Guys, we seriously need to change up how RPGs (and most other game genres (and most other forms of storytelling)) handle gender ratios. It is bad. I mean, it is bad.
Let’s do a little counting. I’m going to list every RPG I’ve played by whether it has more female characters than male, more male than female, or has an even split. Beforehand, though, a couple ground rules. Mascots, party advisors, and other noncombatants who are a major part of the party and contribute to party relationships count. For example, in Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 and 4, the characters of Fuuka and Rise don’t actually participate in battle, but they do act as battle advisors to the party, and are inarguably as important to the party dynamic, in terms of story progression, plot relevance, and character interrelationships, as any of the actually controllable party members, so they count. Likewise, Fatima from Anachonox, Midna from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and Henpecked Hou from Jade Empire are all characters that count, because they travel with the rest of the major characters and contribute to the plot and the characters’ discussions as a peer for a substantial part of the game, enough that you can’t really say that they’re not party members.
For sake of ease, animals are counted (most RPG animals are sentient, speech-capable individuals anyway, so, like I said in my old rant about them, they’re essentially just human characters for all intents and purposes anyway). Final Fantasy 7’s Red XIII counts as a male party member, Poshul from Chrono Cross counts as a female party member, etc. Similarly, robots and other technically non-gendered beings are counted if they’re referenced to and regarded as being part of a certain gender. So, Robo in Chrono Trigger counts as a male even if he’s not technically anything, while Tio from Grandia 2 and KOS-MOS of the Xenosaga games count as female characters, even if, again, they’re technically not anything. Robots will only not be counted if they’re specifically referred to in a non-gendered way (which pretty much never happens in RPGs).
Transgendered and crossdressing characters would have rules if there were any situations that really required them, but sadly, they’re basically non-entities in RPGs. I mean, they don’t not exist at all, but usually just some common sense will do the trick. Reyna from Eternal Poison, for example, spends the entire game dressed as a woman when he’s a man, but there’s a plot-related reason for this that has nothing to do with what gender Reyna identifies as. It’s just a disguise, and he clearly considers himself a man. Similarly, Faris in Final Fantasy 5 may crossdress as a man and even have lived as a man for the majority of her life, but that’s presented in a way that could easily be taken as another case of disguise more than anything else, and once she’s moved past the point where she needs to maintain that disguise, she doesn’t seem to have any doubt about being identified as a woman. And so on--there aren’t really any significant cases of transgendered individuals and crossdressers that I've encountered, at least not as party members, so there’s no particular rule to mention regarding their presence in this tally.
Lastly, faceless grunts don’t count either way. There are plenty of Einherjar to gather in Valkyrie Profile 2, but since they have no bearing on the story at all and don’t interact with the plot-relevant characters or anything like that, they don’t count. The same goes for the nameless troopers of The Magic of Scheherazade that you can hire, most demons in Shin Megami Tensei games (but story-relevant ones that specially join your party, like Cerberus in SMT1, do count), all Pokemon, random recruits in Final Fantasy Tactics, and so on.
Okay, so first of all, I’m going to list every RPG I’ve played where there have been more female party members than males.
Games With More Female Party Members: Breath of Fire 5; Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia; Disgaea 2; Dragon Quest 9; Embric of Wulfhammer’s Castle; Final Fantasy 5; Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon; Grandia 3; Hero’s Saga: Laevatein Tactics; Izuna 1; Izuna 2; Lunar 2; Lunar: Dragon Song; Magic Knight Rayearth RPG; Mark Leung: Revenge of the Bitch; Monstania; My World, My Way; Parasite Eve 1; Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure; Riviera: The Promised Land; Sailor Moon: Another Story; Sakura Wars 5; Seiken Densetsu 3; Solatorobo: Red the Hunter; Tenchi Muyo RPG
Alright, so that’s 27 RPGs that I’ve played where there have been more female party members than males. Well that’s pretty good, right? 27? Decent number right there, yeah? Sure! So, how many RPGs have I played that star an equal number of males and females?
