16 votes

About one out of three men prefer playing female characters. Rethinking the importance of female protagonists in video games.

24 comments

  1. [10]
    kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    Before I even clicked on the article, I was wondering if it was going to bring up the "if I have to stare at a butt.." line. I've heard this exact reason said by many a guy I've known (both in...

    When male gamers are directly asked this question in blog posts and message boards, by far the most common provided response is along the lines of: “If I have to stare at a butt all day, I would rather it be a female butt.” Whether this is the actual reason or simply the most socially acceptable explanation that can be stated is unclear.

    Before I even clicked on the article, I was wondering if it was going to bring up the "if I have to stare at a butt.." line.

    I've heard this exact reason said by many a guy I've known (both in person and online), and it's always bothered me. It's hard to put my finger on why explicitly, and a lot of this is based on some shaky assumptions of mine, but nearly every time I've heard it, the line comes across as a defense against some sort of unspoken, subtextual allegations that are never explicitly voiced.

    The most obvious is that the guy saying the line feels a need to defend himself from the implications of "staring at a guy's butt". This makes the line come across as a gaming version of "no homo" when no one was thinking "homo" in the first place -- a sort of "the gamer doth protest too much". Ironically, this doesn't really bother me that much, because I think it's the second layer that's much more insidious.

    There's another sense, a deeper one, that a guy needs to have a "reason" to play as a female character, and that objectification is a valid or, in many cases, the only valid reason. I think for many guys there's almost an enforced distance to identifying with women, because ignoring or rejecting that distance can threaten your male identity and social standing. Finding resonance in women or their stories can be seen as queer or non-masculine. We can hide this behind objectification though, because finding women hot is a unequivocally masculine thing. Thus, instead of saying something like "I think she's a cool character" or "I want to roleplay her story" we simply say "she's hot" as the, somehow, more acceptable answer as to why we like playing as a female character. I wonder how many people who gave the "if I have to stare at a butt..." line actually meant it, and how many were saying it simply because it's a way of guarding against accusations of queerness while exploring or appreciating femininity by choice.

    I'm not saying we shouldn't find videogames characters attractive, and I'm of course not immune to game-based desire myself. While my straight guy friends were crushing on Lara Croft back in the 90s, I was instead finding interest in these eight or so polygons and muddy textures that hint at a mere approximation of a man, for example. Instead, I think the problem is that for guys there's a social pressure to actually overstate their attraction to female characters in games, because to admit to liking them, identifying with them, or wanting to play as them can violate masculine norms.

    This isn't to say there isn't an objectification problem with women in games (there absolutely is), and a lot of what I'm talking about culturally feels somewhat out of date now, as a lot of progress has been made in detoxifying gender, but I think we've still got a long way to go.

    That said, a lot of what I'm saying here legitimately is based on cascading assumptions of mine, so I think it's a bit problematic for me to take this ball and run too far with it. I know we have a lot of guys here, so, in the interest of checking some of my assumptions, I'm curious to hear answers to the following question: have you felt, in your gaming career, a pressure to give "justification" for choosing to play as female characters? Alternately, and somewhat similarly: do you feel that your ability to identify with a character is lessened if she is female? I welcome answers from anyone, but I'm particularly interested in those who grew up gaming in the 90s and 00s, which was when I heard the "if I have to stare at a butt..." line the most.

    Also, just so everyone knows I'm not trying to spring a trap or anything here: I'm asking these out of genuine curiosity and am not going to judge or begrudge what you choose to share.

    18 votes
    1. [5]
      TemulentTeatotaler
      Link Parent
      That's quite possible. Maybe an alternative is that it is a dismissal of the question, and the form of that dismissal takes the path of least resistance. For a neutral example, think of the...
      • Exemplary

      the line comes across as a defense against some sort of unspoken, subtextual allegations that are never explicitly voiced.

      That's quite possible.

      Maybe an alternative is that it is a dismissal of the question, and the form of that dismissal takes the path of least resistance.

      For a neutral example, think of the script: "Working hard or hardly working??"-->"Haha, you know it." Maybe what you want to say is "please never say that again", but the polite thing is to find something to say that terminates the conversation while requiring as little thought or attention as possible on your end.

