International Women’s Day is here, and it got me thinking about women in MMO games, or more precisely - female avatars and the people who play them. Naturally, a lot of women choose a female avatar when creating their characters. I makes sense, as they will probably relate more to a female character to a male one. However, they are not the only ones to choose to do so. A lot of men also decide to play as a female character, preferring to take the appearance of a woman in-game.
“So what?” I hear you scoff, “people also play Elves, Orcs and Lizardfolk in MMOs, and these aren’t even human.” Well, that’s true. People play games to experience something different than real life. Maybe to some men, playing as a woman is the same as playing a Night Elf - it’s simply a way to experience what’s it like to be someone, or something, other than themselves.
MMOs and video games in general give us the opportunity to be whatever we want, so why not take it all the way and play a gender other than the one we identify as? Seems like a reasonable assumption, right?
However, I believe playing as a female can be more than simply “playing pretend”. It can be an interesting experience just to see how other players act around a character they perceive as a woman. It might give you some insight into how it feels to be a woman playing MMOs, or more importantly - teach you how you think female players behave.
When men play a female character, they automatically change their behavior and try and play how they think a woman would play. More often than not, they are completely off the mark. Studies show that men move in different ways when they play a female character. They tend to jump more, stand at a distance from the rest of their party, and use way more emoticons. It’s as if they are actively trying to be noticed, which leads to another possible reason - attention.
Female characters stand out in MMOs. It may be because there are less women playing, but also because most female avatars are portrayed as sexually attractive. Some men use female characters to ensure they will always find a group to play with, or to make sure there voice is heard. There’s also a myth about players being nicer to, and less likely to attack, players with female avatars, so that’s another reason why men might consider using one.
Weirdly enough, women don’t often play male characters when given the choice. The percentage of female gamers playing a male character is much smaller than that of male gamers playing as females. I wonder why that is? Do they feel more comfortable with their gender and sexuality than men? Do they not feel the need to try and be someone else, just for a little bit?
Whichever the case may be, it seems that most women and even some men agree - it's simply more fun to play MMOs as a woman.