It is 11:45pm and I have been hanging out at my local game store, chatting it up with my fellow gamers, for the last few hours. What has brought us all out tonight? Bioware is getting ready to launch its latest story-driven RPG with moral choices that will affect the outcome of the ultra-deep and detailed world.
Finally, midnight is here. I grab my copy and rush home. I throw it into my console and I am greeted with an awesome opening cut scene that pulls me in. Now, I get to make my own custom character from scratch that I will spend the next 40 hours of my life with. Then that all important first step pops up.
Do I choose to play as a male or female?
Why does this give me such pause? I am a male and have been so for the past 30 years of my life. It should be an easy choice to make a male character, that way I totally connect with him and I am drawn even deeper into the story because I can project a part of myself onto that character. And yet I still go back and forth between the two choices. Suddenly it happens, I click on the female avatar, push the A button, and move on with the rest of my character design.
Now why did I do that? The simple thought, and the reason I most often tell my friends to give off a still macho persona even though I have just willingly chosen to play as a woman, is “well I would rather look as a chick’s ass for the next 40 hours instead of some dude’s.” That’s a good reason right? It does not question my sexuality if I say I am doing it because I want to stare at a woman’s ass all day.
If this were the case, wouldn’t we always want a female protagonist? In the age of the third person action game, if men really wanted to play as a female to stare at a good looking ass through the whole game, we would see that reflected even in the games where we don’t get to choose what our characters will look like. In fact a study done a few years back showed that only 15% of video game characters were female. While I feel that number has gone up, I do not believe that the number of female leads or even playable female characters has gone up all that much.
So, if looking at a female’s ass is not what all gamers want, then why is it that I really want to play as a female avatar almost every time I am given the option? For me, in all honesty, I’m tired of playing as the big muscular hunk that uses his bulk to stop whatever threat he is trying to stop. I want to come at the story in a different way. One of the most interesting ways to do this is to come at it from a female’s point of view. “But GL”, I can hear you all saying, “you are not a woman how can you think like one?” Maybe it is not so much thinking like a woman, but rather thinking about what some women I know might do given the situation. I have seen women talk their way in and out of situations, and to be able to try and use that ability in a game is what most often leads me to play as a female. The fact that, instead of rushing the gates and beating down all the guards, I could sweet talk one of the more gullible characters into giving me important information about patrols or even pocketing his key while giving him a quick kiss, gives me so much more satisfaction. There are also those great moments when you are being underestimated because you are female and you get to knock them on their ass and send them home crying shamed because they were beat by the cute little girl.
Maybe I want to play as, what I would consider, my “ideal” woman. For starters, I get to create her appearance. I will either make her red or raven haired, and always with stunning green eyes. I will go for very fair skinned to almost pale. If given the option for height, I tend to make her tall ranging from 5’10 to 6’0. I will not lie, if there is a boob scale option, I do max it out (I’m still a man and just cannot help myself). In this respect, I have made everything I want in a woman physically. Now I get to shape her personality through the story. I see a lot of what I would like in a woman in the options that I choose. I tend to play them very independent, strong, and assertive. While not opposed to the idea of a relationship, it’s not what defines them as who they are. All of these things are what I would love to find in a partner, so could this be what draws me to playing the female avatar, the chance to make my perfect woman?
Let’s be honest, there is also a pervy reason for doing this as well. In many of Bioware’s recent games there is more often than not going to be some form of lesbian option. Be it an Asari in Mass Effect 1, Kelly Chambers in Mass Effect 2, or Samantha Traynor in Mass Effect 3, somewhere in these games there is going to be that chance for some hot girl on girl action that a lot of men find very appealing. Other games, such as Age of Conan, even give the option to have your avatar run around topless, so you can watch your character’s cyber tits bounce around as you go out to collect your 10 wolf pelts. To say the option to play as a female character in some way does not have to do with some level of sexual fantasy I think would just be, well, a lie. However, I do not feel that this is the main reason I tend to choose a female avatar, and allow me to explain why.
In my first play through of Mass Effect I knew that the Asari Liara T’soni was a romantic interest for both the male and female character. It had been in the news that there was a lesbian option in the game, and of course that went through my mind as I was making my first character, but as I played the game I really did not care for Liara. She came off as a bit childish and naïve for my liking. However, the male love interest for my female character, Kaidan Alenko, fit with my character almost perfectly. I had made my character a biotic same as him, and when I heard his story of what he went through in his training, my heart really went out to the guy and in the end I chose him as my love interest.
So what does that say about me? Though I have put all of these thoughts out here, does any one of them summarize why it is I choose female avatars? In the end I think it is a massive combination of things that lead me to make the choice to play as a female. While there certainly are sexual overtones to the choice, in the end I think on a deeper level there is something else. What this article has done for me is given myself a chance to reflect on why I make the choices I do when I choose to make that female character. What I hope it does for you is to let you know that you are definitely not alone if you make the choice to play as a female character in the video games that you enjoy, and maybe get you thinking as to why it is that you make the choice to do it for yourself.