View From the Road

A View From the Road: Confessions of a Virtual Transvestite

John Funk | 5 Oct 2009 21:00
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There were five of us logged into Aion that day, ready to get started and level up together in-game. We had tanks, we had melee damage-dealers, we had magic damage-dealers, and a healer: We were the perfect group, joking together over Skype as we breezed through quest after quest. And then one of us spoke up: "Hey, anyone else notice we're all guys, but nobody has a male character?"

Nope. We may have been a group of five male gamers, but in Atreia, we were a group of five attractive-looking female Elyos. Before it had been pointed out to me, I hadn't given it a second thought - but it was true, and it made me stop and think about why I create the characters I do.

Almost every single character I've created in an MMOG recently is female. In WoW, it's my female Night Elf Druid. In WAR, it was my female Dark Elf Sorceress. In Champions, a female power-armor user, in LotRO, a female human Captain, and now in Aion an attractive female Elyos Warrior with a lithe, athletic build and a short pixie-cut - because hey, swordfighting would be hard with a Farrah Fawcett 'do, right?

Now, I've previously touched on the relationship between your real-life identity and your in-game persona: MMOGs let players choose their identities in a way that they simply don't get to in reality. These games offer people a chance to become an idealized version of themselves - in real life, you could be a college sophomore who keeps nodding off in an early-morning lecture class, but in Atreia you're a burly, grizzled Asmodean veteran gladiator. If we assume that players will often - not always, but often - choose a character that lets them become who they wish they were instead of who they are, then what does that say about my predilection to choosing to play as a hot chick?

Before we get into that, though, let's look at some of the other reasons one might have for playing a female avatar. On the one hand, there's the argument that says, "Hey, if I'm going to be staring at an ass for sixty levels, it better be a nice ass to stare at." It's certainly true that most male gamers do like to look at attractive women, polygonal or not. But is it different to ogle a female NPC or pre-created character than it is to check out a character that ostensibly is in the game as a representation of yourself? Lara Croft is Lara Croft, but Tieria the Night Elf Druid is me.

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