Poll Question 034 – Is the gender of the playing character important?

9th June 2007

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half Life 1, 2 and 3
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The first SP FPS game I played from start to finish was Unreal and the default playing character as prisoner 849 is female. This never bothered me and I didn’t change it to a male, but as Single Player games get more and more storyline-complex and the cut-scenes become more and more realistic will there come a time when it does make a difference? This week’s (late!- Sorry) poll question is:

Is the gender of the playing character important?

I think it was Elite Force that allowed you to switch the gender of the characters without too much trouble. I can’t remember specifically but the names used were similar, something like Alex and Alexis.

Another point to consider is does this affect the female gamers more? DO they feel that every game should have the choice of male or female playable character. If so, did it stop them buying Half-Life 1 and 2?

Why has there not been a mod, perhaps even made only by females, that allows you to play as Alyx?

This is a great poll question that I and hopefully you, have plenty to say on the subject, so get voting then get commenting!

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43 Comments

  1. I think the character you play should be decided first and foremost by the games developers. Ultimately they are trying to tell a story, no matter how vague and weak it may be, and they’ve obviously created the player they have for particular reasons. Just like in a book or a film you can’t decide which sex the main actor will be I feel a game should be no different.

    Multiplayer games on the other hand are a whole different story.

  2. Jimbo

    I’m not sure if we’re specifically talking FPS’s here, but Fallout 1 + 2 greatly effected the overall feel of the games depending on the gender. Seriously, the programmers must have gone nuts trying to get that much interaction based on that aspect in the game. Very impressive.

    However,a few years ago I played that sequel to Jedi Outcast where you got to create your own character, and didn’t really see much of a difference in gameplay male or female.

    So I guess what I’m saying is it ultimately depends on how much effort the programmers want to place in each small aspect in the game to have that reflect off the character.

    So…
    “Is the gender of the playing character important?”

    Maybe. Depends on if the programmers are into it.

  3. dufferx

    As long as I only see gloves and the main character has lost his tongue, it doesn’t matter to me.

  4. There are some games out there that have choices for gender and some that do not. One that can change the outcome because of the gender of the character includes Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and it’s sequel. In these games, however, the gender didn’t really matter that much. But, I would like to say that the gender of a character in games such as Half-Life 2 where story is so important can be crucial. I don’t think that Alyx would have been seen as a pseudo-love-interest if we had played as a woman. Unless of course it was homoerotic, but that’s another question entirely. Also, I think that the gender of characters can affect the community’s feeling towards them. I think that some characters wouldn’t really be who they are if they weren’t defined as a certain gender.

  5. Ryan "Quakis" Rouse

    Although this might be heading off the topic at hand but fits into female characters as a whole in games/movies. I find it annoying how the female character is pervertised which I find looks down on that sex. (the clothing, voice, acting) It’s good when such thing isn’t pulled upon in games like HL2.

    Sticking to the question, I don’t mind at all what gender I play as. As long as their sex isn’t shoved in my face as I mentioned.

  6. Anonymous

    Phillip, why edit Ryan’s comment? He was using “sex,” not as in the modern abbreviation of “sexual intercourse,” but in its original sense of “either of the two major forms of individuals… distinguished respectively as female or male.” Even Jane Austen used that meaning.

  7. Anonymous

    Oh, I see… it’s automated?

  8. For FPS games, I don’t really give note to the gender. It doesn’t really matter to me since I play as myself more. Although, I do make a mean Jacqueline Carver in FarCry. It would be nice to have a choice though.

    Would playing a female version of Gordon Freeman make the game any less? I personally don’t think that it would (please no throwing tomatoes). Gender-bender isn’t something that bothers me so I can go either way.

    The thing that bothers me more than not having a choice is the way females are represented physically in games. There’s a set standard that less is more which isn’t always nice from a female’s view. Sure, women are beautiful creatures with beautiful bodies, but is it really necessary to make them look like the latest 17 yr old porn star?

    While the developers did a good job with Alyx Vance, the only problem with me playing a game based purely on her is that she talks too much and I think ruined a few times in the game for me.

    It’s probably more common for a woman to want to step in men’s shoes rather than a man to want to step in women’s shoes as far as gaming goes.

  9. Ryan "Quakis" Rouse

    but is it really necessary to make them look like the latest 17 yr old porn star?

    My point exactly, quite degrading sometimes and even I can’t stand it.

    Oh, I see… it’s automated?

    Yes it is, heh.

  10. cubedude89

    TOMB RAIDER Anniversary! I just bought it yesterday! woo

    As for gender, If the main character in tomb raider wasn’t female it just wouldn’t feel the same. Not because I like looking at her either 😛

    And if HL/HL2’s main character wasnt a male it wouldn’t be the same either.

    Im not sure if the gender roles were switched in these games, if it would make me NOT play it. its a big possibility though.
    So my vote is “it depends on the story”

    maybe ill make a game with Gordon freeman raiding tombs wearing a hot tight bio suit. 😀

  11. Would playing a female version of Gordon Freeman make the game any less?

    I don’t think it would have made Half-Life 2 or Half-Life for that matter any less, but certainly different.

