((The RP XP with MJ #9))
The bounty hunter looked over at the agent as her fingers danced across the controls of the ship. The engines rumbled to life and the entire ship began to shake as the coiled energy above the landing struts began to take offense to gravity.
Jenla Ruf pulled back on the control yoke and punched the switch to retract the ramp and landing gear. She glanced at Boarsch as the ship stopped rumbling and hung in the air a few feet above the spaceport. “What?” she glared, her red Chiss eyes flashing.
Boarsch only shrugged one shoulder. He looked out the forward viewport and considered this tiny planet’s sunset as the ship slowly ascended.
Just above the roof line of the spaceport, Jenla slapped a switch on the console and the ship bounced slightly as it hovered. Then she turned in the captain’s seat toward him. “No. Seriously, Boarsch. What?”
He matched her glare for a moment before drawing a breath. “It’s just that I don’t even know you some times. One minute you’re all dark and businesslike when we’re trying to get the information out of that Twi’lek girl, then we’re having sex–”
“Making love,” she corrected, still glaring but with one eyebrow raised.
“Whatever–then you turn into Jawa jelly when Darth Tagious barges in, then you’re telling me to shut-up.”
The ship continued to hover. She continued to glare.
Jenla blinked. “I love you, Mandalorian. Don’t change who you are.” Then she punched the thrusters on the ship and it lurched forward, angling up and around the spaceport as she checked the scanners.
Boarsch crossed his arms and sighed, turning his glare to the forward viewport.
It didn’t take long for Agent Ruf to find what she was looking for. She identified the flashes of blue and red bouncing off the walls of buildings on a nearby street to be the signs of a lightsaber duel. Grinning, she told Boarsch, “Charge up the main gun.”
“What? What are you–?”
The bounty hunter’s jaw set and a vein bulged in his temple before slamming his fist against the gun control.
Jenla smiled softly as she angled the ship toward her target. “Thank you, my darling.”
Far below the ship, on one of the wide streets of the spaceport, Jenla’s scanners picked up six to eight life readings. She quickly identified them as two Jedi, Darth Tagious and his Rattataki apprentice, and a handful of Republic troopers. Jenla locked in the ship’s position and took control of the main guns, setting a wide dispersal pattern.
Boarsch’s eyes widened slightly as the forward view angled down and he glanced to see Jenla taking control of the gun. “What the hell are you do–?”
The ship thrummed with the eruption of the pulse cannons in its belly. Bolts of hot red and orange light blasted to the surface, causing eruptions of smoke, flame and clouds of dust in and around the cluster of fighting Sith and Jedi. Jenla smiled as she could feel the rumbling explosions of the shock waves as the blasts reflected into the air around the ship.
Boarsch only watched helplessly as his lover and partner took out her frustrations with Darth Tagious on the entire city block. Parts of buildings crumbled. Gas lines exploded. Plumes of hot orange flame shot into the air below tall columns of black smoke. When Jenla finally released the weapon controls, the only things left to see were billowing clouds of hot dust and ruin. She set the controls, pulling back on the control yoke, turning the view into deep blue sky. Then she accelerated the ship, punching it out of the atmosphere and into the stars.
Once they were past the outer orbital range, Jenla Ruf set the autopilot and climbed out of the command chair.
Boarsch’s eyes followed her to the door in the aft section of the bridge. “Wait.”
She stopped and looked at him.
“Where are you going?”
The Imperial agent winked over her shoulder and offered a thin smile. “I’m going to take a shower…. Want to watch?” Then she turned and continued aft.
Boarsch sighed and turned his attention to the stars outside the viewport. He shook his head, his mind whirling over the last few hours as he ground his teeth. Finally, he pounded his armored fists on the arms of the co-pilot’s chair and stood up. “Women!”
Then he turned and went to her.
WHY CREATE A FEMALE CHARACTER
The entire gambit of the female character can be summed up on our Mandalorian Bounty Hunter’s parting words: “Women.”
