Man Up: Do You Like To Play As A Woman?
There is often much ado about either the lack of female protagonists in games or the portrayal of the ones we do have.
I think those are great conversations to have so that the increasing number of female gamers feel welcome in the hobby and the quality of the product can continue to increase. Whatever your opinion of the current state of things we have come a long way in certain areas since the old, old days.
What is discussed less often is the commonality of pixelated gender bending in games. Metroid blew everyone away early on when we got the reveal of Samus at the end. None of us knew we were playing as a woman and it was the 80's so it was a big deal. More and more though I see male gamers opting now and then or always preferring to play as a female lead.
I'm currently playing Beyond: Two Souls but it is such a human drama that I hardly even think about the fact that the protagonist is a female. However, I probably wouldn't have paid as much attention to something like Remember Me if it had featured a man. The game didn't turn out perfect, but I still say Nilin was an awesome character by the time you were through with that journey. Remember Me's game director Jean-Max Moris spoke of the challenge of creating a good female lead: “You have to avoid the pitfalls of making her just a damsel in distress or a sex bomb, because this is what you think would appeal most to the hordes of men that constitute your fan base." I believe he is right, and we saw a similar balancing act with the new Lara Croft.
Since the generation began I've slowly moved in favor of selecting a female protagonist for my RPGs when possible. The first time I played Mass Effect 2 I went with a male Shepard and it felt pretty stale, but the second time I created a female Shep and voila, more entertaining. I carried her over to ME3. I don't think it was just because the female voice actor was better either.
While I freely admit that I'm more inclined to have a female form in front of me for hours on end (however digitized that is) I also don't think that has much to do with why I now prefer to play as a woman in certain RPGs. It isn't as if I am hold up in my basement without female attention as the stereotype dictates either, but then maybe it is just because I prefer to surround myself with females over males that I trend toward playing them in my games too. It just seemed like a natural decision for me over time; if I was still a teenage gamer I would probably be weirder about it.
Perhaps it is just that games are a chance to explore something wholly different, so why not go as far outside your own personal experience as possible? I've read some people's own ideas: “I like agile characters, I prefer her weapon, game creators make nice female behinds.” I'm sure there are plenty of shallow reasons why so many of us do it, but I'd rather think that there are deeper reasons. I'd rather think that perhaps we want to see strong women in strong roles formerly reserved only for men. I'd rather think those internet comment sections full of “Get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich” posts are from guys who are simply uncomfortable with their own proclivity to play as women when nobody is looking.
Men, tell us why you like to play as a female lead if you do, or go ahead and sound off on why you think it is an utterly strange thing for a man to do.
10/10/2013 David D. Nelson