If you could start over, start from the very beginning, recreate yourself in entirety, which would you choose: male or female?
Part of what I love so much about video games, RPGs in particular, is the opportunity to take on a new persona. Become someone new. Someone different. Someone bolder, braver, more heroic… or less noble. Someone, even, who can pee standing up.
But given the choice between male and female, 9 times out of 10 I will still choose to be my original gender. Why is this? Why not try new things, play for the other team, so to speak?
Because… I can.
Because, as a female gamer, I have been playing for the other team for most of my button-mashing life.
The vast majority of games I grew up on offered no real choice between genders, very few playable female characters, and among the sliver of available female characters, most were what feminist/gamer Anita Sarkeesian refers to as “Ms. Male Characters,” duplicate versions of their male counterparts who are made female by the addition of stereotypical genderized symbols, such as the colour pink or lipstick and a bow.
In my early gaming days, most female characters were marked by all the cliches about my gender I had come to dislike: overdone make-up, frilly dresses, the colour pink, and stereotyped personality traits like being whiny, materialistic, ditzy, helpless, and constantly in need of rescuing. Why would I choose to be a boring female character? Unless, of course, she has the best power: Princess Peach in Super Mario Bros. 2, for example, or Dixie Kong in Donkey Kong Country 2 & 3.
There were occasional exceptions. Most famously, perhaps, is Samus Aran, the Metroid star who shocked the gaming world by revealing her true identity at the end of the game. Then there is my personal favourite, Lucca of Chrono Trigger, who, as a highly intelligent, glasses-wearing, non-pinkified scientific genius is a natural hero for mould-breaking girls everywhere. And I can’t fail to mention Lara Croft, although my enthusiasm for her archaeological adventuring and butt-kicking is somewhat tempered by my distaste for the painfully exaggerated by-men-for-men shapely and revealing nature of her pixels.
So when I discovered modern RPGs with the ability to create your character from scratch, the idea that I could create a character in my own image, albeit somewhat enhanced (race: anything but human! hair color: can it be green? tattoos/scars: sure, why not!), was super exciting. Why would I choose to be a boring male character anymore? (No offense, guys.)
And with that reversal in my own attitude I realize there is hope. Someone, somewhere out there in the video game world is doing something right.
Maybe next time I play I’ll choose to recreate myself as a male character.
Not because I have to.
But because I can.
Do you tend to play as male, or as female? Your own gender, or the opposite? Who’s your favourite female video game character?