#1 Edited by Kierkegaard (605 posts) -

Just read this heady but interesting essay on the question above: http://www.firstpersonscholar.com/identification-or-desire/

Should be read in its entirety, but it does wrap its point around difficult terminology, so I'll summarize best I can.

The point is essentially that while traditionally academics, and many players, have considered playing as characters in games to be about identification, seeing ourselves in those characters, or non-identification, completely separating ourselves from characters unlike us, this may not be accurate.

Instead, Voorhees argues that both people who identify as men playing as women avatars and people who identify as women playing as man avatars are enacting a queer relationship. A man playing as a woman is enacting a transgender-like experience, placing himself into the context of a woman's perspective.

Of course, being transgender is not a playground or a choice, but a realization, or at least actualization, of the gender you feel yourself to be, a gender that you were not assumed to be by society up to that point. So it's not the same.

Voorhees and the discussant at the bottom do go into how if it is true that playing as someone different creates a queer embodiment, then that may result in people uncomfortable with that idea pushing back with less exploration or more vitriol, something the discussant compares to men acting more heteronormative when in homosocial situations, like everyone being unclothed in a locker room.

The point of all of this is is: A study referenced in the article shows most males playing as female avatars do so to gaze and control them, a domineering relationship. Do you, in general, feel that you embody the character you are playing, becoming a different or similar person to yourself, be that in race, gender, sexuality, ethics, or personality? Or do you only identify with similar characters to you? Or do you choose a character to gawk at? Or is it a more complicated mix?

Personally, I try to create a cooler version of myself in sports games since it's living a fantasy. In role playing games, I want to play as something other. I try to embody, for instance, a female avatar as if I were her. I find it frustrating when something like Skyrim does not so much let me be a woman or a man, but removes most gendered existence from the world, making the character an it with a gendered pronoun. More active commentary and use of both positive and negative gendered experiences may be something essays like this one can help us encourage in those who write games. Portal 2 is very gendered. It uses some seriously negative gender tropes in Glados' insults, but it does have some major moments that would not work with a male Chell.

Thanks for reading and possibly responding.

#2 Posted by kindgineer (2786 posts) -

I don't embody the female character I play, I just like having a pretty woman to play as. It's fun, and I get to have a fantasy trip to make my girl as badass and sexy as I possibly can.

I do have to admit, though, that I'll play a female race with a big butt over others. I'm a butt man, and I'm proud.

#3 Posted by Clonedzero (4200 posts) -

Queer as in unusual or odd. Sure maybe? Queer as in homosexual, no thats silly.

Though i find it kinda disgusting anytime a guy goes "if im gonna be looking a characters ass for 30 hours it might as well be a female ass!" which is almost always the excuse alot of guys give when asked why they're playing a female character. It's just kinda perverted and gross. Porn exists people! Whatever that rant aside its not really a big deal.

I almost always play as a male character because im a male and i can just envision myself as the character easier. Nothing against female characters, i'm just not very ladylike is all.

Play what you wanna play when given choices. If its so you can "experience the adventure as a woman" or to have a sexy object you can dress up in skimpy fantasy armors, or be a big burly muscle man, whatever. As long as you enjoy it!

#4 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

Queer as in unusual or odd. Sure maybe? Queer as in homosexual, no thats silly.

Neither of those definitions apply to academic queer. (Weird sentence, but trust me: it makes sense.)

Oh, and fun fact: I wrote a detailed essay about a topic closely related to this. (It was about identification in games.) The answer I reached? It depends.

#5 Edited by Corevi (4337 posts) -

No. I don't embody the character, I control them. I played a Female Shepard in the Mass Effect games just because I love Jennifer Hale's voice acting.

The problem with making the game actually react to your gender (especially in the case of Skyrim) is having to record new lines.

If you want a game where your gender actually changes everything I highly recommend Mount and Blade (Preferably Warband). It's set in a fictional ersatz of medieval Europe and so it is much harder to make a name for yourself as a knight, a vassal or a ruler if you choose to be a girl due to the sexism of the era.

#7 Posted by Oldirtybearon (4863 posts) -

I guess to answer the bolded part, if I have the choice I don't play as women. If I have the choice I also don't play as black guys, or Chinese guys, or Eastern European guys. I tend to create/customize characters that encompass either my ideal "hero" character or an idealized version of myself.

In general however, to me the protagonist and I are one person. The character is my mouth piece/agent in the game world, but I am him/her and she/he is me. It's a weird kind of "agency sharing" thing. Where I can recognize that, say, Lara Croft is her own character, her actions in Tomb Raider are a direct result of my choices and agency within the game world. I'm not watching somebody go through a grueling test of endurance, I'm experiencing it with her.

I don't know if anything I said made a damn lick of sense, but whatever.

