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Is “She” really a “She”? Female Gamers and Gender Bending in MMORPGs by Daelda

Published by under Editorial,Role Play on Nov. 02. 2011.

NOTE: I wrote this Article originally on October 20th. The next morning, just before I was about to publish it, I saw the Article MJ published on our Site, “The Female Character, The Male Player” which – while not identical to mine, covered much of the same ground. So I decided to hold off publishing my Article, at least for a little while. Well, the topic has popped up again on the swtor Forums, and it has been a couple weeks since his Article, so here is mine. I hope you enjoy.

One topic that I have seen come up again and again on MMO Forums is the subject of females in MMOs and “gender bending” – or playing a gender that you aren’t in real life. A male playing a female or a female playing a male. The old joke goes that GIRL stands for Guy In Real Life – and maybe that was true not that long ago, but is it true today? And does it matter if it is? Let’s start by finding out just who it is that actually plays Video Games – and more specifically, MMOs.

Despite the fact that gaming is seen as a male activity, female players actually make up 42% of the gaming population according to the ESA’s 2011 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Gaming Industry study.1 NPD just released a study showing that 91% of those aged 2 – 17 are gamers, with females and those age 15-17 driving the greatest growth.2 Also, while 32.6% of MMO players are married or engaged, 57% of female MMO players are.3

Another common belief is that females only play MMOs because their significant other played MMOs. This is untrue, as only 26.9% of females were introduced to MMOs by a romantic partner. Of the rest, 12.9% were introduced by a family member, 36.4% by a friend and 23.8% joined MMOs on their own.4 When playing, approximately 60% of female MMO players play with a romantic partner and 40% of females play with a family member.5 In other words, a vast majority of female MMO players are playing with someone they personally know in real life at any one time.

Now, on to Role-Players: 60% of MMO players have Role-Played, with a relatively equal distribution among males and females.6 44% of RPers have created a background for their character, with females slightly more likely to have done so than males. 28% of those that created backgrounds for their characters weave in another player’s character into the story, with females being 50% more likely to do so than males. 20% of Role-Players RP at least once a week, and the likelihood of regular RP increases slightly with age.

Males are almost twice as likely to “gender-bend” as females are, and that tendency increases with age – but gender-bending tends to remain in the minority overall. In addition, the number of characters a player has tends to increase as a player ages.7

So, let’s summarize: 42% of gamers are female. Females are one of the fastest growing demographics among gamers today. Females are very likely to be playing an MMO with someone, usually a Significant Other or a family member. Most players in MMOs have Role-Played and if you encounter a Role-Player, there is a roughly 50% chance that the person is a female. So…is that hot Twi’lek female actually a female IRL? Or is it a gender-bending male? Well…if the person is Rping, the odds are probably 50/50. But even if it IS an actual female, the odds are that her significant other or a family member is nearby – watching you try to put the moves on her. So, do you really want to try it?

In my opinion, anyone should play whatever they want to play. I am a Role-Player and yes, I tend to create two characters of each Species – one male and one female, partly so that I can experience the story from each angle and partly because of the role-playing opportunities it affords me. No, I have never danced naked on a mailbox for tips, or done anything to attempt to get money/gifts from other players while playing a female character. I even had to tell one guy who actually started hitting on me, “Umm…look…I’m actually a guy.” I could have led him on, but I’m not that sort of person. I gender-bend for the same reason that I RP and the same reason that I play something other than a Human in any MMO – because I want to pretend that I am something other than me for a while. I see no difference in playing a female human than I do in playing a Sith. I’m not a Sith. I wasn’t born, raised or trained to live as a Sith. So playing a Sith is playing something that I am not. Playing as a female is the same – I am playing something that I am not. And my wife is the same way; she’s played male as well as female characters in every game we’ve played together.

Now, for those of you who have “concerns” about gender-bending…I have only this advice: This is an MMO, not a dating service. A great portion of females playing MMOs are already taken and their SO’s probably won’t look on your advances as all that welcome. So, play the game for what it is – a game! Don’t worry about whether a character’s “dangly bits” match the player’s “dangly bits”. All that matters is if they can tank/DPS or heal – and do it well enough to avoid the wipe. If you want love, either get a puppy, join a dating site, or go to a local hangout. And if you give stuff away to some character based on apparent gender…well…I guess that’s your choice. You’ll get no sympathy from me.

Thanks for reading! And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter – @Daelda.










6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Is “She” really a “She”? Female Gamers and Gender Bending in MMORPGs by Daelda”

  1. Calebon 02 Nov 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Yayyyy good news; time to flirt with females on game :3

  2. Rosieon 02 Nov 2011 at 5:49 pm

    You said it all.. I rarely play a game without someone I know on the server, in the guild, or at least playing the same game. I enjoy playing with people i know. I admit i never play a male toon. I am a girl, and they make the girl toons look much better then the male ones.


  3. MJon 02 Nov 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Custom avatar

    Well done, my friend, and awesome rack o’ stats to back it up!

    My article didn’t really zero in on the topic. I had only mentioned it in relation to a small segment of RP specifically. I was actually relieved to hear that Daelda was putting this out there and glad he fleshed it out some more because, yeah, for better or worse it is a big topic.

    As time goes on and MMOs mature, I’m sure this will become less and less of an issue. More and more frequently, while RPing with a female character, when I say, “Um… Just so you know, I’m a guy IRL,” the answer invariably comes back, “So? This is just RP.”

    I’d be curious to know if there were any studies out there among MMO gamers who actually use games to make RL connections. I know it’s happened. MMOs always seem to make the news whenever there’s an “in-game wedding” that bleeds over into a real-life cosplay event. But I’m with you…

    Your advice is perfect: “This is an MMO, not a dating service.”

    Great job, Daelda!

    ((NOTE: The avatar selected with this response does not represent my gender))

  4. Daeldaon 02 Nov 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Custom avatar

    Actually, there ARE stats on Romance in MMOs!

    For some Anecdotes :

    For actual Stats:

    “And finally, about 29% of female players and 8% of male players have physically dated someone who they first met in an MMO. Again, it�s hard to discern a strong age difference. Both these percentages feel very high, and the only other data point I have comes from the 2000 survey on EQ players, where the corresponding numbers were 15% and 3% (so almost double of what was found 6 years ago). Now, the other thing may just be that the survey respondents are skewed towards more involved players who are thus more likely to report relationships.”

  5. Rosieon 02 Nov 2011 at 7:25 pm

    well.. i find very good friends all the time in games, and from around the world. I also find great casual friends, these don’t tend to stay friends once you leave the game. But I have a fun time meeting new people, and if i get the chance meeting them in real life. The internet is an extention of my physical life.

  6. Blackthorneon 06 Nov 2011 at 7:33 am

    Just poking in as fan of the site, and a friend of one of the writers. I met my fiancee (Hope to be married before the new year, we’ve been together 2 years now!) on an MMO. Over a piece of rare armor she happened to have and was willing to part with, by chance. But that being said, we both are avid roleplayers, and play characters of different genders. Just happen to be in that low percentage that found real love amidst the full plate! *Grins*