Gender and RPGs

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AuthorTopic: Gender and RPGs
Lack of Vision
Member # 2717
Profile #0
You know, we've come a long way from the old days of RPGs with blatant misogyny. In case you're too young to remember, the first edition AD&D game codified in the rules that women were weaker. Also, CRPGs sort of followed this trend, one example I remember was in the Bard's Tale, how you literally couldn't create female characters.

So compared to those days, things have certainly gotten better. But I read a few topics in the Geneforge and Exile forums that made me think problems still exist. Some people say they're uncomfortable playing a female PC. To me this is both sad and weird. After all, they seem to have no problem playing a giant lizard or a kitty, but not a cooty-filled girl "ugh"!

So what do the rest of you think? Is sexism in RPGs just an artifact that games are still primarily written for boys? Is it a reflection of sexism in society in general?

One of the things I find refreshing about Jeff's games is their lack of sexism. But hey, I also have never had a problem playing as a kick-butt woman in a videogame.

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Posts: 186 | Registered: Thursday, February 27 2003 08:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #1
The ability limitations for female characters in AD&D1 were a misguided attempt at realism. No woman has ever benchpressed as much as the greatest male weightlifters. But no man has successfully cast a fireball spell, either. So it really didn't make sense. I mean, did someone else write 'fantasy role-playing game' on Gygax's covers while he wasn't looking, or what?

But this was where D&D was showing its roots in homegrown table-top gaming, where in principle it was a simulation, but realism was rarely achievable without unacceptable complexity, so any rule that seemed both simple and realistic would be defended fiercely, even if it made the game worse.

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Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #2
Sexism as a standard of RPGs is on the downswing, although the chainmail bikini proliferation still hasn't quite come to an end. I actually think that RPGs are, for the most part, good about being gender-equal now.

The remaining sexism tends to be an artifact not of the games' roots but of wider culture. People are uncomfortable playing a female agent because it's still not okay to be a girl or be perceived as a girl.

—Alorael, who finds the equality emphasis of RPGs to be a good but unreasonable thing. Medieval society was extraordinarily sexist. So was renaissance society. Putting the modern concept of gender equality into a faux-medieval setting is a funny thing, especially because there are still always housewives but no househusbands. A truly equal medieval culture would probably be too alien to make a good generic setting.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
Warrior
Member # 14343
Profile Homepage #3
I love being able to play a girl in Spiderweb Software's games! One time I had an all female group in Avernum.

I don't really play a lot of other RPG's so I can't say anything about that. I have noticed that there are other adventure games where you can play females. Like Journey to the Center of the Earth and there was another game I played called Five Magical Amulets...alright, so I don't play a lot of other games :P

Personally I have no problem playing a male either, it's sorta like an alter ego....I play Warbook on Facebook sometimes and I referred to my character as "he" once. That was funny.

[ Wednesday, April 30, 2008 14:06: Message edited by: TobyLinn ]

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Posts: 72 | Registered: Wednesday, February 20 2008 08:00
Guardian
Member # 5360
Profile #4
Nalyd typically doesn't play female characters in single-character RPGs when given a choice that doesn't affect gameplay. But he really doesn't mind, just identifies better with males. In Geneforge, Nalyd has no problem playing a female Agent or Shock Trooper(Well, he doesn't like the Shock Trooper, but that's not for gender reasons). In Avernum, there's usually at least one female in the group.

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Posts: 1636 | Registered: Wednesday, January 5 2005 08:00
Skip to My Lou
Member # 40
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I occasionally play female characters, but pretty much always on a later play through for the sake getting different dialog options or things like that. Though I am in favor, in a general way, of having the option of playing a female character, it's mainly for the sake females who will be playing the game.

Personally, I like to actually role play my characters, and it's harder to really connect with the character and get into the game when the character is the opposite gender. Not to mention that I prefer watching my character run around with big biceps and chiseled pecs and abs, not big icky boobs. :P

Which brings me to the point that now that games are getting pretty good at gender equality, how about letting us play as gay characters? For the 8,000th time, I don't want to flirt with the busty tavern wench!

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Posts: 1629 | Registered: Wednesday, October 3 2001 07:00
Raven v. Writing Desk
Member # 261
Profile Homepage #6
I think problems with taking on the role of a woman or man have more to do with immaturity (meant in a non-insulting way) than sexism. Gender roles are still HUGELY entrenched in our society; and if gender is less relevant to, say, profession than it was fifty years ago, it definitely isn't any less relevant to social presentation. This is especially true of young kids, who face enormous pressures, both at home and at school, to conform to the looks and actions expected of their gender. Boys don't want to pretend to be girls, when they are under so much pressure to act like boys.

But kids are open-minded and most kids these days are taught gender equality. So I bet there are a lot of little boys out there who love having powerful female allies or party members, but would prefer to have their main character be a guy.

