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Found Feminism: Mass Effect 3 Pre-order Box

2012 January 9

Spotted by our very own eagle-eyed gaming addict Steve, in a shop. We’ve always loved Mass Effect for the fact that you can play Commander Shepard as either male or female and that they are just as badass.

A box for Mass Effect Three featuring a chiseled caucasian female character wearing a bulky, gunmetal space suit. Her hair is pushed back and she stares moodily and defiantly.

It’s not unusual to display female avatars on boxes of computer games. What is unusual here, and what wins the Found Feminism for Mass Effect 3, is that the avatar is a fully clothed human who is not posing provocatively.

Isn’t she amazing? I want to be her…

… hey, advertising works!

But more importantly, someone in the marketing department decided that this would work. They looked at some genuine facts about who plays games, and why, and decided to use this image rather than, say, an exotic blue alien lady – and yes, I know there’s an entire species of exotic blue alien ladies in the gameworld, but they aren’t selling the game on that fact. They are selling the game on the fact that you can play as this woman.

This remarkably serious and capable-looking woman.

Which rather shoots a laser in the ass of half-baked theories about women and gaming. Such as “women don’t play computer games” – we do, and some of us are really serious about it. Yes, that means we buy the stuff, we are half the target market, and we’d like games that allow us to explore the full range of our imaginations.

The world of computer games is by no means a perfect gender equality paradise. The vast majority of female avatars are still beautiful and often have implausible breasts, even allowing for zero-G environments. But Found Feminism is about hi-fiving the positive, and this shows that the gaming universe is slowly, slowly starting to change its attitudes.

For an added bonus, here’s a chirpy list of ten good female avatars (including Shepard herself).

Got a Found Feminism hi-five you’d like us to shout about? Drop Sarah C a line via [email protected].

9 Responses leave one →
  1. January 9, 2012

    Just to mention that my favourite game series – Fallout – provides a pleasantly gender-neutral way to go about things. You chose and customise your own character with virtually no gender-impact based on who you choose to play as

    (Two exceptions to this neutrality that I’ve found – female characters can’t fight in the stadium controlled by a faction of Romanesque soldiers in New Vegas (Because, well, Romanesque tossers), and the Black Widow Perk available to female characters is superior to the equivalent for male characters because more Raiders and enemies are male )

  2. Jenni permalink
    January 9, 2012


  3. Harold permalink
    January 9, 2012

    I played a female Shepard for the first two games and found the opposite to be incredibly jarring when promotional material for the second game was released: the male Shepard wasn’t somebody I’d ever encountered and seeing him alongside familiar characters felt alien to me.

    One of the things I like about Shepard is her dignity. Whether you choose friendly or aggressive dialogue options, she’s still the commander of a ship and that’s still her primary motivation; she doesn’t curl her hair around her fingers and flirt with people when you tell her to be nice to them. She’s a strong character with a real, distinct personality.

  4. January 9, 2012

    But more importantly, someone in the marketing department decided that this would work.

    Yes and no.

    Despite this being the 3rd game of the series it is the first that will use the female version of Commander Shepard in it’s marketing materials. Fans of female Shepard tweeted and emailed David Silverman and others at Bioware for a long time in order to make this happen. I think it’s fantastic that female Shepard is going to be the face of Mass Effect 3 but I think it is also worth remembering that “male as default” is so ingrained that there had to be a vocal campaign to make the change.

    I’m very happy Bioware is doing this though. There are many games that give you the option of changing the gender of your main character (Skyrim, Fallout, Fable…) but you would hardly know from most game advertising.

    • Stephen B permalink
      January 9, 2012

      Ah, I thought I saw Bioware *asking* on twitter about using FemShep in the promotional materials for 3, and getting a predictably overwhelmingly positive response, but I’m not surprised they’d been lobbied for one long-term.

      There had been silence from Bioware on the possibility during games 1 and 2, but then this is kinda unprecedented for any game which offers the 50/50 creation options. (Quite a few do these days, but I think this is the very first one I’ve seen with female-only on the box?)

      Having played ME1+2 as just about every class/alignment but only male, playing as female Shepard was *awesome*. I love some of the small dialogue changes, all of which only make her seem stronger.

  5. Kath permalink
    January 9, 2012

    Yay! BR back for the new year!

    • Miranda permalink*
      January 9, 2012

      Aww, this comment made me smile, thank you! Glad you like our blog!

      (- the ed)

  6. Rai permalink
    January 10, 2012

    I am glad to see that someone somewhere has chosen to advertise with FemShep – all the high street stores near me have ManShep adorning their pre-order displays – as I was wondering whether FemShep was going to be used at all in advertising.

    What I liked about ME2, at least, was that although her breasts are ridiculous, if you’re a naughty sort her face is all scarred up just as his would be too. The scars made it for me last time.

    P.S. At least her armour covers her chest?

    • Miranda permalink*
      January 10, 2012

      Do you not get to select her body shape even a bit? That’s a shame. I like being able to use sliders to make avatars look like me (almost never works as I’m not “slim” enough but I like having a go).

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