Habboi's Blog of Games Design and All Things Awesome!

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Friday, 5 September 2008

Male Gamers Playing as Female Game Characters



I've been meaning to write about this for a while because while playing a mod called 'Killing Floor' for Unreal Tournament 2004 I decided to play as a female character for a change. Among all the other players I was the only female character.

I joined the only server that came up because the mod had obviously lost interest and half way through amongst all the French someone asked me why I was playing as a female character and then rudely remarked "it was kinda gay".

First of all what led this person to assume I was a guy playing as a female and second of all what makes it gay? I mean I am a male, yes but I guess he hasn't seen many females play games.

I didn't really say much to him because I just thought what a stupid thing to say. So I just asked what makes it gay and he never replied...

But this goes back to my topic...Is it wrong to play as a female character?

It started a while back when I installed Elder Scrolls Oblivion for the thirteenth time and decided for a change to play as a female. It certainly made the game different because of the fact the NPC's addressed me as ma'm or miss and the new sounds when I attacked were refreshing. Although my mother came in and watched me play for a while so I explained to her what it was about etc and when I switched to third person I recall her saying..."You're a girl? That's kinda weird." (Thanks mum)

So ever since I've been playing as female character because it's refreshing and because there aren't enough of them in games.

This is partly why I am looking forward to Mirror's Edge which follows the role of Faith, a female character.

I suppose this topic is kind of steering towards Feminism which is a topic I'm not too knowledgeable about. I even have a friend who has a female avatar in Guild Wars and I remember saying it was kind of weird (this was before I tried playing as a female character)...So perhaps before people say it's weird, they should try it themselves.

But yeah, is it geeky for a male player to select a female avatar or do you think it's perfectly fine? I'm interested in what you have to say if you're reading this.

*While surfing for a picture to post at the top I found this interesting topic which is similar to mine:

http://news.filefront.com/chinese-mmo-bans-males-from-playing-female-characters/

Do give it a read.

*I thought I'd add that just now I completed the Shivering Isles expansion for Oblivion using my female character and I realised how playing as a female helped me make decisions. For example I was pleased to see they added choices to the game and there is a point where you are forced to kill either the duke or the duchess. Playing as the female I chose to kill the duchess and take her role. Therefore if given the choice to be male or female, it does alter the experience from what I've seen. I could even replay it and see the different bits I missed not playing as a male for example...* (Yes I did install it the same day I completed it...It's short! only took like 5-6+ hours I think...)

(Content used: http://www.sexysprite.com/images/UUWOVAIBBMHK.jpg - 05 September 2008)

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8 Comments:

Blogger CrowbarSka said...

Good point. Personally I pretty much always choose a male character, purely because it's easier to put yourself in their shoes and become more immersed in the game.

Unless it's Zombies Ate My Neighbours in which case I'm always the girl.

7 September 2008 at 20:14  

Blogger Habboi said...

Fair enough. I just grew tired of being the over used male and thought I'd try the other half that the developers worked hard on.

8 September 2008 at 13:28  

Blogger Rambo said...

I have no problem playing as a male character - heh, me being the "friend who has a female avatar in Guild Wars" I assume?;-) - but I think where the character is already provided it can be easier to switch roles, more so if the perspective is first person.

When it comes to all these mmorpgs where you get to create your own character, it really depends. In Eve Online I played as a male character - I forget if you are really given the option anyway - but my intention was to create my own backstory about the character and seeing as that was my first mmorpg, I naturally chose a guy.

For Guild Wars the reason I chose a female character is actually very simple (and kinda shallow tbh): they look better! The choice of male characters were the typical square jawed fantasy brute compared to the female characters, and since I was aiming for a kinda Elven Arwen character I chose a somewhat tasteful looking female character (given the choice available).

I'm not a big fan of traditional fantasy anyway, i'm kinda fussy when it comes to what fantasy I do and don't like so in future I may play as a male character. Interesting that you got different gameplay experiences in The Shivering Isles when playing as a female - this I will have to try (I'm a male character this time - a cousin of my Guild Wars character=) ).

I think guys playing as girls does have a bad rep as there are many who go around dressed as buxom scantily clad women just for a laugh, while others like myself spend a lot of time customising the character (male or female) to effect some kind of style or match the storyline (e.g. My elven hero in Oblivion favours the bow and arrow). In many ways, the character designers for these games have a lot to answer for in the choices they make when designing male/female characters: Despite the customisation, my Oblivion hero still looks like a typical broad shouldered thug.

I've heard disheartening tales of the treatment of women gamers in these massively social environments and it's no surprise many people swap genders to get the 'other' experience. The idea of a gender-neutral game is something I am very interested in, however this isn't always possible and I believe there's no reason why a male character should prevent female gamers enjoying the game and vice versa (tbh, in almost every first person game I've played, it was irrelevant to me if the character was male or female).

In any case I think it's a useful social experiment to play with gender - after all that's the priviledge that games provide us: the ability to step out of ourselves and try something else. It's just important that we take responsibility for our representation in games and remember that there is a real person hiding behind all those pixels and polygons, something a lot of ppl easily forget.

12 September 2008 at 22:37  

Blogger Rambo said...

Whoops, that first line should read "female". Oh and gender-inclusive is probably a better term than gender-neutral.

Ahh I feel better now..

13 September 2008 at 12:42  

Blogger Habboi said...

Hehe you should paste in MS word and spell check and re-read especially if you're studying story writing ;P

16 September 2008 at 17:48  

Anonymous Liz said...

Interesting post. I can't say that I'm an expert on gaming, which is strange considering Rambo's obsession! However, being a feminist, I am very aware of the sexism inherent in what gender someone chooses - I have read horror stories of women gamers being subjected to misogyny in online role playing games like World of Warcraft. What bothers me is also the huge lack of unsexist female characters - ones that effectively focus on the personality rather than the 'looks' of a character - which is more important for a storyline anyway. I won't go off into a rant...but I do think that it would be more appealing for both men and women to play female characters with more 'character' as opposed to focusing far too much on the 'look' even though this is important in some sense, considering the look of a game is also important. Like, what bothers me (and I've heard other women say the same) is that characters such as Lara Croft are incredibly interesting to play, yet the way that she is described in gaming magazines discounts her actual personality and skill - they focus on her body. Which is much like real life, pretty much! Hmm, I guess I did have a rant after all...

1 October 2008 at 14:17  

Anonymous Liz said...

'What bothers me is also the huge lack of unsexist female characters - ones that effectively focus on the personality rather than the 'looks' of a character - which is more important for a storyline anyway.' - Umm...I meant by this that the personality of a character is more important for the storyline anyway, if that wasn't obvious...

1 October 2008 at 14:19  

Blogger Habboi said...

Oh I understood it! Appearance actually means a lot to me. I sometimes pick armour that looks better but may actually be really weak and cause me to die a lot.

But I don't get the whole Lara Croft thing, I have never found an interest in "googling" over a female model with big "melons."

Anyway Fallout 3 came out a while back and I first played as a male but now that I have finished it I am re-playing as a female but doing bad things rather than good things. I must admit I am enjoying the second time more than the first.

I'm glad some people replied to this, quite interesting to see what others think.

8 November 2008 at 15:29  

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