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#8 Posted by TurboMan (7678 posts) -

eh, I'll play as a female character just to get a bit of variety. I don't ever role-play with any kinds of games and the whole "If I'm going to play a game for 50 hours, I at least wanna stare at a hot chick" argument is weird to me. I only do it purely because 95% of other games has men as the main character.

#9 Posted by Kierkegaard (605 posts) -

I don't embody the female character I play, I just like having a pretty woman to play as. It's fun, and I get to have a fantasy trip to make my girl as badass and sexy as I possibly can.

I do have to admit, though, that I'll play a female race with a big butt over others. I'm a butt man, and I'm proud.

Huh, interesting. Your talking about "making" her into something rather than being something yourself, but you're still making her something strong and badass in your eyes. Interesting that sexy is required. Do you make male characters you create sexy or do sexy things?

Queer as in unusual or odd. Sure maybe? Queer as in homosexual, no thats silly.

Though i find it kinda disgusting anytime a guy goes "if im gonna be looking a characters ass for 30 hours it might as well be a female ass!" which is almost always the excuse alot of guys give when asked why they're playing a female character. It's just kinda perverted and gross. Porn exists people! Whatever that rant aside its not really a big deal.

I almost always play as a male character because im a male and i can just envision myself as the character easier. Nothing against female characters, i'm just not very ladylike is all.

Play what you wanna play when given choices. If its so you can "experience the adventure as a woman" or to have a sexy object you can dress up in skimpy fantasy armors, or be a big burly muscle man, whatever. As long as you enjoy it!

Videogameking helped a bit, but hey, sir, if you want to know what Queer means, look it up. Try "queer culture" etc. Self education is good! And you're clearly thoughtful and open to people doing different stuff, so take the step and dive into some good lit!

@clonedzero said:

Queer as in unusual or odd. Sure maybe? Queer as in homosexual, no thats silly.

Neither of those definitions apply to academic queer. (Weird sentence, but trust me: it makes sense.)

Oh, and fun fact: I wrote a detailed essay about a topic closely related to this. (It was about identification in games.) The answer I reached? It depends.

Ha, a fair conclusion. On your blog on here is this essay?

No. I don't embody the character, I control them. I played a Female Shepard in the Mass Effect games just because I love Jennifer Hale's voice acting. The problem with making the game actually react to your gender is having to record new lines.

If you want a game where your gender actually changes everything I highly recommend Mount and Blade (Preferably Warband). It's set in a fictional ersatz of medieval Europe and so it is much harder to make a name for yourself as a knight, a vassal or a ruler if you choose to be a girl due to the sexism of the era.

That's only PC right? Grr. Mac and PS4 gaming. It is a burden. That's a really interesting reason I didn't even consider--you chose your character based on performance of her voice. So it was seeing her as a non-embodied character who wanted the best actor portraying, so you chose Hale because she was better? I'd love to hear more!

The thing about budgetary concerns and all that is that it's all about choices. If a game chooses to let you choose gender, or be a different gender, or references gender, it is has to respectful toward that. Including it as an option but not fleshing out that inclusion is not worse than non-inclusion, but it does feel like tokenism. It feels like, here, 50% of the population, here's your option, but we're not going to put too much thought into the differentiation of gender because we don't really care.

Creating art is a hard collection of responsibilities.

#10 Posted by Xolare (1284 posts) -

I'm just going to straight up say that if I have to look at a character's butt for hours upon hours, I'm going to want it to be a lady's butt.

#11 Edited by NTM (7516 posts) -

I don't put myself into the characters sex when I play games, I simply put myself in the world, and experience the world through their eyes, or alongside them, though they are not me, and I see them and hear them as separate from me; they're their own person/character, unless it's a game where you're creating a character, like in Mass Effect, since that's technically me choosing things.

Otherwise, I'm not immersing myself into the characters sex, which is why I don't have a problem playing as female characters in games, such as Lara Croft, Joanna Dark, Kate Archer, and so on. I think some people view it differently, which is why some people have a problem with playing as a female character, and others don't. I don't really think 'queer' has to do with it, at least not for everyone.

#12 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@video_game_king said:

@clonedzero said:

Queer as in unusual or odd. Sure maybe? Queer as in homosexual, no thats silly.

Neither of those definitions apply to academic queer. (Weird sentence, but trust me: it makes sense.)

Oh, and fun fact: I wrote a detailed essay about a topic closely related to this. (It was about identification in games.) The answer I reached? It depends.

Ha, a fair conclusion. On your blog on here is this essay?

Your grammar is confusing, but the answer is ultimately "no." It's a long-ass essay, and I haven't exactly dabbled in essay format on this site. I've been coming close with the blogs I've been writing recently, but that's still not particularly close.

