Can I just say that I very much appreciate that there are ‘Official’ and ‘Hosted’ games and that each has their own merits?
So to answer the title, I do think that the gender of the mc is important and I think that importance can be, and is, in different ways.
The Official games label have spelled it out clearly that these games are for everyone, but more specifically - for people who have been underrepresented time and time again. And so the importance of gender here is that there are games where you can…actually play as a girl.
To expand, I play both male and female protagonists in games where there is an option but I no longer play games where only being a man is an option. As a gamer you will start to notice a very obvious pattern - the default hero is almost always a guy. Even in generic shooters with no dialogue, the little graphic avatar and hero of the game, with no influence on the situation, is most often a dude. And up until a recent point, if there was a rare female protagonist, she was often very sexualized and usually there for a certain group’s gaze (I am a big fan of empowerment, but I don’t think scantile clothing options for the sole female character amongst heavily armored soldiers and a focus on traditionally sexualized parts of her body were supposed to be a statement of women’s freedom of choice, unfortunately). I do fully support developers vision and artistic choice, and have no qualms with them choosing a male lead for their games, and luckily there have been more and more games as of late with female leads who are simply characters who happen to be female, but it does become a problem when that is the only vision available and basically - that’s exactly what is has been.
So the Official games allow people who want to play female characters to do so and to do so without heavy discrimination for simply being born that gender. There is great merit in that, and kind of a godsend in the industry.
On the other hand, I fully support games that want to embrace the imbalances and either lock the protagonist to a set gender or to have your choice have some influence on the game.
Humans tend to have a track record of being oppressive and generally horrid throughout history. (For you gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, horrifically abusing and exploiting other living beings simply because they ‘aren’t us’ even though they are the exact same in every single criteria that actually matters like being alive and sentiment with a conscious experience and feeling physical/emotional pain and having a want to live and…okay vegan tangent rant off)
I don’t want to say it trivializes it by ignoring it, because having an escape from it all is again very important and sometimes that’s just want you want - escapism, but I do think there can be value in, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with, acknowledging the injustices to these groups of people in games that do want to tackle that instead of erasing it completely. Like a Victorian set game could ignore the fact that women were meant to be ‘Angels of the House’ and could be sent off to mental institutions for something as trivial as anxiety, and could do an alternate history where none of that ever happened or happened to men instead… But, I personally love playing games where not only is that acknowledged, but in which you get to fight against that. Or in which one of the minor or major antagonistic forces is a society that is against you. Or if you were to play a male in such a setting, you get to see the advantages you do have compared to others and then you get given the opportunity to meet these amazing and strong female characters that do face oppression and that have made it just as far as you.
I also don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to draw from real world history. (Even if you add magic, or dragons, you don’t have to eliminate or change the social and political influences of the time being emulated) I personally did not like the Broadstyle flip at all, but there are people who do. I see why there are male-locked games, and though I will never play them, I support wanting to acknowledge a basis in history and fully support these authors. Or to play an established historically important figure who has certain expectations given things they can’t control and again, acknowledges the struggles they have to face. Especially if that figure is say, a women that held power in a time where they traditionally didn’t. (I love Guenevere so much! And one of my own games has you play the role of Persephone.) But again, I also fully support people who don’t want to bring that history into their escapism and don’t want to have to face challenges based on that because they still face them today.
Basically, to reiterate everything I said in the beginning - I love that there are brand standards, and I also love that authors are also given a chance to persue a different vision if they so choose. Everyone has options here, as do the people who want to write said options. So yeah, it’s great. This site is great. These games are great. And mhm, I think gender is important.