Doing Gender in Online Games

Do you play online games? Online games is one of the most popular leisure activities, not only for children, teenagers but also adult. It’s becoming one of the most eye-catching parts of social phenomenon in the last decade. In my leisure time, sometimes I play games online but I’m not games online addict. I usually did it when I’m stress out or saturated, and I haven’t think about the relation of online games and gender even though I’m doing gender for example when choosing an avatar. Joining this course (and of course this assignment) makes me questioned doing gender in online games and I started to looking more information about it.

Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) are one of the most interesting innovations in online games. Through this game, the gamers can choose which role they want to be and develop. Of course, the key point in playing online games is interacting with other gamers, from any gender and other social background. MMORPGs allow gamers to explore a range of identities by playing character and develop their character; gamers can choose the gender, race, profession and morality of their character. The interesting part of online game is doing gender swapping; a man can be woman in the virtual world and vise versa. This is probably because of the strict role division in that game, for example: role A and B are only for man, and role C and D are only for woman, or because they simply want to make character opposite to their real gender. It is interesting for me to question why a gamer do gender swap in online game. It may be an interesting having experience of to be opposite gender or no gender at all and internet give an opportunity for it.

One study in online gamers found majority of them had switched gender while playing and women were more likely to switch than men. According to that study, there are several reasons women gender swap such as to avoid unsolicited male approaches on their female characters or because they felt male characters were treated better by other males during the course of the game. In contrast, another site  said that 85% MMORPG players are male and up to 5x of them are more likely to gender bend than female. There are several reason why men gender-bend, such as female avatars are treated better and more likely to received gifts and help from other players (who are mostly men). From this site there are several opinions why men play as female characters. This phenomenon means the gamer don’t know exactly what gender actually they are interacting with. Then I questioned does gender matter when you play online games? 

There are some issues here. Refer to Judith Butler that gender is a form of performativity, in the virtual world a person also performing the gender. In the cyber world as well as in MMORPG, a person can perform a character she/he wants. In the online game, gender is performed through an avatar. Reading those two sites, give as picture how a person will be treated differently according to her/his gender perform in the game. By doing gender swap, a gamer can take advantage for example a male gamer swap to female character in order to get prize due to the notion of helpless and attractive female attribute. 

Besides giving choice of what gender of character you want to develop, you also choose what kind of class you want to be. Mostly there is also strict gender division of class in the online game. For example role A and B for women while role C and D for men. Stereotypical thinking of women and men also portrayed in the online game. For example, if you are female, you are a healer. 

Another issue is related with the body. Most of online game portrayed women avatar as better looking by having more definition and a wider array of available accessories or decoration. It makes a female character simply more appealing to play than a male avatar. In the WoW, female characters are smokin’ hot, thin and have nice boobs. Then I questioned whether a male gamer do gender swap due to the sexy body portrayed by female character? Do people get satisfaction by playing sexy deadly female body? It’s irritating for me since it means objectified women’s body. Moreover how women portrayed is not like most women look like in the real world.

About ria

an ordinary in the extra ordinary world, a day dreamer and a chocolate loveer
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1 Response to Doing Gender in Online Games

  1. apalmgre says:

    Thank you. in relation to this I would like to give a link to a forum discussion that may be of interest:

    In the discussion they are talking about the MMORPG DragonSoul where classes are gender locked.

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