Games With An Even Split: Arc the Lad 4; Atelier Iris 1; Avalon Code; Baten Kaitos 1; Baten Kaitos 2; Breath of Fire 4; Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin; Children of Mana; Dark Cloud 2; Defender’s Quest 1; Deus Ex 2; Dust: An Elysian Tail; Evoland; Evolution: Worlds; Final Fantasy 8; Final Fantasy 12; Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles 1; Grandia 1; Heroes of Annihilated Empires; Icewind Dale 1; Icewind Dale 2; Legend of Grimrock 1; Legend of Mana; The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask; The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time; The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks; The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess; Lufia 1; Mana Khemia; Paper Mario 2; Phantasy Star 2; Phantom Brave; Pokemon Generation 2; Pokemon Generation 3; Pokemon Generation 4; Pokemon Generation 5; Pokemon Generation 5-2; Risen 1; The Secret of Mana; Shadowrun Returns; Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers; Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4; Star Ocean 3; Tales of Legendia; Threads of Fate; Torchlight 1; Valkyrie Profile 2; Wild Arms 2; Wild Arms 4; Wild Arms 5; Xenosaga 1
51! Well, that’s a darned good number! Always happy to see a game with equality, or 51 of them. Well, gosh, 27 female-dominated RPGs and 51 evenly split ones, maybe I was getting worked up over noth--
Games With More Male Party Members: The 7th Saga; Alundra 1; Alundra 2; Anachronox; Arc the Lad 1; Arc the Lad 2; Arc the Lad 3; Arc the Lad 5; Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura; Away: Shuffle Dungeon; Bahamut Lagoon; Baldur's Gate 1; Baldur’s Gate 2; Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden; Baroque; Bastion; Betrayal at Krondor; Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled; Boktai 1; Borderlands 1; Breath of Fire 1; Breath of Fire 2; Breath of Fire 3; Castlevania: Lament of Innocence; Castlevania: Symphony of the Night; Chrono Cross; Chrono Trigger; Crimson Shroud; Crystalis; Dark Cloud 1; Deus Ex 1; Disgaea 1; Divinity 1; Dragon Age 1; Dragon Age 2; Dragon Ball Z: Legend of the Super Saiyan; Dragon Quest 4; Dragon Quest 5; Dragon Quest 6; Dragon Quest 8; Earthbound; Eternal Poison; Fallout 1; Fallout 2; Fallout 3; Fallout New Vegas; Final Fantasy 3; Final Fantasy 4; Final Fantasy 6; Final Fantasy 7; Final Fantasy 9; Final Fantasy 10; Final Fantasy 12: Revenant Wings; Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates; Final Fantasy Mystic Quest; Final Fantasy Tactics; Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 1; Fire Emblem 1; Fire Emblem 4; Fire Emblem 7; Fire Emblem 9; Geneforge 1; Geneforge 2; Glory of Heracles 5; Golden Sun 1; Golden Sun 2; Golden Sun 3; Gothic 1; Grandia 2; Hoshigami Remix: Ruining Blue Earth; Illusion of Gaia; Infinite Space; Jade Empire; Kingdom Hearts 1; Kingdom Hearts 2; Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories; Knights of the Old Republic 1; Knights of the Old Republic 2; La Pucelle Tactics; Lagoon; The Last Story; Legaia 1; Legaia 2; The Legend of Dragoon; The Legend of Zelda 1; The Legend of Zelda 2; The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds; The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past; The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening; The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass; The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword; The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker; Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader; Live A Live; Lords of Xulima; Lufia 2; Lunar 1; The Magic of Scheherazade; Magical Starsign; Makai Kingdom; Mario and Luigi 1; Mario and Luigi 2; Mario and Luigi 3; Mass Effect 1; Mass Effect 2; Mass Effect 3; Mega Man Star Force 1; Mega Man Star Force 2; Mother 3; Nox; Okage: Shadow King; Orcs + Elves; Phantasy Star 1; Phantasy Star 4; Phantasy Star Universe; Planescape: Torment; Pokemon Generation 1; Quest 64; Radiant Historia; Return to Krondor; Robocalypse; Robotrek; Rogue Galaxy; Romancing Saga 1; Rune Factory 1; The Secret of Evermore; Shadow Hearts 1; Shadow Hearts 2; Shadow Hearts 3; Shadowrun: Dragonfall; Shadowrun Genesis; Shadowrun SNES; Shin Megami Tensei 1; Shin Megami Tensei 2; Shin Megami Tensei 3; Shin Megami Tensei 4; Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Raidou Kuzunoha 1; Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Raidou Kuzunoha 2; Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 1; Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2; Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 1; Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2; Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3; Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey; Shining Force 1; Shining Force 2; Shining Force EXA; Silver; Skies of Arcadia; Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood; Soulblazer; Star Ocean 1; Star Ocean 2; Startropics 1; Startropics 2; Suikoden 1; Suikoden 2; Suikoden 3; Suikoden 4; Suikoden 5; Suikoden Tactics; Suikoden Tierkreis; Super Mario RPG; Tales of Destiny 1; Tales of Phantasia; Tales of Symphonia 1; Tales of the Abyss; Terranigma; Treasure of the Rudras; Valkyrie Profile 1; Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume; Vandal Hearts 1; Vandal Hearts 2; Weapon Shop de Omasse; Wild Arms 1; Wild Arms 3; The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road; The Witcher 1; The Witcher 2; The World Ends with You; Xenogears; Xenosaga 2; Xenosaga 3; Xenosaga: Pied Piper
Okay, so that’s...that’s 185. That’s almost 7 times more than the count of RPGs with more female members than male. Hell, it’s 3 times more than the female-dominant RPGs and the equal split RPGs put together!
