Massively Overthinking: Female characters and gender-locked classes in MMOs

One of the reasons I gravitated to and stick by the MMORPG genre in spite of its many ups and downs (oh, so many downs) over the last two decades is the fact that I can play more or less exactly the character I want to play, which is usually female characters. Other genres, even RPGs, have been relatively slow to catch up to what we’ve had here in MMO land right from the start. The idea of a serious MMORPG launching without female toons of some sort is almost unheard of.

I bring this up because of Quantic Foundry’s latest blog post, which delves its Gamer Motivation Profile for data on how gamers feel about being able to play female protagonists. Unsurprisingly, three-quarters of female gamers and a third of male gamers, irrespective of age, consider that option very or extremely important!

For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I asked our mixed-gender staff three questions: what they think about Quantic’s findings, whether they stick to the gender they personally identify as when rolling toons in MMOs, and whether the lack of gender options — or in MMOs’ case, things like gender-locked classes — drive them as nuts as they drive me.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): My favorite part of the piece:

“The motivation findings suggest that the availability of a female protagonist would have the largest impact on games that already target Fantasy and Story. This would include story-driven Open World games, many Action-Adventure games, and MMOs. Given that MMOs almost always provide gender choice, this opportunity is already tapped there. But since story-driven Action-Adventure games (which don’t always provide a female protagonist option) attract gamers with higher Fantasy and Story scores, the availability of a female protagonist would likely have a large impact in these games in terms of audience appeal, especially among female gamers.”

This seems like so much “DUH!” but certain companies and franchises are slow to take it up (looking at you, Nintendo and Zelda). That being said, when given the choice between male and female characters where customization is a huge part of the game’s experience (as in MMOs), I choose male 99.999% of the time. The only time I can think of where I made my avatar female was in Pokemon Crystal just because it was the first time a female was available. That doesn’t mean I can’t play as female characters. I was a Smash Bros Sheik main for ages, League of Legend’s Vayne was the character that originally hooked me, and I love TellTale’s The Walking Dead heroine Clementine to bits. However, MMOs (and other games with highly customizable characters trying to create a more personalized feeling virtual world) can do things more linear story-driven games can’t: create a social environment.

I often reference Dr. Nicholas David Bowman when talking about presence in games, as in my older piece on morality and griefing, where we discussed was salience. You need to be able to feel certain aspects for them to matter. I’m a cis-male and prefer a male identity, but there were times in my life where people questioned my masculinity (I still don’t understand why purple is a “girl color”). While it might be fun to explore what it’s like to be treated as a woman, I don’t want another male to confuse my jokes or concern for him as attraction, so I avoid female characters. That doesn’t mean bisexual or gay men don’t pop up and get confused (sorry to break some hearts, guys!), but I feel like virtual worlds help me reconstruct my ugly, chubby, bearded self so I can maybe even be more myself without real-life fears of rejecting another male who may take rejection poorly and resort to stalking or worse (not fun, even in cyber space).

This is why I strongly dislike gender-locked classes/characters in MMOs. Again, in fighting games, racing games, and single RPGs, it’s not a problem. Those are specific stories and need specific characters. However, MMOs are virtual societies. We can roleplay and try out new ideas, new personalities, or new problem-solving techniques, but for some of us, gender identity is very important, even for those of us who aren’t transgender or queer. Taking that option from us in open-ended gameplay that’s highly multiplayer and asks us to invest in our fellow player just feels wrong. It can be a nice social experiment, especially in genres where hyper-masculinity and racism may run rampant (looking at you Valve and Rust), but gender restrictions are often a feature that immediately makes an MMO go into my “do not play” pile.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I care a lot about this, and not just because I prefer to play female toons. I do play male toons here and there — sometimes when I have no choice, as with Torchlight’s Alchemist or Marvel Heroes’ Star-Lord, and sometimes because I have lots of choices, as in Star Wars Galaxies, where having so many accounts meant I could play around with different kinds of characters as my lot mules, even dudes. (And dude Ithorians. I kinda have a thing about Ithorians.) But generally, I’m comfy being a girl my way, and I want to play a girl too.

So when games effectively demonstrate that they don’t care about me or people like me enough to provide that option, I lose interest. I’ll put up with it in spurts for some types of games, like ARPGs, but for MMORPGs, nah. Losing that basic choice is a huge turnoff inside our genre. I find it pretty unforgivable in alphas and demos too and would frankly recommend that no dev release any version of an MMO beyond the walls of the studio without both genders in place. It’s not a good look, as they say.

Consequently, it doesn’t surprise me that other folks, particularly the sort who like RPGs, MMOs, fantasy, and storytelling, also feel this way. This is a genre about making choices. Of course we want more choices. I don’t understand those of you who don’t want more choices for everybody, even if you’re not going to use them yourself.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): One of the biggest things that bothered the heck out of me back in Warhammer Online was how many of the game’s classes were gender-locked, either by racial options or just for no good reason. The Chosen of Chaos would spread the word of dark madness across the world… but only if you were a dude. I was under the impression that Tzeentch was a deity of Chaos rather than a dark form squatting in the corner of a treehouse with a sign saying “No Girls Allowed.”

