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So, All These Male Gamers Who Choose to Play With Female Avatars...

It seems to be a common trend: Male gamers often like to assume the role of a female in video games. ...but why?

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From a behavioral and psychological perspective, I've always found this to be a fascinating occurrence.

I first started to notice it many years ago, back when MMORPGs like EverQuest were just beginning to get a foothold in the world of gaming. Several of my friends always opted to play as females, especially female magic users. When I asked why, I never got a direct answer. Usually, they'd just shrug and say, "I dunno."

As MMOs and the freedom of character customization has become common in gaming today, the phenomenon has continued. In fact, I think it's becoming even more prevalent: Males playing as female avatars. Interestingly enough, I'm not quite sure the reverse is true; i.e., I don't know if as many female gamers are playing as male characters.

Either way, it's interesting, isn't it?

What, can't get a girl in real life?

That's a poor retort and these days, it's not anywhere near as realistic as it once was. However, as insulting as it is - and I would never say this to someone - I wonder if it doesn't have a kernel of truth...

In my experience, it is true that men who play as females in video games aren't exactly the biggest "ladies men" in the world. In fact, I daresay that the less luck they have with the fairer sex in reality, the more likely they are to choose a female character in a game. This goes double if they can select a scantily clad mage of some sort. It seems these guys don't want to play as brawny female warriors (perhaps for obvious reasons) and hence, it all makes sense.

And, perhaps on an even darker level, it gives these men a chance to control a woman. In real life, they feel as if they're at a woman's mercy, that they can't make a connection. Therefore, as part of their entertainment and relaxation, they turn the tables and give themselves a chance to fully control a sexy, powerful female.

See, I knew my psychology degree would come in handy someday.

Man, these people can be awfully touchy about it...

The more you ask a guy gamer why he plays as a female character, the more pissed he gets. Have you noticed this? It makes me think I'm onto something; that it has its roots in a deeper psychological quandary. Many don't even want to admit they're playing as a female and if they do, they come up with some bizarre reason: "Oh, my girlfriend wanted to see what a woman magic user looks like in the game." I've heard that one before, too. My response: "...mm-hm."

For the record, I really don't care that men do this. It's fantasy so do whatever you want. You're not hurting anyone. That being said, if there are deeper issues behind this, perhaps it's worth looking into from a scientific and research standpoint. I'd also like to know why it seems that women are more likely to simply play as a female character. Women selecting male avatars doesn't appear to be anywhere near as common, does it?

Again, this is entertainment. Do whatever you want. My questions are merely curious; they're not designed to be offensive. I often wonder about the reasons behind such phenomena, so I tend to ask questions.

Is that wrong?

Originally Published May. 6th 2014

Featured Columnist

A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.



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Comments
  • 1
    Uelrindru_4459 5 months ago
    I will say this article is pretty offensive and doesn't really present evidence for it's claims at all. I've been a gamer for more than 20 years and for me playing female characters started in WoW. Me and a friend both got the game and I got it installed and patched a few hours before my friend said they would be able to play. I had already made a human mage which I thought was going to be my character and didn't want to level that character and have an advantage over my friend so I made a hunter. I picked night elf because I like elves and they could be hunters. The female night elves looked cool and the males looked like they took some kind of steroids that only affected their shoulders and arms so I choose female. Turns out I loved playing hunters, was really good at it and when my friend logged in a half hour later and we found out we would have to be level 10 to get to each other anyway I stuck with the character.
    That said I go with female characters on a regular basis when I have a choice but I definately take into account what I'll look like with different gear before making a gender choice in games and how useful the character class is trumps all for me.
    I certainly didn't like telling people that I play females when I first started because there is a stigma of it somehow meaning you are confused about your gender identity. Now I don't care, I'm secure in my sexuality and how I express it and I couldn't care less about what other people think of me.
    If you would like to watch a reasoned look at why some gamers play female avatars go check out PBS Game/show https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFOVVAhnAns and see a much better look at why some men play women pixel and check the annotation for a video that gives a deeper view into it.
  • 8
    Kitten Mother 5 months ago
    Contributor
    I play male and female characters but mostly female though I 'am' female. My hubby plays mostly male characters but sometimes makes female ones and will spend a whole lot of time in these games...like say, in WoW, .....just gathering stuff for outfits. Not really skimpy or sexy ones either. Long flowing robes and nice shirts as well as things for them to hold like lanterns and books. Females in games have a bit more characterization choices going on then men do. Ever looked at all the different types of clothing of different sizes, patterns, colors, and shapes? Not to mention a lot of times males in games are shown as really heavily muscled and my hubby and I don't care for that.
  • 1
    Relentless_5140 6 months ago
    I play male and female characters. In most games I have the option to have multiple characters. so I scout the game and look for the best look i can find for that gender class and race. certainly certain looks are more appealing with the combination of race, gender and class. Therefore playing as a female character for me would be because of that gender race and class it was the most appealing. Keep it versatile. I think people who play as both male and female are less bias and less sexist. For some people they may have a different reason for playing as a female character or as a male character but in all actuality, I think people just do it for their own idea's of customization without any other psychological explanations other than they are an option and why use only 1 gender when you have so many races- classes to chose from.
  • 56
    Rothalack 6 months ago
    Staff Editor
    I've been playing MMO's for... 15 years now? Something like that. Anyway, the first 10 years of that, I played male characters always. Then after a decade of that I realized something. It's a bit more appealing to look at a girl for a decade than a guy. I simply play female characters more often because you're right, they are more visually pleasing. My girlfriend seems to have a problem with it, but I just don't see the problem.

