I wrote a post about Overwatch the other day (when I say the other day I mean 2 weeks ago, oops, time flies when you’re addicted to Overwatch, bear with me it comes up a lot in this post too) and how I’ve been playing as Mei, Tracer, and (as a relatively new addition) Mercy most frequently. Thinking back to when I wrote that post I felt kind of guilty because I realised that I hadn’t mentioned any male characters, or even actually tried any myself yet and I’m supposed to be a gaming blogger! When I first started the game, and went to pick my hero I immediately looked at all the female heroes first, I did look at the male heroes but very briefly. I’ll do this in other games too, I will very rarely play as a male character when I have the choice and if I do it will be because I have completed the game as a female character and want to see if there are any subtle differences in playing a male character (this is usually in RPGs like Dragon Age and Neverwinter Nights where relationships with other characters can be affected subtlety by this).
I don’t know why I do this, I’ve thought of a few potential reasons and if you tend to always choose the same gender in video games (men too!) as well then I’d love to hear if any of my thoughts below resonate with you or if you have any thoughts of your own about it. Let me know in the comments!
Let me just say first of all that I have no problem at all playing as a male character, I play a male protagonist by default in most of the games I play: Legend of Zelda, Far Cry, Bioshock, God of War, Doom, The Witcher, Dying Light, Shadow of Mordor, the vast majority of Final Fantasy games… to name just a few, and I love those games! (OK so I’m struggling a little with Final Fantasy, playing as Tidus Daddy Issues McLeatherLeherhosen really drained me of JRPG enjoyment and I need to reset a little before I attempt another.) So maybe the reason I always choose a woman when I have the choice is because I’m sick of playing as a guy and when I can be a woman I leap at the chance? As annoying as it is to have to say this in the year 2017 it does feel refreshing to have a female protagonist sometimes.
On the other hand, maybe the answer is simple and it’s just that I am a woman, therefore I identify more with female protagonists so I enjoy playing as them more. Even if they don’t talk and I’m just identifying with them aesthetically. When I was playing Portal I didn’t really think about what gender my character was, they don’t make reference to it and I just assumed I was a floating gun, it was only when I saw Chell’s reflection (well not a reflection, herself through a portal… Can’t be bothered to try and explain but you know what I mean hopefully) that not only did I have a body but the body belonged to a woman! Just knowing that kind of shifted my attitude towards the game from what had already been incredibly positive to ‘Hell yeah, this game is incredible’.
Moving onto my more feministy part of this post, I can remember numerous times throughout my life where I’ve been at someone’s house and they’ve had a multiplayer game on, usually one that I haven’t played before (Injustice, FIFA and WWF spring to mind here) and they’ve asked if I want to play against them. I would always go with a female character because like I said before, I like playing as a woman, but more often than not I would lose. This was partly because I hadn’t played the games before so was not used to them and partly because I find that female characters in fighting/sporty games are usually underpowered, or they used to be anyway, this is a while ago that I’m talking about so I’m not sure about nowadays. My choice of character before the game even began though would usually be remarked on with a comment along the lines of “oh you don’t want to be them, they’re terrible”, I can remember someone laughing because I chose the female football team in FIFA (it may not have been FIFA it might have been a different football game, I don’t remember but I don’t know any other football games off the top of my head) once to play against them, they told me they were a terrible team and I asked why, were the stats different? What was it that made them bad? Had they tried to play them before? Did they actually do very badly IRL and that was reflected in the way they were played in the game? The answer I got was simply “they’re just shit”, that made me more determined to beat them and prove that the female team were not worthless. Unfortunately, having never played FIFA before and understanding nothing about the rules of football I lost anyway. Whether the female team genuinely was terrible in the game due to their given stats or if the person I asked just didn’t know because they’d never tried to play as them I don’t know. This sort of thing has happened a lot though over the years with those sorts of games and it always fuels my feminist side, makes me want to shout GIRL POWER and obliterate my opponent with the girliest character I can find. So, thinking about it like that maybe the reason I always pick a woman is a subconscious, feminist fuelled, girl power stance?
Following on from the ‘girliest character I can find’ comment above, I am very girly IRL and if there is a video game character that is wearing a pair of kick ass, neon pink heels, or a dress, or if they just look super girly then I will go for that character (the only reason I haven’t played D.VA in Overwatch yet is because I don’t like playing as a tank but I really like her and would say she’s one of the girliest Overwatch characters). Women in video games are usually very pretty but this often means that they are also sexualised. When I was trying to find an image of Tracer from Overwatch to use on my blog some of the first pictures were just fan art of her arse, for example. Often this means that people tend to trivialise female characters (not to say Overwatch has trivialised Tracer, far from it, everyone in that game is well balanced, as it should be! Last time I mention Overwatch today, I promise!) they’re the eye candy not the character you play if you’re playing to win and, like in my previous point, that is another aspect that would make me determined to say “No, this girl is awesome and I will prove it to you. Just because she’s wearing mini shorts and a bikini top doesn’t mean she can’t kick ass”. I don’t have a problem with sexy looking characters though unless they fall into one of the following categories:
1. The ‘every woman in this game is hot’ games
2. The character who is wearing something super skimpy/revealing and they are obviously meant to be the eye candy but their personality or culture just doesn’t go with it
3. Skimpily dressed characters that are in a war/space/apocalypse/zombie/etc setting and they are in a chainmail bikini or something that would just make it impossible for them to survive in that environment dressed in that way
If a character looks sexy but there is a personality behind it then I think that’s fine, I don’t like to make judgements on anyone’s personality or skills based on what their gender is or what they’re wearing – be they real people or people in a video game – and if they are a bit slutty then that’s OK! Each to their own! When you’re playing as them in a game though that shouldn’t be the core aspect of their personality. I have been told that I have been brainwashed to think that it’s OK to have slutty looking characters (that was an interesting conversation) but I like to think that I am just open to everyone being able to look the way they want and that your abilities should not be judged on if you chose to wear a mini skirt or a pair of jeans today, maybe that’s just what I’ve been told to think though… Will I wake up soon from the fake feminist Matrix controlled by the Anti-woman corporation and escape into the real world? Tune in next time to find out.
I got a little side tracked there with my rant at the end but there you go. My reasoning for not playing male characters. Let me know in the comments which gender you usually go with, is it your own? Do you mix it up? Do you play as the opposite gender? Do you think that it even affects your choice at all? I’m very interested to know if this is just me or if it’s something that everyone does to an extent.