#13 Posted by JasonR86 (9762 posts) -

I don't doubt this makes sense for some players but not all. Generalizations are kind of silly in that they assume we all have the same intentions. For example, I play as female in Mass Effect because I like that voice actor better then the male actor.

It's neat that the author is going through all this work writing a meta-analysis, but it really comes across as needless naval gazing.

#14 Posted by Karkarov (3229 posts) -

Let me give a completely thorough and correct answer to the question asked by your thread title.

No. Hell no.

90% of the people I know who were male and played female characters did it simply because they would rather look at a hot chick than a guy all day. I even know some people who did it in WoW for example because if they pretended to be female they could con idiots into giving them money. I have played female characters in games before simply because I felt those characters had better character models, or gear looked cooler on them. I play Jill in Resident Evil 1 because the game is literally easier as Jill and she gets a bazooka instead of a crappy flame thrower.

I only identify as one person, me. I am not the character I am playing in that game, just like Harrison Ford is actually not really Han Solo.

#15 Posted by EXTomar (4911 posts) -

It doesn't mean anything more than a girl playing so many video game characters that are beefy guys. There is something inherent about it but it isn't this.

#16 Edited by Corevi (4337 posts) -

@kierkegaard: I wanted to play the "Paragon" route but the ManShep VA (Mark Meer) sounds really insincere when saying nice things.

Also Jennifer Hale in Bioware games is a goddamn tradition.

#17 Edited by SaucyGiraffe (25 posts) -

Um, what? I'm confused, so according to this author would it also be the case that a male writer who writes a female protagonist in a narrative is also acting out some kind of queer relationship? That seems silly.

#18 Edited by SpunkyHePanda (1716 posts) -

I don't fully understand why I usually play as a female, but it's not the butt thing. Shut up about the butt thing.

#19 Posted by csl316 (9220 posts) -

When I play games, I have no investment in identifying with my character. I'm just controlling a character who's hopefully interesting.

I've been playing as Lara Croft since the mid-90's and I don't feel any different. I played Mass Effect as Michael Shepard, then as Jessica Shepard. Second playthrough was a little tougher, but that was probably due to the difficulty setting. 'Splosion Man and Ms. 'Splosion Man were both equally fun.

I guess some people view this differently, then get upset with a lack of diversity. But I honestly feel a detachment when playing as a character. In a third-person game, anyway.

#20 Edited by kindgineer (2786 posts) -

@kierkegaard: I don't find men "sexy," so probably not. When I do make a male char, I tend to make them heroic, gentleman-like, and badass. Maybe that's my personification of 'sexy' in male terms? I don't know.

#21 Posted by NTM (7516 posts) -

@corruptedevil: People say these things, and yet I felt they both did an equal job. Mark Meer often times sounding like he is indifferent about things, and Hale sounding like she's angry, neither good things, but still both an equal, fine job.

#22 Edited by ViciousBearMauling (1195 posts) -

What? That's an odd thought. I strongly disagree.

I don't know why I pick females, but I just do. It's not because "If I'm gonna look at a characters ass I'd rather it be a hot chick!", because that is stupid.

Maybe strong female characters doing cool shit is less common, and thus more interesting to me? There are a million different beefy dudes killing shit, but there is only one Bayonetta, for example.

#23 Edited by TheManWithNoPlan (5895 posts) -

I don't really see myself as the character when I'm playing a game. I control them, manipulate their actions, but other than that I'm a separate entity than the avatar in the game. I'm simply an active participant in someone's story. A story that I get to have agency in. Sometimes that character is a man and sometimes a woman. I don't really demand I be the same gender as the character I'm playing either. When I'm looking for games it just seems inconsequential to my enjoyment. So, when I played Tomb Raider last year, I wasn't disappointed or excited I got to play a character of the opposite sex. I was just interested in what kind of game it was and if I'd have fun with it. Same goes for movies or books.

As far as my intentions when choosing to play as one gender or another, it can depend on my want for variety and a different point of view. And occasionally, as creepy sounding as it might be, it's sometimes nice to look at a character I find appealing, given the possibility that I might spend so much time looking at them.

#24 Posted by Gruebacca (557 posts) -

Most of the time, a person playing as a character of the opposite sex isn't trying to create them in their own image but rather to have something pleasing to look at.

Also, it mixes things up. Only playing as your gender can be boring. Games give us the option. Why not? Sometimes, I want to make someone like me. Other times, I want a lady. Video games!

#25 Edited by Random45 (1262 posts) -

@gruebacca said:

Most of the time, a person playing as a character of the opposite sex isn't trying to create them in their own image but rather to have something pleasing to look at.

Also, it mixes things up. Only playing as your gender can be boring. Games give us the option. Why not? Sometimes, I want to make someone like me. Other times, I want a lady. Video games!