    Sure, women are beautiful creatures with beautiful bodies, but is it really necessary to make them look like the latest 17 yr old porn star?

    17-year-old… porn star? I don’t know about you, but where I live that would be illegal.

  12. Let’s keep on topic here. the poll question is about immersion. Does playing as a character not the same gender as you make a difference? Not the portrayal of female characters in gaming. Whilst that is a very interesting subject it’s not the focus of this poll.

    What about this….Why not make a game or mod where the player knows NOTHING about their character’s gender, name or even history.

    There could be very, very discreet clues through the game and part of the end is guessing the gender.

  13. It only makes a difference to me if the gender being portrayed is portrayed poorly.

  14. Anonymous

    The gender is only important if it doesn’t fit the story line. Take Perfect Dark or Perfect Dark Zero, for example. It just wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t play as Joanna.

  15. Jimbo

    “Why not make a game or mod where the player knows NOTHING about their character’s gender, name or even history.”

    I think the only manageable way to do that would have the character be an android or something. I mean if the subject were human, it would just be corny. There’s so many aspects that can easily distinguish the sex of the person– if it were an fps, the hands that hold guns/objects would need to be modeled either male or female, you know? It would be easy to tell.

  16. Well you could always model so that the player character were wearing gloves/suit (like Halo or Half-Life). This would not make the gender apparent at first glance.

  17. Mel

    I guess if you don’t know the gender it does not matter. I have never played Tomb Raider, so do I have a deep rooted ptoblem?

  18. And if HL/HL2’s main character wasnt a male it wouldn’t be the same either.

    What would really make it different? Is it just the fact that you’ve already played it knowing Gordon is a male character?

    Gordon is a great example by the way, because he has no lines, never says anything & the only way that you know he’s male is because of his name, cover art, & cut scenes (which again, he never says anything). I would think that females would be more interested in playing a game like Half-Life since he doesn’t speak. It’s easily more immersible when a character doesn’t have dialogue, provided it’s a great story.

    What if (before the game was released) there was no specific character orientated cover art for Half Life or screenies & the character went by some sort of codename that was’t gender specific? Only when you actually played the game was it revealed what gender you’re playing? Would that make it any less of a stellar game with a gripping storyline?

    Anyway, I’m rambling as my fever is raging.

  19. Gordon is a great example by the way, because he has no lines, never says anything & the only way that you know he’s male is because of his name, cover art, & cut scenes (which again, he never says anything).

    As far as I know, Half-Life nor Half-Life 2 had any real cutscenes, the entire game was played through the eyes of the player character (Gordon in this instance).

    What if (before the game was released) there was no specific character orientated cover art for Half Life or screenies & the character went by some sort of codename that was’t gender specific? Only when you actually played the game was it revealed what gender you’re playing? Would that make it any less of a stellar game with a gripping storyline?

    Actually, yes I think it could. Some time in the game as well as in the player’s brain would be devoted to the revealing of the player character’s true identity. Then again, people might assume one gender or the other. A good example of this is the original Metroid. I’m sure many people were surprised that Samus ended up being female, even though no indication of her gender was given before this. I have to confess that this may not be quite accurate as I have not actually played Metroid. I do, however, think that if the the gender of the player character had been ambiguous in Half-Life that it would have been a different game. This is especially because of the constant referrals to you as “Gordon” by the scientists. I do, however, think that if instead of Gordon, we had a female player character, the game would have been just as good and just as immersive.

  20. cubedude89

    hmmm… let me think, Would it have made a difference to me if gordon was gordean… lol … Mrs. Gordeen Freewoman.

    I thought long and hard. I actually think it would have made no difference in the HL universe.

    This question is hurting my head. im thinking to much…

    I wanna play as alex!

  21. Mel

    Thats ok, just as long as you dont want to play with alex, then we will all start worrying about you.

    On a more serious note, I know we have our Goddess but is there many ladies out there playing FPS?

  22. I know from reading posts & forum threads that there ARE other females players, but I don’t exactly know why they never want to be heard or voice their opinions on anything discussed on the site. 🙁

  23. McLure

    Oh, the gender does not matter at all. If you play a FPS game, even thou being HL2, what’s the matter if it was Alyx in the main character and not Gordon? For me it does not matter really, but in some cases I do agree that it may be necessary a gender or another.

  24. Mel

    Does the female voice welcoming Freeman in the introduction to HL1 count?

  25. Mel

    I am too old to change gender now, so I can not see me playing games with a female leading role, but saying that if they released a new HL, say HL3 with Alex leading the cast, then put me down for a copy.

    We could call it Half-Life 3: Saving Freeman,
    that way Alex would be seen a hero to all HL players, and knowing they would be saving Gorden via Alex every one would play it.

  26. I just found an article (although I don’t know when it was written) that says:

    “Boys ages 8 to 14 are the core audience for video games. According to video game manufacturers, boys are five times more likely to own a Genesis or Super Nintendo video game system than are girls.