      That reflexive pithy phrase you draw on I would guess is sort of a win-more thing, where something is going to become the default. That default is often going to be shaped by a societal background noise of sexism, but any instance of an individual using it may not be coming from those feelings. Saying it contributes to it being the dominant response, which sucks, and I wouldn't be surprised if those sorts of conveyances of norms over time shape how that individual feels, but that's a murkier boundary.

      My hunch is that a good chunk of the men that play with female avatars haven't given it much consideration. I've given it some thought but I'm not confident I've pinned it all down yet.

      have you felt, in your gaming career, a pressure to give "justification" for choosing to play as female characters

      I'm from the target era but not much of a gamer, and I had a fairly even split in the sex of the avatars I'd use, so I might not be the right demographic to answer.

      I don't recall being questioned for playing female characters much by people I knew, but I think on the times that I did I probably responded by saying something like "doing it for free loot".

      That wasn't what I felt. I never scammed anyone and the most I did was permit misconceptions, without every actively playing in to them. Maybe 10% of the appeal was a non-sexual aesthetic attraction to women, 10% was mechanical asymmetry in the games that had it, 20% was novelty/diversity, and the remainder was curiosity about how women are treated.

      I was similarly curious about how other sorts of people were treated, but that sort of identity wasn't as easy to convey and it felt... sketchier. I had a friend in middle school who I remember affecting AAVE in a game of Starcraft and replying "I am black" to someone questioning him, to which he started receiving n-bombs and other epithets. It was interesting but not the sort of thing I felt comfortable doing.

      Maybe part of my motivation is that I had had an androgynous phase, up until I hit the late teens where I was a fairly athletic 180 lbs. I had access to a set of experiences that were rich, useful, and fascinating for a number of years, and then I didn't.

      I had long hair most of my life. I was mistaken as a girl fairly frequently as a child, from being handed the wrong color survey in gym (and refused correction), walking into a women's restroom when I had a migraine and no one commenting, an old man approaching me at a birthday party and asking if I spoke French ("I like it when little girls speak French to me" .-.), and so on.

      Rare experiences are valuable, especially when they're applicable to half the population. I'm glad I've been cat-called and experienced men acting in the odd hyper-protective way and aggressively towards me.

      liking them or identifying them or wanting to play as them can violate masculine norms

      Despite all the stuff above, this applies to me also. I relate to and treat women and men differently, to an extent.

      I was in a combat-related sport with a woman in college and she neither wanted nor needed to be treated any more gently than other people, but I found that really difficult.

      In a former relationship a girlfriend was into yaoi and admitted to having thoughts about me with other men (including some I knew), and intellectually and in terms of my values I had no problem with that, but it was uncomfortable for me in some way I don't know that I fully understand or know how I'd change it.

      I've worn a dress before as well, and it's something where you're hyperaware of societal expectations, aware of when you transgress them, and if you disobey for too long you start taking drowning damage.

      I'd probably find it harder to identify with a female character than a male. I guess if that weren't the case representation would matter less? It's hard to know what the right way to think/act is because of the massive amount of societal interplay.

      Women and men are reared differently, so maybe you can justify being more concerned about a woman not knowing how to tumble, or in thinking she wants you to step up to kill the mice in the house. Maybe retraining your defaults will get you into a situations where you're transgressing some sexist norms of the parents of your significant other, causing conflict you'd rather not have.


      Maybe an interesting thing to include in the conversation are the asymmetric preferences/domains of women.

      Is there any meaningful contrasting with things like yaoi, fanfiction shipping, or smut novels ala Harlequin/Fifty Shades of Grey?

      Is having more movies like Magic Mike or men getting more into cosmetics a good thing or feeding in to objectification?

      *I always found the argument that male appearances in games are to appeal to a male power fantasy to be partly right, but a bit suspect in the ways they lined up with the sort of Fabio-esque depictions or the competency-porn of Sherlock-era Cumberbatch fans.

      16 votes
      1. [3]
        cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I have used the "if I have to stare at a butt" excuse dozens of times over the years for exactly that reason. I have always played female characters in every video game where it's available as an...