There’s not much to discuss on this matter, really: If your MMO doesn’t allow you to create male and female characters both, take it back to the development team because it’s not finished yet. If you’ve created a game with gender-locked classes, same damn deal. I’m looking at you, Black Desert. Yes, I know that almost all of your classes have a gender-swapped equivalent, but you know what would be a much better option? Not having them be limited by gender in the first place.

It doesn’t even matter if the gender that these things are locked to is the gender I would want to play. People should be free to play these games with the characters they want, and if you force people to play one gender or another you are literally turning the clock back to the days before the original Dungeons & Dragons RPG. The more gender-locked the game is, the less interested I am, full stop. And if your game outright locks female characters behind a stretch goal, then your Kickstarter is bad and you should feel bad. (Forgot about that one, did you?)

Watch us sit down and program!

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): These results aren’t surprising at all. Players like choice and customization, and once they grow accustomed to it, they resent these options being removed or missing.

For me, there’s a distinction between games where the protagonist is a set individual — Pac-Man, Lara Croft, Nathan Drake — who is used to tell a specific story revolving around that character. Usually these are outside of MMOs and RPGs, and I simply accept that a game designer has an interactive story to tell and has a certain cast in mind. It’s gravy if the team allows for both a male and female option of a player character, but I’m not screaming or protesting if not.

But when you move into RPGs, and especially persistent online RPGs, your avatar starts to matter a lot more. You’re not merely playing through a limited interactive tale of someone else’s design; you’re engaging in virtual worlds in which you are, at least in part, able to take greater agency over the narrative. You want a character who is yours the way you envision, especially if you’re going to be spending hundreds if not thousands of hours with. You want as many character options as possible so that you can mold an avatar who is distinctly your own. Maybe it’s someone who mirrors what you look like or an idealized version of yourself, or perhaps it’s the embodiment of an inner vision that interests you.

We all have reasons to play the characters and genders that we do. I generally prefer female characters for a variety of reasons: I think they make for more interesting action heroes, male models are usually off-putting in their design, and at this point it’s become a habit. Other than, say, Diablo or Marvel Heroes, I haven’t experienced an online RPG where I don’t have a say in my gender. And even Marvel Heroes is offering alternative gender “outfits” for those who like the character but want to play the other side.

I don’t think I’m taking a radical or controversial position by saying that fixed-gender or locked-character MMOs are dated and confining. They mostly seem to come from the east, although the action-RPG (even the online variety) hews to this format. From a developer’s standpoint, it’s easier to design armor and animations if you create a fixed character, but from the players’ perspectives, we’re all jumping into clones that have no individual identity but belong to some weird collective. It’s certainly not popular with our readers, who on a good day will sigh and grudgingly put up with such limitations and on a bad day will cause a stink over it. Doubtful if design teams notice, especially overseas, but one would think that it’s about time that teams put in the extra effort to provide both factors. It’s especially ridiculous when you hear indie dev teams complain about how female models cost more to animate and maybe it’s just better and easier to stick with male models instead. Stop being lazy and put in the work to do things right.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): Is being able to play a female character important? Um, yes. Very yes! If you want me deeply invested in the game, then I must play a character that I care about. To do that, I eed a character that I can create a background, personality, and story for. Even if I don’t really roleplay as much in a game, that is what binds me deeply to an MMORPG. To do that, you have to allow me to play a female character, because I play female characters. Also, it helps greatly if you allow me to make her how I please in look, skills, etc. A surefire way to make me less inclined to play is to gender-lock classes or little customization. My classes and skills are a part of the personality and backstory, and if what I want to play is only available as a male avatar, then I won’t play it. And then I am no longer enthused about the game.

The only game that really got a pass on this from me was Marvel Heroes because you are playing designated heroes from that comic universe. (Even then, I think it was more than a year before I even tried a male hero!) The same goes for SMITE: Because the gods of lore are who they are, I can accept that. However, I also don’t play either game extensively; they are both short-spurt popcorn games for me that I pop in and then back out of. They also aren’t MMOs.

Your turn!

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80 Comments on "Massively Overthinking: Female characters and gender-locked classes in MMOs"

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George

For me, gender is not that important. I only care to be able to play as a dwarf.

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Malcolm Swoboda

I’m male, I play male characters, and I like to have these characters romance male NPCs when possible (SWTOR, interpretation of SWL, etc).

However, when that’s over with, my second or third character is always going to be female. So either way, I’ll really hate gender-locking unless there’s a very special and meaningful reason to gender-lock. I’m open to it in those cases, but the reasoning has to be far more than ‘insert lazy lore blurb’.

The most I’ve accepted is how Path of Exile does it, and that’s not very much. I don’t see much reason to not have, say, the Duelist have a female version with a tweaked story, or Witch have a male version, and so on.

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Grim🎃 Darhk

I am big stronk man, I play big stronk man. Unless I feel like role playing someone completely different than me, then I play a twink. But I’m a dude, I play dudes, and I’ve probably missed out on a lot of great games, because I don’t enjoy playing story driven games, with female protags. I will play female moba character however.