This hits the nail on the head. I play women in games where character doesn't really matter, such as most MMOs. I just find it appealing to play as a sexy character, even when armor obscures her like in Dark Souls 1&2. However, in story driven and character heavy RPGs and such I play as a male because I try to make him like me.

#26 Posted by Stonyman65 (2804 posts) -

If the game has an option to choose a male or female character, I'll probably play through the game once as each character. For example, in Saint's Row 3, my first playthrough was the default male character, my second playthrough was the default female character, and my third was just whatever the hell I felt like doing. I really don't put much more thought into it than that. I don't really see myself as the character at all, but more as someone looking in. The character tells the story, I'm just watching it.

#27 Posted by mrfizzy (1549 posts) -

I am rather boring in this regard as I always design my characters to be a (much much) more badass version of myself. That means male and good rather than evil.

That being said, I have a female friend who loves RPGs and will always play through first as a good male and then again as an evil female.

#28 Posted by jArmAhead (341 posts) -

First of all, no. And why do we need to dig into that? If you're "queer" (hate that use of the word, by the way), you're queer. We don't need to try and figure out who's a little bit queer or whatever. People play different character types for a million different reasons. I'm sure some people do it for that reason. And I'm sure some people do it to stare at an ass. But I also bet there's a million different reasons people chose one gender or the other. Trying to find ANY one reason or inference about what is going on in someone's head because of the gender they choose is kind of silly. Hell, I pick different genders for different reasons. I don't really get the sexy reason, maybe because I generally avoid games with overly-sexualized females, but there are still a variety of reasons I've decided on my character's gender based on.

Maybe I'm just in an especially grumpy-old-man mood today but this seems super fucking stupid to try and be academic about. Are there possibly some percentage of players that are living out a subconscious transsexual experience? Almost certainly. Is it enough of a percentage to mean jack shit? No. There are probably people that live out subconscious transsexual experiences through the way they eat a fucking burger as well.

The need some humans feel to understand such minute things boggles me.

TLDR; I'm grumpy and a little fatigued with the "queer" term. Can't people just be happy to be people? Do we really need to re-purpose terms like that to mean way too wide a range of things?

#29 Edited by Zeik (2652 posts) -

I greatly dislike the presumption that anyone who plays video games inherently treat the characters they play as embodiments of themselves. Especially when it leads to these strange and innacurate accusations of transgender fantasies.

There are very very few games where I am able to treat the character I play as an embodiment or extension of myself. The vast majority of the time they are simply the equivalent of an actor in a movie. It doesn't matter if they are male, female, transgenger, straight, gay, bisexual, alien, creature, inanimate object; they are not me. Even when it's a character where I have almost complete control over the character's gender and personality in the game I will more often than not create that character with a specific archetype in mind and then roleplay how I think that character would act in any given situation, and that may or may not align with myself. If I play as a female character I am not pretending to be a female, I am experiencing and/or shaping the story of a character that happens to be female.

In many ways it's very similar to a male writer writing about a female character. You don't have to think of yourself as the character to create a character that is not an exact replica of yourself.

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#30 Edited by joshwent (2321 posts) -

@jasonr86 said:

It's neat that the author is going through all this work writing a meta-analysis, but it really comes across as needless naval gazing.

Yup. So much of this kind of scholarly analysis just reads to me like completely unfounded claims argued as fact. It might just be the scientist and skeptic in me, but theories with no proof are worthless. The only hard research the author here is using is someone else's very limited study on WoW avatars which was pointed out by the researcher himself to have polled an unreliable, non-diverse, and far too small group.

Looking into these issues is great, but answering these questions with arbitrary theories does nothing to increase our collective knowledge. It turns into an endless debate over who is right and how much of whatever opinion should you include in this other theory and so on. The Scientific method (i.e. the best system that humans have created to separate objective truth from our inherent biases) is almost never applied, and certainly isn't here. Which is ironic, when so much of this work exists to analyze those biases in the first place.

Anyway, more to the point, I think the author needs to more closely focus on the role of empathy in fiction. When we read a book or see a film, ideally, we make an emotional connection with the characters. Games are no different just because we control the character's actions. We don't become the hero in the novel, we understand them on an emotional level.

Empathy isn't the person able to react to their sad friend because they have the same feeling or have had the same experience, it's simply the person understanding why their friend feels that way. You don't need to share the feeling to have that empathetic connection, you don't need to become the character get invested in their emotional state, you just need to accept it.

I, a man, almost always play a female character if given the option. I'm simply more interested in stories with female main characters (my GB avatar, the image that ostensibly represents me here, is a bad-ass chick and always has been.) But I don't want to be them. I just want to see their story play out.

#31 Posted by Kierkegaard (605 posts) -

@corruptedevil: Cool! So you're striving for an enactment of the character who best portrays the role. Got it.

