Gender play in online gaming

// 6 March 2008

I had a small piece in today’s G2, in the shortcuts section, on women who play male characters in online games. Of course, you could easily write a book on this subject…

Comments From You

Lindsey // Posted 6 March 2008 at 3:13 pm

Will you write more on it? I think it would be interesting to get some game reviews on here.

Recently I’ve been burning all my free time playing Final Fantasy 12 for the DS and was shocked when my male lead character implied that a female character would be in danger if she didn’t join the group. Fair enough there are dangerous pirates about but the phrasing, along the lines of “a pretty thing like you shouldn’t be out alone” implied she would get raped without his protection. I have since been recommended Final Fantasy 3 for DS, in which character roles are far more flexible and you can choose to take them out of their gender stereotyped preset roles.

Jess McCabe // Posted 6 March 2008 at 3:30 pm

Lindsey, with pleasure. I may well have a go at a proper feature on this, and I always love to blog about the latest in wacky sexist games, but I don’t think we’ve actually reviewed any to date.

As for Final Fantasy, I’ve not played the latest versions (chocobos are cute and all, but I find the game play a bit dull). But in the ones I have played (Final Fantasy 8&9 primarily), there was quite strong gender stereotyping. The female characters tended towards magic abilities, rather than physical strength, etc. Generally speaking, though, the series is a mixed bag of interesting and god-awful (I didn’t play VII, but see the Girl in the Machine’s hilarious post about the characters with playboy bunny ears.)

Leigh Woosey // Posted 6 March 2008 at 3:37 pm

A while ago, inspired by news reports like the one above, I compiled a picture representing how gender stereotypes persist in the graphics and design of the ever-popular World of Warcraft:

The difference between the same armor or clothing pieces as displayed on male and female avatars

What the ‘female armor looks like on male characters

Jennifer // Posted 6 March 2008 at 3:49 pm

Jess – it is true that the female characters in FF games tend towards magical abilities rather than physical ones. But I think they have been getting better in past few years. On FFXII (I played on the PS2) the upgrading system was pretty fluid and you could upgrade a character anyway you liked. For example, I had one female character set-up for purely close-range melee attacks. So, fingers-crossed this trend will continue!

Also, I agree with Lindsey, it would be great to see feminist-geared games reviews up here. The games industry is definitely one place where sexism runs rife.

Anj Green // Posted 6 March 2008 at 9:36 pm

Being a card-carrying WoW addict myself (and proud member of the Alliance, I might add), there’s certainly some armour options (if that’s the right word, because sometimes it’s not an option if you care about your stats) that have prompted me to wear our guild tabard over them because they’re so awful and seemingly working on the assumption that a female’s skin is a natural armour in itself.

For a plus side, at least the lore of WoW and character classes is in a world where the men and women are judged equally (female gnome tanks FTW :), paid equally and regarded on a level playing field. That’s the NPCs taken care of, for the players, my experience is that everyone just automatically assumes regardless of the gender of the avatar, that all players are male. There’s a lot of “m8” going on which I’ll wince at a little but tolerate, although I’ve had to, on more than a few occasions, type “Please don’t call me dude” into a party chat channel.

I will, however, continue to make any excuses available to avoid touching voice chat with anything less than a ten-foot pole. It doesn’t come up often and text chat gets most people by. Saying “Sorry, my mic port is broken” is a little more than half true. It crackles and would annoy anyone within about five seconds.

Anj Greeb // Posted 7 March 2008 at 4:54 am

I have to add, as an afterthought to my comment, that there have been some clothing items that have come my way with maybe a bit of midriff showing that I have, to be honest, been quite happy to wear.

I would like to see, though, some skimpy male gear just for the sake of balance. The images linked by Leigh Woosey had some of the men looking pretty good in the female-oriented gear, obviously with the exception of the hideous “bra-cups” tops that I haven’t come across myself, but don’t do anyone any justice.

Lindsey // Posted 7 March 2008 at 9:21 am

Jennifer – the PS2 version sounds like FF3 that my friend recommended to me. In my FF12 spin off the most powerful characters are all male – the lead fighter, the magician and the fallen warrior of the race I’m trying to save are most useful in a fight and tend to level up more easily as a result. My female characters are a healer/temple dancer with trousers cut so low you’d see her clit if she had one, and a girl who rides a hoverboard into people’s heads and tends to die quite often.

And yes, bunny-ears! It was a bunny-eared woman I was supposedly saving from pirate molestation.

Seph // Posted 8 March 2008 at 9:29 am

I’m a fan of Final Fantasy, but it’s female characters are rather hit-and-miss.

VII had 3 female playable characters, one of which is a close range martial artist, however it’s even worse then 8 when it comes to the female characters turning into drooling 13 year olds whenever the male main character is around.

I think one of the best FF female is Yuna in Final Fantasy X, she may be a magic user but she’s also a strong, detirmined character not a man-obsessed wet blanket. Of course then X-2 came along and turned her into Aerith in hotpants

I can’t really think of any ‘feminist’ video games, there are very few that even have female main characters with detailed backstories and good characterisation. Horror games tend to have female main characters, and quite a few beat ’em ups are pretty balanced gender-wise.

One thing I like in video games is there are actually attractive male characters that are designed to be attractive for women, as well as the other way around. I’d be a lot less bothered by all the huge-chested women pouting from the covers of magazines if there were an equal amount of attractive men doing it.

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds