They gave a dog a more prominent role in Call Of Duty before really creating a proper woman soldier.
Think about that for a second. The world went nuts when Treyarch revealed you could press X to bark [update: Riley the dog was in Infinity Ward's Ghosts obviously, not Treyarch, my mistake]. It was a selling point. They added a dog as a key playable character you were meant to care about before girls ever had a chance to be fully represented. Yes, there was Lieutenant Tanya Pavelovna, partially playable in 2002's Finest Hour, and Chloe 'Karma' Lynch, an optional character in Black Ops 2's Strike Force missions, but for 12 years and around 60-odd main protagonists it's been all guys, all the time. Until now, as Black Ops 3 (opens in new tab) finally lets girls play the hero properly, all the way though.
The information came from a round table interview during the weekend's Black Ops 3 reveal where Treyarch studio head Mark Lamia and executive producer Jason Blundell revealed that the new customisable player character can be either male or female. "You can be male, and you can be female. And, by the way, that means you’ve got a full female track for the whole thing," explains Blundell as he talked about the solo/co-op campaign. (Catch up on all the core Black Ops 3 info here (opens in new tab).)
That's included capturing everything twice, so it's not just a man's animation on a female body. Although, interestingly, Lamia talks about a "gender neutral" script, citing Sigourney Weaver's originally male-written part in Alien and adding, "the emotions and dynamics between characters is kind of gender neutral". That said there will apparently be some differences in character interaction depending on gender.
The key thing here is that this isn't just any old game creating a fully inclusive male/female character option, it's one of the biggest games in the world finally saying that woman can be powerful hero figures too and join in the fun. It's a pretty big deal. The 'no girls club' so many big games have operated for years is starting to look a bit like this:
There's bound to be someone who doesn't like it, of course. For reasons. Or someone that'll list off Lara, Samus, Avaline, Chell and Bayonetta etc as proof that girls already have more than enough playable heroes and don't need to take theirs. But the more this happens, the harder it becomes to pretend, somehow, that women shouldn't enjoy equal representation. Take a look at these Entertainment Software Association stats (opens in new tab):
It's almost like woman are half the population or something.
The best thing about what COD's doing here is that everyone gets to have have their cake and shoot it too - the game can be played either way, and nobody loses anything. I'm going to play as a guy because I'm a guy and I like playing as 'myself'. As a rule it's something I've never had any problems doing. Now, at least in one COD, girls can do the same. Obviously, it won't work all the time; some stories need defined characters or actual actors - neutral avatars won't work for everything (take Alien Isolation for example). But when something as big and old fashioned as Call Of Duty finally adds in an option like this, and joins the likes of Mass Effect, Dragon Age or Bloodborne in making gender a complete non-issue, it's hard to pretend things aren't changing.