Millions of people play Minecraft, but when you first boot up the game everyone plays as the same character: Steve, a blocky boy in a blue shirt. With an upcoming update, however, that will soon change. "Jolly old Steve doesn't really represent the diversity of our playerbase," explains Owen Hill, from developer Mojang. "For that reason, we're giving all players opportunity to play with an Alex skin instead. She brings thinner arms, redder hair, and a ponytail." Alex will be available as a free update for "players on all consoles" starting on Wednesday.
While it's taken a long time, the concept of gender in Minecraft is something the developers have been thinking about for some time. According to creator Markus Persson, who has since left the studio after selling it to Microsoft, Steve was originally conceived as a genderless character. "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," he wrote in 2012.
Alex actually debuted in the PC version of the game last year, but the skin was randomly assigned, so you didn't have a choice whether you played as a boy or girl. For the console versions of Minecraft, players will actually be able to choose whether to play as Steve or Alex. The new character will come with eight different skins and doesn't change the gameplay in any way. "She has slightly thinner arms than Steve," says Hill, "but plays exactly the same way as he does."