That said, I do think sexism is alive and well. Spiderweb's games are practically the only RPGs I can think of that don't portray a scantily-clad woman at some point. (Or in the case of the Avernum PC portraits, that portray scantily-clad men just as frequently.) The hugely popular Final Fantasy series is one of the worst offenders. Most have a timid but kind-hearted female character who casts healing spells and falls in love with the main character, who is a super-cool warrior, male of course. Typically, one of the female characters will get kidnapped and the main character (male) will rush out to rescue her. And the last two FF games introduced an entire RACE of scantily-clad bunny girls (literally), the Viera.

Something even rarer about Spiderweb games is their tolerance of homosexuality. Elspeth and Nance weren't the only openly gay Exiles; there were enough that I once considered making Category:Gay on EE.

Here's an interesting article about the role of women and gay people in video games. (Alex, you'll enjoy this link.)

[ Wednesday, April 30, 2008 15:22: Message edited by: Indicative v. Performative ]

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Posts: 3560 | Registered: Wednesday, November 7 2001 08:00
Warrior
Member # 14343
Profile Homepage #7
quote:
Originally written by Archmage Alex:

Which brings me to the point that now that games are getting pretty good at gender equality, how about letting us play as gay characters? For the 8,000th time, I don't want to flirt with the busty tavern wench!
LOL...try being a real-life woman playing a male character flirting with the busty tavern wrench! That'll confuse you even more :P

I want to know when I can play a woman character and flirt with the handsome male bar staff! Why doesn't that happen in games?

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"And if I had the choice I'd take the voice I got / Cause it was hard to find. / You know I've come too far to wind up right back where I started." - Concrete Blonde (True)

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Posts: 72 | Registered: Wednesday, February 20 2008 08:00
Agent
Member # 1934
Profile Homepage #8
Toby, in certain games like Neverwinter Nights, you can flirt with sexy men. I enjoy making my male companions fall in love with me. the dialog is usually pretty hilarious.

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Posts: 1169 | Registered: Monday, September 23 2002 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #9
quote:
Originally written by Archmage Alex:

Personally, I like to actually role play my characters, and it's harder to really connect with the character and get into the game when the character is the opposite gender.
I've found anecdotally that many roleplayers tend to play a variation or caricature of themselves when playing a character of the same gender. Playing one of the opposite gender creates a detachment that actually leads to more "authentic" roleplaying because less identification means the player is more likely to make the character behave as the character, not as himself or herself.

—Alorael, who on the other hand has a history of roleplaying characters of the same genders precisely to get that self-projection. There is a different kind of fun in portraying a form of "Me, but with a huge sword and able to shoot fireballs, heal the sick, and fly!"
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
Law Bringer
Member # 2984
Profile Homepage #10
I do play female characters in ADOM quite often. I rather avoid that in MMORPGs though, because of the negative stigma.

The stigma against online women who are actually men, that is, not against female characters.

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Posts: 8752 | Registered: Wednesday, May 14 2003 07:00
...b10010b...
Member # 869
Profile Homepage #11
quote:
Originally written by Arancaytar:

I do play female characters in ADOM quite often. I rather avoid that in MMORPGs though, because of the negative stigma.

The stigma against online women who are actually men, that is, not against female characters.

The funny thing is, some women play as male characters specifically to avoid being accused of being men.

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Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
Councilor
Member # 6600
Profile Homepage #12
Originally by Slartucker:

quote:
Something even rarer about Spiderweb games is their tolerance of homosexuality. Elspeth and Nance weren't the only openly gay Exiles; there were enough that I once considered making Category:Gay on EE.
Are there any in A4 (besides a possible Elspeth) and A5?

Dikiyoba.

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Episode 4: Spiderweb ReloadedEpisode 5: Spiderweb Resistance
Posts: 4346 | Registered: Friday, December 23 2005 08:00
Agent
Member # 8030
Profile Homepage #13
I never really noticed any gender specification with the exception of Realmz. If I remember correctly, females had a +1 bonus to dexterity, while males had a +1 bonus to strength. It wasn't really much of a bonus either way, so it probably didn't matter.

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Posts: 1384 | Registered: Tuesday, February 6 2007 08:00
Warrior
Member # 14343
Profile Homepage #14
I play Warbook on Facebook (social networking site) a lot, and for those who don't know, it's like an online text-based game where you attack other players.

Now, you can't see who the actual person behind the character is, as there's no link to the actual Facebook profile.

So a lot of the girls give their characters a male name or something asexual because sometimes guys can be pretty vicious....like sexually harassing a female player or insulting her in some way, just because they know you're female. Or they'll try to come on to a girl player.

I just wanted to add in my two cents on another reason girls play male characters.

