In 1998, a Michigan State University study showed that only 15% of games had a female protagonist or active character. In 41% of games, there were no female characters at all. And in the remaining games, females were reserved exclusively for the role of victims or sexual objects.
The world has changed a lot since then, and so has gaming.
Data now suggests that in 2020, 23% of main characters within games were male and 18% were female. The remaining number were gender ambiguous or non-binary, or the game had multiple main characters of differing genders.
Update: Since this went live, we’ve published our own diversity in gaming data.
Despite the disparity between men and women in gaming decreasing, it’s clear that male characters still get preferential treatment. When you look to the world’s biggest games, female characters are often ‘one of the gang’ rather than getting the leading role — the protagonist.
We thought it would be an interesting and fun experiment to redesign the leading characters of some of the most popular game franchises in the world to see what they could look like with a female lead — a real female lead, not a female lead designed for men.
And we’re sure you’ll agree…these ladies look pretty badass.
In no particular order…
Captain Price is the main protagonist in the Modern Warfare line of Call of Duty games.
She’s a special forces sniper from Britain and held the rank of Captain, leading her SAS Bravo Team squad across Russia and Azerbaijan (and back again).
Michelle De Santa
Michelle is a career criminal that moved to Los Santos to retire in peace in GTA V.
Sadly, she soon returned to her old ways, haunted by the demons of her past and memories of the times that she made questionable moral mistakes.
Alex made her debut back in FIFA 17 and last featured in FIFA 20, with FIFA 21 dropping The Journey game mode a couple of years back. Despite this, she’s still one of the most instantly-recognizable faces from FIFA’s single player modes — which is exceptional considering it’s a fictional character in a world of real, celebrity superstar players.
A mainstay in Halo’s FPS games, Madam Chief is the mascot for the entire Halo brand — and even the Xbox brand, too. She’s a Spartan super-soldier that’s entrusted with safeguarding Cortana (their ship’s artificial intelligence) and wears just a slightly more petit bodysuit than her male counterpart.
Not able to see the difference between Master Chief and Madam Chief? What do you want us to do, stick a bikini on her? Everyone looks very similar inside full body armor.
Eva da Firenze
A Florentine noblewoman during the Reinaissance, Eva Auditore da Firenze was a Master Assassin throughout the Assassin’s Creed franchise.
She liberated Rome, prevented the rise of power of the Cult of Hermes, and even helped ensure the future travels of Christopher Columbus.
Sergeant Fenix is a legendary war heroine, earning the COG’s highest military award for her actions during the Battle of Aspho Fields. She’s also a convicted coward for her actions in a different battle, but we’ll forget all about that one.
She features as a protagonist in every edition of the Gears of War franchise.
And that just leaves my favorite redesign…
Born as Bobbie Linder, Jennifer Silverhand is a military veteran and an influential rocker. She was the most prominent figure fighting against the corrupt government and corporations, but has been known for her manipulative and impulsive behavior.
She is a protagonist in the Cyberpunk series.
How We Made These
The first place to start when creating content like this is the idea.
I’ve long been aware of the under-representation of female characters in games and was recently thinking to myself: “I wonder what my favorite games would look like if their main characters were women.”
And then I realized that I didn’t need to just sit there imagining this, I could work with a designer to actually create these characters concepts.
So yeah, unfortunately there was no crazy or deep and meaningful method to come up with this idea other than “I thought of it and then made it”.
We devised a list of popular AAA games with highly recognizable male protagonists, then worked with artist Hossein Kalantari to create their female alternative, retaining identifiable characteristics or trademark clothing but ensuring to give each character a personality that’s their own — badass female leads in their own right.
The outcome on all 7 characters was exactly as we’d hoped for: really strong designs that empower women and make the game look like they’ll be just as good as the original, if not better.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License — you’re more than welcome to re-use or republish our character designs, we just request fair credit.
What is fair credit? All we ask is that you link to DiamondLobby as the original source of the designs.
This is how our team can get rightfully recognized for their work and users can check out the other cool things we’ve worked on such as our study into the most popular game in every country or our in-depth gaming accessory reviews.
If you’d like the original image files in a higher resolution, please email me at brittney [at] diamondlobby.com and we’d be happy to send them your way.
If you’re a designer and you’ve been inspired to create some of your own female protagonists, make sure to send them out on Twitter and tag @DiamondLobby so we can see them! We might even feature some community designs in a later update of this post.