The issue of gender bending, or playing a character of a different gender than your own, crops up periodically in the gaming community.
A lot of guys play female characters. I have a couple male friends that pretty much only play female characters.
Then I know guys that only play male characters.
Most of the women I know only play female characters.
I, however, play almost exclusively male characters.
So why gender bend?
I certainly can’t speak for all players and anything I say in regards to other players can only be said keeping in mind that it is either an observation of mine or a broad generalization (no pun intended).
First off, I should probably explain that I am not the girliest of girls – I’ve always been a tomboy at heart.
One of my coworkers refers to me as “the guy with boobs.” He means it in a nice way, I swear. Because if he doesn’t I know where he lives and he’s afraid of me.
I enjoy shopping for shoes, I like to keep my hair and nails long, I wear makeup when I leave the house, I’m told I look “amazing” in a bikini.
But I refuse to watch anything resembling a chick flick, I can eat a 2-pound steak with fixings (bloody rare or gtfo), I don’t want a bevy of other chicks to come to the restroom with me (that’s just creepy ladies, learn to go pee by yourself!), and I have virtually no maternal instinct. I actually loathe children.
So, I’m not entirely the average, stereotypical chick. My identity as a person is not tied to what is or isn’t between my legs. I take what I like from column A (shoes!) and what I like from column B (explosions!).
My first online gaming interaction came from StarCraft.
Ah, back in the early days of the battlenet when we were all on dial up modems. If you had anything else you were leetsauce.
You created a profile that included your screen name, your sex, your location, and your age.
Being new and naive to the ways of the world wide web, I dutifully filled out the fields.
In the beginning, I did a lot of PvP maps.
And this is how it would go down:
lol, girls suck
Only when you’re lucky, pissant.
want 2 cyber?
No. First, I’m in a relationship; second, you’re 13.
oh yeah, well ur 2 old 2 play this game
I think I hear your mommy calling you, little boy, it’s way past your bedtime.
PvP got absolutely retarded and I hated dealing with whiny kids after I beat the shit out of them so I started focusing on the PvComp games, where you still had to watch out for asshats turning traitor towards the end of the game. This was where my general distaste for PvP was formed.
StarCraft eventually lost its appeal. The long-awaited Ghost expansion never made it out and it seemed like no matter how long I played, the average age of the player base wasn’t aging with me. I was still constantly playing with/against 12-14 year olds and listening to them whinge or beg for a virtual sexual experience.
My husband started poking around at free online games and found one called Rappelz. It’s free, what the hell, I’ll try.
Character selection screen.
Hmmm… the Asura look pretty cool. I want to be a melee character so that means I want to be a Stepper.
The gals are scantily clad, that’s pretty hot. I wonder how many guys I’ll get following me around and giving me shit?
We’ll give it a shot.
Character made, stepped into the world.
There were a few pervy advances, but if you’ve seen a female Asura dance you understand why.
I got the game mechanics worked out, realized I had done some horrible things with my skill points and wanted to start over.
New server, new character.
What else do we have?
OMG. Look at the tattoos on the male Asura.
And so my first online male character was made, an Asura Stepper (later Strider, eventually Assassin) by the name of xxStrifexx.
Yeah, I did the xx thing with the name. Strife wasn’t taken yet, but I was planning on doing his sister character of Scorn and that name was already taken. So my entire naming convention was xxNamexx, eventually 9 characters in all – 3 female (casters – Scorn, Harmony, something… Purity maybe?) and 6 male (melee/pet class – Strife, Havoc, Pride, Fury, 2 more somethings…). Female characters looked best in caster gear and the males looked better in melee gear. On the whole, I preferred a melee playstyle in Rappelz.
The physical appearance of the character did sway my decision, as did my previous online experiences when it was known or assumed that I was female.
Yes, I found the male characters to be attractive. Many men that play female characters claim they do so because that they find the female characters to be attractive.
Like they say, if you’ve got to stare at an ass on your screen all day, it might as well be one you like.
This is not a “zomg I want to fuck those pixels” attractive.
This is a “I find those pixels pleasing to look at” attractive.
I’m not creaming my jeans over the male pixels on my screen any more than any guy I know is fapping to his female avatar.
This is the closest I’ve come to sexual gratification in any game:
10K DPS on a trash pack before Freya in Uld 10. Not enough to make me like playing fire, but I did enjoy the adrenaline rush. And it had nothing to do with the gender of my character.
It’s like cars. When a car aficionado spots a nice ride, they may say something like, “that’s sexy.”
How many of those people do you believe are actually thinking of performing sexual acts with the vehicle?
(Yes, I’m sure there’s a tailpipe fetish out there somewhere, but I’m talking in generalities here, not 0.000001% of the fringe population.)
Once people understand that it is possible to look at an object or image and find it enjoyable without it causing arousal, the whole gender bending thing becomes a lot more understandable.
The saga continues tomorrow!
FYI – This is a 3-parter.