Christopher Brookmyre on gaming's new female face

Bedlam character Heather Quinn/Athena Artwork of Bedlam's lead character Heather Quinn

The work of Scots author Christopher Brookmyre has inspired a new video game with a female lead character who the novelist hopes will help redress the gender imbalance in first-person shooter games.

In video game terminology a first-person shooter (FPS) is one in which the player experiences the action through the eyes of the protagonist.

Acclaimed Glaswegian novelist Christopher Brookmyre says there are as few as six female leads in existing FPS games, with Mirror's Edge being one of the rare examples.

He says the genre is dominated by male characters, which he describes as typically being "xenophobic, militaristic, macho and with simplistic ideologies".

"The average FPS protagonist is a testosterone-addled sociopath with all the endearing charm of a cornered honey badger," he says.

So Brookmyre has worked with Brighton-based games developer RedBedlam, to develop a game which is due to be released this summer.

Bedlam is based on the Brookmyre's 2013 novel of the same name.

Its lead character is a programmer called Heather Quinn.

Brookmyre says he hopes she will help in "redressing a longstanding gender imbalance" in the FPS genre.

Christopher Brookmyre Christopher Brookmyre has been a keen gamer since his childhood

Bedlam the book marked Brookmyre's second foray into science-fiction and his latest work to feature gaming, something the novelist has been interested in since playing Jet Set Willy on a ZX Spectrum as a boy in the 1980s.

The novel emerged from talks with the games developer RedBedlam who were aware of Brookmyre's writing and wondered if he fancied turning his hand to writing the story for an FPS.

Brookmyre says: "The team at Redbedlam had read my book A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away, which is a love poem to first-person shooters, and Pandaemonium, my first science-fiction and FPS-inspired story.

"They approached me about writing a game because they thought I was a familiar with the rules and tropes of video games," the author says.

There is one major difference between the book and the game.

In the book, the lead character is Ross Baker, an overworked and underpaid scientist developing medical technology for corporate giant Neurosphere.

He volunteers to test new brain scanning technology to escape the drudge of his office work and finds himself trapped in Starfire, a violent sci-fi game he played when he was a teenager.

Baker also discovers that he is not fighting with the good guy space marines, but as one of the game's "cannon fodder" baddie cyborgs.

Brookmyre says: "Normally in these kind of scenarios the lead character is the hero and the destiny.

"I thought it would be funny if he found himself to be a nobody, even better one of those who faces being gunned down in the early, training level of the game."

Poster artwork from Bedlam The book and game feature cyborgs
Poster artwork from Bedlam The game is due to be released this summer
Screen shot from Bedlam Brookmyre said further Bedlam games and books could follow

In the new FPS, Brookmyre says this alternative scenario will force players to explore the game's world and find a role in it.

Brookmyre says that, with hindsight, he should have made the novel's lead character a woman.

The lead character in the FPS, Heather Quinn is a colleague of Ross Baker.

She is a programmer at Neurosphere and a keen gamer who calls herself Athena in the virtual worlds of the games she plays.

Bedlam character Heather Quinn/Athena Athena and a Star Wars Stormtrooper at a cosplay convention

The writer says women are often poorly portrayed in games.

He says they appear as "rescue fodder", in not much clothing or they have been 'fridged', a term coined following a storyline in a Green Lantern comic book where the villain leaves the corpse of the hero's girlfriend in a fridge for him to find.

"The purpose of a woman being fridged is to get the hero worked up into a rage and for him then to go off and kill more people," says Brookmyre.

He adds: "When we were playing around a wee bit with the character of Athena we thought she would be appalled to find herself in a cyborg, but then thinking that it was preferable to the usual horrendously sexist female gaming character look of hideous push-up bra and loin cloth."

By contrast to the usual stereotypes, the poster art for Bedlam, shows Athena dressed as Tom Baker's fourth Doctor Who to reinforce her "geek credentials".

RedBedlam's co-founder and marketing director, Nick Witcher said: "We think Athena really is a very unique character for a shooter.

"Unlike previous female protagonists she's just a normal geeky girl and a gamer. I have friends just like her.

"It also gives us the chance to delve even deeper into Christopher Brookmyre's oeuvre, which invariably features such female characters prominently."

Brookmyre, who is in Inverness this week to talk about the book and game at the goNorth creative industries festival, says there are hopes for further Bedlam books and games.

However, he says he is not finding the time to play FPSs as much as he used to.