        Maybe an alternative is that it is a dismissal of the question, and the form of that dismissal takes the path of least resistance.

        I have used the "if I have to stare at a butt" excuse dozens of times over the years for exactly that reason. I have always played female characters in every video game where it's available as an option, even in MMOs and games where there is no real story or voice acting involved. And whenever someone who I don't know particularly well gives me shit about it or questions that preference, it's honestly just easier to use the butt excuse rather than explain to that person why I actually pick female characters; Because I identify more with a female character than a male one. Especially since telling the truth could potentially lead to me being mocked, outright hatred being expressed towards me, or having to participate in a lengthy debate/conversation about my gender that I don't want to have at that particular time.

        E.g. The last time I used the butt excuse was in Conan Exiles, where I unfortunately found myself playing with a group of incredibly toxic friends of my friend. When one of them started giving me shit for picking a female character in the game, I reflexively used the butt excuse, since mentioning my gender was very likely to end poorly for me. It worked like a charm too, since they just laughed it off and heartily agreed that a female butt is way nicer to look at. Disaster averted.

        So at least for me, it's definitely not an insecurity or objectification thing (like @kfwyre was worried it might be), but the excuse does utilize those faults in others in order to end the conversation as quickly/painlessly as possible. However, I'm an open book to those that I know and actually trust, or when I am in an environment I know to be supportive and mature enough to handle conversations about gender. And my actual friends (many of whom I met in online games) already know the truth about why I pick female characters, and are generally supportive of me being genderqueer and pansexual. Multiplayer video games are sadly still mostly populated by toxic assholes though, so it's a lot riskier to be totally open about such things in that environment. I wish that wasn't the case, but c'est la vie.

        13 votes
        1. [2]
          kfwyre
          Link Parent
          Your comment and @TemulentTeatotaler's amazing response to mine have actually distilled down my own point far better than I articulated it: I think many guys use the "stare at a butt" line as a...

          Your comment and @TemulentTeatotaler's amazing response to mine have actually distilled down my own point far better than I articulated it: I think many guys use the "stare at a butt" line as a way of avoiding potential gender-related social sanctions, like you did in Conan Exiles.

          Thanks for your honesty and for sharing your experiences.

          7 votes
          1. TemulentTeatotaler
            Link Parent
            Thanks for the kind words, but I guess I kinda did end up saying the same thing you did. Sometimes this site is a bit too much for my reading comprehension ^^; I thought there was a distinction to...

            Thanks for the kind words, but I guess I kinda did end up saying the same thing you did. Sometimes this site is a bit too much for my reading comprehension ^^;

            I thought there was a distinction to be made if the individuals asking and responding to the "stare at a butt" question both weren't doing so due to some subconscious or explicit sexism, but you were referring to them tapping into and enforcing those sort of gender-related social checks/sanctions.

            2 votes
      2. kfwyre
        Link Parent
        There is so much in your comment that I love, but this line jumped out at me as deeply resonant, with far-reaching utility. "Drowning damage" is a great way of framing the harm of that kind of...

        it's something where you're hyperaware of societal expectations, aware of when you transgress them, and if you disobey for too long you start taking drowning damage

        There is so much in your comment that I love, but this line jumped out at me as deeply resonant, with far-reaching utility. "Drowning damage" is a great way of framing the harm of that kind of experience, and I suspect we've all had our own versions of this in different settings and for different reasons.

        8 votes
    2. Akir
      Link Parent
      The vast majority of games with "stare at butt" cameras of that era when it was popular to say that were MMOs, and I generally wasn't a fan of them. When I did play them, I typically preferred to...

      The vast majority of games with "stare at butt" cameras of that era when it was popular to say that were MMOs, and I generally wasn't a fan of them. When I did play them, I typically preferred to play as fantasy races instead.

      Beyond that, when playing a game where you make your own avatar, I want mine to be like me. Maybe not physically, but there has to be some sort of reflective property to make the character 'me'. And I'm simply not very feminine. After going through a demi-spiritual phase and getting into contact with my feminine self, I can say confidently that she's a tomboy.