    A survey of the packaging of the 47 top-rated video games found that 115 of the characters depicted on the covers were male and only 9 were female. Almost one third of the games contained scenarios in which women were kidnapped or had to be rescued. Whether the unbalanced depiction of men and women in the games is the cause of the predominance of male video game players, or the result, is a question unanswered in existing research.”

    Gender Issues
    “Differences in motivations for playing video games between genders, preferences for different types of games, acquisition of game-playing skills, etc.
    – Over representation of masculine culture exists in the adolescent world of microcomputers, particularly regarding video games.
    – In a study of attitudes toward technology, females were less convinced of its value than were males.
    – Video game performance expectancies may be more related to skill than gender. Data do not support the idea that females express less self-confidence than males for future performance after losing to a superior opponent on a video task.
    – Girls indicate a preference for playing on computers over video game systems.
    – Male video game playing at two mall arcades far exceeded female playing, about 80% to 20%.
    – Both boys and girls perceived the computer to be more appropriate for boys than for girls.”

    I really wish I could get a date on this article. Some of it you may agree with it, some you may not but here’s the full article.

    And I just may pick up a copy of this book: Gender Inclusive Game Design.

    OH! Also, I’m glad that Valve decided to make the lead character in Portal a female! 🙂

  27. cubedude89

    WHAT!?! Portals main character is a female?

  28. cubedude89

    Yep I looked it up. 🙂
    And she might be introduced in episode 2.

    I want to play portal so bad!

  29. Mel

    You should get out more cubedude89.

  30. haha, yeah I agree lol.

  31. I remmber playing a 2day view arc fps in a pub when I was at university (1988) the game was called Gauntled and was really top back then you could choose to play as a valcyrie…
    Since then I have play also unreal (still not finsih or NOLF as cate archer (when you have “cutscene it’s way more interesting to look at a girl than a boy… but for me it won’t change my way of thinking or my apporach of the storyline I don’t feel like to be gordon duke or cate,..i m” just stef

  32. Mel

    But to be serious, I have found it useful, just today I was browsing site comments on Leon’s C to A and was looking for comments I posted that Leon responded to, this was in connection to content for a possible site review of the said mod. There being over 400 comments listed, this border feature helped me locate the references I was looking for. Not sure if there is a better way of scanning but no doubt some one we tell me.

  33. cubedude89

    I finally got some time now today ill check out them reviews and give feedback.

    As for searching, I use “ctrl+F” then search for my name or what ever im looking for on the page.

  34. Mel

    I know you would come up with a smart way, thanks and sorry to all for getting off the point of the post, which was what?

  35. You have to earn them like writing reviews or doing admin, Come to think about it Cubedube89 being a PP team member it’s about time we had some reviews from you

    I don’t want to see any more comments about “Lines around Comments”.

    Firstly, they were designed for me and Syndicated Reviews. Then it seemed a good idea to extend them to official Pp TEam Reviews. I can easily add all Team members but haven’t decided if I want to.

    Lastly, CubeDue89 isn’t an official Team member (his choice, not mine) so currently doesn’t warrant a line.

    Super lastly, not all Team members are expect to review games, amps and mods, only the members of the Review Team.

  36. cubedude89

    ok. 🙂

  37. cubedude89

    My Dad has recently got a game that is just like tomb raider but the main character is male. And I was playing it and lost interest so fast.

    Wierd because Im also playing the new Tomb Raider with the main character as Female and its one of my favorite games.

    I think the gender is making a bit of difference. I also think overall game design has a bit to do with it also.

    My first vote was for it depends on the story but after playing these games with very close stories im not sure what my vote is….
    very thought provoking question here….

    I guess the gender of the main character can enhance a game but not hinder it.

  38. sorry to all for getting off the point of the post, which was what?

    Nice to know you took it seriously.

  39. Mel

    Yes, I agree that I did find the subject matter hard to take seriously, and maybe should not have entered the debate.

    I feel the gender aspect is not an issue determing what games people play, We are far more influence by advertising, promotions, hear say and our own gaming experience, there
    are many action games with no human role.

    I know this topic is a close one to some, but it was bound to bring up some light hearted comments and I dont think the over all post is any the worst for that.

    We will all by playing Half-Life 3 if Alyx is the main character, and as I said in one of my earlier comments, it will add to the expectations if she is out to save Freeman.

    But after saying all that, sorry if I was flippant.

  40. I actually prefer playing as female characters. Mario Kart and many fighting games I pretty much use female characters almost exclusively (except for smash bros, that’s either kirby or marth)

    For FPS it doesn’t make much difference, just as long as the characters aren’t the damn muscleheads or typical feminist Xena wannabe. Portal I enjoyed, Metroid I enjoyed, but I also enjoyed Half Life.

    the only time it matters to me is if it’s an fps and there’s an in game relationship, I prefer for that relationship to be female.

  41. Oh yes.. It would be cool to have a few things to choose from, chimp, alien..even a kid..Who say lost his family in the war.. This is a reality in some countries..

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