I like playing video games. My favorite games are ones that have some element of role-playing in them. I like to pretend I’m somewhere else, someone else, out saving the world or even just saving my own ass. I especially like games that leave room for choices and let me play my character in different ways based on what kind of mood I’m in that month. Maybe this play-through I’ll be the evil dictator who doesn’t give a shit about the stupid peasants. Maybe next time I’ll be the benevolent leader who is so egalitarian she can’t even let her people call her “leader.”
Dying Light has some elements of role-playing, but there are not a lot of choices to make. The storyline is pretty linear. You don’t get to choose much about your character. Occasionally, you can change his outfit but this does not do much of anything as far as I can tell. Some of the major plot points just play out in cut scenes, with no input from the player whatsoever which is fine. It is a semi-interactive novel. You have to achieve certain quests in order to progress the story so you can find out how it ends, but you really don’t get to have much impact on how it ends. Fortunately, the story is engrossing enough and the quests are engaging enough to make it all work.
I’ve only done one playthrough so far, strictly solo. The game has a cooperative play mode, but I wanted to play through once on my own first to make sure I did not suck too hard when I started actually playing with other people. I am ready to do another play through, even though I know the plot points and how it’s going to end and not much will change with a second go. That is a testament to how much fun and engaging this game is.
As a woman player, I did notice some things that most guys playing this game probably would not. There are not very many female characters in this game. There are two main ones with multiple interactions possible that are strong characters. One is kind of the stereotypical bad-ass, perfect girl who is completely out of reach and the other is badly disfigured. That’s ok, they behave and are treated as being on the same level as the main character. The rest of the female characters are either obnoxious, annoying, or just there to be someone’s wife/girlfriend. There are a few children the main character interacts with. All of them are boys except one. The boys all have names. The girl is called, simply, “girl.” The main character, of course, is male. Most of his contacts in Harran are also male. All of the escort quest-givers are male. All of the repeating quest-givers (with one notable exception) are male. The one exception is a very annoying woman who gives a series of humorously annoying quests.
Granted, some of the male characters are silly or annoying too, but there are a lot more male characters in the game, so the ratio of normal to silly is much higher. It’s super subtle. I doubt even my husband would have noticed it without me pointing it out. Men live in a man’s world. Most of the people a male game developer interacts with on a daily basis are also men. Heck, as a systems engineer, most of the people I interact with every day are men. The ratio of male to female characters in the game just reflects who the game developers/producers think their demographic is. And maybe they’re (mostly) right. But, it does make female gamers feel a little shut out, whether that is the intent or not.
There are a lot of women in the world — more women than men, in fact. Why are we so invisible?