Bioware recently revealed the box cover art for its upcoming game, Dragon Age: Inquisition, creating conversation through its use of a gender neutral character. Some say that this is a ground breaking decision, while others say, this has been done before. Where do you stand?
I found that Erik Kain, a contributor to Forbes, has some valid points in his exploration of gender neutrality box art. One example that he uses is the box art for the game Demon's Souls, asking the reader,"Can you honestly tell me the gender of the knight on the cover of Demon's Souls?" Well, no, I can not. Having never played Demon's Souls, I did a little research to see whether there was a gender option in that game. My search turned up the answer that yes, there is a choice of gender. Ok Erik, you may have a point.
When you look at the art for Dragon Age: Inquisition, you see a powerful figure with their arm stretched out towards the darkened heavens, where a multitude of demons are ripping their way out of the fade. As a player of the Dragon Age franchise, there is a lot that I enjoy about this composition. The use of light for example, is well executed, getting the viewer to travel up the figure, through the outstretched arm, and into the impact of the incoming horde. It is an insinuation to good versus evil, and potentially a reference to the power of Andraste, the religious faction in the game. In the game one will be playing an inquisitor, a controversial title, if you reflect on the previous game's bitter clash between the Templars and Mages. The box art does not offer many bold colors, but it still carries impact. and is bold in its own respect. The figure itself, has his or her back turned to the viewer. Though you can not see the face, the body is lithe enough to where one could actually believe it is a female. In my opinion, this is different than the broad, clunky, armor featured on the Demon's Souls cover.
As a female gamer, I get excited at the chance to play a character of my own gender. Yes, I would love to see more cover art that features a female. Sure, there are games like Tomb Raider or that one off of a female Assassin's Creed that has a female on the cover as the heroine, but both of those are games where there is no choice between what gender you play. Bioware came closest by releasing Mass Effect 3 with a dual male and female cover on the inside tin, but even on the primary box, it was the N7 logo with male Shepard featured on the back.
So how ground breaking is the cover art of Dragon Age: Inquisition?
This is strictly my opinion. I believe that Bioware's attempt at gender neutrality is impactful, though not necessarily ground breaking. They were smart in how they positioned the cover character, making them look lithe enough to be a female, but built enough to be a male. You don't get the appearance of broad shoulders, which is always awful for a female to see on a feminine character (Fable 2 anyone?). So in the respect of getting both male and female gamers excited about the cover, yes, I believe that they were successful. However, I believe that choosing to feature a female character on a cover where one can choose to play either as a male or female will be ground breaking. While the amount of female gamers is constantly expanding, this is still an industry focused on the male gamer, so a cover like that will be something to talk about.