77: Confessions of an MMOG Cross-Dresser

Confessions of an MMOG Cross-Dresser

Confessions of an MMOG Cross-Dresser

When I played World of Warcraft, I did make a bunch of female characters.

I mean, why not? The option is right there on the character creation screen. When I make a characters for these games, I usually just think for myself an outline for a character, and then make and play it. Male or female, I give them both equal opportunity. I don't prefer playing one over the other, all of this is just asthetics to me.

I generally play male characters, while sometimes I will play non-standard female characters (AKA not the 'pretty' ones).

My first main character in World of Warcraft was a dwarf chick. Her name was, unsuprisingly, Nonentity. I maybe got mistaken for a girl once or twice, that's it. If I create a characer that's a female, I make sure they aren't the blonde hair blue eyed bimbo, and stay far, far away from proper female names, going for the more obscure names that could be either gender. I also am completely upfront about the notion that I'm playing a male.

Pretending to be a real female as well as an in-game female is just not a step I'm wanting to take, and will never take. I'm perfectly happy playing either gender in a game, and will make known my true gender if asked, or should the situation present it.

One rule of thumb I have found to be invaluable is to always assume that the other person is a male, unless proven otherwise. I have yet to be led astray by this.

I've gone back and forth, and I don't really have a preference. I tend toward male charecters, mostly because I am male, but sometimes the allure of not having female charecters constantly harrasing me if I want a gf makes me think hard before I put that check in the 'M' box. One of my brothers plays females online (females almost universally get better fashion choices, and he puts some thought into how he looks, especially online), and he gets away with it relatively well (Via omission rather than lies).

When I used to play online RPGs, I was all about role-play and hardly cared about statistics, level-grinding, and such. The hardest time I had was getting people interested in my characters. You can't role-play by yourself (actually you can, but that's just really, really sad... and wrong on some levels) so you need for others to take an active interest in you (your character). Being a guy, my most satisfying characters were male, but I had an easier time kick-starting stories and finding like-minded players as a female character.

When role-playing females, I would put a lot of effort into crafting a character that I would want to interact with... my "fantasy" woman so to speak. In this respect, I had some fairly intriguing and desirable female characters. I learned early on that, when asked, you have to be honest about your gender. It's really rude, as a player, to pretend to be someone your not. Besides, what guy wants to continually fend off horny 14-year-old boys? On second thought, don't answer that. ;-)

I like role-playing and escaping into the lives of imaginary characters that don't resemble me at all. Sometimes that character happens to be a girl... sometimes it's a gelatinous cube. ;-)

I usually play female characters, not out of any great statement, but because they frequently look cooler than the male characters. The starkest example I can think of is when I rolled my first EVE character. My racial decision left me with two options: hideously wizened old men, like wrinkled to the point of deformity, or decent looking women. Not wanting to have a creepy old man staring at me for my space career, I picked the female. When I was rolling characters for World of Warcraft, my choice on the Undead side was between goofy looking punk rocker dude and decent looking undead chick. On the Alliance side for the humans, it was a choice between "guy who looks like a blacksmith with some options but still generally a musclebound blacksmith guy" or a woman who wasn't covered in cartoonish muscles.

For me, I'll play whatever, so long as it looks cool. Once male avatars have the time put into them that the female avatars do, I'll play them, too.

Amen Shannon. I wonder if this brings us back to the women in gaming conversation: most game designers are men, so they create charecters they would like a world to be populated with: good looking women, and men that they can compete with in the looks department. Again, I don't care much (I don't pay attention to my charecter much), but I would like to see more thought into male charecters, and perhaps the only way that is goig to happen is for women to get into design.

That's very interesting Zac. It goes a long way in explaining why the male char models are so generic. Its a little off topic but this is a huge deal in table top games. It can be difficult to roleplay a character outside of your gender for obvious reasons. A lot of guys end up playing very butch women, you know, the amazon warrior type who in a lot of cases is more surly than the male fighters. In the table top world it is most often a talented and usually experienced male player who RPs a female cahracter.

It never crossed my mind that the females in RPGs could be beautiful because the makes prefer it that way. I still think it's more likely that it's a matter of the average players taste, and, unfortunately in my oppinion, the average player wants babes. It's half part marketing, half part te players not picking the less than total babe avatars. Though I havn't seen any statistics, I'd bet the most played female in World of Warcraft is a night elf.