@video_game_king: Yeah, Went a bit Yoda there. Sorry about that. Clearly writing a lot and hoping people read it does not get a 100, or ever 50% success rate based on this post, but some people will read your long essay. Maybe break it up with pictures?

@jasonr86 said:

I don't doubt this makes sense for some players but not all. Generalizations are kind of silly in that they assume we all have the same intentions. For example, I play as female in Mass Effect because I like that voice actor better then the male actor.

It's neat that the author is going through all this work writing a meta-analysis, but it really comes across as needless naval gazing.

It may just add other way to see that relationship between avatar and player, which certainly isn't pointless. Looking out at the stars of gender and play and putting together a thesis about transgender play can do nothing except make the conversation more interesting.

@kierkegaard: I don't find men "sexy," so probably not. When I do make a male char, I tend to make them heroic, gentleman-like, and badass. Maybe that's my personification of 'sexy' in male terms? I don't know.

Okay, got it. What that makes me think is that you play as men in stereotypical ways, making them strong and powerful. And, while you play that way with women, you do so to create a character that you would want to have sex with, both because of her body and because of her strong actions and personality. So you are defining your character based on your relationship to them.

Um, what? I'm confused, so according to this author would it also be the case that a male writer who writes a female protagonist in a narrative is also acting out some kind of queer relationship? That seems silly.

Relationship not as in the player and the avatar are different, but as in the player becomes the avatar, a transgender action if the avatar is a different gender. It seems totally not silly if many posters on here are focused on sexual characteristics. The writer is certainly, perhaps more so than the player, putting himself into the mind and body of that female protagonist in order to deeply consider her motivations and actions and reactions right? That's gotta be a queer, in this case transgender, move.

@karkarov said:

Let me give a completely thorough and correct answer to the question asked by your thread title.

No. Hell no.

90% of the people I know who were male and played female characters did it simply because they would rather look at a hot chick than a guy all day. I even know some people who did it in WoW for example because if they pretended to be female they could con idiots into giving them money. I have played female characters in games before simply because I felt those characters had better character models, or gear looked cooler on them. I play Jill in Resident Evil 1 because the game is literally easier as Jill and she gets a bazooka instead of a crappy flame thrower.

I only identify as one person, me. I am not the character I am playing in that game, just like Harrison Ford is actually not really Han Solo.

Did you read the question in the post, or the essay? I think that'd help. If nothing else, consider the implications of what those people are saying. If the only relationship we want to have with characters of the gender we are attracted to is sexual, that's kinda fucked right? Isn't putting ourselves into their shoes or trying to learn something from it far more useful and positive? And way less creepy? Your use of female characters for aesthetics or rocket launchers is quite simple. This essay is getting into whether there could be something more complex going on here. Something worth considering, even if you reject it.

I don't fully understand why I usually play as a female, but it's not the butt thing. Shut up about the butt thing.

A fuckin' men brother.

#32 Posted by Hamst3r (4553 posts) -

What in the actual fuck. No.

Online
#34 Edited by joshwent (2321 posts) -

The writer is certainly, perhaps more so than the player, putting himself into the mind and body of that female protagonist in order to deeply consider her motivations and actions and reactions right? That's gotta be a queer, in this case transgender, move.

From what I've heard in interviews with many of my favorite authors, it seems that the opposite is actually the case. They create the characters, and hopefully they realize them so fully that those characters then write themselves.

Authors talk about knowing that they've done their job well when it's not them writing anymore, it's more like they're just transcribing the coversations that their characters are having independent of the writer's will.

Writers are different and have different techniques, of course, so assuredly some create in the way you described. But an author "putting himself into the mind and body of [a] female protagonist", at least from the ones I've heard describe it, is certainly not the case for all of them.

#35 Posted by joshwent (2321 posts) -

I have a tabletop Star Wars game going where my character is a brown Zabrak lady who grew up on the streets of Nar Shadaa

Admit it... you're just living out your deep rooted secret fantasy of having sweet facial tattoos.

#36 Posted by Jarno (21 posts) -

Using terms which have different meanings in academia than in common public discussion seems to me to be counter-productive to the debate.

Having an experience from a gender perspective different than the one you identify with does not sound at all "transgender-like", almost the opposite. Why not say "crossdressing-like"?

When I (a male) play a female character out of choice it is mostly to get away from the dudebro stereotype. I like to think my female characters have more complex motivations, richer life, and a greater empathy towards others in the game's world that better matches my own. It is not so much sex or gender, but more to do with the personality that I tend to associate with females.

I also do it as a way of making a small personal contribution towards reducing inequality in videogame culture.