      Of course, that doesn't mean that I don't like to play as female characters. On the contrary, I absolutely love games with female protagonists. They're almost always a breath of fresh air because they tend not to be power fantasies all the time. And if it's done well, the plot of the game will give me insights into a life that I could not have lived through otherwise. Gone Home is a pretty good example of this.

      But in games where I have a choice, there usually isn't much reason for me to choose the female option. games with heavier role-playing elements like Fallout might make it worthwhile, but if there is a gay option like in Fallout New Vegas, that's a much more preferable option for me, especially because there aren't a ton of games with satisfying gay romance in them other than visual novels.

      7 votes
    3. Tardigrade
      Link Parent
      I mostly play female characters and I'm not sure why. I've never really been asked why by anyone but I don't think I'd give the butt justification. I feel like I can relate similarly well to some...

      I mostly play female characters and I'm not sure why. I've never really been asked why by anyone but I don't think I'd give the butt justification. I feel like I can relate similarly well to some bloke like Rico than I can to Lara Croft.

      5 votes
    4. hamstergeddon
      Link Parent
      I used to play a lot of WoW and as a male I always avoided the female option with my characters because A) The men who played female characters used the "stare at a butt" defense, which always...

      Have you felt, in your gaming career, a pressure to give "justification" for choosing to play as female characters?

      I used to play a lot of WoW and as a male I always avoided the female option with my characters because A) The men who played female characters used the "stare at a butt" defense, which always struck me as weird/creepy and B) In an MMO I didn't want to misrepresent myself (which admittedly is a weird reason, but it's an honest one). That reasoning holds true for most multiplayer games. Don't want to come off as a creep or misrepresent myself.

      In single player games, I still tend toward Male as the default option. It's usually RPGs and I like to make myself. The exception is games like Fallout 4 where you get different dialogue, perspectives, or skill options depending on your gender. I originally played FO4 as Nate, but my current high-stakes survival game is with Nora because I want to see ALL the dialogue the game has to offer.

      So I guess tl;dr, yes!

      do you feel that your ability to identify with a character is lessened if she is female?

      Not really. I've played plenty of games with female protagonists (and no option to change it) and never failed to connect with my character or understand their struggle/motivations.

      5 votes
    5. Staross
      Link Parent
      In most games in which you can choose the gender of your character (RPG mainly) there's not much personality attached to it, since the story and character interactions is the the same for both...

      saying something like "I think she's a cool character" or "I want to roleplay her story" we simply say "she's hot"

      In most games in which you can choose the gender of your character (RPG mainly) there's not much personality attached to it, since the story and character interactions is the the same for both gender. I think you are way overthinking this, looking at a pretty girl just feels good (probably release some dopamine), that's why men watch vapid twitch camgirls all day. I think most men are well aware of this, and the ass thing is just a funny way to say it.

      I think to answer your question "I wonder how many people who gave the "if I have to stare at a butt..." line actually meant it", I'd say probably a large majority mean it.

      5 votes
  2. egregious_eglatere
    (edited )
    Link
    One of my oldest video game memories is playing Neopets with my friends when I was a little boy, perhaps age 7–8. I chose an "usul" as my first neopet; a cute squirrel-like creature. I made it a...

    One of my oldest video game memories is playing Neopets with my friends when I was a little boy, perhaps age 7–8. I chose an "usul" as my first neopet; a cute squirrel-like creature. I made it a girl and named it Hannah, probably because that was the species, gender, and name of the player character of my favorite Neopets game, Hannah and the Pirate Caves. I was embarrassed that I had chosen a female neopet and tried to avoid visiting my profile if my friends were sitting next to me, in case they discovered my little secret.

    As I got older, I forgot about this insecurity. Most of the games I played didn't let you choose your player character, but it was almost always a man. For a while all I played was Minecraft, which at that time only let you play as Steve. When I had a choice of gender, like in Fallout, I always made myself male. But I also remember playing some of the Tomb Raider games when I was a teenager. I really liked these ones. I liked Lara, mostly. I liked that I got to look at a woman's face in cutscenes. I liked hearing her voice, whether she was speaking or exerting herself, and I liked the way her body moved. I liked the way she dressed and the way she walked. I liked the way she looked out at the world. I would stand her still and watch her idle animation sometimes, on a beach or deep within a cave; I feel like I connected to her in a way I hadn't connected with many other characters.

