Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cross Playing: The Tribulations of RPing the Opposite Gender

Hello. My name is Moonbiter and I am a girl gamer. Ever since I was a wee lil' Moonnibbler and I was introduced to the Nintendo Entertainment System, I've been hooked on gaming. World of Warcraft is my first MMORPG and while I still consider myself to be very much a console gamer, I have been playing WoW since January 2005. My very first foray into WoW RP was somewhere back in Summer of 2006 when I rolled a character on Argent Dawn. The rest is history...

I am also the player of not only one, but five, male WoW characters. This might seem odd to some readers because why oh why would a girl ever want to ever play as a guy? Well... why not?

Being I like to roleplay (or at the very least I create backstories for my characters), the story I come up with dictates what race, gender, and class I feel suits the character. Take my death knight, and current main, Kiryl, for example... He is kind of an "old country" guy at heart, despite his current role as a Forsaken interrogator, and I honestly have a hard time ever picturing him as a female. Kiryl is, no matter what, a male character. My muse has spoken and she isn't all that keen on changing her mind.

A Space Goat Was Born

My first seriously played male toon was Latu, a Draenei shaman that was created the moment I installed the Burning Crusade. First of all, when TBC was nearing its release date, everyone I knew was going to make a female Draenei. In a combination of daring to be different and my love for the male Draenei model (I love their /dance and /silly), I vowed to make my shaman a guy. Secondly, I never really had a main character that was a guy. Sure I had a level 20-something Forsaken rogue and a level 30 Troll shaman that were men... But I never stuck with them. Latu, on the other hand, I leveled to up to cap--twice.

The guild I was with, at the time, was a rather free-spirited one, so the idea of a girl playing a guy character wasn't a big deal to them at all. However, when they eventually jumped ship and went to WAR during a hiatus of mine, I found myself in need of a new guild... So I transferred Latu over to another realm and joined up with friend's RP guild.

I remember having to explain myself many times to people (namely guild mates who have obviously heard me over Ventrilo) on why Latu is not a female. Even though there is a pretty good amount of females that play WoW around, many of which I have known to have at least ONE male toon in their character list, it is still treated as such an anomaly by most I encounter. The reactions varied from a guildmate joking that I was "denying the world more breasts" by playing a guy to having my sexuality questioned. Why, I even had fellow female guildmates who were boggled by the idea and I got a lot of half-joking flak for playing a guy--And it only increased when my secondary character was a male Human warlock (again, the character concept I had in mind did not seem like it would be suitable to a female).

There also was a time when a guildmate invited me to an instance run and the initial convo went like this (writing styles preserved)...

Warrior: hey guys, this is my guildy, Latu. hes a girl irl. lol
Party Member #2: Cool
Party Member #3: sup
Me: Um... Haha. Hi?

It just sorta boggled my mind that this guy felt the need to instantly announce (I wish I was kidding. It really was the first thing said when I joined group.) the fact that I am indeed a female player. Though I will admit... when certain people did find out that I was indeed a girl in real life, it was pretty funny to see their reactions. Even so, I still find it odd that it's strange to begin with.

Why Is Playing the Opposite Gender Such a Big Deal?

There seems to be a double standard of playing a character that isn't your gender in real life. It's perfectly normal for guys to play as female avatars, but girls playing as male toons generally brings up a lot of confusion. There are many reasons as to why men play as females, the two most popular that I've seen are "I don't want to stare at a dude's ass all the time" and "I like the attention and special treatment I get". Plus, as the popular internet meme goes, "There are no girls on the internet".

The last statement above is, of course, not true at all. However, in the gaming world, it is still traditionally "a man's domain" in the eyes of many. Though with new generations, the girl gamer isn't at all the oddity it used to be when I was back in high school. I've been on various RP realms and the reception of being a female who plays a guy character ranges from it being commonplace to others finding it incredibly strange. I remember one former guildmate used to joke with me by suggesting that I make Latu into a girl shortly after character re-customization was unveiled. I didn't mind it at first...until he started mentioning it nearly every time I saw him in-game. The same person also told me that he couldn't take women who roleplayed male characters seriously... He found it "too weird" and he apparently had difficulty reconciling the fact that "this dude was really a chick".

Virtual Life Lessons

It's not always hard for women roleplaying a man, though... I've had many guys tell me their horror stories of playing a female toon. Sure, they liked being treated a little nicer, given stuff, and what not (That's another post for another day, I'd imagine). Then the stalkers start showing up... Those sorts of people that won't take a hint despite the other saying "Dude, I'm a guy, IRL" and simply found that they were "playing hard to get". Though I heard more of those recounts in the earlier days of WoW, not so much anymore (But on the flipside, I've heard plenty of girls harassing guys to have their RP characters get in each other's pants as of late...). However, I'm rather certain that these sorts of goings-on still take place.

