A Video Game Just Leveled the Playing Field With Its First Female Character

Minecraft players can now navigate as Alex.

(Photo: Courtesy Mojang)

Apr 27, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

Last month, 12-year-old Madeline Messer wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post when she discovered that many of the video games she played on her iPhone charged extra to play as a girl character, if that option was offered at all: Most games only featured a boy avatar.

Until this week, Minecraft was one of those video games. The popular block-building game that boasts more than 100 million registered users will finally offer players the choice of a female character—as opposed to the standard male character, Steve—starting on Wednesday, according to an announcement on developer Mojang’s blog.

“Now, everyone loves Steve—he’s probably the most famous minecrafter in the world, and has excellent stubble,” Mojang’s Owen Hill said in a statement on Monday. Lovable facial hair aside, “jolly old Steve doesn’t really represent the diversity of our playerbase,” Hill wrote.

For that reason, Mojang is introducing Alex, a female player with “thinner arms” and red hair pulled back into a ponytail.

The caveat: This update is only available to console users on Xbox and PlayStation, which means that iPhone gamers like Messer won’t be able to play as Alex on their mobile screens. In her analysis of the top 50 gaming apps listed in iTunes, Messer found that 98 percent of games offered boy characters, while just 46 percent offered girl characters.

It’s worth noting that Steve was originally designed as an ambiguously blocky, genderless character, as The Verge pointed out. Minecraft creator and former lead developer Markus Persson wrote on his Tumblr in 2012: “If it wasn’t for the fact that the default Minecraft character is referred to as ‘Minecraft Guy’ and that I once jokingly answered ‘Steve?’ when asked what his name was, Minecraft would be a game where gender isn’t a gameplay element.”