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Bannex

I’d like to ask one question:

Would you guys rather have a game developer attempt to accommodate every or most potential desires of an infinitely diverse clientele or would you rather the developer establish a vision for a game that they would like to realize and execute accordingly regardless of who or what was represented within??

I see these soapbox articles crying for inclusiveness for all forms of media but the simple fact is that games, movies and songs are art. They are an expression of the creative team behind them. That team owes you nothing, don’t like it? Don’t buy it.

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Witches

Female models are harder because they “need” to have that hip swinging female strut and bouncy boobs, otherwise the effort would be the same.

It would be easier to make male avatars smaller and skinnier but somehow there’s always time to make them bodybuilders with very detailed muscles.

Many MMO limitations are just the devs cutting corners, most players are fine with that so i don’t expect it to change, games are a business when they’re asking for money, but once you’ve paid it’s just a game, there aren’t any standards on either side of the equation so the few weirdos that want more are bound to keep on being disappointed, i just wish i wasn’t one of those weirdos.

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vertisce

Gender locked classes are truly annoying. Currently I play Black Desert Online but I have to say…if I am going to be forced to play a female in a game, BDO is the game for it!

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Bannex

I typically don’t play games that have gender locked classes besides for honor. Truth be told for honor at least does the gender locking justice without being sexist but that’s beside the point.

I don’t care for gender locking at all. One of the reasons I didn’t get further in horizon zero dawn is because I hated the main character. I don’t play black desert or any other korean mmo because of the reverse gender locking that is ignored above.

Honestly though, if a dev wants to make a game with female only characters I don’t see why they can’t. I just won’t play it.

I like feeling represented in the game world and when they gender lock either way I think it’s stupid but it’s absolutely their decision.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

The first time I played a female character in an MMO, I was sexually harassed by the leader of the guild I joined. He assumed (correctly) that I was a woman. That was WoW. I went to LOTRO and created a male main character and had the opposite problem. Everyone assumed I was a man, including my kin leader, who was frankly shocked when I finally got a headset and said “hello.”

My perception was that men assumed female avatars were female players and female players were still uncommon and not much respected. Then. Now, of course, we’re half the gaming population and I know no one who cares one way or the other.

Andrew’s reasons for playing a male character make a lot of sense to me and this is the first time I’ve read this point of view so clearly stated.

For me, it’s a matter of aesthetics and to some extend role-playing. If I can’t get a female character to look reasonably realistic (sorry no incredibly bouncing boobs) I won’t play one. I’ve actually deleted female chars that looked like someone else’s idea of a wet dream. Sometimes overt sexuality is what I’m looking for, but still, no incredibly bouncing boobs. I often gender flop and play female characters as heavies and lithe male characters as squishies.

Looking at my 7 GW2 characters, four are female and three are male. In LOTRO, my two mains are a female Hobbit minstrel and a male human champion. And the rest of my 18 characters in LOTRO are pretty evenly divided.

So, the answer for me is that I don’t have a preference. My gender decisions are whimsical and decided at the character creation screen. I grew up in a time when the entire world was gender locked. Regardless of the weather, I always wore a skirt to school. No girl ever wore pants to school and certainly not jeans. I didn’t own a pair of jeans until I was in my 20s and then they were made for guys. Being able to switch sides or not is a wonderful freedom. The world today is far more preferable and delightfully diverse then it was 65 years ago. The games we play should reflect that.

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Croquantes

I do the same thing with my characters! The males wear robes: they’re the priests and mages, while the women wear armor and wield big swords.

The only time I change it up is if there’s a race that’s naturally more lithe, like the blood elves of WoW. I felt comfortable making a blood elf male a warrior. There’s just something I like about subverting expectations of what gender or race is capable of.

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mistressbrazen

Choice is absolutely necessary for me. I have played a male character twice. The character did fine, but I never identified with either one, meaning it was really easy to stop playing that character. Even in Adventure games, where the character is fixed because of the story, I find it extremely difficult to care about the protagonist, hence the reason I almost never finish the adventure games I buy. I generally find when the game is developed for a male character, and then females are added in at the end,you’ll get weirdness in the game for no good reason. Old TSW players may remember what used to happen with a female avatar wearing a dress would sit or fall on the ground…… why? Because the male designers building an avatar that was male never bothered to think about how a woman sits…. Yeah if you aren’t going to think about women in development then your developers don’t need to be rewarded with my money. Let the company make money off the other 50% of the population.

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noel Soltic

Gender locks do not tend to bother me at all. Mostly my gender choice comes down to what models look the coolest and what their clothing and armors might look like when worn.

Few games really have true gender choice anyway since they lack options like transgender or even races that are both gender at once. I have played a few that did but it never stopped me from playing certain classes or turned me off from the game.

Games mostly seem to be a power fantasy for most us and I think that has a big impact on choices available. I grew up in a society that treats one gender as second class and weaker than the other and I’m sure that has a huge impact on why I choose what games/classes I play. Even if I choose to play either gender I’m pretty sure I am still affected by this and I expect most other players, no matter the gender, are too.

