Traveling the Multiverse

Aka Ironyca Stood in the Fire – gaming blog

In Game Advantages – Gender-bending pt. 8

The Gender-bending series is based on the result of my own little survey, attempting to map all the motivations of WoW-players playing a character of the opposite gender. Each part deals with a certain aspect of gender-bending in games.

Part 1: Advertizing the Survey
Part 2: Throwing myself to the lions….I mean trolls!
Part 3: The Spectacle of Play and Characters
Part 4: Avoiding Clones
Part 5: To Wear or to Not Wear Robes
part 6: Bring the Player, not the Gender
Part 7: Uniqueness and the Trademark of the Female Dwarf
Part 8: In Game Advantage
Part 9: For the Love of Names

Part 10: Summing it Up

Now On to the Category of the In Game Advantages

Depending on the game, advantages can mean various things. In WoW when gender-bending is mentioned, I’m sure a lot of player’s first thought is that of a guy playing girl characters for the sake of harvesting gifts and favours. In other games, it’s a simple matter of mechanics.

The motivation of advantages was the largest and most popular amongst male players of primarily first person shooter games, in Kathryn Wright’s study (2000). She found 60% of her respondents mentioning factors such as smaller and faster female characters and unique spells and abilities (Kathryn Wright consulted for and if only they hadn’t shut down, I could’ve linked directly to her results).

However, in WoW the male gender of any race and class combination has the exact same mechanics as the female character, making this option elusive for WoW players to aspire to, although the psychological factors may still prevail.

I also want you to notice that we’re down into the lower percentages with this category, which also means this was mentioned very little in the comments. Most of the material here is based on Kathryn Wright’s study (except of course for the quotes, which are from my survey).

The figure above shows little evidence that players were heavily motivated to gender-bend due to their beliefs of gain in WoW. Comparing my findings with Kathryn Wright’s lends support to the conclusion that mechanics and the abilities of the characters are a primary motivator when available, whereas aesthetic motivations steps in as secondary when this possibility is unavailable as is the case with WoW.

Benefitting from Acts of Generosity

Despite the supporters of wanting to influence players for gifts are few, here’s a WoW-player mentioning the aesthetics first, and then secondarily the benefits:

Basically just because the female models and animations are better made and looks more natural then the male ones. And because pretending to be a girl to geeks and flirt with them easily gives you things :)

As the figure shows, this is something only a few male players chose as an option (4%). No female gender-benders agreed to this option, which means they didn’t create a male character with this in mind. It looks like this gifts-giving behaviour (from male players only I assume) is exclusively connected to female characters. Of course this easily makes female players appear manipulative, but Esther MacCallum-Stewart, the author of “Real Boys Carry Girly Epics: Normalising Gender Bending in Online Games” puts emphasis on the fact that this perception is something female players usually argue against, in an attempt to make the dogma and behavior cease.

For a while on my server Argent Dawn, one female human character (I forgot the name) would regularly advertize in trade about her brothel, of course offering erotic roleplay (ERP) for gold. Time goes on and suddenly a post by this character appears on the forum, where “she” reveals she’s actually a guy playing a female character and that he was now rich thanks to all of those, who were fooled to pay for ERP, from what they thought was a girl. I’m not sure how much his customers cared, but despite his attempts to ridicule them, he still did the work to earn the gold. Perhaps he’s not the real winner in the end…

The brothel example is not perfect, because that was after all a transaction, run like a business, and not acts of generosity. But what I found compelling about it, was the conclusion of the brothel owner, that he had indeed tricked these players using the female gender, they had been exploited.

Before I make it sound like giving gifts and favours in WoW is stupid, I’d like to point out that it is afterall just a gesture of gratitude, friendship or courtship. It’s probably parallel to buying the lady a cocktail, although of course, it can easily be a happy dude at the other end drinking it.

Added Insult and Moments of Hesitation

There’s also the mentions of a psychological edge. Based on the accounts of the players Wright spoke to, the male players in her study believed other male players would play less hard or give them the advantage of a moment of hesitation when they were put up against a female character.

The female night elves in the picture below are not just identical, but to me they look like properly twinked level 19 rogues. I wonder if those players were of that conviction.

In Wright’s study, some male players enjoyed what they considered added insult when defeating other male players, whom they thought would be more upset over having been beaten by a woman. One of the things I find interesting here, is the assumption that the opponent is always male. I’m also reckoning it has something to do with the feminine as physically weaker, thus proving the male opponent to be below the standard of masculine strength.

My study found more females supporting the claim of advantage to their game play (as f. ex. PvP), than male players, although in very small amounts (males 4%, females 10%). Perhaps some female gender-benders like the connotation of strength and added body mass of the male charatcers, although very few players bring the advantages up in their comments. In fact only one male player actually did, although this sounds like it could also be for the purely comical value:

And the idea that a “weaker” gender can hold its own, if not better than the other. (i.e. There’s something funny about a female gnome beating up a tauren male!) :)”

And vice versa, perhaps there’s also something funny about playing a tauren as a female and beating up all the smaller Alliance races?

Okay, we’re almost at the end of the series, but before we get there, one more thing came up in the comments of my survey that I didn’t anticipate. I felt it was worthy of a post in itself, so mystery part 9 is up next.

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