How often is it that you have heard the phrase ‘there’s no women in COD’, either as a fan or on-looker to the series? For me, it’s a sweeping statement I’ve heard all too often, and while it may have some truth in terms of playable characters it is completely untrue. Female characters have always been in the Call of Duty games, and all it takes is a simple playthrough of the campaigns to notice that.
-Where Are The Women In COD?-
Whenever I hear someone make that sweeping statement, I always facepalm because it shows how little they know of the series. It’s easy to look on from a distance, watching trailers and multiplayer gameplay and assume that there’s no women in the COD games, but this does not affirm the non-existence of female characters. I always list off a few examples of women in the COD series, though there may be more that I’m not aware of since I’m going from what I remember. There indeed may not be playable female characters in COD, either in campaign or multiplayer (with the slight exception of Black Ops II, which I’ll explain in a bit) but there have always been female characters in the form of support characters or pilots. EDIT: In Call of Duty 2 Lieutenant Tanya Pavelovna was the first playable female character, which I learned recently (thanks for the tip phantomnaut) .In Call of Duty 4, in the infamous mission that ended in a nuke, the downed helicopter’s pilot that you had to save was a woman. In Modern Warfare 3 one of the AC-130’s navigators was female in the mission ‘Iron Lady’, and the pilot of the bomber plane that destroyed the tanks in the 3rd to last mission, Scorched Earth, was female. Not to mention the President’s daughter whom you had to rescue was female, if we’re to get nit-picky. In Black Ops II the President of the United States was female, the pilot in the mission Cordis Die was female (Anderson, in the picture at the top) and finally one of the most important characters to the game’s plot and eventual outcome was female: Chloe ‘Karma’ Lynch. In one of the ‘Strike Force’ missions named Second Chance after rescuing Karma you have a brief moment to play as her, hence why I mentioned that Black Ops II is a slight exception earlier. While this may all seem specific and slightly presumptuous, I consistently make this list to prove a point: people make the sweeping statement “there’s no women in COD” to not always refer to playable characters but refer to the complete non-existence of female characters in the series, which of course is completely untrue. While I can’t fully explain why none of these women are playable or are on the front line with you (since COD always emulates real life armies, so many would assume that the lack of female soldiers is normal, but there are many female frontline soldiers in the world) I can at least explain that there are female characters, so the sweeping statement should be reconsidered.
-The Importance Of Air Support-
After reading the ones I listed off, the argument against it would be that ‘oh but they’re mainly just non-playable pilots, why should they matter’ and then you would bring up the point about frontline soldiers. As I said, I can’t explain fully why there’s no frontline soldiers, though I will cover that aspect later on, I can argue back this simple fact: pilots in the COD campaigns have been CRUCIAL to every mission. Think about every evac scenario, every time soldiers were transported to the battlefield, think of every time Nikolai in the Modern Warfare series saved the main characters. Whether or not the pilot is male or female in a war situation pilots are as essential to the battle as the foot soldiers. I’m not going to write chapter and verse about warfare 101 but I will give some examples of how pilots have been useful in the COD series. In countless missions in COD4 without the aid of air support those missions could have been impossible, both gameplay wise and in the storyline, such as mission like ‘Heat’ where you needed the jet strikes to take the edge off from the onslaught of enemies. In MW3 the AC-130 and its pilots were directly responsible for escorting Delta Force in the mission Iron Lady, just as AC-130s have always provided air support in the series. In Black Ops II were it not for Anderson (the jet fighter pilot) arriving when she did then Section and his team may have all died to the drone strikes, as it was mentioned that the rest of the squadron was off fighting the drones. You get the idea; point is I find it silly to infer that female jet pilots in the games don’t matter as they have all played their roles in each campaign. Every Call of Duty game is about a joint effort on all fronts to either fight terrorism or protect the world from a nuclear war, so while there may have not been female front line soldiers, many female characters have been essential to the plot just like any other character.
-But What About Other Games?-
Many like to compare the Call of Duty games to other series such as Gears of War and Halo, in which both have implemented female characters in both their single player and multiplayer modes. Gears of War 3 introduced characters such as Anya, Sam and even the Locust Queen to being playable, and Halo has the choice of either a male or female body type when customizing your multiplayer Spartan. Some may claim that the choices are cosmetic, which they are, and others may claim that it’s the difference between equality and a ‘dude-bro’ game, yet I feel that this is a problem. The assumption that a lack of female character choice suggests any latent sexism either in the game’s design or on the developers’ side is a stretch. Some games may have been designed to have only male characters selectable only because of the developer’s ideas, not because they had chosen to purposefully exclude women. In a similar way a game that focuses more on women is done not to purposefully exclude men but instead to focus on the women, examples include the Arcana Heart series which is an all female cast fighting game. If we get lost in the chasm of political correctness it would lead to silly claims such as that we should have an equal amount of women, men, races, ages and religions in each game, which is of course a pointless notion. I feel that people should be less quick to assume sexism (or racism for that matter) in a game that doesn’t completely ‘represent’ females. And in the Call of Duty series in particular, bar the playable characters, women are in there and have always had important roles, just as women in Halo or Gears of War 3 have had. It’s also important to note that Halo and Gears of War have allowed choice of multiplayer characters while Call of Duty only allows choice of classes, so COD never really had multiplayer model choices. I admit that some of the multiplayer soldiers could have been female, but as I said I can’t explain why they’re not but I don’t believe that the decision to not have any females was in any way ‘sexist’.
There’s been some talk that in the upcoming Call of Duty: Ghosts’ multiplayer mode, where you can fully customize your character, it will include an option for female characters. As far as the gameplay trailer went there’s no clear sign of any female characters in the campaign, which has led to some eye rolling from some and that in my opinion is unnecessary. If people are honestly and truly concerned about the presence of female characters in the next Call of Duty title then we’ll have to wait and see for more info as it’s revealed. While many assume the next COD game to be very ‘dude-bro’ we could be pleasantly surprised and get to play as female characters for a portion of the game, or like in the other COD titles there will be female support characters and pilots, which is more than likely. Personally I’ve always found the option of female characters in multiplayer games like Halo to be cosmetic, with the exception of Gears of War 3 where the female characters have dialogue and personality which may influence your choice of them in the multiplayer (though this is cosmetic in some way regardless). However whether this means that female characters in multiplayer is a necessary option is debatable; I don’t believe that a game needs a little or alot of either gender to get someone to play it, as many will gladly play games with either predominantly men or women characters. But if it’s something that people are genuinely requesting, for whatever reason, then I suppose having the option of it wouldn’t hurt at all.
Bottom line is this: know all the facts before you assume, and even then don’t assume that what you’ve seen implies sexism. Female characters exist in Call of Duty in one way or another, despite not being playable or being soldiers in the action with you. If in future titles female characters become playable then that’s fine, but I personally don’t believe that it makes the game any less or more sexist than people presume it to be. As a fan of the Call of Duty series, and a fan of several other games with various characters of different genders, ages and race, I’ve always liked to appreciate the characters within the game and what their purpose is, but not to nitpick when I don’t see certain types of characters represented. If only others could do the same, but alas that’s just the way things are.