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"And if I had the choice I'd take the voice I got / Cause it was hard to find. / You know I've come too far to wind up right back where I started." - Concrete Blonde (True)

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Posts: 72 | Registered: Wednesday, February 20 2008 08:00
Shaper
Member # 7420
Profile Homepage #15
I was pleased when I found out you could play a female of any race in World of Warcraft and that they would have stats equal to males. Blizzard always did make wise decisions like that. I'll never understand how something can be so awesome while still remaining so politically correct. Even I was only able to accomplish one of those things... you jerks.

Girl Power!

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Posts: 2156 | Registered: Thursday, August 24 2006 07:00
Shaper
Member # 247
Profile Homepage #16
What about body type discrimination? Why don't we see 600 pound heros splooshing around the countryside?

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Posts: 2395 | Registered: Friday, November 2 2001 08:00
Shaper
Member # 7420
Profile Homepage #17
I have no problem with body type discrimination. Being a woman doesn't make you any less healthy. Fat heros are not good role models. I mean the kids playing these games are obese enough as it is, no?

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Posts: 2156 | Registered: Thursday, August 24 2006 07:00
Raven v. Writing Desk
Member # 261
Profile Homepage #18
quote:
Originally written by Dikiyoba:

Are there any in A4 (besides a possible Elspeth) and A5?[/QB]
This is a very good point. Although Elspeth and company remained in A1-3, there hasn't been any new, gay Spiderweb material since 1996. (Unless there was something in Nethergate, but I don't remember anything explicit.)

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Slarty vs. DeskDesk vs. SlartyTimeline of ErmarianG4 Strategy Central
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Posts: 3560 | Registered: Wednesday, November 7 2001 08:00
Law Bringer
Member # 6785
Profile #19
Nethergate: Resurrection only added a few new characters and Avernum 5 didn't seem to have any mention either. Avernum 5 seemed to be more concerned with money and politics (power) rather than personal relationships.
Posts: 4643 | Registered: Friday, February 10 2006 08:00
By Committee
Member # 4233
Profile #20
Personal relationships in RPGs are almost always so clunkily handled - especially when it comes to the PCs - that it's probably better that they are left out anyway.
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
Master
Member # 5977
Profile Homepage #21
Whether I play as a male or a female is mostly determined by the amount of characters I play. For example, in Avernum games, where there is a large group, I sometimes have females. When I play with a single character though, it'll be a male, and never female, and the reason for this is utterly simple. It is not because I'm a sexist, not because I hate females or something of that kind, it has to do with what I see as "normal". I'm male, so when I play a game in which I play a sole person, I want it to be male because I am male. When it's a group it doesn't matter to me that much since it's a group: when playing with a group I don't get really emotionally involved with the characters; much less anyway than when I'd play with only one character (like in just about any FPS). It may be a difficult thing for people to understand, but that's just the way it is and there's nothing that'll change me on that respect.

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Posts: 3029 | Registered: Saturday, June 18 2005 07:00
Lack of Vision
Member # 2717
Profile #22
Interesting posts everyone!

I think there's a lot of truth that immature players are more prone to misogyny in their games. Fortunately, some people grow out of that phase. Unfortunately, not everyone does (much like Mr. Gygax never did as evidenced by his indefensible position on women in RPGs, of that truly horrifying example of female bunnies from FF). I hadn't considered the social pressures on kids to conform to sex roles, but clearly that plays a part, perhaps the single largest part.

I guess I'm most happy about the fact that spiderweb was being non-sexist before it was cool to be non-sexist. I mean, my significant other loves fantasy/Sci Fi, but she didn't know it until discovering Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, Charmed, and Dark Angel. The reason is obvious to me now; she always loved it but most fantasy/sci fi fare turned her off because of its sexist content, so she assumed it was all like that. And she now enjoys geneforge because it is a game that doesn't insult her.

So hurray for Jeff!

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Posts: 186 | Registered: Thursday, February 27 2003 08:00
Warrior
Member # 4638
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First, I usually play predominately female characters. Especially, Sliths and kitty, and any archer, thief, or healer type character.

Second, statistical bonuses or penalties for adventurers do not make a lot of sense to me, since the average adventurer is not going to be the average townsperson. Adventurers by their very nature are exceptional.

As for gender roles, that is a more complicated subject. I will just say that ultimately, men and women are different, so I am not sure gender roles will ever completely disappear.

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Posts: 93 | Registered: Tuesday, June 29 2004 07:00
Off With Their Heads
Member # 4045
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My Avernum parties are usually half and half, two females and two males, or one female and one male. In games in which I play a single character, I typically play a male, because it's easier to identify with that character. Even if the character is a slith or something, it's easier to think of that character as the slith equivalent to me if the character is male than if the character is female.

Gender is not the only trait that I match from myself. By default, my characters somewhat match my ethics, personality, etc. Sometimes I role-play a little more and have a character that doesn't match me.

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