Feminist Frequency paved the way for a playable female protagonist in Dishonored 2
Unlike the original Dishonored, which featured two different male protagonists (one in the main game and another in the optional DLC campaign), Dishonored 2 allows players to control either returning protagonist Corvo Attano or his adult daughter, Empress Emily Kaldwin. According to developer Arkane Studios, the decision to make Emily a playable character in the sequel was based off of negative feedback it received for the first game.
More specifically, Arkane co-creative director Harvey Smith said that it was critic Anita Sarkeesian’s analysis of Dishonored, which she offered through her web series Feminist Frequency, which promoted the studio to re-evaluate how it portrayed women in the series. It was only after Dishonored was released that Smith and his team realized the game contained a very limiting portrayal of women as a whole:
“At first you take some criticism and you go, ‘Wait a minute,’ and then you go look and it’s like, ‘Wow, every woman in Dishonored is either a servant, a prostitute, a witch, a queen, a little girl, or a mistress. We had a mistress. That was not our intention.”
Smith said as much in a recent E3 interview with Sarkeesian, and he also confirmed that it was one of her Feminist Frequency videos, one in which she analyzed and critiqued the common trope of making women into disposable background characters, that led Arkane to eventually make Emily Kaldwin into a playable character in Dishonored 2:
“We internally sat down. ... Your comment I will always remember, and I will take it to my grave. It was something like, while Dishonored is a game that does many things very well, the roles that it has for women are very narrow.”
You can watch the full E3 interview between Sarkeesian and Smith below. Arkane also just recently announced that a new standalone title called Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is coming later this year. It too will feature a playable female protagonist.