Eventhough I really don't like the way many games handle females (or rather their armor, actually), I do play females a fair amount. If I'm aware of the cheesecake in most games, I feel as though someone is trying to manipulate me - as though I've ordered a game and gotten some 3D smut instead.

Other than looks, gender doesn't really play into games atall - the reasons are obvious but I think it's a bit boring.
Fallout had an optional talent, which caused the gender your character weren't to react more friendly toward you and the gender you were to react with more hostility. Is the toppic really that sensitive?

I wonder, how much longer until we see an MMO without avatar genders? A mainstream one, I mean.

dreadale:

Eventhough I really don't like the way many games handle females (or rather their armor, actually), I do play females a fair amount. If I'm aware of the cheesecake in most games, I feel as though someone is trying to manipulate me - as though I've ordered a game and gotten some 3D smut instead.

I agree. I'm not sure why they make the female armor so skimpy. Would a woman go into battle with thigh-high boots and a breastplate that doesn't even cover her stomach while everyone else is head to toe in plate? Maybe its fan service for the major demographic, but I can't see this type of behavior winning over any girls on the fence about joining an MMO (okay, maybe some but not many). Alienating half the population of the world at the outset is far from a great idea.

Bongo Bill:

I wonder, how much longer until we see an MMO without avatar genders? A mainstream one, I mean.

That's interesting. It seems like you are saying games are already out there like that, I'd like to see how that works. Are we talking about non-human creatures as avatars, or androgynous character models? I know a lot of Japanese character designs are often pretty hard to distinguish between. Transgender characters are a clichéd character type in a lot of anime shows and movies.

Also, I would like to add that I rarely play female characters; when I play a female character, however, I find that I am certainly treated better than I would if I log in as a male character. Often times a character that was once helping me out before continues to help even after I explain that I'm a male outside of the game. Maybe its because of my short trials of female characters that I have always avoided the insults, or perhaps playing on servers with strict RPing guidelines draws a more mature audience, but my experiences as a female avatar have never been negative in any way.

Despite my overall-positive experiences playing as a female I can see it certainly happening to other players. Playing on Xbox Live is often the conversational equivalent to attending a white supremacy convention. Racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia are rampant in online gaming. Asking the high pitched voice of a 12 year old kid to stop saying "fag" over and over again is a good way to ensure the continued use of the slur throughout the evening. That proves not only ignorance but also a lack of human decency. I'm a big fan of video games, and sometimes the verbal abuse is enough to get me to quit out of the game for the night. Whether you perform exceptionally well or exceptionally poor makes you a target, and I think that truth will keep new gamers from joining the online communities (or at least put it off for a little while).

I mean character creation that doesn't let you pick a gender, because you're playing as something that is not (identifiably) male or female. A fictitious asexual species, for example, or maybe the male and female models look identical.

Bongo Bill:
I mean character creation that doesn't let you pick a gender, because you're playing as something that is not (identifiably) male or female. A fictitious asexual species, for example, or maybe the male and female models look identical.

First off, it's not that sexuality cheapens a game... it's that most games choose to portray it in the cheapest manner.

I'm curious though. What would an MMO with genderless avatars achieve?

After seeing Ghost in Shell many years ago, I had an idea for a sci-fi MMO where people created an artificial consciousness as their character and could download themselves into vehicles of endless designs and functionality for their avatar. You could be a hulking combat focused machine of destruction at one moment and later transmit your consciousness into a delicate scientific research machine. Your physical form was never permanent. In concept sketches, as soon as I put design (over functionality) into the machines, I noticed feminine and masculine qualities. When I used smooth curves in the chassis pieces, the machines looked oddly feminine. Big, chunky designs looked masculine. I wonder if we are predisposed to seeing things as masculine or feminine. I mean, if you created a fictitious genderless species, would players perceive that species as all male or all female anyway? Would any of the attractive physical qualities lean towards a specific gender? Would the physical characteristics have to be unattractive to be perceived as genderless? Like, a slug or an insect?

I'm just thinking out loud. ;-)

Echolocating:
... In concept sketches, as soon as I put design (over functionality) into the machines, I noticed feminine and masculine qualities. When I used smooth curves in the chassis pieces, the machines looked oddly feminine. Big, chunky designs looked masculine. I wonder if we are predisposed to seeing things as masculine or feminine. I mean, if you created a fictitious genderless species, would players perceive that species as all male or all female anyway? Would any of the attractive physical qualities lean towards a specific gender? Would the physical characteristics have to be unattractive to be perceived as genderless? Like, a slug or an insect?

