Games likely to follow Pentagon on women in combat

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LOS ANGELES — Lara Croft. Samus Aran. Jill Valentine. Chell.

In the realm of video games, it’s not difficult to identify tough-as-nails women who uncover ancient treasures, blast away aliens, battle zombies and outwit malicious robots. However, when it comes to finding fictional females who take down terrorists, call in airstrikes, frag combatants and capture enemy outposts, you’d probably be more likely to walk in on a woman in the men’s room.

While video games aren’t totally devoid of strong female protagonists, the interactive medium has typically only cast ladies in support roles when it comes to such popular military shoot-’em-up franchises as “Call of Duty” and “Battlefield.” Yet could the recent announcement that the Pentagon is ending its long-standing ban on women serving in combat roles in real-world battlegrounds extend to virtual ones, too?

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the developers working on these shooters incorporated it as a story point in their games,” said game designer and “Sex in Video Games” author Brenda Brathwaite. “It could make for an amazing narrative: ‘It’s her first role in combat and she’s determined to make a difference!’ Who wouldn’t want to pursue something like that and have a bad-(expletive) female soldier in a game?”

Brathwaite’s husband, John Romero, who worked on such landmark first-person shooters as “Doom” and “Quake,” agrees with his wife. As games have evolved beyond rescuing princesses from gorillas, players have come to expect deeper levels of personalization, evidenced by the popularity of such be-whatever-the-heck-you-wanna-be role-playing games as “Skyrim,” “Mass Effect” and “World of Warcraft.”

“I can’t see anything negative about having more choices in a game,” said Romero. “Everyone likes having more choices. There’s never been a backlash when ‘World of Warcraft’ added a new race, so I can’t imagine there would be one if a shooter added a new gender. Franchises that come out with a new version every year like ‘Call of Duty’ strive to be topical, so I imagine they would address it.”

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