#37 Posted by impartialgecko (1690 posts) -

I stopped listening to what over-paid scholars who work 25 hours a week projecting their own insecurities and personal issues have to say about me a long time ago. This article was clearly written by someone who doesn't actually play games, or at least, doesn't have personal experience of playing as characters of the opposite sex in games.

#38 Posted by JasonR86 (9762 posts) -

@kierkegaard:

I don't mean to say that the conversation shouldn't be had. How he's going about putting forth the conversation hurts the point he's trying to make. But I think he has good intentions and he put in a lot of effort. Having written papers like this in school, this takes a lot of time. It just doesn't read well and the conclusions made generalize a bit too much. I'm sure for some people this fits perfectly. But it sounds like he's suggesting it fits a larger number of players then his evidence suggests.

#39 Edited by Kierkegaard (605 posts) -

First of all, no. And why do we need to dig into that? If you're "queer" (hate that use of the word, by the way), you're queer. We don't need to try and figure out who's a little bit queer or whatever. People play different character types for a million different reasons. I'm sure some people do it for that reason. And I'm sure some people do it to stare at an ass. But I also bet there's a million different reasons people chose one gender or the other. Trying to find ANY one reason or inference about what is going on in someone's head because of the gender they choose is kind of silly. Hell, I pick different genders for different reasons. I don't really get the sexy reason, maybe because I generally avoid games with overly-sexualized females, but there are still a variety of reasons I've decided on my character's gender based on.

Maybe I'm just in an especially grumpy-old-man mood today but this seems super fucking stupid to try and be academic about. Are there possibly some percentage of players that are living out a subconscious transsexual experience? Almost certainly. Is it enough of a percentage to mean jack shit? No. There are probably people that live out subconscious transsexual experiences through the way they eat a fucking burger as well.

The need some humans feel to understand such minute things boggles me.

TLDR; I'm grumpy and a little fatigued with the "queer" term. Can't people just be happy to be people? Do we really need to re-purpose terms like that to mean way too wide a range of things?

Just to clarify, the thread title is mean to ask if that is a queer action, not if doing so makes the player a queer person. I like how queer is being used now. It's a uniting term for any person who is not cisgender and/or hetero. That can become too simple and all that, but the word does work here.

Still, "transgender" may be the more accurate term for the title. Not sure why this all makes you grumpy. Thinking about these things does no harm. If a player asks themselves, and truly asks themselves, hmm, why do I play as a different gender? Having this answer as a possibility is not an attack, but an interesting mindset. It's not that minute of a thing--if transgender play is actually common, then perhaps violence and attacks on transgender people will be lessened through logic and more empathy.

@zeik said:

I greatly dislike the presumption that anyone who plays video games inherently treat the characters they play as embodiments of themselves. Especially when it leads to these strange and innacurate accusations of transgender fantasies.

There are very very few games where I am able to treat the character I play as an embodiment or extension of myself. The vast majority of the time they are simply the equivalent of an actor in a movie. It doesn't matter if they are male, female, transgenger, straight, gay, bisexual, alien, creature, inanimate object; they are not me. Even when it's a character where I have almost complete control over the character's gender and personality in the game I will more often than not create that character with a specific archetype in mind and then roleplay how I think that character would act in any given situation, and that may or may not align with myself. If I play as a female character I am not pretending to be a female, I am experiencing and/or shaping the story of a character that happens to be female.

In many ways it's very similar to a male writer writing about a female character. You don't have to think of yourself as the character to create a character that is not an exact replica of yourself.

Why is enacting a transgender movement an accusation? Doesn't that imply being transgender is bad? Your mode of play sounds like it actively avoids considering gender. Why? How can one possibly shape/experience a story without considering all aspects of the character you are shaping/experiencing?

@joshwent said:

@jasonr86 said:

It's neat that the author is going through all this work writing a meta-analysis, but it really comes across as needless naval gazing.

Yup. So much of this kind of scholarly analysis just reads to me like completely unfounded claims argued as fact. It might just be the scientist and skeptic in me, but theories with no proof are worthless. The only hard research the author here is using is someone else's very limited study on WoW avatars which was pointed out by the researcher himself to have polled an unreliable, non-diverse, and far too small group.

Looking into these issues is great, but answering these questions with arbitrary theories does nothing to increase our collective knowledge. It turns into an endless debate over who is right and how much of whatever opinion should you include in this other theory and so on. The Scientific method (i.e. the best system that humans have created to separate objective truth from our inherent biases) is almost never applied, and certainly isn't here. Which is ironic, when so much of this work exists to analyze those biases in the first place.

Anyway, more to the point, I think the author needs to more closely focus on the role of empathy in fiction. When we read a book or see a film, ideally, we make an emotional connection with the characters. Games are no different just because we control the character's actions. We don't become the hero in the novel, we understand them on an emotional level.

