« Anne Tricky | Main | Death of a Hobby: Pay no Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain »

12/02/2003

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

boringbot

well the human characters in final fantasy tactics for gba are rather androgynous. the main character in particular i was sure was genderless until i remembered that at the beginning they call it a boy. as for the rest of them, they all have rather sexless names, and judging just by their looks i'd say that their sexes changed with their classes. if it wasnt for the description of hair accessories that says that only female characters can wear them, id be convinced that the makers were tryin to make the human people able to change sexes along with their jobs.
as for other games, in sonic i still dont know what sex tails is supposdta be, its really hard for me to say. i think a boy, cause of the fact taht theres also a little girl character, but thats the only reason.

BrainFromArous

(Guy Gamer)

I don't think about it unless the character is pointedly female, as with Cate Archer in NOLF 1 & 2, or is an outright pander to male teens like Lara Croft or that woman in Sin.

Quite a few games are "sexless" because you're operating a giant robot, plane or something similar and can see yourself as whatever you like.

FPSes go either way. In MOHAA and COD, you're a male soldier by necessity. I suppose Halo's Master Chief could be a female.

As for the book, I was going to pick it up at Borders' until I saw it was $40 or so. Too much money for too little book.

BuG

Just wanted to note that Master Chief is male. His name is John 117 and he has a very deep voice, so he's either male or a very masculine woman. ;)

nowak

Are there game characters that you don't think of as being gendered while playing, but, arguably do belong to one or the other?

The most obvious example, IMO, is Metroid's Samus Aran.

The character of Samus Aran is most definitely female (even though the manual of the first Metroid misleads you into thinking otherwise, to keep the "surprise" I guess). However, when actually playing the game, Samus Aran is obscured by her power suit and is quite androgynous.

Actually, the personification in Metroid Prime is interesting. You are obviously viewing the world from Samus' perspective, but at the same time, you are the person in the power suit. That sense is very strong, but every so often a bright flash will cause you to see your own reflection in the visor. And upon seeing Samus' female face, you're kind of intrigued but jarred from the personification. There's something interesting about that, but I'm not sure where exactly I'm heading with it.

kaorukun

It is part of Japanese myths and legends where a pretty boy/youth comes to save the chaos the world is going through- also, Japanese are used to the so-called pretty boy types that such characters are not too strange to them. Given that not all males are muscular, tough-talking and look like a beefcake, I think there is nothing wrong with male heroes who look androgynous. Vaan does look like it, but as long as there's games where the Duke Nukem-type heroes are present, we'll have to live with those girly guys.

Tina Russell

NiGHTS! NiGHTS!

That game had some delightful gender-bending...

Martyn

I find it increasingly amazing that gamers (both male and female/straight and not) seem to overlook just how amazingly homoerotic Square games are. I jokingly said to my girlfriend last night "Welcome to the world of Square Eanix, where the men are well dressed and the women anre non-threatening". I guess this is something to do with the way a lot of girls' anime is marketed in Japan (a western parralel for the homoerotic=safe for girls dynamic is the Anne Rice Vampire chronicles) but it is very interesting to me how:

a) Very masculine critique and appreciation for these games just *never* goes there

b) Such a huge series of games should be so apparently marketed towards girls/women.

Witness the reaction to the new King of Fighters hero Ash Crimson ...

BrainFromArous

Hmmm. Good point about Master Chief. "He" does speak in a few cut scenes.

However, since you never see his face, it wouldn't be hard to imagine him as "her."

Perhaps it's time for game designers to make that extra effort to accomodate female players by having two sets of character and voice models in FPS games.

ClockworkGrue

Not sure I follow you on homoeroticism in Square titles, Martyn, unless you're simply refering to the effeminite male character designs, which hardly counts in my book.

By the way, Ash Crimson is the second picture from the top on that page, for anybody who wanted to know what Martyn was referencing.

Actually, this brings up a related topic: How about people feeling disturbed by the way their game avatar carries his/her/its gender? Again, looking for personal experience, not grand theories on the average gamer.

Bowler

"Actually, this brings up a related topic: How about people feeling disturbed by the way their game avatar carries his/her/its gender?"