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Arktouros

I think if you’re going to go for lore wise you gotta go all in. What bugged me most about WAR was that the Dark Elves should have been primarily female, especially the Sorceress. I believe the Disciple was invented so not sure there. I think it’s okay if it matches the lore of the game and especially if that lore has been established for a long time but gotta go all in if you’re going all in with that.

BDO it has always been a fair criticism. They tested creating male/female counter parts with the Witch/Wizard and found that it took just as much effort to animation, design clothes, etc for each gender as it would a whole other class so in their minds they’re just going to design a whole similar class instead. I don’t like it usually but they do seem to give the higher priority towards female characters or making sure there’s a female version of a particular class in most cases.

Karma_Mule
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Karma_Mule

I generally (~90%) play as a male character. It’s not uncommon to hear straight men say they either play as a man because that’s what they most easily identify with, or sometimes play as a female in order to enjoy the, ::: cough ::::, view.

As a gay man this is one case where I get both in one character: I can play a male because that’s the gender I identify the easiest with, and depending on the game (hello ESO and your posterior slider) I can also very much enjoy 3rd person view. But I don’t leer. Ever. Honest. >.>

As far as gender-locked classes, yeah that irritates me no end. Black Desert’s approach mitigates it somewhat by having equivalent classes, but I’d much rather just have all classes be open to both genders so I can mix and match as the whim takes me.

pepperzine
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pepperzine

From one gay man to another, I completely agree. We get to enjoy both of these things in a single character. That, and, being immune to the emphasis on sexy female outfits in the cash shops helps save me money and view lockboxs for what they truly are. However, you are so right about gender-locking. It really frustrates me as I get nothing out of playing a female character over a male.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Oh yes, my orc sorcerer in ESO had a glorious posterior.

I’d kill to have those curves.

Stupid Y chromo.

Tizmah
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Tizmah

Amongst friends, I would typically get teased that as a male I always played female characters. It would normally be them questioning my sexuality or about sex, or manhood. I never understood why me choosing a different gender in a game must mean something in real life. I just like female leads.

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Bryan Correll

I’d say my characters are fairly evenly split between the genders. I don’t usually see that mass of pixels on the screen as ‘me.’ It’s a character and even if I’m not openly roleplaying in-game I think of characters as having their own personalities and being able to choose gender is an important part of building that well-rounded personality. This is especially true in games where I can have lots of alts. Without female characters I would never have been able to create Auntie Septic, my thugs/poison mastermind, in CoH. And that would have been a terrible loss for the world whether the world knows it or not.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

It’s terribly important for me to be able to play female characters. I can’t deal with being forced to play males most of the time. It’s just not enjoyable to me. I need to feel that connection with my character that I just don’t get if I’m playing a male. It kills my enjoyment 10 fold in action games, and in story games I’m trying to get into as if I’m in that world and it’s actually “me”, I simply can’t do it at all if I’m forced to play a male.

While female humans identify with female characters of course, I don’t think it’s the same type of thing for a lot of males who play female characters. While I’m sure some of them do identify with the female characters more, normally when various guys talk about why they’d rather play females it’s not because they identify with them as a character more. I’ve heard a lot of reasons why different guys like playing female characters but honestly the reason has never been that they identify more with them (again I’m sure they’re out there, just I normally don’t hear that as the reason).

Honestly I don’t like it when guys play female characters in a disrespectful manner. I don’t care if they play them but when they strip down and start talking about their girl parts it’s ridiculous and sexist to me. I wouldn’t play a black character and start laughing and talking about my black features, that would be considered racist, but for some reason we don’t call the guys who do that same foolish stuff with their female characters sexist. I won’t write more about that now because this will get too long and I got a meowing cat here that wants to go out.

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Lethality

There should obviously be female and male characters – human at least. Not necessarily so for other species or races, I think those are fine to be gender-locked for unique story reasons.

Classes are always ok to be gender-locked in either direction. Again, narrative reasons can make this more interesting.

Cadaver
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Cadaver

I’m perfectly happy with gender-locking provided that the game provides plenty of other customization options. I didn’t mind that my BDO wizard had to be male and my ranger had to be female because the game gave me the freedom to create unique looking characters within those boundaries. I’m far more likely to dismiss a game because it has poor customization than because it has gender-locked classes.

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Modrain

From a game design standpoint, gender locking in MMOs can not be justified. It’s something that doesn’t have any impact on the game. The only reason as to why it exists seems to be aesthetical choice from the developers, what goes pretty much against the idea of character creation and customization. It’s something acceptable when there’s a strong vision of who the player’s character should be, but if you place that choice into the hands of players, do it wholly, it doesn’t make any sense to arbitrarily remove options.

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Lethality

Narrative is the justification.

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Modrain

Narrative is not a game mechanic.

Now, justifying gender locking through narrative is as fine as for aesthetic reasons, it’s artistic freedom. It’s however not any less incoherent with the idea that prevails in MMOs to give the power to the players when it comes to their characters. If you create genders, yet create restrictive narratives around them, you’re bound to frustrate players.

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Tridus

“We didn’t feel like doing it” is the reason. Narrative is a convenient way to conjure up an excuse.

