Sometimes Gender Means Everything

I have a confession to make. I am not an athletic guy. I do not have big muscles, or care about sports, cars or military hardware. I am just an average guy.

Often when people play games, they wish to project themselves onto the character. Put themselves into the game. In games where you create a character this means making one to resemble you, the player. This means seeing the character on screen as an extension of you, drawing you into the experience.

But, what if it didn’t? What if putting yourself into the game was immersion breaking?

I cannot relate well to male characters in video games. I do not see myself on screen. I am not what anyone would consider heroic. Whether it be the cocky antics of Nathan Drake, or the grittiness of Marcus Phoenix, I am just not that kind of guy.

A game journalist named Susan Arendt wrote a short article about the launch trailer for Titanfall including female characters. In promotional material this is almost unheard of. It took Bioware until Mass Effect 3 to use the female Shepard in a commercial.

One thing Susan said stood out to me, while playing games, she is “constantly being asked to view things through a lens.”

I really do know how that feels. Whenever I play any game as the white male or the standard bad ass, it never feels right. It is not a matter of putting myself in the game but, being who I am, I just find those characters entirely unrelatable.

I look at games through that lens too. It is a barrier for my enjoyment of a title. It causes me to quickly lose interest in otherwise good games. I can overcome this in some titles, but there has to be a well written character underneath all the testosterone, and sadly that is not often.

Starting a game in Skyrim, I am given the tools to put myself into the game. The game still does not feel right. I do not see myself battling dragons or winning wars. Even in a fantasy setting I cannot get drawn into the experience.

I played the Titanfall Beta. Yes, like all my other titles, I played as a woman. Women are dressed basically the same as the males, but that little detail really did mean a lot to me. Inclusion is incredibly important. Feeling like you are being included, like someone has your interests in mind, really can mean everything. Small gestures go a long way.

I am a male. No question there. However, 100% of the time I am given the choice of characters, I always choose to play as a woman.

I do not want to play as an overconfident cocky treasure hunter, a God, or standard space marine. That is not me or who I am, so why would I then want to be forced to play a game as that archetype?

I need a separation. I know I cannot do those things. I need a character I can relate to, someone who I can imagine doing the things I cannot. Since male characters always illicit a feeling of uneasiness in me, I always play as a woman.

I have very different reasons for wanting to play as a woman in games than many others. When gamers are given the choice, it is not long before I see women gamers praising the fact that they are included. It is a great thing to feel included.

I am the target demographic for games. I am a 27-year-old white male. However, the core of characters in games do not represent me. I have had no shortage of insults hurled my way for my choice to play as a woman. That has not deterred my choice in anyway. It is a very personal choice for me.

I should feel included, but I often do not. When the female Shepard was absent from the promotional material it somehow made me feel left out. The game they were promoting did not represent my experience.

Like Susan mentioned constantly viewing things “through a lens.”

Something tells me I am not the only guy out there who feels this way. This is a personal post, but I feel it needed to be said. Thank you as always for reading.


One thought on “Sometimes Gender Means Everything

  1. springinkerl

    “I have a confession to make. I am not an athletic guy. I do not have big muscles, or care about sports, cars or military hardware. I am just an average guy.”

    I think this applies to about 90% of all male gamers, they just don’t admit it. And usually there’s only one reason for a male to play female characters that he would admit: If I gotta look at the butt of my character for hundreds of hours, it be at least a pretty one.

    Thanks for this post. For some people, virtual characters are a means to escape their own (miserable) existence. That’s fine. For others, identification and inclusion is everything. That’s fine too. I’m pretty sure you’re not the only one.


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