More to the point, do we have much reason to believe that people wouldn't happily enjoy games just like the current standard "guy rescues damsel in distress", but with the genders flipped?
I think that'd be enjoyable; I'd enjoy playing them if they're done well.
While we can't find many (or any?) games that are a direct reversal of one specific trope ("damsel in distress"), that doesn't automatically mean no games cater to females. Obviously there are some dumb games like "Barbie vs Hellokitty Shopping Adventure!" (not a real game), but those games likely don't actually appeal to females unless they are under 10 years old. What I mean is, there are genres that are popular with women that are targeted at women. So the industry as a whole aren't completely ignoring them - it's the >$100 million AAA games that are (mostly) ignoring them (despite women also playing those AAA games).
It's interesting that so many guys, young and old, have watched My Little Pony. Myself included, though not fanatically. The reason for this, I think, is because the characters, while seemingly cliched on the surface, are actually richer and deeper than most, so they stand out amidst the a lack of creativity elsewhere.
Honestly, I've read and watched alot more children books and shows recently, because it seems to me there are a new generation of writers who, unable to get multi-million dollar budgets given to them for mainstream movies and shows, are able to get the funding for writing children's shows, and putting real creativity into those worlds and characters.
I'm not saying all cliches should be avoided either (anymore than tropes should be avoided - they are tools to use), but that a cliche on its own, does not make a character. At least, not a very deep one.
You point out the fantasy of "heroics" and "getting the guy/girl at the end", but, even excluding non-heterosexuals, are men not capable of enjoying gender-flipped versions, and might women not share in such fantasies?
Absolutely - I'd enjoy playing more good female protagonists, and I'd be willing to play even romance-focused ones. I've read, and enjoyed, several of Jane Austen's novels (and the better movie versions) - which are female protagonists falling in love with, or winning over, the males. What I especially loved about those, is all the characters were flawed in different ways. The men and women all had human flaws, even the side characters, most also had good strengths as well, and the characters weren't stereotypes or cliches. Pride and Prejudice was especially good at that and, in my opinion, even sets you up and then reverses the flaws in the female protagonist and the male she despises who, "against my better judgements" has fallen in love with her - it's done really well (she seems prejudiced against him, and he's prideful and snobbish, but as it develops you realize she's prideful and snobbish and he's prejudiced against her - or rather, they are both equally prideful and prejudice, but it swaps the focus of which of their flaws are in focus).
That's what we need in games, IMO. Richer characters, all around. Once we have a wider variety of richer characters, instead of two-dimensional cookie-cutter characters, I think it'd naturally occur that greater diversity in character ensembles, protagonists, and antagonists, will come out of it.
There are some interesting characters in games, but it's usually the interesting characters in the midst of a cast of cliches, and even the interesting characters often lack depth.
In Pride and Prejudice, every side-characters are also fantastic and made real (but not defined by) their flaws and strengths. And the characters you hate, you love to hate. They aren't annoying, like some videogame or movie characters, they are flawed, and you love to hate them for their actions that result from their flaws. I think almost any character in a show or game or movie that annoys you, as the consumer, is bad writing. If a character is annoying, the character should be annoying to the other characters within the game, but not annoying to the player. The player should be able to enjoy every character, the villains, the protagonist, the party-members, the plot characters, the side characters, everyone.
To clarify, when I said "gender-swapped" earlier, I was derogatorily meaning when someone takes a male character and, without changing anything, just copy+pastes the entire character into a female, or vise-versa. Gender-flips can be done very well or very poorly. Just taking an entire character and saying, "Uh, but now she's a guy" without actually revisiting the nature of the character, can result in flat characters (no changes). But if you revisit the nature of the character, it can either result in stereotyped characters (cliched sexist changes) or it can result in much-desired deeper characters, because it forces you to think about the character's history and background, and how that has defined the character's personality, nature, desires, and skills.
Doesn't have to just be gender swaps either. Could be ethnicities, cultures, occupations, or anything else that, in real life, adds to and influences someone's character. If the differences are ignored entirely, or cliche'd up, it can ruin a character. Or, it can be treated as an opportunity to revisit the nature of the character, and make the character richer and deeper.
The only thing that I might quibble over is that I don't much like setting a genre at the outset either, if for different reasons: I'd say to write a good story, create good gameplay, etc., regardless of what genre (whether gameplay, story, or whatever) it might fit into. For one thing, setting a genre at the outset can constrain one, causing one to miss paths that might have produced a better game by virtue of following the path laid by the chosen genre. Further, as a general principle of development, I'm inclined to worry about genres becoming ossified by virtue of becoming the starting points of game designs, rather than (as I feel is more appropriate) post-hoc categorisations.
Yea, I definitely agree with that. Leave the classification of the game to the players, journalists, and (to some extent) your marketers.