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Kala Mona

Same here, I don’t care about gender locking. If it is cheaper to produce, all the better. I think its better to have a few new monsters and other content instead of this. But my wife hates gender locking (imagine her playing Heroes of the Storm), so I guess… dunno?

miol
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miol

If it is cheaper to produce, all the better. I think its better to have a few new monsters and other content instead of this.

Debunked urban myth is debunked! ;P

City of Titans doesn’t have issues swapping male and female animations

But comparing the worth of a whole gender represented by ~3.7 billion people to “a few new monsters” is more than a stretch! ;P

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Kala Mona

First, you have to do the actual “other” character, mesh-wise. High poly, low poly. LODs if needed. Then rig it. Then make it customizable, which is by itself a huge task. If you want your character to have 5 face types and 5 hair types, that is so much additional work. Then if you use the exact same animations, it won’t look very good, exactly like here. General fighting animations, ok. Idles, esp. “special” idles, dances, etc, not so much.

That does not mention other MMO tropes like adding equipment to the characters. These aren’t exactly trivial. If you use texture swapping (Wow earlier equipments for example), then the male and female UV has to be the same. If you use it as additional mesh, then you have to somehow solve the differences in anatomy and proportions. Etc.

Please. You can either believe that “game developers are LAZY and/or SEXIST”, or you can take their world that it is not trivial, and no, just because you can retarget animations, that doesn’t exactly solve everything.

miol
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miol

Don’t you have a very selective perception…

You rather think “a few new monsters” is equivalent to exclude half of a world you are trying to create, as if those few new monsters would ever be able to fill that big gaping hole!

And if there are methods along the development of an MMORPG to have at least some material along the way, like they are doing on the provided example, when you finally allow your community (consisting of females and males) to roll their own character for the first time, it is of course way more worth than any additional Alpha or Beta content!

So please, don’t consider how you handle your paying customer base as trivial in the first place! ;P

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Lethality

If you don’t take into consideration the actual differences is size, proportion, gate an other aspects of locomotion, sure. i.e. crap game with no budget, copy and paste works. To do it right? Nope.

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Utakata

I don’t think this is about characters sharing animations though. That’s a quality issue topic. This is about making choices about what you want to play.

To be fair though, it’s unlikely anyone wants to play a crap rendered toon.

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Schmidt.Capela

Very much this. In an ideal world even different body types should have new animations more appropriate to it; if you pick a fat person, a slim person, and a muscular person, all of the same gender, each moves differently, and quite conspicuously so.

One thing about games where classes are race and gender locked is that in a fairly well made one each class moves and looks differently; while in game with a gender choice a warrior, a thief, and a mage will often look the same and use the exact same animations, well made games with gender-locked classes often have each class with an unique body build and animations, and sometimes even unique per-class visible gear to boot.

This brings a caveat, though. If the game doesn’t bother making new animations and unique visible gear for each class, then there is no cost-related reason to lock classes to a gender.

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Yuri Geinish

I always play male because I identify myself with the character. Whenever I ask a guy why he plays female character the answer is always “I like to look upon a nice piece of ass all the time I spend in the game”. That’s all there is to it.

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Josh

Well, I’m a guy and I sometimes play female characters, but not because of sex appeal. I think a lot of types of female characters just look badass. Typically, I tend to role females in a game where I can make them a bit more muscular and battle-hardened.
Ultimately, I just like playing a character that looks badass and that’s not restricted to some unseen genitalia.

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Sorrior Draconus

Not always I for one just feel…right as a spastic kitty girl in ffxiv. It is how I started and even after going male for awhile..it just felt so right when I went back

And I often swap genders mind you in wow I think i have more male then female characters

Thing is I feel like female characters also get better looking armor designs when games vary it by gender/more options when locked. Just easier to make an amazing look imo.

So not always about the sexy but maybe the aesthetic or it just fits your characters personality better

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Veldan

This always makes me wonder why people stare at their characters ass all the time. I know I don’t, regardless of the char’s gender. If it’s female and draws attention too much, I even find it annoying after a while. I log in to enjoy story and gameplay, not perv over certain parts of the female body. If I wanted that, I’d go to, eh, certain other places on the internet. There sure are plenty.

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Utakata

It’s becoming a tiresome troupe though. As there is likely multiple other reasons for players rolling toons that is not the gender they identify with, as there is rolling the same gender. It’s complicated and can’t be laughed away with quaint and dated jokes used as likely poor assumptions.

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Schmidt.Capela

I’m not sure when it first started, but Toby Gard, the creator of Lara Croft, gave it as the explanation for why the protagonist in his game was female. So this trope is at least 21 years old.

Some more information, and a list of games that conform to it, at the Third-Person Seductress entry in TVTropes.

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Ben Willows

I generally don’t care. If a game has set focus on a specific character with a specific gender then I’ll go with it. If I have a choice then my choice will be based on the role, class, armor type, armor aesthetics, combat animations, body shape, and possibly the name I want to use.

I don’t see my avatar representation of myself directly but rather a tool that links myself to the environment I’m running around in.

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FreecczLaw

It is amazing to me that this is even a thing in 2017, even more so in MMORPGs. I should always be able to choose.