I've toyed quite a bit with the idea of an MMO with robots as avatars, rather than humans or any other humanoid lifeform. It never struck me that people would just superimpose genders onto their avatars - then again I focused mostly on the "how awesome would a realm-vs-realm MMOFPS style mech warrior be?" bit.

Would it een have an effect? wouldn't people just play as they've allways played? Obviously, an MMO with genderless avatars wouldn't be any different, if the players still customize their avatars with the intent of portraying a specific gender, so wouldn't it fall flat on it's face?

I used to play Final Fantasy XI up until just recently, and my main was a male Hume, but only because my friend had bitched at me prior to the game's release, saying that *he* wanted to be the Mithra (Mithras are a race of a dominantly female felines in the world of Vana'diel). I played the game for 2-3 years, and was stuck with a male Hume's ass to look at for the rest of the game, though eventually I got a mule (an item storage character) that was a female Elvaan, along with a female Hume fellowship buddy (an npc).

I actually learned everything that the article talks about regarding how people treat other people that play as a gender that isn't their own as a male, and gained further insight during the short time I played my mule and during my conversations with other people who I knew weren't really female. What's interesting, however, is the fact that based on the census that Square-Enix takes every year, male characters actually hold an incredibly large majority over the female population, which actually really sucks. However, what this shows is that the aesthetic value of the characters that are selectable for creation on the male side are acceptable enough to not try and play a female for the sake of not having to deal with ugliness.

This, however, has its drawbacks, as that causes for there to be less of certain races and diversity in character models in large numbers. Mithras that are identified as being male are constantly being accused, often with name-calling such as "manthra" and what-not. What's interesting about Mithra players in particular is that there's actually a cross-server collective of Mithras under the name of MithraPride, which was started back in beta, and has its own website, dedicated to MithraPride. However, I played on the Phoenix server, and the MithraPride of Phoenix broke off from the collective, and became its own thing.

I'm digressing, and I apologize. One aspect that hasn't been covered, I think, is the idea of a female player actually playing as male characters. It isn't an uncommon practice amongst females, and is partially for the same reasons that a male player may play as a female character, but the one stark difference is that the reason that a female player may not play as a female character is to avoid the attention they receive, or supposed harassment.

There are many social woes that come with MMOs that people deal with, whether it has to do with gender, or with age, or beliefs, or ethics, or principle. I once knew a lady in my linkshell (FFXI's form of chat that other gamers may know better as "guilds"). She was one of the nicest people in there, and I could tell that she was aged just based on her personality. She disclosed her age to me (i think it was like 50-something), and told me that most guys would then end the conversation, as they would probably had been engaging in conversation for hormone-related reasons. I knew her for a long time, and I had a pretty good idea that she was old anyways, so I said that I wouldn't stop. Apparently, she liked my personality, and the fact that I was pretty mature for my age, and noted that she had a daughter around my age as well.

I should have stopped there.

I eventually learned that this old lady had a myspace, purely for friend/contact purposes, had a portrait of herself and a picture of her daughter with one of her sons, and a few other pictures as well. My response to those pictures weren't the most charismatic, and I shouldn't had had such high expectations to begin with, as that had occurred a year before with a girl I had grown interested in in-game. My lack of enthusiasm to those pictures would tangle with a situation beyond my control with a player who was far too emotional, who lied about their gender despite the fact that others already had an idea that it was a male, and then would disappear, only to have its gender confirmed as male by a player that didn't have the best of relationships with the linkshell, let alone myself.

I learned two things from playing that MMO: social skills and social ills. The auto-translation function that allowed players to use automated words to try to converse with Japanese players (and visa versa) included formalities, many of which I began to use in real life as well. When I started playing, my father had just died from cancer, and I started skipping school. I diagnosed myself (yes, myself) with chronic depression (ha-ha), and spiraled down, missing a giant chunk of my life as a teen and as a student. But I learned a lot too. I learned leadership and organization, as I learned drama and division. I had lost the wit that I gained from IRC, but retained logic and principle of social-elitism, often being held as being the most mature out of the young bunch. But in the end, I quit the game for two reasons: Dragoon and Black Mage don't get a lot of party invites, and there was far too much drama and people leaving. There had been a lot of things that were causing me to deviate from playing FFXI. First, it was my DS lite, with games like Phoenix Wright and Mario Kart that were far my fascinating than the ongoing troubles of FFXI, with the final nail in the coffin being the release of Final Fantasy XII on the PS2.