    Is that a childhood steeped in blocked-out dysphoria? Or is it the male gaze acting upon my subconscious? I couldn't tell you. I stopped playing video games when I was about 18. I've picked up a few since then, sporadically. Today, I prefer playing as a woman. I don't know if it's because I'm attracted to women, or if that player character stands in for one or more women I want in my life but don't have (platonically speaking), or if I want to be a woman. But I do have this preference, and it's become stronger over time.

    However, I often find myself reluctant to share the way gender affects my experience of a game. I don't want to be called a "bitch" or "simp" or "snowflake" by a bunch of 16-year-old boys. I also don't particularly want to be the object of a performative "stanning" by a well-meaning group of Twitter Marxists, because I hate Twitter and don't like the way that crowd feels obligated to taxonomize and ideologize my perception of gender (however correct they may be). I especially don't want to be the target of disgust from women who see my gaze for what it probably is, and in the oppressive movement that it implicitly operates under.

    I don't have a thesis with this comment. I just wanted to share my experience.

    12 votes
  3. [3]
    Comment deleted by author
    Link
    1. [2]
      hungariantoast
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Criticizing the constant, overly sexualized depictions of women, by men, is not an indiscriminate condemnation of eroticism, but instead a condemnation of indiscriminate eroticism.

      I won't say that's necessarily false, I'd just like to point out that we're still allowed to admire each other's bodies, and the indiscrimate condemnation of eroticism is not how we'll overcome sexism, misogyny, etc

      Criticizing the constant, overly sexualized depictions of women, by men, is not an indiscriminate condemnation of eroticism, but instead a condemnation of indiscriminate eroticism.

      10 votes
      1. [2]
        Comment deleted by author
        Link Parent
        1. TemulentTeatotaler
          Link Parent
          It can be very hard to find the right balance of reading into unconscious, dishonest, or subjective motivations for things like this. Of course there's a lot of puritanism in the U.S., but there's...

          It can be very hard to find the right balance of reading into unconscious, dishonest, or subjective motivations for things like this.

          Of course there's a lot of puritanism in the U.S., but there's also a phenomenon at the other end of a predominantly male base for games like the controversial RapeLay/other eroge, or from what I've heard the fairly large ecosystem of adult mods for things like Skyrim.

          There are lots of examples of men controlling female avatars explicitly for sexual reasons, which I think makes it a fair inclusion in the section of the article that was just enumerating different reasons men might play as female characters.

          Also, a minor thing (since I recall it from another thread) is that you probably are meaning to use "espouse" instead of "spouse" here.

          7 votes
  4. mat
    Link
    I almost always play female characters if I have the choice. It originally came from the old days when the female Quake 2 model had a (fractionally) smaller bounding box than the male marine. Less...

    I almost always play female characters if I have the choice. It originally came from the old days when the female Quake 2 model had a (fractionally) smaller bounding box than the male marine. Less easy to hit. Also back then female models were slightly novel and anything which even slightly distracts my opponents gives me an advantage. I don't really play PVP stuff any more though.

    In single player I just tend to find the female models just feel more right. I'm not a big guy. I'm not ripped and chunky and made of chins, nor am I interested in roleplaying as a character who is. I have always worn my hair long, and I'm not averse to wearing makeup and jewellery and other traditionally female things. I know I can (in some games) make a little dude guy who looks like me but y'know. Old habits are what they are. I usually play girls.

    10 votes
  5. TheJorro
    Link
    Ultimately, the notion that needs to be killed for good is the idea that "female protagonists don't sell". Whatever the reasons people choose to play one gender or the other is personal and...

    Ultimately, the notion that needs to be killed for good is the idea that "female protagonists don't sell".

