I’ve been playing female characters in video games for years. I don’t even think about it anymore. This seems to be strange to people who watch me play, and I don’t understand why. I’ve had family comment. I’ve had friends comment. I’ve even had my friends’ kids comment. I have never understood why this is looked at as such a strange thing. Their disbelief is most commonly phrased as an obvious statement of fact, “… But you’re not a girl.” My response is, “Um…so what?”
It seems that some people who have a natural inclination to role-play themselves in games expect that others do the same. I lost this inclination very early on, and not for some adolescent desire to ogle the nicely animated female characters. The real reason I started liking and playing female characters is far more practical: they were always faster, more agile, and made better spell casters. Essentially, they got the first opportunity to act in most role-playing games and were usually faster than their usually heavier male counterparts in fighting games, while throwing cool spell effects at enemies. In racing games, the girls tended to have faster acceleration. Since I had the tendency to smash into things instead of being able to run through the tracks, I really needed that acceleration more than the higher max-speed that the males generally had.
It wasn’t until technology developed and graphics moved past 8-and 16-bit sprites that game characters took on a character closer to art than to the thick grouping of squares. By this time, my habit had already been cemented, but I must admit that my female builds were generally nicer to look at than bulky, well-built men. As the social climate moves toward “girl power” and women’s equality, games have reflected this and have ceased giving characters qualities based on gender. However, because the vast majority of gamers are males, the depiction of the ladies in games is still geared towards men. Scantily clad, they go forth and conquer with as much ferocity and zeal as any heavily armored counterpart. For my part, I’m fine with it. If I’m going to trudge through a game and have to stare at a character the whole time, I much prefer it to be something I like seeing.
The choice that started as a better fit to my play-style, has morphed into a better fit for my visual tastes. Somewhere along the line, girls went from being stereotypically more agile and generally lighter, to being maybe slightly faster but definitely better looking.
Strong female characters have become much more prevalent and I don’t see any reason why they cannot play the role of leader and protagonist. These same characters are good examples of tough, strong women who, in many cases, serve as good role models. In the end, though, it comes down to me playing a given game and my enjoyment of it. The fairer sex tends to be faster and, frankly, more beautiful. Sometimes they are far more intelligent. What’s not to like?
-by Kurt Klein