I know that I've digressed from the subject at hand, being of the drama that revolves around "cross dressing" in MMOGs, but what strikes me as most important from this article was what happens with what comes from playing as a gender that you're not. It makes me think about those murder cases that you see on the news about how some transsexual gets killed by two guys who felt that they were wronged and what-not. There are so many emotions that swirl around the drama that develops in linkshells, guilds, communities, forums, and just relationships in general that in the end, you just get sick of it.

If you read through my rambling, {Congradulations!}, if not, don't.

Bruce Woodcock:
This year at E3, while playing the upcoming MMOG title Soul of the Ultimate Nation from Webzen, I was positively giddy to discover that the half-skirt on the female Elementalist character actually flips up when she jumps into the air, exposing her shiny panties underneath. Talk about your fan service!

I'm going to be honest here and admit that seeing this would make me giddy as well, but it *also* would guarantee I'd never, ever play the game. I had a similar reaction at PAX this August, upon viewing an eye-catching promo video for the Warhammer MMO (whatever it's called). It featured (if memory serves me correctly) some sort of sorceress wearing little more than her magical staff and a headdress. Great to look at, but it also told me that the game was being developed by and for people with the emotional maturity of teenagers.

Back before I'd seen my first pair of real-life breasts, anything to do with sex was fascinating. Scantily-clad women in videogames were the perfect outlet for the forbidden urges of a pubescent teen. Now that I'm well into my twenties and have seen and interacted with my fair share of breasts (and other lady-parts), virtual ladies no longer have the same attraction for me. I'm not saying I don't enjoy it if it's there, but I'm heartily sick of sexualized, objectified women used to push sales of otherwise worthless games. Tomb Raider is perhaps the most classic example; had it featured a male protagonist, I'm positive we'd have never seen Tomb Raider II.

I've heard before the argument that it's better to spend countless hours staring at a shapely female ass than an ugly male rear end. Heck, I've used that argument myself. What I've come to realize, though, is that if I'm actually staring at my character the whole time, it means I'm not paying attention to the rest of the gameworld. In the end (pun intended), the attractive ass argument is just one symptom of the aformentioned "crap game + boobies" problem. In a well-designed, fun, and engaging game, the shape of the butt in front of you shouldn't matter in the least.

All of this is really beside the main point of the article, but I had to get it out of my system. This whole issue really struck home with me very recently, when I returned to my hometown for what is now my fifth Christmas break from university, and realized that my best friend from highschool was still gravitating towards the eye-candy-filled but not necessarily good games. This is a big logical leap here, and I realize I'm projecting my own beliefs and emotions onto someone else, but I suspect the explanation for this situation is that one of us is still a virgin, and it's not me.

As Bruce admitted himself, the impetus for creating his first female avatar sprung from his social ineptness and inexperience with the fairer sex. I can only wonder what he would have done had he discovered TinyMUD *after* experiencing a fulfilling physical and emotional relationship with a woman. I speculate that he would have wood the ladies with his charming male avatar, and never had need to engage in the old switcheroo. This is, of course, just my speculation. I suspect that the majority of men (and by men I mean males aged 20+) would never feel the need to play as a woman, had they never done so previously at a younger age, and especially if they'd had at least one mature, real-life relationship.

In the end, I think both issues stem from the same cause; a glut of emotionally/sexually insecure or underdeveloped males, be it players or game creators. The problem is likely especially worse in development teams or online worlds composed primarily or completely of men. With no women around to give them constant reality checks, even the more mature men are liable to get sucked along into the collective adolescent fantasy of the others. Let me give a couple examples of what I mean by reality checks: 1. I was involved in a roleplaying group where two of the guys played female characters. I didn't think much of it, until my girlfriend sat it on one session, and later confided to me that those two players were completely and utterly incapable of roleplaying women. 2. I enjoyed playing Rumble Roses quite a lot, until the time my girlfriend walked in on me playing. I still enjoyed the game afterwards, but it was with the added realization that this sort of portrayal of women is the kind of thing that convinces women that videogames are for immature boys. My girlfriend is a gamer (loves her Gameboy and DS Lite, and is totally enthused about the Xbox360 she received for Christmas), but she still refuses to be in the room if I play Rumble Roses or anything like it. No, we don't need men playing as women; what we need is more women playing as women.

I rest my case, such as it is.

Voxaryx, I understand what you are saying, I think its put well; but, I also think there are a lot of places where generalizations and assumptions are used in place of substantial evidence.