"Now, I'm more likely to stand over the shoulder of my son Jack watching him play," he says.

"He was also involved in some ideas for the game and dialogue for some of the characters. He has a far better idea of how young people speak today than I do."

Brookmyre adds: "We used to play the game Quake III together and I would have to handicap myself to give him a chance. Now, it is the other way around."

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    11:23: Shipyard bids

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    Anonymous: Dawkins and eugenics - wrong connection. Eugenics deals with hereditary disorders, Downs is not. Personally I applaud Dawkins for bringing the obvious unspoken to the fore.

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    10:21: Big G move

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    10:15: Morning Call BBC Radio Scotland

    We're currently discussing Prof Richard Dawkins's controversial comments that it may be immoral for a mother to continue with a pregnancy if she knows the baby would be born with Down's syndrome.

    Prof Dawkins justified his statement by saying that he was expressing a scientific opinion which reflected what actually happened most of the time.

    Do you agree? Call 0500 92 95 00, email your views here or text us on 80295.

    You can listen live to the debate here.

    Text 80295 10:05: Banter - your views

    When does banter become unacceptable?

    John Hall, Ayr: Those offended need a reality check. Obviously his comments are not pleasant and I don't share his bigotry, but privacy is the important thing here. The right to freedom of speech must be paramount.

    Mark in Cumbernauld: I have sent and received many texts that could be deemed as offensive but there was always humour in them. I don't see where the humour is in Malkys texts. That to me is the difference, they are not humorous but offensive.

    Craig: People who use such terms and consider it banter need to look at their own morality. Are these texts private? Not if sent using a phone paid for by his employer in which case they are the property of his employer.

    What do you think? Call 0500 92 95 00, email your views here or text us on 80295.

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    Text 80295 09:13: Banter - your views

    When does banter become unacceptable?

    Al from Strathaven: Here we go again. How easily offended the easily offended are! I doubt there is anyone listening who has not received or indeed sent an iffy text. Do the thought police now stop us telling the old jokes about the Scotsman, Englishman and Irishman. Its pathetic!

    Tommy in Ardrossan: Think the attitudes expressed by the texts are offensive and outdated but how did someone get hold of the private texts? Who dug them up who released them and why?

    Darren D ‏via Twitter: I'm not supporting Mackay but life would be v dull without banter.

    What do you think? Call 0500 92 95 00, email your views here or text us on 80295.

    08:58: Jean Redpath tribute

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    "She would walk on stage and smile at the audience and that was it, they were won over. She believed implicitly in what she was doing."

    08:51: Morning Call BBC Radio Scotland

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    On Morning Call, Kaye Adams asks: When does banter become unacceptable?

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    Tell us what you think by calling 0500 92 95 00, texting 80295 or emailing. The lines are open now.

    You can listen live to the debate here.

    08:43: Ferguson's shipyards

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    08:35: Newspaper review

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    08:28: What is tidal power?

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    He said: "It is like an underwater windmill.

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    08:22: Power from the sea

    The construction of a major tidal energy project is set to begin later this year in the Pentland Firth.

    It has been announced that the MeyGen scheme has secured £50m in funding.

    Of that, more than £20m will come from the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

    Atlantis CEO and MeyGen director Tim Cornelius. told Good Morning Scotland: "This is now the largest tidal power project, what we call free stream tidal power, certainly in Europe, if not the world. So, it certainly puts Scotland on the map as now being the world leader in free stream tidal power."

    08:15: School gate

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    08:10: GP websites

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    08:06: BBC Scotland Travel Latest

    Edinburgh M8 - eastbound delays between J2 Claylands and J1 Hermiston Gait

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    That's true of the Glasgow-bound M77 at junction 2 Barrhead Road

    08:02: BBC Scotland Weather Latest

    It is a chilly start across most places this morning. A lot of dry and bright weather to come for many, with some good spells of sunshine - particularly across the southern half of the country.

    Some showers around through parts of the north - the most frequent of which are found in the North West Highlands, and across Aberdeenshire.

    Some showers are feeding down the west coast too.

    Showers will continue through the day, becoming more extensive down the east coast this afternoon - with perhaps the odd rumble of thunder in among them.

    Temperatures around 16/17C in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Further north, closer to 14/15C - still on the cool side for the time of year.

    08:00: Steven Brocklehurst BBC Scotland news website

    Good morning and welcome from the Scotland Live team and our rolling live text service of news, sport, weather and travel from across the country between now and 6pm.



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