A Second Thought on Gender- RPGs

Don’t want to get redundant, but something else occurred to me after the kombat lingerie post earlier. I have not played much WoW, but I do know some of the games I’ve been playing of late show remarkable gender equality.

Just as Nardi mentioned that WoW had things she thought of as feminine, e.g. “candles and flowers… domestic coziness” (173),  there seem to be things in games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect attract all sorts of players.

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim was also an interesting game. The player can be any one of several races, and gender matters little. Among my save, I have a sneaky Khajit dude and a very magical high elf woman. Gender in games like that doesn’t seem to matter too much, and allows for a lot of freedom. As Nardi put it, “Collecting herbs, cooking,” and things like potion making are “not gender marked” in Skyrim, just like similar activities in WoW (172).

Nardi also mentions that “Female players nearly always choose female characters in World of Warcraft” (172). Interestingly enough, with the two Bioware series, Mass Effect and Dragon Age (I have only played Dragon Age 2 myself,) I find this is not necessarily the case. I have played both genders in both games, and the different interactions each gender gets are interesting. Each story is unique.

I have heard of males playing only the affectionately named Femshep in ME 1-3 because they disliked things about Male Shepard… for instance, his voice acting. I have heard of females playing both genders in both games as well, mostly from other players I’ve met online.

Romances and other interactions with squadmates (ME’s Paragon/Renegade system) seem to make each story very different, and each gender can romance various squadmates in various games, and each gender plays up the Paragon/Renegade responses a little differently. My personal favorite romance, just for the laughs I had during the playthrough, was Femshep with fan favorite Garrus, which included this hilarious dance number in one of the DLCs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kip1-wkl28

Dragon Age II was also filled with comical banter and various romance-able squadmates.

Online with ME3’s multiplayer, gender flexibility is a must. If a team runs biotics, they might all be male players using the all-female race, the Asari.  Or in games with women playing, which is pretty common for this game, sometimes the girls play males and the guys play females- it’s all about the abilities and which ones a player likes using. It’s funny how it works out like that rather frequently.

The alien races don’t seem to discriminate between gender much at all, either. Turian females fight in the military right alongside turian males, just as the humans do. The Asari have a formidable military force themselves. The male pilot falls in love with a robotic female that is far more adept with most weapons than he is.

It’s games like these that are able to tell solid stories and cross gender lines so fluidly that I believe are going to make the future of gaming. Bioware’s fanbase consists solidly of both genders, and their ability to bridge the gap that competitive, all-male games have not been able to has made a difference far and wide, and made both games into global phenomenons that promote equality of genders.

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5 thoughts on “A Second Thought on Gender- RPGs”

  1. This reminds me of the “straight male gamer” fiasco of sorts where a (shocking) straight male gamer expressed concerns that his personal gameplay was being threatened by the addition of same sex romances in Bioware games on the Bioware forum. David Gaider, a game designer for Bioware, actually replied to this guy himself and the response must be read to be completely appreciated.

    http://www.nomorelost.org/2011/03/25/straight-male-gamer-told-to-get-over-it-by-bioware/

    But I think you’re right about the promotion of equality and gender fluidity in games. In games where the protagonist truly matters and is not just a placeholder for a solid storyline, you can almost always customize them to make them exactly who you want to be. What’s interesting is that while this seems to please most gamers, some companies still seem to outright refuse the inclusion of women or even any diversity for that matter. Grand Theft Auto is one such game that, for an RPG, does not allow the player to choose a gender and most recently Ubisoft has made negative news for their new AC: Unity game, in which you can play as one of four white, scruffy men. It seems as if the gaming community is very harshly divided in terms of exclusivity but as Assassins Creed turns into the next CoD and Rockstar continues to get flack for their lack of representation, hopefully the Biowares of the world will win out.

    1. Thanks for that link. There was definitely a lot to the reply. As for Rockstar and GTA, I do agree they are shunning equality. To me that series always seemed to be built around the man being the guy stealing cars, the man walking into strip clubs, and so on. I admit ignorance to that game right here; I have never played it. Never really piqued my interest. But, I have played Rockstar’s Midnight Club games. Those barely featured a “character” at all until MC: Los Angeles. I didn’t care for the story elements. Heck, I thought my guy was awfully generic and I didn’t like him. But that game was all about the cars anyway, so I kind of wrote it off. There were still a number of female drivers in the game, and every one of them gave you just as much flack when you raced them as their male counterparts did.