Empathy isn't the person able to react to their sad friend because they have the same feeling or have had the same experience, it's simply the person understanding why their friend feels that way. You don't need to share the feeling to have that empathetic connection, you just need to accept it.

I, a man, almost always play a female character if given the option. I'm simply more interested in stories with female main characters (my GB avatar, the image that ostensibly represents me here, is a bad-ass chick and always has been. But I don't want to be them. I just want to see their story play out.

Thank you for your thoughtful response! Okay, so empathy versus embodiment. You go for the former. Arguably, though, games are different than literature. I can't become Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird because she is extant. I can't become Laura Croft because she is her own person. I think that is about empathy. Understanding things from her perspective because I learn why she is and does.

But surely self-directed role playing games where you create a character are different! You are choosing to place yourself not only into the perspective of a person with a different race, gender, sexuality, ability, age, or ethic than you but also into that body, to literally move its limbs. You are choosing what that person says and does. How can that possibly be only empathic? That's not a derisive question! I just don't understand how embodiment does not exist there, inherently.

#40 Edited by Corevi (4337 posts) -

It's not embodiment, when I play a RPG I create a character with their own morals and values that they follow and make decisions following those sets of rules. It has nothing to do with me and more about making a unique narrative.

Using my aforementioned Mount and Blade, I tried to play a woman with a holier than thou attitude but when push came to shove, I cracked. She was out of money and her men were starving, so they robbed a town. Her follower then got mad at me and my character for abandoning the very values that convinced him to join me and left.

#41 Posted by Daneian (1251 posts) -

I can't tell you why i decided to initially play as FemShep, but i ended up loving her because she was a strong character both physically and mentally and was played exceptionally well by Jennifer Hale. I became invested in her because of her actions, not because of her gender.

It had nothing to do with staring at her butt or a deep-seated need to control or act upon her.

#42 Posted by Kierkegaard (605 posts) -

I have a tabletop Star Wars game going where my character is a brown Zabrak lady who grew up on the streets of Nar Shadaa... I don't think any gay person would go "oh, so you understand queer relationships!"

In Wasteland 2, I had to create 4 characters from scratch and I made three ladies. Oh noez now it's complicated!

Oh but I suppose I just created female characters because I want to 'gaze and control them' because I'm a man and can't make it through 24 hours without abusing someone. Whatever I'm doing I should stop it so we can pry open the hegemonic masculinity of the heteronormative gaming press and community.

I don't think so either! I do think when a person who is or pretends to be actively against or ignorant of queer relationships realizes they are probably enacting something like them by playing games, that may help them realize their mistake?

Or they'll self-immolate.

@jarno said:

Using terms which have different meanings in academia than in common public discussion seems to me to be counter-productive to the debate.

Having an experience from a gender perspective different than the one you identify with does not sound at all "transgender-like", almost the opposite. Why not say "crossdressing-like"?

When I (a male) play a female character out of choice it is mostly to get away from the dudebro stereotype. I like to think my female characters have more complex motivations, richer life, and a greater empathy towards others in the game's world that better matches my own. It is not so much sex or gender, but more to do with the personality that I tend to associate with females.

I also do it as a way of making a small personal contribution towards reducing inequality in videogame culture.

Okay, you're basically me. Hi! Also, it may be closer to drag, taking on a different gender in looks and even persona. You're right. It's less a full transformation into the person you truly are than it is a persona shift. Of course, drag queens and kings are sometimes transgender, but not always.

@adam1808 said:

I stopped listening to what over-paid scholars who work 25 hours a week projecting their own insecurities and personal issues have to say about me a long time ago. This article was clearly written by someone who doesn't actually play games, or at least, doesn't have personal experience of playing as characters of the opposite sex in games.

Assumptions are bad, dog. You make, like, four of them in two sentences. Jeez.

@jasonr86 said:

@kierkegaard:

I don't mean to say that the conversation shouldn't be had. How he's going about putting forth the conversation hurts the point he's trying to make. But I think he has good intentions and he put in a lot of effort. Having written papers like this in school, this takes a lot of time. It just doesn't read well and the conclusions made generalize a bit too much. I'm sure for some people this fits perfectly. But it sounds like he's suggesting it fits a larger number of players then his evidence suggests.

I think that's totally possible. I read it less as an argument that ALL players are actually doing this intentionally, and more as a possibility that all players could be doing this, and that reformats the queerness in games discussion if there is something inherently queer about this action. Or, maybe that's the conclusion I'd make if I rewrote his essay.

#43 Posted by Demoskinos (15084 posts) -

I'd say that is at least one of the reasons I pick female avatars for myself so often. I do tend to project myself onto characters like my Final Fantasy XIV character that I create of which I have a fairly large emotional attachment to now. When I played Metal Gear Online I had a female avatar and people assumed I was a woman so I rolled with it and role played as such the entire time I played the game.