    Whatever the reasons people choose to play one gender or the other is personal and immaterial. What is harmful is treating one gender like a business liability even though we have decades of successful female protagonists (of varying qualities, to be sure). It's insane to me that this idea that female protagonists don't sell games is still alive and well in a major international conglomerate and not some podunk developer.

    9 votes
  6. [4]
    JakeTheDog
    Link
    This is a nitpicky meta-comment from someone sensitive to data representation... I find it a funny that the title author to say "about 1/3" (and then "almost 1/3") instead of "about 1/4" (and...

    This is a nitpicky meta-comment from someone sensitive to data representation...

    I find it a funny that the title author to say "about 1/3" (and then "almost 1/3") instead of "about 1/4" (and similarly, "over 1/4"), since 29% is equidistant to 25% and 33%. It's probably a subconscious decision but it's also something that instantly shows the author's bias (not that one can be easily unbiased).

    9 votes
    1. [3]
      AugustusFerdinand
      Link Parent
      It's probably the proximity to the 30% range. I know that once I see something in the 30-39% range I have a habit of ignoring anything but the 3 at the start and just think "okay a third is the...

      It's probably the proximity to the 30% range. I know that once I see something in the 30-39% range I have a habit of ignoring anything but the 3 at the start and just think "okay a third is the statistic". Being 1% away from 30 makes it easy to go "almost a third" in my mind.

      I've done the same thing in the 50% range for half, 60% range for two thirds, and 70% range for three quarters. Just a mental thing as I try to be more careful when quoting the statistics to others.

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        JakeTheDog
        Link Parent
        You'd be a much better author then! I think the authors wanted the story to have more weight. IMO, even 20% (1/5 or 1/4 range for you? :P) is a pretty substantial number for me, in this context....

        Just a mental thing as I try to be more careful when quoting the statistics to others.

        You'd be a much better author then! I think the authors wanted the story to have more weight. IMO, even 20% (1/5 or 1/4 range for you? :P) is a pretty substantial number for me, in this context. I've previously asked a half dozen of my gamer friends and none have a preference for female, always male (I'm in the 50% frequencey range ;) ). Anyways, just a side comment.

        4 votes
        1. AugustusFerdinand
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          I love you too, Jake. :] 20% range I'd probably think 1/4, but be careful about it if it's closer to the low end than the high. 29% is just too close to 30% for me not to just go "a third" without...

          I love you too, Jake. :]

          20% range I'd probably think 1/4, but be careful about it if it's closer to the low end than the high. 29% is just too close to 30% for me not to just go "a third" without thinking.

          Only one of my gaming group has a gender preference in games that I've noticed, she's trans and always makes female characters when possible. Another I wouldn't say has a gender preference, but if the game has a robust character creator he'll pick male so that he can make the character look like himself as much as possible.

          I tend toward whatever class looks best in their chosen garb or I think is funnier as I like to give opposite gendered names to my characters so the NPCs run up to a male character yelling "Sir Tiffany!" or a female character "My Lady Bob!"

          3 votes
  7. sky_Pharaoh
    Link
    I really like what Quantic Foundry does because as someone who likes statistics and has been gaming for basically my whole life, I enjoy them giving me insight into the psychology behind gamers...

    I really like what Quantic Foundry does because as someone who likes statistics and has been gaming for basically my whole life, I enjoy them giving me insight into the psychology behind gamers and the gaming industry.

    As soon as I read the title, I immediately thought of the typical response that most guys I’ve interacted with when asked about playing female characters, the whole “I’d rather stare at a girls ass than a guys”, which of course was actually mentioned in the article. However, as some other comments mentioned, I never stopped to consider if every guy that said this actually meant it, or if they were saying that to deflect any criticism from genuinely relating to or preferring female characters for any reason other than objectification.

    This also made me think a lot about my own preferences and experiences in games, and the topic of objectification in general. I always thought it was weird when guys would say that because I would think “why are they staring at their characters ass anyway?”. But then I thought about how I, as a heterosexual woman, react similarly when I see attractive men in games. Most games don’t take the female gaze into consideration, but when they do I find myself behaving the same way as my male peers. I’ll play as them simply because they’re attractive, and if they have customizable costumes I will sometimes pick the “shirtless” option because it just looks better to me. This made me question the whole “is objectifying women bad” thing because I objectify men all the time, it’s just that women are objectified more because society is dominated by the male gaze, and men in general.