    Also, in the context of WoW. You just got your ass kicked by a little goblin girl. How do you feel now?!
  • 1
    Lex_7374 6 months ago
    Playing as female character allows me to express the feminine aspects of my personality and experience life as a female vicariously without actually having to endure the social stigma or make the commitment of being an out of the closet transgendered person. I can only speak for myself, but that's why I *personally* do it.

    As for why men who get touchy about it... again... I can only speak for myself but... I think it is again because of the perceived stigma in our society of a man having any feminine characteristics. As in all other aspects of life, society and the media promote extreme ideals of gender and sexuality. Depending on where one lives, the consequences for failing to conform to those ideals can range from anything to mild psychological torment to out right physical violence. The rational course of action is therefore to protect oneself.
  • 42
    Amazon Eliza Steel 6 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    When playing MMOs I have met and known a handful of female players who were playing male characters. I know this because of our connections outside the game. They said it felt freeing because they didn't have guys hitting on them in chats, etc. Which I can understand. It's funny how we look at avatars and presume so much about that person.

    Someone may have mentioned this before but in non-MMO games where you have a limited selection - the female character is often the most balanced.

    I remember back when Gauntlet came out. The Amazon wasn't slow like the warrior. She was stronger than the Wizard, etc. And Tyris in Golden Axe was the best character to play. The dwarf guy was slow and her magic was cooler than the other guy. So, sometimes there's a practical reason not a psychological one.
  • 12
    Cortalia 6 months ago
    Contributor
    Agreed. In the original PSO, The HuNewearl was able to use Tier 3 magic, and all spells to a higher level than others of the Hunter Class and had a magic (technical points) regen. The HuCaseal had the best accuracy and evasion of the class while the Humar and HuCasts (males) prominently focused on raw power and defense.

    However for me the sheer adaptability of the the HuNewearl couldn't be beat. Long range magic AoE bombardments, buffs, debuffs then moving in for the kill with a blade.

    In FFXI, the Mithra (which is female only) offers higher dexterity and agility making them naturally better at melee and evasion tanking classes, Its not as crazy as it used to be but back in my prime of FFXI Mithra's were some of the most reliable damage dealers out there, since you often fought monsters way above your current level their enhanced accuracy allowed them to do steady dependable damage while strength dependent races (typically male characters) like the Elvann and Galka would miss half the time. As a Hume Female which for the most part is stacked in the middle of every stat, I typically had a harder time keeping up with Mithras than Galka's on the damage front.

    However in contradiction more and more games have begun to follow a more "gender neutral" role when it comes to character stats, more and more males and female characters have the same stats and it all falls into the personal preference category .
  • 1
    Xs_5474 6 months ago
    I'm waiting for the other part of this where all guys who roll male chars are homosexuals, who need to control big strong men.

    You say you just want to be a buff tough guy, I know what you really meant was that you wanted to have fantasy gay anal sex and then go on your quests.

    But seriously, I would like to know what your cheap degree has to say about the other end of the spectrum.

    Quality writing, 0/10
    Last edited 6 months ago
  • 42
    Amazon Eliza Steel 6 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    - troll level 5. That includes a +1 for the use of gay anal sex in a sentence.
  • 60
    Fathoms_4209 6 months ago
    Featured Columnist
    Sorry, I don't offer thoughts to people who can't read and hostility ratings so far off the chart, one wonders if they've ever even seen the light of day.
    Last edited 6 months ago
  • 9
    Si_W 6 months ago
    I always play as a female character where I can, couldn't really tell you why - it's just preference. All of my current Titanfall loadouts are female.