The only thing that sticks out in my mind was back when I was playing Duke Nukem, I kept thinking "Holy mother of god this guy needs a new wardrobe." The tight wife-beater T and the skin-tight jeans with the wayfarer sunglasses was old and outdated even back when the game launched.

But then I laughed and smiled whenever he'd say "appreciative" comments to the strippers, because hey, what guy wouldn't like to say those things? ;)

Draigon

(male gamer)

I feel most comfortable playing androgynous characters, but maybe that's the bisexual side of me talking. I've known a few girls to feel uncomfortable playing androgynous male characters.

For the most part, I don't think gender is important at all. It can be used as a strategic element of character design, but like many character features it can be left out if desired. If I never discovered Samus as female, it would feel entirely different playing that character. Some of the pokemon though? I have no idea what their gender is, but it doesn't matter. The creators never used gender as a defining trait I guess because it wasn't necessary.

btw, Vaan is hot. :) Not so much in the face, though because it reminds me too much of Michael Jackson for some reason. (Maybe since they're both CG)

Madopal

I think the whole issue of game characters' gender is a red herring. First off, Mario is an excellent example. The concept of a character's gender has to do with the fact that players somehow "aspire" to be the character they're playing. Therefore, women like to play female characters, men like to play male characters, an unless you've got some fantasies, there isn't much crossing.

However, who wants to be an Italian plumber? I don't think realistically it MATTERS who the character is from a personification standpoint...it merely matters whether the character is INTERESTING. Most of the gender work in games has produced little effect, I believe, because it counts on this identification. It's as if there's some magic "thing" that guys or girls like to do, and we forget that it has more to do with "perception" (i.e. some girls don't want to play violent games because it may APPEAR that they are aggressive, which societally is seen as unattractive) and less to do with the implementation. If people get past how other people see them in playing a game, and they just play the game, they'll see that gender has little to do with the straightforward activites in a game.

Same thing with exercise...I know lots of women who don't want to lift weights because of the idea that they might "bulk up" (no matter how ridiculously unlikely it is), or men who don't like to carry a bag because it may appear feminine.

Gaming has gotten pigeonholed as a predominantly "male" activity, and until the society changes its perceptions (which I think it's gradually doing), then the slant will remain.

Whew...that was a tangental comment, wasn't it?

MSTIRLNG

(Male Gamer)

I think the gender of video game avatars is more important and compleling than is being given credit for on this forum. Stop for a minute and think how things would be different if, instead of the "Mario Brothers" we had, say, the "Mario Sisters." Right from the title, the game changes. Entire assumptions about the game change from the get go. The Mario Sisters are going to save the Princess. No longer do we assume that Mario is saving his "love" or "significant other." How we precieve the game changes, and how we think about it (even before we play it) changes.


I have never found the gender of a game character to be disruptive to the game. By that I mean, no game has ever been ruined for me because the character was female, male, or otherwise. Because of the lack of female characters in games (on the whole, I know this is changing even as I write this), whenever I see a female character in a game (usually main character) I immideatly get inquisitive. Because female characters are not a norm, there is often a reason for that specific character being female. Sometimes its for the plot of the game, but often its for effect. For those of you who are Tomb Raider fans, you will understand what I am talking about. Although Tomb Raider itself could be played in exactly the same fashion with a male character, most of the feeling you get from the game comes from the main chracter (Lara Croft) and stems from the fact that she is a woman. I think the same goes for Mario Brothers, Metroid, Etc. So its no so much the games themselves, but the effect the games have on you mentally even on a preconceptionl level of thinking

There is much much more to be said on this topic, but I think the most important thing to realize is that weather a character is male or female plays a drastic roll in how the game turns out. I sure wish that wasnt so.. but...

MSTIRLNG

(Male Gamer)

I think the gender of video game avatars is more important and compleling than is being given credit for on this forum. Stop for a minute and think how things would be different if, instead of the "Mario Brothers" we had, say, the "Mario Sisters." Right from the title, the game changes. Entire assumptions about the game change from the get go. The Mario Sisters are going to save the Princess. No longer do we assume that Mario is saving his "love" or "significant other." How we precieve the game changes, and how we think about it (even before we play it) changes.


