Gender in Video Games

I have a bunch of jumbled thoughts in my head about a few things and I thought I would put them down in order to make sense of it. I mean nothing is wrong, this is just all things that have been knocking around for a bit and I was thinking about them the other day. This is about gender in video games which may be a touchy subject for some. It may also be a tiresome subject for the more conservative-minded folks. This is not about sexuality and will be fairly tame. As usual, you can bail out at any time.

I was playing Saints Row 4 the other day and I realized something that I have talked to friends about before. I was playing as a smoking hot young woman. I am, in fact, not a smoking hot young woman. I am a cis male which means that I still live under the gender that I was born with. The way that games like Saints Row work is that the narrative is built around you playing whatever character you want. You have the choice to play as male or female. When I started playing video games, this was not a thing. The first time I played as a female character it was in Metroid and I didn’t know Samus was a woman until I was told.

Given a choice, I often play as a woman. In itself, this does not really mean anything. It is not an indicator that I am actually a trans woman or that I am anything other than male. (Not that there is anything wrong with that). I think it does mean that I am more open-minded than your average alpha male who would be no homo-ing this up and down. The visuals when you play as a woman are better. There are usually more diverse options for clothing, makeup, and accessories. Saints Row 4 especially has a robust character creation which allows you to create a lot of what you can imagine.

I was also thinking of something that happens in South Park: The Stick of Truth. This game is truly outrageous in ways that only South Park can achieve. In short, you play the game as The New Kid who gets swept up in a town-wide game inspired by Game of Thrones and Dungeons and Dragons. The New Kid (whose name pointedly does not matter) is always male. On the third day, you are tasked with recruiting the girls into the game who have thus far been completely unwilling to play. They will not play the game until you engage in a series of undercover missions which requires you to cross dress. (it gets gross yet funny).

However, when the missions are over, you are left with all of the feminine clothing, makeup, and accessories. When I play, I often just decide to leave it on as if The New Kid learned something new about himself during the adventure. The character being male is crucial to the story they wrote

The next game, The Fractured But Whole, gives you a lot more options. It allows you to be very specific with your gender. You can be Agender, Gender Fluid, Genderless, Aliagender, Androgyne, Androgynous, Aporagender, Bi-Gender, Demiflux, Gender Nonconforming, Gender Questioning, Gender Variant, Genderflux, Genderpunk, Genderqueer, Intersex, Mixed Gender, Neutrois, Non-Binary, Non-Binary Butch, Non-Binary Femme, Pangendered, Polygender, Transmasculine, Transsexual, Trigender, Two-Spirit, Demiboy, Demigirl, and Demi Non-Binary. This is unheard of in a video game (and awesome). Whichever option you pick, rednecks get mad at you for labeling yourself and try to kick yer ass.

I am not sure what any of this means but it is definitely food for thought. I want to see more options in games going forward (if appropriate to the narrative). There are now way more games being made with female protagonists. Still, more diversity is always welcome.

3 Responses to “Gender in Video Games”

  1. Lucy Grove-Jones Says:

    Gender was always something that pushed me out of video games, especially when I was younger. I never saw myself, and everything felt vaguely yuck. It’s the big reason I’ve never been more than a game-dabbler, rather than a gamer, honestly.

    Much later, I started to realise I was non-binary. And it made a lot more sense why being pushed into strongly-gendered characters feels so alien and uncomfortable to me.


  2. cowgirlsue Says:

    I guess I identify as gender fluid. In video games I always play a female role, but in real life I am male. As my virtual female persona, I do like playing co-op games with guys. I also go on second life as a girl or a femboy and always leave my real life gender ambiguous. It’s fun, what more can I say.


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