First, I think making a sweeping claim that males that play female characters are immature or lacking some real life experience is without merit. I also have friends that play as females, and I have also played as females briefly. They will give you other reasons for playing as female characters. One of my friends is actually gay, so he gets nothing from the 'ass' of the female characters he creates. Another simply likes to play as a female. It isn't immaturity in every case. Some people just like to explore their boundaries, try out new things, and see what things are like from another perspective.

I can't help but bring this conversation out of the gaming realm for a bit. Cross-dressing is a lifestyle decision made by many different people of many different levels of sexual experience, and of many different sexual orientations. The sheer number of terms available to describe cross-genderism is proof enough. I think that partaking in this activity; even within virtual world exclusively is part of the larger behavior of 'switching roles'. Therefore, when you come to one single conclusion about the cause for cross-dressing in games I can't accept it without a significant amount of evidence to support it.

Also, I think it is important to note that BOTH genders are generally depicted in the most idealistic way. Play God of War for a few minutes and tell me that the guy isn't a shining example of a perfect male. To be honest, I would rather play as the ideal version of my own gender. I don't want to be an overweight loser with patchy five-o'clock shadow and perpetual sweat in the armpits. I would rather play as the jacked up badass that I consider to be the idealized male. This is an issue of taste. If I want to be a part of a fantasy world where I am the 'be all and end all' my personal understanding of beauty I don't see a problem with it. At the same time I have to wonder: isn't possible that some women feel the same way? Isn't possible that when a female logs into an MMO she tries to make a nice looking avatar? I'm not suggesting that it is an overall want for gaming women to play hot females. What I am saying is its possible that it is partially desirable to have that objectivity by both/all genders sometimes.

I do agree with you in part, though. I do think that it seems a little too convenient that every game box now has a hot chick on the cover. I don't think the women should be scantily clad in most cases; it doesn't make sense in a combat heavy game. I think that the option to have a sexy woman in a game shouldn't be removed, but a little more clothing would probably go a long way in attracting more female players, instead of pushing them away.

Also, I'm well aware that we are stating opinions and speculating here. I'm not trying to suggest you are wrong, I just disagree.

Blaxton:

I can't help but bring this conversation out of the gaming realm for a bit. Cross-dressing is a lifestyle decision made by many different people of many different levels of sexual experience, and of many different sexual orientations. The sheer number of terms available to describe cross-genderism is proof enough. I think that partaking in this activity; even within virtual world exclusively is part of the larger behavior of 'switching roles'. Therefore, when you come to one single conclusion about the cause for cross-dressing in games I can't accept it without a significant amount of evidence to support it.

Thank you. I'm one of the 'real-life' cross-gender types myself. I play almost exclusively as a female character because I had enough of trying to play a male outside of the games. I don't 'pass' all that well out here, but online the only folks who see me as male are the ones who presume everyone is male online.

At least until the voice-chat comes up. Despite my best efforts, I still have a fairly male voice. I work around that with full honesty: before I join up with a guild that uses it, I tell them I'm transgendered in life. If they have a problem with that, I walk away.

Kaosgirl:

At least until the voice-chat comes up. Despite my best efforts, I still have a fairly male voice. I work around that with full honesty: before I join up with a guild that uses it, I tell them I'm transgendered in life. If they have a problem with that, I walk away.

Good for you! You are I feel the perfect example of how people should act. The issues people have with cross-dressing, homosexuality, and differences in general all are created from their own prejudices. Read that again, their OWN prejudice, the problem isn't the other person. This applies to any relationship really, don't blame people for who they are, don't try to change them into your image of perfection. People need to just accept others differences as positives more readily. I for one, think that life would get awfully boring if everyone thought like I do.

- Tom

On a different note I noticed when my wife was playing MY SIMS that the characters are neither male or female I only assumed they were either by their clothes which are completely interchangeable from mini skirts to suits. And also one of the characters appears to be a drag queen for want of a better word.

Subtle but interesting.

perhaps the gender swapping in mmorpg's is about attention more than anything else as female charters get more than male characters. It may suit an introverts lack of social skills.

I tend to roleplay when playing MMORPGs, and the thing is that I know, from experience, that I am incapable of portraying a female character.

As a result, my characters tend to be male. I have a female dwarf alt in Dungeons and Dragons Online, but that's about it.

I love the line, "If I have to stare at an ass in game for hours and hours every day, it might as well be a female ass." Thats pretty much my philosophy when it comes to choosing a character. Although I did notice in wow all the female characters tend to be rubbish dancers :P

 

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