Greetings, Programs! As you may or may not know, Battlestate Games’ Escape from Tarkov is currently enjoying a peak moment in its existence. Since its release in 2016, the combination of Tarkov‘s particular flavor of punishing survival gameplay, and its appeal among big streamers, has made it a slow burn hit.
Unfortunately, Battlestate’s time in the spotlight has not been very graceful so far.
The Tarkov controversy: Hardened, manly lore
Now that Escape from Tarkov is humming along nicely and is enjoying a robust online community of players, the call for playable female avatars is getting more common. Not for nothing, but female gamers are not exactly rare these days.
Battlestate Games’s response to the demand has been less than convincing.
But there will be no playable female characters because of game lore and more importantly – the huge amount of work needed with animations, gear fitting etc#EscapefromTarkov
— Battlestate Games (@bstategames) January 6, 2020
Ouch! Considering the game is a new IP, claiming “lore” as a reason is not great. BSG is the ultimate arbiter of the lore. It’s not like this game is based on “Lord of the Flies“, with its all-male cast of characters, where people might reasonably object to altering the source material. Which by the way happened. People objected accordingly.
If BSG wants to add women soldiers to the game, they can do that. They can add mutants and aliens if they want. It’s a fictional world. And if they want to “keep it real,” women have played a big part in modern military history, including notably in Russia’s own military.
The other reason given is that it would be too difficult to program playable female characters into the game. If that sounds familiar, you’re having a flashback to 2014, way before Tarkov and its current controversy. Back then Ubisoft gave that very excuse for both Assassin’s Creed: Unity and Far Cry 4. At the time, Johnathan Cooper, and animator for a number of titles including Mass Effect, The Last of Us, and, yes, Assassin’s Creed, pointed out that it really isn’t that hard to animate women.
In my educated opinion, I would estimate this to be a day or two's work. Not a replacement of 8000 animations. http://t.co/z4OZl3Sngl
— Jonathan Cooper (@GameAnim) June 11, 2014
These widely panned decisions by Ubisoft also spawned the hashtag #womenaretoohardtoanimate, which lead to some humorous takes on the controversy.
We can reproduce French Revolution-era Paris in 1:1 scale with immaculate detail but #womenaretoohardtoanimate
— Dominic Bambi (@garliquorice) June 11, 2014
the individual dragon scales were easy, it's that sashay thing women do when they walk that takes effort #womenaretoohardtoanimate
— Jennifer Pierce (@nnejpierce) June 12, 2014
All the CGI dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were male. #womenaretoohardtoanimate
— Michael Brundage (@michaelbrundage) June 12, 2014
Speaking of the wayback machine
Even if you accept the lore and difficulty explanations, there’s still the problem of a 2016 interview in which one of the Russian developers, Pavel Dyatlov, was a little more explicit about why there are no women in the game:
We considered that, but we came to the conclusion that women are not allowed to be in the war.
If that comes across as awkward and possibly a case of “lost in translation,” Dyatlov clears it up a moment later:
…we came to the conclusion that women can’t handle that amount of stress. There’s only place for hardened men in this place.
So, yeah, that’s a thing he said.
Realistically, if the community keeps growing – and it probably will, since Escape from Tarkov is a pretty good game, controversy notwithstanding – and continues to pressure BSG, it’s possible they’ll, ahem, bite the bullet and introduce female playable characters. High quality Twitter roasts may be a pretty good byproduct of controversy, but some actual attention to what players want is welcome too. Not for nothing, but in multiplayer, lore doesn’t mean quite as much.