Life is strange is an episodic, story-driven video game launching
PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 all major consoles and Windows PC later this month. And to promote the title, the developers at Dontnod Entertainment launched a series of video developer diaries on Friday. The game’s time-rewind mechanic certainly lends itself well to such a diary, and that idea is quite similar to Dontnod’s other game, the underrated game from 2013. Remember me (albeit with a greater focus on the time-bending stuff this time).
In describing the new game’s sensitive content, including topics such as domestic violence and bullying, the team revealed a surprise about Life is strange development: it was met with a lot of resistance from almost all of its potential publishers due to the game starring a female character.
“Square Enix was the only publisher that wouldn’t change anything about the game,” studio co-founder Jean-Maxime Moris said in the video. “We had other publishers telling us, ‘Make it a male lead.’ And Square Enix hasn’t even doubted that.”
The video did not clarify how many other publishers were in talks to publish the game, nor whether those would-be publishers balked for specific reasons beyond the choice of the main character. Still, this isn’t the first time Dontnod has known about publisher resistance to female protagonists. The team said they ran into the same issues when looking for a publisher Remember me.
That link, credited to the now-defunct Penny Arcade Report, also found a huge difference in game sales when female characters were shown as protagonists on the box: “Male-only hero games sold 25 percent better than those featuring a optional female hero, and 75 percent better than anyone with a female-only hero,” according to private advisory group EEDAR. Those numbers may have changed in the past two years.
This reminder of publisher resistance is just another example of a persistent no-ladies element in modern game development. Ubisoft recently chose to block options for female characters Assassin’s Creed: Unity‘s multiplayer modes, while over the years Epic Games has spoken openly about the development effort they felt was necessary to add leading female characters to its Weapons of war series.
Life is strangemain character, Max, must search for a close friend who has gone missing, which she does by rewinding time and controlling the butterfly effects of all her actions. In the process, she also engages in many intimate conversations, particularly with her best friend Chloe, making gender selection even more important to the overall gaming experience.
This coming-of-age plot, about a middle-aged woman who returns to her hometown after a protracted exodus, has much in common with another promising indie game launching this year, the far cartoonier Night in the forest. That title also features a woman as the protagonist, although that woman appears as a non-anthropomorphic cat.
We’ve sent questions to Dontnod about his video blog statement, and we’ll update this report with any response.