Elizabeth (greyautumnrain) wrote,

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Gender and Online Games

The short version: Playing an opposite gender character in an online game is a good way to see all the idiocy that still goes on in the difference between the way men and women are treated

Warren plays female characters online a lot. This is not so odd, a lot of my male friends do this. I usually also play females, but occasionally play males.

We've been playing far too much Warcraft lately. We play female twins. Two months ago we moved to one of the new PVPRP servers, and we've been doing a lot of battlegrounds play their. There's one battleground called Arathi Basin that's a fairly interesting place where strategy and communication can make a big difference. This makes the game pretty fun if you like strategy. It can also make if frustrating if the rest of your group is clueless. People being the lemmings that they are, Warren has taken to starting up a raid group when we enter and inviting people, with the expectation that we'll lead the raid. Sometimes this works well. Sometimes it doesn't. One of the particularly annoying failure points is when a male character starts assuming that he is in charge (even though its our raid group) and starts giving bad order. What makes it particularly annoying is that the other people in the raid will preferentially follow a male character giving orders regardless of the gender of their own character, even if there is a female character giving better orders and information.

After the most glaring example of this that we had recently, I asked Warren how it felt to have people not listen to you just because you're female. He said he was used to it. The first MMORPG we played he also had a female character as his main character. He said it took him a while to realize what was going on, but he noticed that people didn't seem to take him seriously because he was 'female'. I noticed similar things there because I was playing both males and females. Its just way more noticable in Warcraft when you're doing something like battlegrounds that is very combat oriented. I doubt people are thinking about it. They just assume that the female avatars are female and the male avatars are male and their subconcious reacts appropriately.

Of course people don't always assume that you're female if you play a female character. On the forums for the game I routinely see people refer to certain female avatars as 'he'. These are often avatars with non-girly sounding names. Since some people use various voice servers, it could be that these are know to be played by males because their voice gives them away, or it could be that they are competant players, and therefore assumed to be male. I've certainly had people call me 'dude' in game and I wonder if they think I'm a guy. Its almost a running joke that no women play Warcraft. I'm wondering if this is another angle on same general attitude. Women can't do combat type games well, so any competant player must be male. Never mind that I'm often the top scorer for the Alliance in my bracket in a battlegrounds, and last I checked I was a girl.

I thought this whole girl/boy thing would be straightened out by now. I mean its obviously pretty silly. I'm getting tired of it, but I don't know how to fix it other than to just be me. Of course I don't have it so bad. I expect that this who girl/boy thing is also why homophobia is still a problem -- if your not straight you violating people's idea of which box to put you in. Somedays I wish I could just give 90% of the population a good shake and tell them to grow up already, but I doubt it would work. Maybe everyone should be required to play an opposite gender character in an online game for a while until they aquire a clue.
Tags: random rants, roleplaying games, warcrack

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