I have never found the gender of a game character to be disruptive to the game. By that I mean, no game has ever been ruined for me because the character was female, male, or otherwise. Because of the lack of female characters in games (on the whole, I know this is changing even as I write this), whenever I see a female character in a game (usually main character) I immideatly get inquisitive. Because female characters are not a norm, there is often a reason for that specific character being female. Sometimes its for the plot of the game, but often its for effect. For those of you who are Tomb Raider fans, you will understand what I am talking about. Although Tomb Raider itself could be played in exactly the same fashion with a male character, most of the feeling you get from the game comes from the main chracter (Lara Croft) and stems from the fact that she is a woman. I think the same goes for Mario Brothers, Metroid, Etc. So its no so much the games themselves, but the effect the games have on you mentally even on a preconceptionl level of thinking

There is much much more to be said on this topic, but I think the most important thing to realize is that weather a character is male or female plays a drastic roll in how the game turns out. I sure wish that wasnt so.. but...

MSTIRLNG

it posted twice... sorry :(

MSTIRLNG

it posted twice.... sorry :(

ClockworkGrue

MSTIRLNG's comments reminded me of something a teacher told me once. Seems that for a while they used to tell elementary school teachers "If you want your kids to read, stock your shelves with stories about boys, because both boys and girls will read stories about boys, but boys won't read stories about girls." Now that may have something to do with younger children still getting used to the concepts of masculine and feminine, but it seems quite contrary to Gender Inclusive Game Design, which suggests that female game characters (so long as they are not hypersexualized) will appeal more to both male and female gamers, where as male avatars hold little interest to female gamers.

Matt

I don't think the answer is de-sexualizing or androgynizing characters. I think the answer is to stop making stupid characters that are offensive or otherwise off-putting.

A good rule of thumb: If your wife, girlfriend, daughter, sister or mother walks into the room and you feel like you need to apologize and explain that the game is pretty cool anyway, then something is probably wrong with the character design.

But androgyny? I thought women liked the Wakka and the Auron just fine, didn't they?

Frank

What about Kirby (remember Kirby's Dreamland)? I guess Kirby is a he, but he's also pink and formless!

Requiem

I donīt think it is really important, not for the mid to hardcore gamer. It may be important to the very casual gamer only.

I had the oportunity to play Tomb rider a long time ago. I felt very identified with lara, not because i felt as a girl (im male), i felt like a mecha pilot. To me "she" is an all purpose battle droid and you are the pilot, can't see her like a human being, let alone female.

It was weird when I found that Samus was a human, no human can do the ball thing. But that means there was a real human being putting her life at risk so i accept it.

I'd play Maria Sisers anyway, its-a great game, when i played the game in the 80's I though Mario didn't know the princess in person so there wasn't a romance plot there anyway. Kirby is called a he because it'd be rude to call him an "it" but i think he's genderless (although he's called a starKNIGHT maybe he's indeed male).

ClockworkGrue is right, in japan, shounen anime and manga has a 50-50 rate in male/female leads while 95% of the shoujo leads are female (the other 5% are bishounen with ambiguous sexuality).

I guess that afects japanese games and the overall gamig culture world wide.

MSTIRLNG

I really want to read that book... I am in the middle of reading From Barbie to Mortal Kombat, and its some good stuff.. I would like to see a more modern prespective though

Maverynthia

I feel the avatar of the main hero is important only if the gender of the hero is important. Like in Pokemon, I'll play a girl character because not only is she dressed normally (non-revealing, nothing skimpy) but the gender doesn't matter at all in the game, both boy and girl character catch pokemon the same way and the skill is only in the gamer. However when I'm being penalized by being a female (higher Charisma/speed-lower strength) I feel insulted and of course I play the male character. Or the female characters are dressed more skimpy than men..to please men...(please consider)
A few good examples of this are:

Final Fantasy 11 (FF Online): The women can find pants, even when they have lizardskin 'trousers', yet the men find pants easily.