      Assassin’s Creed I have not played, but wanted to, and I imagine that the ex-Ubisoft developer who claimed they were trying to BS the amount of work is spot on. It’s a weak excuse.

      Call of Duty does not have female characters in its warzones, but Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 1 and 2 do- and I must note that Ubisoft is also the developer of these games. Those are more police/ counter-terrorism oriented games that are often times even more thrilling than CoD is, and the new RS game, Siege, had a debut video at E3 in which the team of 4 SWAT members has one female member clearly present in their numbers, as you can hear on the radio chatter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6wlvYh0h63k So, not all hope is gone for the up and coming games on Ubisoft’s front, though they do seem a bit sluggish.

      I’m sure plenty of game studios are going to continue dragging their feet when it comes to this sort of thing. The romances Bioware put out, as we can see all over the net, were highly controversial. The one you mentioned was a big farce, and then we have cases like ME1 even getting banned in some places for the Liara sex scene.

  2. Skyrim is an interesting example of a game that strives for an equal gaming experience for both male and female characters. In the previous installment of the Elder Scrolls series, Oblivion, there were different attribute bonuses for male and female characters, where males of certain races would get extra points in Strength while females might get extra bonuses in Intelligence. The game developers of Skyrim have said that it was something they specifically wanted to do away with, so that players could have more open characters and not be sort of locked into a class based on race or gender. For example in Skyrim you can be a female high elf warrior or a male orc mage without starting out with a crutch from day one.

  3. I love that you have played both genders in both of the games you mentioned because it gives you an opportunity to get different experiences from the same game, and it is useful information to have for this class.

    When you say that the experiences and interactions have been different for each gender, do you think that games are ever designed with stereotypes in mind? What do you think are some of the big chances that take place when you change to a character with a different gender?

  4. Alrighty, let me think…

    A Mass Effect 2 character, Miranda, is a fair example. http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Miranda_Lawson Almost any male who’s played the game with will tell you that she is very attractive. Some might even go so far as to call her a shallow character put in by Bioware- not much backstory or deep characterization. In the story, she has been genetically altered to look beautiful and pack a punch. But outside of that, some say she’s mainly in the game to look pretty, “boobs and a butt”, the latter especially given the camera angles used when she is speaking to Shepard- when Shepard speaks to her, the camera pans behind Miranda’s hips, showing them and Shepard standing in front of her.

    Given those camera angles, I think Miranda was designed a bit stereotypically in terms of being really beautiful- though she’s an officer in game, and very intelligent. For someone who had not played the first game (I actually started with 2 before coming into the series,) she was definitely set up to be one of the prime romance-able characters for Male Shepard.

    A heterosexual Femshep (there were no gay or lesbian romance options until ME3) would have most of the same lines, but I personally felt like there was much more tension between Femshep and Miranda, as both were women who were trying to run the show.

    Shepard also dies at the beginning, and is “rebuilt” by Miranda and a team of scientists. It’s a fact that mostly skimmed over, but this does give Shepard another, perhaps closer connection to her than s/he would ordinarily have.

    The relationships with the squadmates showed some differences that way. Garrus, as I’ve mentioned, always had a way about him that made him one of the general fan favorites. For Male Shepard, he was a buddy who’d drink him under the table and always have his back. For a Femshep that romanced him, he was a badass vigilante in addition to a hopeless romantic that was still lovable nonetheless.

    Most of those differences, though present, were still not super big ones. The lines spoken to other characters in the story differed a bit between genders too, but I mean, it’s mostly the voice acting at that point, i.e. Mark Meer’s voicing an angry line vs. Jennifer Hale’s voicing the same line. TBH, I am with the people that liked Hale’s work better than Meer’s; in general, she can play both the renegade and paragon parts well, whereas Meer’s lines sometimes felt forced and/or lacking in some places.

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