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Veldan

Like others, I find the choice important. Customization is a big part of MMOs, and choosing your gender is just about the biggest choice you can make for a character. I also dislike gender-locked classes, but I never really played an MMO that had them, so they’re not an issue to me.

I’ve personally played both male and female characters. Most of my characters have been female, but I spent more time on male ones. That’s mainly because I prefer my more serious and long-term characters to be the same gender as my real self, for social reasons. I don’t like when people regularly think I’m female. And that does happen, even if character gender is a bad reason for thinking that.

Another reason is that MMOs tend to not take female characters very seriously. They’re often oversexualized and much less realistic than their male counterparts. For example, there are many games where males are very muscled, yet females don’t even have an option in character creation to show any muscle. It’s like you’re playing a very weak person that is somehow swinging around this huge sword. That’s immersion breaking to me, as is oversexualized armor (plate bra, or even worse, boob physics that make armor jiggle).

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Veldan

It seems I forgot about BDO’s gender locked classes. I didn’t like that, but if I remember right, they were working on some sort of other-gender counterparts for each class. I don’t know if those have been released by now.

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Carebear

I am exaxtly on same boat. I like female characters and is the reason i dont play many single player rpg.. for example, i loved Horizon zero dawn but i am not interested in witcher…

If the game has a class locked in male characters i simple dont play that class

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imayb1

And if your game outright locks female characters behind a stretch goal, then your Kickstarter is bad and you should feel bad. (Forgot about that one, did you?)

Eliot, that was the first thing I thought of when I saw the topic title. :)

Then, there are the games that claim “no girls allowed” because *lore*. Haven’t they realized the population is over 50% female and some of those would play the game if they had female gender representation for the main protagonist?

Gender-locking anything is bad as far as I’m concerned. I dislike racial-locking, too. I believe both things are cheap short-cuts in development.

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Flying Buddha

Crowfall, please read.

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NeoWolf

I find the ability to choose my characters gender incredibly important. When I make characters I tend to have a concept in mind that I visualise in my head..sometimes its male, sometimes its female If I wasn’t able to choose the gender I envision that to me would be like not being able to get the name I want..it kills the character concept DEAD.

Also I honestly do not think I would play a game that had gender locking it would frustrate and annoy me too much for the above reason.

And as noted I play BOTH genders, I see no reason to limit myself, and this ridiculous notion some gamer children have that a man can and should only play a man and women..women.. is just too dumb and ignorant for me to entertain :) There is no greater deeper meaning to someone playing a gender that is not theirs the players own.. its simply what you want to play in game.
For me as a heterosexual male I am genetically encoded to find the female form pleasing to look at, so playing females allows me to do that, and not in a pervy way but in a pleased with myself for creating something I find attractive and appealing way. The more appealing my characters are in respect to how closely I can make them to the character concept I envision then the more emotionally attached I am to the character, which makes playing them day in and day out easier.

Having a visually appealing avatar male or female is as important to me as character name, or finding a cosmetic outfit that I like that fits their concept etc.. they are ALL important threads in the overall tapestry of their design, without one or more of these things then their are loose threads and holes in the overall design which makes it fall apart and loose its appeal.

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Jack Pipsam

I alternate equally between genders with toons, so it annoys me greatly to have locks on anything.

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

i usually cant stand gender locking. if a dev has to cut some corners due to budget constraints or w/e it’s understandable. my beef with it is i don’t like rolling over-sexualized female characters in the armor dept.

u know what im talking about: some game where all the devs on social media are as politically correct as u can be but their game is fraught with females as sex objects.

i know for a lot of people they just want the choice of functional looking armor or something sexy. other people draw the line at plate mail that jiggles. the point is, everyone has a line and most games cross most of the lines if not all of them and most devs are hypocrites.

it’s really funny that i love BDO so much because that game’s armor sets can boil down to a see through toga and a g-string. it doesn’t stop me from playing which i guess means i am a hypocrite too!

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Stropp

I’m still waiting for The Culture MMORPG where I can not only change gender at will (within the game) but also change species, upload into a Ships virtual environment, or even become a Drone.

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Zoe

I’m optimistic that in the future we’ll have more women programming games, MMOs included, so these issues will become less and less pronounced. Gender-locking already seems to me as antiquated as having to make a boot disk for DOS.

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Utakata

The bottom line here is it’s about people playing what they want to play as their character. As a characters are often expressions of themselves whether in personality or their fantasy, impart, wholly or otherwise. So no restrictions needs to be required or imposed. Nor should there be any waxing apologetics and faulty reasoning for why they are needed or imposed on the developer part. It’s a fantasy/make believe world a player enters into. The only restrictions should be the game’s mechanics and not its gender choice.

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Terren Bruce

Creating a unique character that is my vision for that character is super important to me in an RPG and not just in MMO’s. For example I still haven’t played Witcher 3 beyond the very early story. I just can’t get into it. And I know I’m playing the main character from the novels, and I understand why they did that, but it still ruins the game for me. I don’t play RPG’s to play someone else’s character. I play RPG’s to create my own character. That is a large part of the charm of the genre to me.