Phantasy Star Online: If you want to be a female hunter, you have to dress like a hoochie mama.
Also the female androids (hunters included) look a lot like humans while the male androids look more like robots. Highly unfair an insulting in my opinion. It's catering to the men without also catering to the women. Also since it's an online community, the women are get degraded by all the creeps on there. Play a woman..hell no! I play all males.

Ragnarok Online: ALL the men are dressed to the T-s however I think only the Female Crusader is wearing full plate, all the rest have their boobs hanging out and usually are revealing their legs.
Also only men can be bards...the women can only be dancers, and the dancer sprite looks like the dancers found in a strip club. Play a female...screw you guys! My character and gender are male.

The times I feel safe playing a female are in games like Fire Emblem (GBA), Angelique (dating sim with lots of biseinen guys in it), and other games that don't degrade my character with skimpy clothing choice simply because they are a woman.

Thus games Final Fantasy Tactics, where gender is more a non issue I feel are a standard that games should achieve.

As for Mario, yes he's male, but that really doesn't make a differene in the game, just like Metroid where it doesn't make any difference either.


When the gender doesn't make a difference, I feel good playing them and playing as my sex comfortablly. Where the main hero is degrading women and/or my stats are affected or I have to dress like a cheap whore, yes I feel it should be addressed. I take a look at it and think "Is this what the company thinks of me?"

toebee

[male]
I never feel comfortable with the male avatars in online games, they're usually beardy, strong looking lumberjacks, and IF they have long hair, they look like Harley Riders...

Concerning Square Enix: They seem to be one of the few companies to get away with strongly homoerotic outfits for their supposedly straight characters...just look at the Vagrant Story Characters for example. Very tempting....

toebee

[male]
I never feel comfortable with the male avatars in online games, they're usually beardy, strong looking lumberjacks, and IF they have long hair, they look like Harley Riders...

Concerning Square Enix: They seem to be one of the few companies to get away with strongly homoerotic outfits for their supposedly straight characters...just look at the Vagrant Story Characters for example. Very tempting....

Bondgrrl

I'm not sure where I stand on this. Yeah, gender in a game is important, but only I guess in how it relates to the game world. MOHAA is a good example - pretty hard to have a female lead on Ohmaha Beach because the game's internal universe (and history of course) doesn't allow it.

I'd like to see more choice in gaming avatars (and I'm talking FPS here - I'm not a MMPORG fan). I'm currently playing Rainbow Six on the Xbox. While I know that the lead is male due to the game's universe, I'd like to get the chance to design and choose my own lead. Maybe I want to be black, maybe I want to be female. Who knows? Other games are starting to tap into this - I hear that KOTOR is excellent in this regard. Then again, how important is gender and appearence in a game where you never actually see your own avatar? (and when are we going to see working mirrors in a FPS? ::grin::) Perhaps Splinter Cell is a better example - here your avatar is on screen at all times. Wouldn't it be nice to customise it to your liking?

In all of the above I've been reffering to single-player gaming: but what about multiplayer? Suddenly you're presenting yourself to the rest of the world. Your appearence (to a degree) defines how people interact with you. Now most games allow some form of modding the multiplayer skin, normally by just choosing from a predefined list. This is where I start to feel claustrophobic about the 'choices' - they are all invariably male and white. If you're lucky you'll get a token non-white or female thrown in. Excellent use of skins would be KOTOR (again), good use would be Unreal Tournament 2003 where there is a good balance between male and female (although nearly all are white, unless you count the aliens and 'droids) - you'll catch me on there as Rylisa most of the time ::grin:: Bad use would be MOHAA (but is there ever anything good to say about that cursed game?) Almost all the skins are male and white - okay, a (poor) reflection of the times, but in multiplayer you're not exactly depicting historically accurate events, so that rationalisation flies out of the window. EA even backtracked at one point and actually took out the only female skin in the game during an expansion pack update. (damn you EA!)

So.... I've forgotten what my point was now. Damn. Suffice to say, I'd like more choice in my avatars please game producers.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Subscribe to the mailing list!

* indicates required