Other girl gamers who played a male toon, namely for a "social experiment", were rather shocked at how differently they were treated. Cussed out for small mistakes, talking to them impersonally, general aloofness, etc... Not all that surprising since most people assume the character played is the person's gender IRL. Though I honestly just assume everyone's a guy until proven otherwise...

In Summation

It's just a game and we are simply players out to have fun... People shouldn't be given grief for their character's gender, no matter if they are man or woman, if that is what they want to roleplay (or not).

Though roleplaying is just that--It's acting out a story. While some people do live vicariously through their characters, most simply want to tell a tale and see what unfolds for them. If a man wants to roleplay a demure and meek woman, then more power to him. If a woman wants to play as some muscular orcish guy? Go right ahead. Roleplay servers are our canvas and other people shouldn't tell you what paint to use.


Sven said...

I couldn't agree more. As a male who plays both male and female characters, I just play whichever one happens to fit the RP concept behind it best. It's not because I like looking at her or I want free stuff, it's because that's the character I've created.

It really is a mystery to me why people get so hung up on the player's RL gender (particularly on an RP server). Novels would be really boring if the authors were only allowed to included characters that were the same sex as them.

Moonbiter said...

@ Sven:

I hear ya. Just like I do not want to live out the fantasy of being a member of the "dominant sex" (I've gotten that thrown at me too), I simply want to tell the story I have for that 'toon.

The whole "I like to get free stuff" excuse from guys playing girl toons is the most frequent answer I've been given, in the past, but when it comes to RPers they're usually just like you and me... They are the way they are because it just fit the character.

And I couldn't agree more on the novel comment. So true. Thank you for the comment, Sven!

Pocket Nerd said...

Strange how some people think playing a different sex is a bigger stretch than playing a different species, or a person who can actually use magic. (I'm assuming you're not actually a blue-skinned space goat or a shaman, either.) Isn't roleplaying all about trying on a new point of view and fantasizing about being something you're not?

Unfortunately, your situation is all too common. My significant other is also a big WoW fan, and she also has to deal with much of the same jackassery. One of her biggest problems, actually, comes from borderline cyber-stalking; occasionally somebody finds out she's ZOMG A GURL IRL!! and won't leave her alone. (Some guys don't seem to understand "we both play videogames" is not the sole ingredient necessary for a relationship.)

These days she often just rolls male characters and stays off of voice chat; it's simply easier to avoid the hassle if nobody finds out she's a woman.

Moonbiter said...

@ Pocket Nerd

I've heard of others in similar situations, now and then, but it usually depended on the server I was on. I've had little to no problem on my current one and none on my last one (Moon Guard-H). With Latu, who hails from a RP-PVP realm in a then medium-heavy RP guild, I was rather shocked that all of the issues I had was FROM my guild and those who RP. You'd think they'd be the understanding ones, yeah? It wasn't as if I was playing Latu in an unbelievable fashion being that he is a pretty normal guy as far as lightning-throwing space goats go.

And...I totally feel for what your girlfriend went through. I had a good handful of guys get all attached to me because of just that-- "OMG she's a girl and she likes video games. She is going to be my wife! IT IS MEANT TO BE~!".

More recently, I had one guy cleave to me ever since he heard me on vent and said (on the first day we were introduced to one another, no less) "...You have a pretty voice." in this awful near-lecherous voice. If only he could see my reaction... I had a perfect "DO NOT WANT" expression as I slowly leaned away from my screen. Oy...

Thankfully, those events haven't repeated themselves since then. But it's a matter of time... ~_~;

Hana said...

I just recently found your blog and this post really rang true for me so I had to say something. :)

I'm also a female gamer and I have a male blood elf paladin. There was one guy I ran into online who couldn't seem to understand why I was playing a male and when the possibility of changing genders came up, he eagerly presented the news to me as if it'd been an option I was waiting for.

But my paladin is a man because that's who he is, that's the character I had in mind when I created him. He will never, ever be a woman.

Anonymous said...

Saw your post over on BlogAzeroth and really wanted to read the article. I definitely wasn't dissapointed and thought it was a great read.

I'm a male IRL and mostly play female characters because I like their casting/attack animations more than the male versions. I also play on an RP server (sisters of elune) and have RP'ed as the opposite sex. SoE seems very accepting of cross-gender RP, even female playing male which seems to pop up a lot more often there than you might think.

I remember having the conversation once in one of our guilds 10-man Naxx runs how there was only 1 person in the raid playing the same sex character and 3 of the 9 who were playing cross gender were females playing males.