Jeez. That’s just asinine. 185 to 27. The ratio of people by gender on Earth is split almost exactly evenly at 101 Males to every 100 Females, and that’s just going by the whole of Earth--if we break it down more finely, you see that most of the modern, developed countries have a larger female population than male. The countries that actually make RPGs are almost all populated with more women than men, such as the United States, Canada, every significant European nation, and Australia (country, continent, it’s both), and even Japan is an even split. Yet if you were to take a guess at what a natural gender ratio is by going on RPGs, you’d think that men outnumber women 6.8 to 1. Again, for emphasis, actual gender ratio of a global population: 1.01 Males to 1 Female. Gender ratio going by RPG major character populations: 6.8 Males to 1 Female.*
And even that’s before the extenuating circumstances. For example, should we really even count RPGs based on outside media that just lift their casts from the original? Yeah, Sailor Moon: Another Story has a completely female cast, but it’s not like that was the idea of the game developers; they’re working with the cast already determined by the source material. Taking that into consideration, we must remove Dragon Ball Z: Legend of the Super Saiyan, the Magic Knight Rayearth RPG, Sailor Moon: Another Story, the Tenchi Muyo RPG, and The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road.** That takes 2 games out of the male-dominated list, and 3 out of the female-dominated list, making it 183 to 24. And that jumps our ratio of RPG populations up to 7.6 Male to 1 Female. Things just get better and better.
Look, I don’t want to go too far into the whole gender inequality in video games thing here. Because video games, even the more intelligent genre of RPGs, are seriously ass-backwards in their usage and portrayal of females, so much that there’s no way one rant is going to cover everything that needs to be turned around and corrected in the medium as far as its treatment and perspective of gender. Maybe it’s not as bad with video games as it is with mainstream comic books,*** but it’s bad. There are plenty more avenues to explore on this issue (the number of male-led teams in female-dominant games compared to female-led teams in male-dominant games, for example, is fairly condemning). But I’m just going to keep it basic today.
And that means simply pointing out that there is a huuuuuuuuge gap in gender representation in RPGs. Way, way more than there can be reasonable cause for. I realize that, despite the grossly underestimated female gamer market, video games have a primarily male audience, but that forgives only a small discrepancy in gender representation. It does not forgive a ratio of 6.8 to 1, or anywhere near that!****
Women are half the population, developers. It’s time to wake up and accept that fact. We need more games with an equal number of male and female party members, and we need a lot more games with more female party members than male ones, just to balance out the last 30 years. Video games are one of the newest, most modern medium of artistic expression to date--maybe they should look the part, yeah?
* And this is actually worse than I’m making it out to be. I’m not actually counting each and every party member in all these games in this ratio, but instead just going by a count of which games have more of one gender or the other. But as a general rule, games with more male party members have, on average, a greater disparity in favor of the males than games with more female party members do in favor of females. What I mean is, your average male-dominated RPG is like Final Fantasy 7, in which 6 party members are male (Cloud, Barret, Cid, Red XIII, Cait Sith, and Vincent) and 3 are female (Tifa, Aeris, and Yuffie), while your average female-dominated RPG is more like Final Fantasy 5, in which the the ratio is close to even (3 females and 2 males). If I were to sit down and tabulate all the party members out, a project I’m not willing to sink the time and effort into, I’m dead certain that the male to female ratio would be even higher than 6.8 to 1.
** The Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario RPGs don’t count toward this because they have a larger source cast to pick and choose from, and more freedom to create original game characters to add to those casts (like Mallow and Geno in Super Mario RPG, and Shade from Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood).
*** I really cannot say enough detrimental things about the people who make decisions at DC and Marvel; as a whole they are truly mindless scum firmly lodged in an anachronistic masturbatory mentality that combines every shortsighted and reality-inaccurate vice to be found in spoiled 7-year-olds, chauvinistic horny frat boys, amoral marketing departments from the 1960s, and a cheerful recruitment pamphlet for the Ku Klux Klan.
**** And frankly, I don’t even know why people assume a male player must want to see male characters more than female ones, anyway. Do game developers think we’re all a bunch of xenophobic first graders whose mortal terror of cooties factors heavily into our buying decisions? A halfway intelligent man like myself has no more difficulty relating to and deeply connecting with a female character than with a male one, and a knuckle-dragging moron who hoots in dull-witted approval at T and A sure as hell isn’t going to say no to seeing more females, either. Unless we have a sudden, bizarre population boom of knuckle-dragging morons who just want eye-candy and are gay, I don’t see how putting more women in games could possibly harm your marketability to male gamers.