Is Anya Stroud Being Changed To Fit Gender Stereotypes In Gears of War 3?

Full disclosure: the post has been edited to address some of the issues brought up in the comments.

Oh, one of these posts, you may be thinking to yourself. Let’s just get some things out of the way before I get to my criticism, shall we? I have an active investment on the franchise–for example, I played the beta for almost 100 hours. This isn’t a random person that caught wind of the ‘grave injustice’ being done to women in this game or something. I adore the franchise. Nor am I casting judgement on Epic for changing Anya; I am not saying they are misogynists, or sexists or anything like that. I have no way of knowing that. If someone steals your wallet, however, you don’t care what kind of a person they are. You care about the action, that they stole your wallet. Likewise, I have no idea what kind of people the developers are, nor does it matter. What matters is this: Anya, the first playable female in the Gears franchise, is being changed, and it appears she’s being changed to appease people who uphold normative gender stereotypes.

A few days ago, Kotaku wrote an article regarding the ways in which the beta will improve the shooter. The line in question is the following:

“There were changes made that you might not expect. Some players thought that Anya, the Gears character who was a playable fighter for the first time in the beta, was “a little more gruff and vulgar” than she should be. “Her lines got toned down and pared back a little bit.”

There’s nothing in there explicitly stating that these changes were because of her gender, but you tell me, then: what in the world else could it be? Forgive me, but the only thing I can possibly extrapolate from that is that players thought Anya, with her kickass rough and raw demeanor wasn’t feminine enough. You can cite her previous calm characterization if you’d like, but she fulfilled a different role there, she was probably a different person. War changes people. And are we to assume that they didn’t take her character into account the first time they drafted her up? I find that difficult to believe. Putting her in the game, period, probably took a lot of thought and consideration–they’ve brought in full fledged novelists to write the story, no?

Anyway, her change is problematic if gender is to blame. This is problematic because, even though we’re constantly on our soapboxes over how games are worthwhile, they are art, what have you, we continue to undermine those efforts when things like these happen. I understand that the industry is a business, and as such catering to your audience is important. The audience provides the income, and it doesn’t make sense to deny them what they want. Sometimes, though, the audience is wrong. Sometimes, the audience shouldn’t be listened to, especially in a case like this, where it’s a male-dominated audience trying to dictate what the depiction of a woman should be. An audience that has a history with gender problems.

I sincerely hope that Epic reconsiders what they’re about to do, and what it means in the larger scheme of things. Anya, and the way she is depicted is important–she proves that even a game overflowing with an excess of testosterone like Gears can be inclusive. If such a high profile developer is afraid of breaking free of gender stereotypes in this day and age, though, then we can probably assume that the industry will continue to perpetuate this sort of thing.

PS: Of course, we’ll have to wait and see what she’s  like in the game proper. Things can–and hopefully will–change. It might not be as bad as it sounds–it might not even be an issue of gender, I’m not denying that. September 20th will tell all–and we’ll probably write a follow-up post near then, too.


  1. It’s a little sad that some men are afraid of strong women or made uncomfortable by women who have so-called “male traits” instead of dainty or provocative qualities. I don’t want to make a big, feminist speech right now, but I just want to say that some people are fucking cowards.

    • Joshua Arrona

      I have to agree with you there are some men who feel threatened of a strong opposite sex, but if they were real men, they shouldnt feel threatened. Besides im sure Anyas character will be different in the story. If I was being shot at as well, ill try to be a mean SOB too.

  2. It’s often deeply depressing to run into the sort of attitudes held by a vocal minority of gamers – at least I hope they’re a minority – as well as the tendency for too many developers and publishers to pander to them.

  3. Fernando Cordeiro

    Question: Was being “more gruff and vulgar” than expected the only justification?

    I mean, more gruff and vulgar compared to WHAT?

    If the answer is “to a female”, then yes, I completely agree with you.

    However, Anya was already in 2 previous Gears. She not a new character. In those games, she is level-headed and calm. In a game about a male-centric monomyth, Anya filled the maternal role. I haven’t played the beta, but I sure don’t expect her to play as Martha Phoenix or something like it.

    So yeah, more gruff and vulgar compared to what? If the answer is “the way Anya was portrayed in the past”, then I don’t see it as a feminist issue at all.