I play a lot of male and female characters. It doesn’t have much to do with my gender, but instead of the character concept I come up with in my head. Whatever feels true to the idea I had at character creation. Sometimes this decision is effected by how the armor looks on male vs female characters or the art style in general. In an RPG I need enough choice to make it feel like my character.

Also in a game like GW2 which has different voice actors for each race and gender I try not to duplicate the voice because that just feels weird to me. So for example I’d never have two male humans, I’d have a male and female character instead.

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Thomas Zervogiannis

I don’t play RPG’s to play someone else’s character. I play RPG’s to create my own character. That is a large part of the charm of the genre to me.

I play a lot of male and female characters. It doesn’t have much to do with my gender, but instead of the character concept I come up with in my head.

Indeed, and this is also one of the issues I had with Quantic Foundry’s survey and classifications. Their “immersion” questions are focused on whether a gamer considers premade choices on the world important and pays attention to them, ignoring completely the class of gamers that want to build up their own story in an otherwise immersive and believable world.

Even going back to pen and paper RPG’s, the game designers were always describing the status quo of their world (where a class/race/gender was prevalent) but that was not restricting the choice of the players and the gameplay in any way.

Restricting gender choice in MMORPG’s is 99% of the times just a cheap means to cut down on development cost and should not be a thing.

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styopa

It seems pretty regressive to gender lock classes in 2017. I mean, sure, if the storyline requires the character to HAVE A BABY then, well, there would be a justifiable reason to gender-lock the protagonist.
But other than that (and let’s be honest: what MMO has that carefully, narrowly-driven storyline?) I just can’t see it.
It’s one of the few things I hate SO MUCH that I don’t play Black Desert despite objectively liking the majority of the game.

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Yuri Geinish

It’s not “locking” which implies purpose, it’ just cheaper in production.

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Utakata

Not sure there are many MMO’s out there that require PC’s to have babies. o.O

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thickenergy

I’m pretty sure that would lead to some sort of gold making scheme with PC baby farms and auction house shenanigans.

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be rational

For me this is not an issue at all and I don’t understand it personally although I do get other people’s reasoning. I guess my stance is more like I’m playing a game and this is my character vs this is an extension of me or a character that I’ve created a story for. I also don’t play MMO’s to “try on a different personality”. I’m pretty much just me. As a chick who loves all things kawaii I still tend to play guy characters in MMOs. I played a black orc in Warhammer online and absolutely LOVED that character.

That aside I think that it would be easier to create gender choice in an MMO story vs an arpg like Zelda or Horizon Zero Dawn because the stories are set up to be a certain way.

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Slaasher

I hate gender locked classes. Drives me crazy in Black Desert

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Schmidt.Capela

An interesting tidbit is that Japanese RPGs of old, despite often not allowing the player to choose the protagonist’s gender, have often had more females and in more important roles, particularly when it comes to companions/party members. Where a celebrated western RPG like Fallout 2, which allowed the player to chose the protagonist’s gender, has 7 male companions to the only female companion (and the way to recruit the single female companion is to have sex with her), a game like Chrono Trigger doesn’t allow the player to choose the protagonist’s gender but has half the companions female.

Particularly I don’t care much about not getting to chose my character’s gender. What I care about is having a character I find aesthetically pleasing, no matter the gender; this, for me, means at least males that don’t look like Conan on steroids, and females whose “assets” are well within what is possible without implants.

In any case, I don’t play MMOs to get laid. I don’t care about the gender of the player behind the character; male, female, hetero or homosexual, transgender or not, I treat the player the same. I also don’t care at all if the player’s and character’s gender match (as I myself tend to play characters of both genders).

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be rational

Agree on the old school jprg front. Some of the best supporting characters from the SNES days were ladies. Ayla and Lucca from Chrono Trigger are good examples. Celes from FF6, a general in the empire, was a strong character. You could even play as female characters back then and while not prevalent it did exist. I feel like people overlook that fact. It’s like girls have never been given an option EVER and that’s just not true. Super Mario 2 let you play as Peach. Star Ocean 2 (on PS) let you choose between a dude and a chick main character. Hell you could even opt to play as the girl in Secret of Mana (although the main character was a guy still).

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Legend Of Vinny T

My experience sounds a lot like Justin’s: I’ve seen these stories with male characters a dozen times. I want to try it with a woman in the role.

As for gender-locking, there had better be a damn good reason for it, fully baked into the lore. I’ll pick an example from outside of MMOs: Mass Effect.

You didn’t meet a female salarian until ME3 because of their biology and its effect on their society. The dalatrasses collectively rule Sur’Kesh, but because of that political (and reproductive) responsibility, they rarely leave the planet. And when you finally do meet one, you discover that they have no visible sexual dimorphism, so she looks no different from the males anyway. I could live with that in a hypothetical ME MMO.

You didn’t meet a female turian until ME3 because Bioware kept putting off the modeling and animation work until the writers forced them to in the Omega DLC. That would be total, deal-breaking bullshit in an MMO.