They’re diverse. They’re strong but vulnerable. They’re wise but also foolhardy. They’re hard to understand at times: moody, flighty, fierce, tough, delicate. The entire range of a female character is far more broad than that of a male character no matter what universe you play them in. Don’t believe me? Let me paint a picture for you.
Let’s say you’re playing TOR and you wander into a zone where some open RP is going on. Off in the corner of a cantina you see a fully-armored bounty hunter — a man — and he’s sobbing openly. He may even whine and say, “I miss you so much,” into his cooling mug of caf as he sniffs and wipes his eyes.
Let’s say you’re playing TOR and you wander into a zone where some open RP is going on. Off in the corner of a cantina you see a full-armored bounty hunter — a WOMAN — and she’s sobbing openly. She may even whine and say, “I miss you so much,” into her cooling mug of caf as she sniffs and wipes her eyes.
I’m not saying men can’t be emotional and sob into their coffee, but from a strictly “fictional character” standpoint, it would seem more natural to find an armored woman crying alone than an armored man.
*Holds hands up defensively* Ok, ladies, hang on a second. Let’s take a look at a different scenario:
Let’s say you’re playing TOR and a fight breaks out in a cantina. The scene before you plays out as two players RP a bar brawl. It seems a MALE Smuggler is beating the snot out of a Trooper who pissed him off.
Let’s say you’re playing TOR and a fight breaks out in a cantina. The scene before you plays out as two players RP a bar brawl. It seems a FEMALE Smuggler is beating the snot out of a Trooper who pissed her off.
Shrug, right? In the Star Wars universe, it’s not uncommon to see women exercising bravado, strength, power or force (or Force). Leia Organa, Aryn Leneer, Ahsoka Tano, Padme Amidala, Bastila and Satele Shan, all strong and strong-willed female characters who you would not be surprised to see either kicking ass or sobbing quietly. They can also be alluring, repulsive, sexy, grimy, giggly, morose; any physical or emotional template you choose to make for a female character fits.
That’s the main reason I personally choose female characters over male when playing an RPG (my plans for TOR launch are about 50-50 on a gender split for the characters I’ve already drawn up). Women in fiction have a much wider scope of strength and emotion than male characters. Social expectations are still–after all these years–geared toward men being “manly,” though women are more equally accepted as leaders and strong role models, you’d be hard pressed to find someone successfully RPing a “sensitive man.” And, let’s be honest, the soft-skinned, emotionally sensitive “metrosexual” male isn’t likely to make it in the Star Wars universe — at least not in any of the classes we have now. Well… maybe Jedi… Hm. Well, if you’re planning to RP a “sensitive male” Jedi, let me know.
Statistically, most MMO players are male. According to The Daedalus Project (a 2009 MMORPG psychology project by research scientist Nick Yee), only 16 percent of Everquest players were actually female. A random thread at mmorpg.com guesses that only 20-25 percent of the WoW player base is female. Yet both these games, and MMOs in general, seem to be replete with scores of female characters. Meaning, naturally, that guys are playing girls in these games.
I heard a joke that goes like this: “In an MMO, you can count on the fact the guys are played by guys, the girls are played by guys, and the kids are played by undercover cops.”
I’d like to think the reasons a guy would have for playing a female character are more in tune with my own, though the common response of, “If I’m going to stare at a character’s ass for 16 hours a day, I want it to be a hot chick,” is unfortunately more prevalent among those I’ve queried. Put down the pizza rolls, step away from the computer, get some sun, and talk to a human being once in awhile.
THE EASIEST TIP IN THE BOOK
If you are a male player and you want to try RPing a female character, here’s how you do it:
The same way you’d play if your character were male.
Women in occupations (We’re talking Star Wars occupations now, though this particular rant goes for RL as well) are no different than men. The wide range of physical and emotional traits I described above means you can play your female character anywhere in that spectrum and still hit the mark. You can even project yourself onto your character and still “pass” as female. Female characters can even be crass or crude. Don’t believe me? Compare the films The Hangover and Bridesmaids and you’ll see what I mean.
