Thomas Was Alone developer Mike Bithell’s new game, Volume, focuses on a male protagonist, but in the early design stages he was “leaning more towards” a female.
“When I sat down to come up with the story of Volume, and who would be its characters, I of course had to decide on which gender the protagonist would be. I was honestly leaning more towards a female character, just from the selfish perspective,” Bithell told Polygon.
“That my last game was focused on a male character, and I really dug writing for Claire, who was popular with fans of [Thomas Was Alone.]”
While prototyping, Bithell did in fact use a female avatar, because he happened to have a character mesh handy – but she was a stand-in, rather than protagonist.
“This was before I’d settled on what story I was telling, I was just throwing ideas of gameplay together and seeing what happened. At that point, I’d honestly still have been using a cube for the player character if I hadn’t needed to account for eyelines and such,” Bithell said.
As the prototype progress, however, Bithell decided to use the game to retell the story of Robin Hood, and in so doing, decided he needed a male protagonist – not just because Robin Hood is a male figure in folklore, but also because his story is about “a man of privilege helping the little guy”.
Nevertheless, Bithell hopes his work will differentiate from industry standards.
“My hope is that this is a different kind of male protagonist. Smarter, non-violent, and a bit arrogant,” he said.
“I [hope] that when people play the game, they’ll realize why I chose to tell this story with a male protagonist. For me, that’s the interesting shift in the thinking recently. Male heroes should no longer be the default, it’s a choice, a choice that should be deployed when it works for the story being told.
“The thing that’s interesting with gender, and is exciting, is that the conversation has gotten to a point where I’d even be asked ‘Why male?’. That’s a big deal, and speaks a lot to the awareness that’s brewing in the industry about gender depictions, and frankly, the boringness of the standard chiseled beefcake with the big gun. People are getting tired of playing the same grizzled man carrying a variety of guns.”
Volume is a sci-fi stealth action title which emphasises sound in its mechanics. It will allow users to play as a female in its end-game content, which focuses on creating and sharing UGC levels. Expect Volume on PlayStation 4 and Vita; it has not been dated.