Hey future Caleb. Wow, it has been a long time since we’ve talked. I got distracted with a series of Boss Fight Books reviews I’m doing. I will be doing more soon. So, sorry future Caleb.
You just aren’t cool enough to keep my attention, I guess. But, I’ll still use you when I can. Like now. And buckle your seat belt–or whatever you buckle to keep you safe inside that jar your future head floats around inside–because we’re going to talk about how much I love playing as a girl. I realize that in the future gender doesn’t exist.
The human race has congealed into a homogenized asexual species, which is great, because now the government can finally deny basic health care to people based on something even less warranted than gender identification. Like, I don’t know, people with one leg shorter than the other. At least those marches are easy to recognize, what with the crowd all tilted to one side. I feel like I lost you Future Caleb, so I’ll move on.
I generally play video games as a female protagonist, when given the choice, and it wasn’t until a recent play session with a friend that I questioned whether or not that’s weird. When starting a new Fallout 4 campaign and choosing the female avatar my friend laughed, like we shared some kind of in-joke. I didn’t laugh. That was the first time in my life that I questioned this female avatar habit of mine. But this is a justifiable habit, I argue. Video games have taught me that the female character is usually the best character.
This goes all the way back to Princess Peach in Super Mario Bros. 2, then on to Jill Valentine in Resident Evil. And on and on. But when my friend laughed, I was forced to examine why I’ve been trained to believe that female characters are better. For a while I proudly credited the video game industry for its forward-thinking approach to female representation. While the industry is by no means an equal playing field yet for female gamers, I perceived that game developers wanted to show women as powerful beings and therefore gave us powerful female avatars.
I further justified my stance by citing Samus Aran, the “yeah she’s female but that’s not important because you don’t learn that until the end of the game” hero of the Metroid series, the many great female characters in fighting games, and even Ms. Pac-Man who unfortunately needed a bow to show her womanhood. The bow being a social construct sure, but the bow did have the necessary flamboyance to differentiate pixelated Ms. from Mr. But he’s not Mr. He’s just Pac-Man. Dammit, yet another example of women being a deviation from the man, from the default, from the norm. Okay, so Ms. Pac-Man isn’t a great example of female representation in video games.
But I will defend those others. In my head Female equaled better. Yay, video game industry, right? Maybe not. Is it possible that I confuse “better” with “easier?”
I’m a fan of easy online roulette canada. I make no secret of that. And if that preference existed when a young, Past Caleb found Super Mario Bros 2 or Resident Evil, my love of the Princess Peach or Jill Valentine experience could be a love for an easier experience.
But why make the game easier with female characters? Is this a form of sexism? Did game developers assume that girls needed an easier game experience, and assuming they would pick to play as the female character, the female character was given game breaking move-sets, like Princess Peach’s hover and Jill Valentine’s lockpick. She is the master of unlocking, you know?
Jill, here’s a lockpick. It might be handy if you, the master of unlocking, take it with you. I think this is a fascinating concept and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below about it. But anyway, my friend’s tiny laugh came and went, and I continued designing my female character in Fallout 4, only afterwards realizing that he’d likely been stewing during the entire process because I had not reciprocated his laugh. And when I named the character something arguably male–Scrote Johnson…I just think it sounds funny–he asked multiple times if I could change the name to something female, my assumption being that if I just had to have a female character he felt I should at least align the name to the gender. I’m not condemning of my friend, here.
Rather, I’m using my shock to his reaction as an excuse to further explore this idea that playing as an avatar of the opposite gender may not be as universally accepted as I thought. Part of my shock is probably due to the fact that I don’t play online games at all. I’ve literally only played with other players online twice. Once for a few rounds of Genital Jousting, which every avatar in that game is meant to be male–obnoxiously so–and the other time for about 32 seconds of Fortnite where I got murdered too quickly to see either the avatar or the player’s name, so I certainly don’t have enough time to deduce gender. When someone is teabagging your corpse it’s hard to initiate delicate conversations about gender identity.
Had I a larger personal experience set with online gaming, perhaps I wouldn’t have been so shocked by my friend’s reaction. I wanted to explore further, so I took to the NintendoAge forums and the CartridgeClub forums as well as Twitter to ask people a few questions about the characters they choose to play as in video games. Though I didn’t get enough survey responses to make this survey scientifically important, I do want to share the data even if only to initiate a conversation. So, don’t be shy. Share your comments, thoughts, credit card numbers in the comments below. First, the gender demographic of the recipients.
About 91% of respondents were male, so I unfortunately won’t be able to make any assumptions about female and trans choices. 71% of respondents play as male avatars. The simple takeaway is that there’s a 20% point variance between a player’s gender identification and the avatar they choose to play as. That means there are a lot of people out there like me out there. Cool. I also asked how long the respondents had been choosing in this manner.
As a side note, I also asked how long the respondents had been playing video games altogether. The vast majority had been playing for over 11 years. Again, like me, most of the respondents have been choosing a consistent avatar gender for a long time. Cool.
I also asked how the respondents felt about choice. Most respondents don’t care much about choosing the gender of their avatar. It’s possible that for most games when choice isn’t an option, the avatar is male, and considering most of the respondents are males who generally (but not always) choose male characters, this could less an expression of indifference and more of reflection that male players have been conditioned to have their preferences honored. That’s a big assumption, mind, but I think it’s incredibly interesting to think about. Why not give me your thoughts on that in the comments below.
Lots of commenting below in this video. I also asked a few questions about choosing human vs non-human characters, another dynamic I never really thought of until Michael P. Williams discussed it in his book on Chrono Trigger. He talks about games scenarios where humans coexist with non-human intelligent species, humans are always represented as a mono-race, as though we gamers can only handle commentary of racism one species at a time.
It’s a really good book. I highly recommend it. I reviewed it.
There will be a card somewhere on the screen where you can check it out. Also, link in the description below. Speaking of links, I’ve included links below to those additional human vs non-human charts. What do you think? Do you tend to play as characters that align with your gender? Why or why not?
What about your online gaming experiences? Do you choose differently knowing that you’ll be interacting with other, live, actual people? Please like, subscribe, and click the Bell icon to make sure you don’t miss future videos. If you are still watching this video, you obviously like it, right? So, it only makes sense to subscribe.