True funny story:
My wife is not a gamer. She’s not into Sci-Fi or Fantasy fiction or any of that. I’m not sure she “gets” RolePlaying, but I’m lucky in that she loves my writing and has been glued to my latest serialized novel project (which surprises me since it’s set in a Steampunk universe). Suffice to say, she’s not “one of us.” She’s only a nerd by marriage.
One day I was telling her about my RP experiences as a female character. You could imagine her expression. I could see the wheels turning, wondering how she would get the family together to stage the intervention, how much the psychiatrist’s treatments were going to cost, etc. I knew what she was thinking, so I decided to show her what it was like. I invited her to sit with me at the computer while I RolePlayed my female character. Not only that…
It was my character’s wedding.
So, there we were, husband and wife, sitting at my computer and her watching as I RP’d my female character greeting guests, making last-second arrangements, chatting with her friends, and going through the entire ceremony. I thought it went well. She asked questions as we went along, my friends sent her OOC greetings and made jokes at my expense. It was a good time.
When it was over, she dropped the bomb.
Now I had been told previously by fellow RPers that I play female characters very well. Some have even commented that they thought I was a female player. So, when my wife told me, “You don’t know how to play a girl,” I was floored.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You cry too much.”
After I let that soak in, I had to laugh. She was right. She was absolutely right. I had taken the stereotypical “emotional bride” and played up the stereotype way too much. I also realized, upon reflection, that my character seemed to have a lot of crying jags in her history. I thought about my own wedding and, sure enough, I couldn’t recall my own wife crying nearly as much… at least not until we got the bill.
The point is, don’t get caught in stereotypes. Play your character’s CLASS not their GENDER and you’ll be fine.
DON’T HIDE WHO YOU REALLY ARE
If you’re a male player playing a female character, don’t be ashamed (unless you’re pizza roll boy described above) to say you are, especially among fellow RolePlayers. RPers are artists and writers to their core. They understand the nuances of characters and character building. They don’t care who you are or what you do for a living. During RP it’s all about the play. Real Life doesn’t enter into it.
If you are male and your character is female, your first inclination might be to hide your RL identity (or even claim to be a female player when you’re not) to superimpose a veneer of “reality” over your character portrayal in order to maintain immersion. If you want other RPers to “buy” your female character, saying that you — the player — are also female (or allowing them to believe you are) doesn’t give you a pass. It’s cheating. Not only is it cheating, it’s cheap cheating that’s about as solid as a wall of Saran Wrap. Concentrate instead on characterization. Study the females in your life: mother, sister, girlfriend, wife, teacher, boss and see how and where they break the stereotypes of what it means to be “a girl.” Read books with strong female characters. I’d recommend almost anything by James Patterson.
Disguising who you are in real life only kills the bond of trust you have with other players. To you, it’s simply an extension of your RP meant to give your female persona in-game more “legit” quality. To them, it makes you look like a freak or a perv. It makes them wonder what else you might be hiding and what your true motivations are for playing an MMO or trying to get to know them better.
And, if you’re worried about how someone might react if they found out you were a guy with a girl character, don’t. True RPers, remember, don’t care. They’re more interested in the character you put in your character. They want to RP with you to create stories and adventures beyond the game’s mechanics. An adverse reaction to your gender difference would mean one of 3 things: A) They’re new to RP and are clueless. B) They’re new to MMOs and are clueless. C) They’re new to the Internet and are clueless.
And, trust me, when it comes to gamers, there are no genders. I’ve met several female players whose male and female characters are indistinguishable from those played by males. I’d even go so far as to say gamers aren’t male or female…. We’re just gamers.
The bottom line in RolePlay is to be true to your characterization and back story. Regardless of the gender you choose for your character, give them life. Give them story. And, above all, enjoy the game.
Thanks for reading The RP XP with MJ! See you next Friday!
Oh, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @MichaelRigg. You can also contact me directly with comments, questions or article ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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