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Rees Racer

Well, this is certainly…an issue. I’d never rolled a female character in 20 years of (primarily) PC gaming until a couple of years ago, when I elected to change things up a bit and started over in SWTOR with a female Chiss Operative. I had so much fun with her that I’ve since used females quite a lot.

The real problem (for many) with gender-locking classes is the reduction of CHOICE in a game, whether it is how much you’d like your avatar to reflect your own image and persona, all the way to having the ability to make significant choices that affect events in the game itself.

I occasionally doubt the motives of developers who claim it is cost-prohibitive to design and animate classes of both sexes. What I respect a great deal more is a designer who dreams up lore and story, and there is a logical reason WHY this particular class is only represented by one gender. If you want to make a Valkyrie class, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense to offer a male version. On the other hand, Black Desert Online offers male or female classes that are really different in name only. That works for me.

I believe some of the really good MMORPG’s are both entertainment and art, and I might criticise it if I don’t like it, but that doesn’t mean someone else might be playing and enjoying that class because it is gender-locked. At that point, I decide if I want to spend time and money playing that game, or spend my money elsewhere (we have lots of choices for that!).

I’ve a feeling I will be on the wrong side of this issue, when it’s all sorted.

Theryl
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Theryl

For me, MMOs are about telling stories and for that to happen I need to able to customize my character. I don’t require sliders for everything, but being able to choose gender and make my character passable distinct is non-negotiable.

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Zen Dadaist

Gender-locking classes frustrates me intensely. It’s an extremely fast way to put me off a game. I play all available options and limiting options so drastically is incredibly unappealing to me. Why can women not be [thing] ? Why can’t men do [other thing]? What about [other gender options e.g. Unisex/Neuter Atrox in AO]?

Looking back on the MMOs I have tried over the years, not a single one with gender-locked classes has held my attention for more than a few days.

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deekay_plus

i hve a perception of having bad luck with games or toons i’ve rolled as male, so in part due to that and i part my desire to play dress up and be pretty i play female toons primarily.

i also love crafting story for a badass woman hero or antihero or even villain. growing up with the likes of riply and janeway, i’ve always found them to be rather compelling, tho more so in my adulthood than maybe in my youth.

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DeadlyAccurate

I usually start with female characters and then if I want to make an alt, it can be either gender. I’m not particularly put off by gender-locking. It’s a little annoying, but I base my characters on the stats they give more than anything.

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Randy Ward

I almost always choose a female toon for my character in an MMO. I’f I’m going to spend thousand(s) of hours staring at the backside of someone, I’d prefer that it is aesthetically pleasing.

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Veldan

This is such a bad argument, though it never fails to be mentioned.

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Yuri Geinish

It’s not an argument as it doesn’t argue anything. It’s plain fact why most guys play female.

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Johnny

I highly doubly most guys play female characters. (Using toons is a sign you started with World of Warcraft. No other MMO has “toons”).

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Utakata

I am pretty sure you have the numbers and studies somewhere to prove this too…

That said and if true though, I wonder if might be an “excuse” to disguise the uncomfortable fact that “I am a dude who plays female toons”. Like up there with, “I’m a dude who plays with dolls, but I need a cool kid explicit to say it’s totally fine to my dude bro friends.” o.O

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Yuri Geinish

> Among individuals who are assigned male gender at birth, approximately 0.005 percent to 0.014 percent are diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

> Symptoms
> A strong preference for cross-gender roles in make-believe or fantasy play

https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/gender-dysphoria

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Utakata

That seems to be true, as I know a few individuals in the anecdotal who are non-cis and prefer to play characters of their desired gender. 2 of them where writers for Massively-that-was. And it goes without saying, they had no ass-fetish as you seem to imply…

…but don’t let me stop you there. Feel free to look up other non-ass reasons to enlighten yourself regarding this. As I am pretty sure the ass-reasoning behind rolling a different gender toon (or the same in some cases) are likely in the minority. :)

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Utakata

*Pigtails thinks of all those bear butts tanking in WoW they had to stare at over the years* /shudders

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Alex Js.

Yeap, and you can also get help (in terms of some quest completion/item grinding/in-game currency) much faster from other players if you choose a sexy female char + appropriate female name for it. Well, at least as long as you’re not required to use voice chat ;-)

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Terren Bruce

I play a mixture of male and female characters and have never found that to be the case personally. I think it’s mostly a myth.

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Yuri Geinish

Let’s break it down. What are the possible reasons to play female?

– visuals
– the game has different dialogues for female that are cool enough to experience them
– roleplaying

Visuals are ok, guys like to look at girls. But it’s conflicting if you’re associating with your character.

Checking out dialogues or some gender specific plot twist is ok but it’s genereally not worth a full game replay, easier just to watch specific moments on YT.

Roleplaying. Now guys roleplaying girls is borderline mental disorder, and most people are healthy in that aspect, so for majority of players that just leaves visuals.

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Adam Babloyan

Same thing here. I’ve pretty much never seen my female toons get treated better than my male toons. Extremely rare.

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Yuri Geinish

That’s because everyone just assumes there’s a 60 years old dirty pervert guy playing the girl. When guys know it’s a real girl for sure the attitude shifts dramatically. For young people anyway. Hormones.

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