist in itself, but at least the sexists will get the message. So wear pink if you want women to be represented. If no pink is available as a colour choice, maybe purple? We need… Read more »

Ring of Thorns
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Ring of Thorns

I think the thing most people arent thinking of kind of amazes me, yes its messed up there are no females in the game but of most of the female gamers I know get mad at how women are always shown in games and so yes I can see why a developer would remove the chance for having and you have to admit the rather large portion of morons that would wind up making a ridiculous uber stripper looking avatar just to be funny so I think what alot of people need to ask is what is worse to be… Read more »

crackajack
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crackajack

@Nate
boys? definitely…
COD is a rather bad example as long as you mean serious shooter in the meaning of realistic. Women are a minority in the army. So a entirely female squad COD in WW or near future scenario would be sort of absurd. Wolfenstein on the other hand could do that.
Gears with badass women only? Don’t see the problem for such a product. But beside Bayonetta, Joanna Dark, Chell from Portal and Barbie breasted Lara there were not many female main characters. So this experiment has to be done more often to be certain that it would really work.

Nate
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Nate

Cosmetic Feature? The game would NEVER be released if women were the only playable gender. The male and female option is not just a cosmetic feature, it is a huge selling point and appeals to male and female gamers.

People don’t seem to see it from the female point of view at all, like i said, do you think boys would buy Gears of war, COD or any other serious shooter games if the only playable characters were women?

Anonymous
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Anonymous

That’s not fair at all. Look at Epic games. Everyone discredits them for making intense “testosterone-laced” games like Gears of War and Bulletstorm, but they respect the idea of a strong, badass female character more than most mainstream shooter developers. In Bulletstorm, Trishka is incredibly headstrong, isn’t afraid to toss hilarious insults back and forth with the main character, and gave me a lot of respect in general for that type of character. In Gears, Anya has been given a very respectable suit of armor. It looks exactly like the guys, with slight differences for body type. Finally, I would… Read more »

Romancylvania
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Romancylvania

Will there be any emo, anime hair?

Anonymous
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Anonymous

I’m a girl and I game, why can’t I have my own girl avatar like the guys do? Well I am going to buy the game, play the game and customize my guy character all the way! But given the chance to play as a girl, I’d take that in a heart beat, in a heart beat…

Anonymous
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Anonymous

i got this game just for my girlfriend cause she saw how cool this FPS shooter looked and she is really good online with other game and she really was excited about the whole Customization thing! i think (or hope) she will still like the game though, but they really want girl avatars, and i hope they start working on it.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

I agree with you. I was just about to say what you did. Being female as well, I find it painful when this happens. Just because I have to sigh and think “Well, thats how it is” every time I see a scandally clad women or a overly “look she is a strong sexy women thats realistic” type. Its pitiful really, haven’t they seen “What women want”? Isn’t it obvious by now men never get women right unless they are amazing aurthors? -Sigh- But thats just how it is.

kreaturen
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kreaturen

Might be a different story in the US (were activist groups tend to be a tad more hysterical than in the real world), but I think most people will find it easy to distinguish between real violence against innocent women and the make-believe violence against tough female fighters that would go on in a virtual conflict zone. Jeez

clubbme
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clubbme

To violence against women, activists say no. Unfortunately the myriad of activists against violence to women may have been the cause for SD dropping women avatars from the game. The same women who have lobbied for equality in the world have also cause issues for female inclusion in games due to their violent nature. Putting women in the game would have caused a storm of PR damage and SD may have decided that that litigation would have been to costly for them. Beyond this there may have been issues with legal problems and changes to their EULA and rating (e.g.… Read more »

Hypocee
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Hypocee

Oh good, this bulls**t again with the highest profile yet. It’s not about the T-shirts and ten minutes’ reading or five minutes’ video would have taught you better. It’s about voices, models and animation – voice especially. It takes lots of memory. Consoles don’t have a lot of memory. Check out some of the difficulties they had getting just five different voices into the game. Tack on double the modeling, double the animation, and possibly a fourth bodytype (that could presumably only use pistols? Grrl powar?) and they didn’t think, two years ago when the decision had to be made,… Read more »

Hantu
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Hantu

The excuses for not adding in female options are ridiculous.

Hitbox issues? There are going to be different classes, some heavier/bigger meant for more supporting and heavy weapons roles. Some lighter/smaller meant for more stealthy and speedy roles. Surely the hitboxes and everything else work differently for them, why not include a female as the smaller more stealthy class?

Ok it would be more work to add female variants of the clothing/armour options, but I’d happily wait longer for the game if it was to include female options.

I won’t be bothering with this game now.

chuck
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chuck

look, with today’s technology they could have added the female into the game without changing that much….with the case of the clothing option….why can’t both male and female have the same clothing options? giving the back-story of the game it would be completely understandable that there is not much to chose from! they could have even added more options as by mix and matching pieces of the standard customization set so as to accommodate everyone. The females boobs don’t have to be huge, this way the texture mapping would be easier and the close would fit and look good. the… Read more »

chuck
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chuck

I feel the same way! why should you hope to have your day? customization is nice but I know a lot of female gamers are really disappointed about this! At lest they could do is make it a free add on that drops the same day as the game! even if it was to push back the fast approaching drop date, a few hundred thousand female gamers and I would not mind! Just by adding the female gender to the game would have a huge impact on sales! Really it comes down to one thing, the company is making a… Read more »

Eljacko
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Eljacko

I think everyone here needs to just calm down. I think you people are reading to much into this. The fact of the matter is that adding in female characters is more than just a palette swap: the inclusion of a female character means that numerous changes will have to be made to aspects of the game that don’t even involve character creation. In essence, it means having to remake half the game, just to accommodate what boils down to an essentially cosmetic feature. If they did decide to do that, the game probably would be released until 2012. As… Read more »

Annika Waern
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Annika Waern

The real problem is that bringing in female avatars brings in the whole gender issue. Oki, so now you have female warriors in your game. How does it affect their specs, should they be weaker and faster, for example (a common approach in fighting games)? If there is dialogue, how are they to be addressed? And what about romance and sex? If you have any kind of flirting in cut scenes for example, you have redo them or your female avatars end up lesbian. Do they fight on equal terms and conditions, or is there some kind of unequal treatment… Read more »