#44 Posted by wemibelec90 (1797 posts) -

For myself, it went like this. I reached a point, maybe roughly seven-eight years ago, where I was suddenly tired with playing male characters (when given the choice). From this point forward, I practically never chose to play a male character over a female character, no matter the game--fighting games, Bioware games, even things like Torchlight with only one female class. I even payed to change ALL my male characters to female ones in World of Warcraft. It is actually quite hard for me to break from this trend, even at my own detriment (such as playing characters I don't like as much in fighting games, just because they are female).

I don't really know why I started doing this or why it seems so important to me. Part of it is probably the desire to have an attractive/adorable character, which inevitably means a female character. Part of it is probably a fascination with the other sex and the idea of trying to grasp part of what being female is all about. Part of it is probably my interest in seeing more female characters in games--how they interact with male-dominated situations, what kinds of things they have to deal with, etc. There is practically nothing interesting to me about a male character anymore, unless he is fleshed out in a deep and meaningful way (such as Joel in The Last of Us).

I guess that, in the end, I just like the idea of a female-led story more. Personally, I wouldn't say that my decision says anything about my sexuality or personal preferences. As a male who will never know what it is truly like to be female (as transgender surgery is imperfect), I enjoy exploring the idea of what such a thing would be like.

#45 Edited by Zeik (2652 posts) -

"Accusation" sounds more negative than I intended, but that doesn't make it innacurate. I have no problem with transgender individuals, but I dislike other people claiming something about myself that is untrue based on innacurate assumptions.

I don't (always) ignore gender when I play a male or female character. Their gender can play a role in how I choose to make that character react in a situation if it is relevant, but it is relative to how I decide to percieve that character I'm playing. If I create a female character I've decided is going to be a no-nonsense badass then if some character in the game makes a remark about her gender then I will make her react accordingly. It has nothing to do with percieving myself as that character, it's simply shaping a fictional character in a fictional world.

This kind of thinking is not relegated to video games. Say I've been watching a TV show for a long time and I've gotten to know the characters and I have expectations of how they will and should act. If a character does something that seems out of character without proper justification that bothers me, because I have a fiction in my head of what that character is. A video game simply gives you more control over what that fiction is and (usually) allows you to ensure that character does not do something contradictory to that fiction.

Online
#46 Posted by Milkman (17168 posts) -

I used to always play as male characters growing up. It was pretty simple reasoning. I'm a dude. I'm going to play as a dude. But as I've gotten older, I play as female characters more and more often. Mostly because I'm tired of playing as a guy. I can do that in just about every game so now, if you give me a choice, I'm probably going to be a pick a woman.

#48 Posted by ll_Exile_ll (1865 posts) -

I really don't get this desire to completely identify with the player character, which is probably one of the main reasons I hate silent protagonists. I never actually feel like I am the main character in a game, I always view it more like I am guiding the main character through the story.

The reason I often choose a female character when given the option is simply because the majority of games star men, and it's a nice change of pace. It has absolutely nothing to do some desire to dominate women or to myself become one, it's because I find stories with female protagonists much more interesting in this medium where it's a rarity.

#49 Edited by joshwent (2321 posts) -

@kierkegaard said:

But surely self-directed role playing games where you create a character are different! You are choosing to place yourself not only into the perspective of a person with a different race, gender, sexuality, ability, age, or ethic than you but also into that body, to literally move its limbs. You are choosing what that person says and does. How can that possibly be only empathic?

First off all, I'd have to do a bunch of research, create some studies, and write a paper of my own to answer this deeply enough, so please excuse some superficial ramblings from a dude in the dark with a headache at 1:07am. But here goes...

In a game with a created character I am choosing all of those attributes and actions as you say, but I as the one making those choices, am still a distinct person from the character.

I'm currently in a D&D campaign, and I'm playing a human female cleric, Gute Geister. Gute is a role that I take on, much like an actor in a play. Acting from a script would never be seen as the actor manifesting their desires and personality through a role. And I'd argue that role-playing is much the same. Although I'm writing the script with my party and our DM as we go, I'm writing for Gute, not for Josh (me).

So when I'm playing Mass Effect, I am controlling my female Shepard, but I haven't imbued myself into her. I'm writing her story as it unfolds.

There's a bunch more I want to say but can't at the moment, so there's just a little food for thought. Hopefully I can hop back into this thread in a bit!

#50 Posted by Marokai (3105 posts) -

There's usually not any real reason to it, it just depends on the game. In Resident Evil, I played Jill because she could hold more items. In Knights of the Old Republic, I preferred playing as a female character because I felt like the robes and armor rested way better on the female model. In Mass Effect, I enjoyed flirting with everyone. It's just super situational for me.