    Never been a massive fan of huge brawny male characters, which always seemed to be the default, so maybe it's against that - but I don't know or care.
  • 1
    -_9503 6 months ago
    This is a pretty one sided article if you can call it an article. I can make a female character if I choose with no reason behind it, you know why? Because America; that's why.
  • 40
    zoLo567 6 months ago
    Senior Intern
    My picking female characters these days comes from old school fighters like Tekken. I was always more comfortable with the move sets of the female fighters than I was the male fighters. Picking the female character kind of came out of that habit. I will make a male character (I chose a male Shepherd in Mass Effect), but I usually go for a woman out of the habit that I got from fighters
  • 1
    Shadowphoenix82 6 months ago
    Asking the question is not wrong, no. I'm not fond of the likely hood that people will hop on board your theory of virtual dominance without deeper consideration, but that is a very valid theory. I personally find watching a female overcome tough odds more impressive than a man doing so, especially when the female is of a tinier frame or smaller constitution, because it defies the cookie-cutter stereotype of beefcake macho men busting down walls to save the day. I'm not a competitive male most times, and I am put off by arrogance and aggression. These things make me a more apt friend to young females than boyfriend, but it is a coinciding feature, not a cause and effect. I still have a solid social life, and I am single of my own choosing, believe it or not. Back to topic, I feel more comfortable with, more attracted to, and more impressed by women, so...I'd rather the character I watch on screen be a female.

    That being said, I specifically don't create female characters in MMOs because I consider it to be misleading. I may make my characters very fanciful and ornate with scars and tattoos and dyed hair and the like, but two things stay the same if I expect to encounter human players in the course of gameplay: my character will share my gender, and my skin tone.

    I also concur with the common scenarios OMGr8573 listed. Men play females because they're better to look at when you have to look at your character all the time, and they can be more socially advantageous. Girls play men because they can avoid social inquiry and just play as a teammate, as well as hold heavier, more desirable gear at higher quantity if the game stats are affected by gender.
    Last edited 6 months ago
  • 32
    Elijah Beahm 6 months ago
    Contributor
    I'm afraid I'm going to have to upset this trend. I just do it because I prefer female protagonists. Most of my favorite characters in fiction are women, I prefer female voice actors, and most male characters in general are just as far from representing me as a female character would.

    Also, in an RPG, it adds replay value to try different genders, especially in games like KOTOR 2 where gender actually impacted parts of the story.
  • 34
    Landon Sommer 6 months ago
    Columnist
    Fallout was similar in this respect. You could play the exact same character male and female and get different stories and quests.
  • 1
    Shadowphoenix82 6 months ago
    Here here. I toast to that.
  • 1
    Xs_5474 6 months ago
    How could he apply his wasted schooling if he was being reasonable though? It serves the article far better to ignore any real facts and present himself as a pseudo-intellectual.
  • 1
    Thos_7852 6 months ago
    I play as a female character out of habit from Skyrim. I use normal clothing in Skyrim on my character, trying to make them look more normal or whatever when not in battle, and blokes are incredibly boring as the clothes really are just flat pieces of rag on them. From the perspective of 'I'm a straight guy with a girlfriend', the character looks more interesting. No I don't give the character revealing clothing, as I play as a battle mage, so I use thick iron armour and a hood as well as magic.
    Besides, I spend day after day as a male, so if I want to play as a strong, 'independent' (ignoring the fact that I'm in control) woman, then I will.

    Anyone with any gaming or internet experience at all knows that online, and especially in games, people will play as either gender either for the sake of it or because they're a bit creepy. Besides, my character in Elder Scrolls Online assumes the part of a character in a book series.
  • 9
    OMGr8573 6 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    Most guys I've heard of that plays female character always state "If I'm gonna have to sit and stare at a character for hours on end, every day... it's gonna be a female character!" Plus a lot of the times female characters get help before anyone, money, items, help with quests, etc

    A lot of women plays males cause when playing a female they get bothered a lot by men. Play male and they don't have to worry about men sending them stupid and/or gross tells.
  • 60
    Fathoms_4209 6 months ago
    Featured Columnist
    "Plus a lot of the times female characters get help before anyone, money, items, help with quests, etc"

    That's an interesting explanation and one I've never heard before. I don't play MMOs so this is good to know. :)

    As for the last part, I think the majority of online gamers know that males often play as females, so I'm not sure playing as a female character is going to convince anyone that you're a woman.
  • 1
    Shadowphoenix82 6 months ago
    You'd think it wouldn't be convincing, but people still test the waters just to find out. Or assume the character is male and make vulgar comments about the hot avatar they chose. Not sure how bad it could get myself, but I have heard that female avatars still get "courted" so...yeah.
  • 42
    Amazon Eliza Steel 6 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    - it's very true. Female characters are treated differently because the men they play around may try to impress, befriend or woo them.

    However, to that end, being more outspoken and assertive can counter the thoughts of the female needing protection etc.