Games developer RedBedlam has taken a step towards redressing the longstanding gender imbalance in the ‘first-person shooter’ (FPS) genre by announcing that the lead role in its upcoming title Bedlam will be a new character created specifically for the game.

Players will take on the role of Heather Quinn (aka Athena), a programmer at medical scanning developer Neurosphere who finds herself transported into the world of Starfire: a nineties FPS she remembers from her teenage years. Searching for an explanation and a way home, she ventures beyond Starfire to discover a vast realm of interconnected game worlds documenting the evolution of the FPS genre and of video games in general.

Bedlam is adapted from the novel by Christopher Brookmyre, but diverges from the original in this change of protagonist. The novel’s hero, Ross Baker, does feature prominently in the game, but the switch to a female lead – who is a gamer and sci-fi fan – offers a fresh and bitingly humorous new perspective upon the “gameverse” that the player will explore.

“Choosing a strong, independent and modern female lead for this role not only means that we can help to address the woeful diversity situation amongst video game protagonists,” said Nick Witcher, Marketing Director at RedBedlam, “but it also allows us to make the most of Christopher Brookmyre’s writing by drawing upon his acclaimed reputation for creating compelling female characters.”

“The average FPS protagonist is a testosterone-addled sociopath with all the endearing charm of a cornered honey badger,” said Christopher Brookmyre. “I thought we could prove that you don’t need balls to be ballsy. Players of both sexes will identify with Athena, because first and foremost she is a gamer herself. Women have been shamefully ignored by the FPS genre, so it seemed appropriate that we have an acerbic female perspective in a game that plays upon the evolution and conventions of the genre.”

The announcement is expected to make a big impression in the games industry, which has faced calls to feature more female protagonists in recent years, with Entertainment Software Association research revealing that nearly half of all gamers are women. Yet, as Brookmyre points out in an interview published today by the BBC, there are as few as six female leads in existing FPS games.

The game will be made available for download on the Steam platform this summer, and Brookmyre and RedBedlam are already planning two further novel / video game tie-ins in the series. Screenshots and concept art for Bedlam are available on the game’s website.