    • Tom Auxier

      While I agree with your assessment, I doubt the players complained because she was out of character when compared to the plot.

    • Being a support role vs being in the action…I don’t see where it would be a stretch to say the way you handle yourself is vastly different. Her role before *demanded* calmness.

      “Has forged her into a tough, confident fighter ready to tackle anything..”

      Amongst other things.

    • Robot Babyruth

      Agreed. I mean does anybody actually give a shit is women are vulgar? Not that I’m aware of. The much more reasonable and likely reason is because like you said she was a calm tempered character before and now people saw her as being suddenly much more aggressive then they are used to. To assume it has anything to do with gender stereotypes is really jumping the gun here. If Duke Nukem suddenly became cautious and polite, do you think people would care because he’s a man or because his character has always been a egotistical chauvinist?

  4. ShiftyShifts

    Shouldn’t you be in the kitchen?

    • Yeuuup

      That’s what I’m sayin

    • seriously shut the hell up and grow up you stupid nerd.

      the joke is not funny anymore.

  5. Patricia, I understand what you’re saying—and I’m all for equal treatment of women, but women being treated as sexual objects in games is a topic more deserving of our criticism. Still, her character shouldn’t be toned down because a few guys can’t take a tough woman (personally I find strong women attractive, I play as a female character when a game allows it)—but at the same time, she shouldn’t act like one of the boys to please you or other female gamers.

    That would make her inclusion in the game feel almost meaningless, if she just acted exactly like all the other meatheads (steroids much). Actually, as a guy I’m offended that there isn’t more “normal” acting guys in video games; Nathan Drake is one of the few exceptions (and he’s still a closet sociopath).

    I know you’re dismissing the criticism of her acting calmer in the previous games by saying, “war changes people”, but it breaks immersion when a character does a complete 360. Like if Elena from the Uncharted series turned into a complete badass in the third installment (swearing and all), gamers would rage (male and female) not because she’s a woman, but because it throws away almost everything we knew and loved about her, it would feel forced.

    Sure they could come up with a back-story, stating that she always had this tough side in her, but is that good story telling? No, it’s just cheap and downright insulting.

    Ultimately, Epic must find a balance, make her tough, but honor her character in the previous games. Anyways, I respect anyone that speaks out against things they disagree with, so well done!

    P.S. I love the name of this site, I’m jealous I didn’t think of it ha-ha.

    • By that same virtue, she shouldn’t have done such an extreme 360 in looks, either. She certainly didn’t look as roided up before. 😛 The visual stuff is way more apparent to everyone than the subtleties in her character.

  6. ShutUp

    No one cares what you think except a few dykes (manly enough to play this game) and some gays (Leon Thomas)

  7. its because the writer of Gears of War does not know how to describe character personalities.

    The only character they got right was Cole and Dom.
    Marcus has 2 types of personalities in Gears of war 1 (i can’t recall GoW2 much). At first he’s more of a calm man with deep voice and second he’s more of a hard ass. Marcus needs to stop changing personality and choose one unless he has personality disfigure problems.

    the same goes to Anya I’m hearing about and it was a good thing and VERY wise they changed Anya. Why would a character who previously was working on a computer all calm and tech then suddenly became a hard ass b*tch cuz she’s in a battlefield?

    I would fire the writer of Gears of War franchise. It just doesn’t make sense and gives a problem to the Story ark.

    It’s like saying Elena from VanQuisH who finally became playable and then suddenly her personality changed from “Sam why are you doing that?” to “Sam for f***k safe, grow the hell up, go suck your moms ass”.
    Nah sorry I would fire that person.

    It’s the same problem with Killzone 2 when the black guy just started cussing so much, I busted out laughing man because it was ridiculous!

    Let’s not forget Beard, when you look at Beard the moment you saw him, you’d think Beard is our typical college football player who acts like a douche, and later on he acts different.

    Someone sort this Gears of mess out please:/

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  9. Joshua Arrona

    You can be totally different in battlefield. I haven’t personally been in any military, but when I used to play football I had to change into a mean SOB! On field and off the field I was a nice, friendly. and humorous person. I’m just saying Anya can still be a calm, level-headed woman, but when she is being shot at. She can curse and be mean all she wants because I would to.