    This also made me think about how I view playing male or female characters and how it changes depending on the game I’m playing and my own gender identity. As a kid growing up in the 2000s, female characters weren’t as common and they were usually side characters or NPCs, so I was used to playing male characters in RPGs and such. However, as a young girl even though I identified as a girl, I was very masculine and didn’t particularly relate to girls my age. Because of this, role playing as a male character didn’t bother me. Games back then also had female design issues, where the male armor was really cool looking but the female counterpart of the same armor was basically just a plated bikini, which kinda pissed me off. However, i still preferred playing as women in games where your character is a complete blank slate (Fallout, Skyrim, etc) because even though I was very masculine as a kid, I still felt like a girl. This is also why I never really could fully immerse myself in games like Persona, where even though the character is a self insert, you can only play as a guy and have romantic relationships with female characters. I noticed that in games where you are playing a more directly masculine role, for example your avatar in a COD game or the protagonist in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, I prefer playing as a male character because of my subconscious bias of seeing men doing stereotypically masculine things like being on the front lines in the military or being a big strong Viking. As I got older and became more feminine and female characters became more prevalent, I realized how great it feels for me to play as female characters because I relate to them more and they are much more well designed and well written nowadays.

    I feel like I’m rambling at this point but there was one other topic I wanted to touch, which was the difference between Japanese games and Western ones in terms of the male and female gaze. I play a lot of JRPGs and it seems to me like japanese developers make both their male and female characters attractive, whereas western ones typically only care to make the female ones attractive. I find myself looking at better looking males in games like Final Fantasy and Yakuza than I do in games like Fallout or The Witcher. In fact I would even go as far as saying every single JRPG that I’ve played in recent years has had at least one attractive man. There can be several reasons for this. Is it because women play games more in Japan than in the west, which means the female fanbase is bigger and warrants more attention from developers? Is it because Japan just values the appearance and aesthetics of all of their characters, regardless of gender? I honestly think it’s the former, I’ve watched interviews with many Japanese developers and they often comment on how surprisingly large their female demographic is and that during the development period they will often ask female employees what they find attractive and then incorporate that into the games male characters, so because women are contributing so much money to these companies it makes sense that they would appeal to them just as much as the male fanbase.

    8 votes
  8. TheRtRevKaiser
    Link
    This is really interesting. I have a good (male) friend who has a very strong preference for playing female characters in games if he's offered the choice. I myself am about 50/50, but I've...

    This is really interesting. I have a good (male) friend who has a very strong preference for playing female characters in games if he's offered the choice. I myself am about 50/50, but I've noticed that I'm a lot more likely to play a female character in single player games and more likely to play a male character in multiplayer. Not sure if that says something about me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    7 votes
  9. NomadicCoder
    Link
    I've not played any game seriously since the early 90s, when I used to put way too many quarters into the SFII machines, where I played almost exclusively as Chun Li (and still do when I get a bit...

    I've not played any game seriously since the early 90s, when I used to put way too many quarters into the SFII machines, where I played almost exclusively as Chun Li (and still do when I get a bit of nostalgia for the game), but mostly because the character was the fastest, which fit my playing style better. I could initially compensate for lack of skill by taking advantage of the speed and agility of the character, and then later really only learned the moves for that one character. :)

    I've found that to be true of a lot of the fighting games. The female characters are more agility and speed based, which fits my playing style better.

    5 votes
  10. AugustusFerdinand
    Link

    The introduction of playable female characters into genres/franchises that historically only had playable male characters often elicits arguments in gamer forums around the low prevalence of female gamers in that particular genre/franchise and how adding female characters is pandering to a demographic that hardly plays the game to begin with. Apart from the “is-ought” fallacy, this line of argumentation assumes that only women want playable female characters. But what about the men?

    In this article, we’ll take a look at the prevalence of players who prefer to play characters of a different gender. In the survey, we also included non-binary gender options (for both player and character gender), so we’ll explore that as well.

    2 votes