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r1ft Gaming Blog

A mirror of my gaming blog at r1ft.com. The jaded game designer turned corporate lackey. Feedback is always welcome.

Author: Daedren

The Chauvinistic Virtual World

Posted by Daedren Wednesday July 2 2008 at 2:17AM
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It’s hard to try and delve into a subject as controversial as chauvinism or sexism without pissing a lot of people off almost immediately. I guess a good place to start is why I would pick a subject like this as a topic. Well, I suppose the idea came from an astounding and almost laughably unbelievable issue in Age of Conan that basically makes female characters roughly 25% more ineffective than their male counterparts. Woops! While I’ll side with the angry masses here and say that Funcom definitely dropped the ball on this one - though, since 95% of the female characters in MMO’s are dudes anyway, a tiny violin is playing somewhere because of the punishment you’ve received due to your fondness of staring at a virtual female ass whilst playing.

This leads me into my topic here, which is male vs. female equality in MMO’s. Time for a bold statement:

Males and Female characters should not be equal.

Ahh! you say. Die, heathen! Wait, wait! Let me at least defend my statement. By saying “not equal” - I mean that the physical and mental characteristics of a male or female character should differ as they do in the real world. Oh, the real world, you say? Please, do tell… how *are* guys and girls different?

Let’s start with this: Males are biologically predisposed to have a bigger body mass. In the homo-sapien species, it’s just a fact that males are bigger than females. Bigger body mass means more muscular development and general overall greater physical strength. This is a generalization, of course - you’ll find feeble weak men and horrifically strong women at both ends of their respective spectrum.

So, using that logic: Males in MMO’s should be better at physical tasks such as armed combat. Right? That doesn’t mean a female couldn’t excel at physical combat, they would just have to work a bit harder at it. Smaller stature just puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to clanging swords around and wearing stuff like platemail and other heavy armors.

Counterpoint: Many melee classes don’t rely on raw strength to excel, and females would perform just as well or better depending on the class mechanics. A good example would be a ninja. Crouching Tiger: Hidden Dragon. The three females in the movie (the main girl, Chow Yun Fat’s girl, and the bad woman - oh, I’m great with names) performed just as well in combat because it was more skill and dexterity rather than raw strength. Chow Yun Fat kicked all of their asses just because he was the most badass ninja in the world or whatever. Anyway, my point is that certain classes like a Barbarian or Warrior would be much more suited for a typical male whereas classes like Rogues and Ninjas would equal for females to perform in terms of physical combat.

What about the other side though? Males might be the bigger of the two in our species, but in what areas do females excel at that could be transferred to an MMO setting? And that leads me to yet another bold statement: A female’s smaller stature makes them better suited for sneaky or quiet-type characters. (and jello wrestling)

In a fantasy based MMO setting this could easily translate to female characters being superior at magic using and rogue-type classes. When using weapons such as crossbows and daggers, where raw strength is hardly a factor and dexterity is key, females would be able to perform just as well or better in this role. Their natural small stature would make them far superior at sneaking around. Being female could also give them more dialog choices or the option to use their physique or natural allure to persuade friends and foes alike.

Ok… so why has no MMO even thought about this?

I think the mere thought of anything like this has company PR and execs crapping their Depends. People seem to think that this treads into the realm of Sexism or Gender Equality in the real world, when in reality, it’s just reflecting the biological and perceived strengths and weaknesses of our species. It’s nothing to get all in a fuss about: if you can’t accept the fact that male homo sapiens are physically larger on average, there are probably some other issues that you need to look into along with some possible anger management. So why not use this bit of realism and make our MMO worlds better?

I suppose that begs the question that is most important: is complete gender equality (like found in current MMO’s) helping or hampering the gameplay experience?

I know it’s a bit of a silly question. Does it take a suspension of belief to see a petite slender elf girl with a humongous fiery battleaxe that probably weighs twice what she does? Is it ok that around every corner we find some sort of Xena: Warrior Princess that has some exceptional amount of natural strength? Or are these just the ramblings of a madman who needed a few more hugs from his mother and wouldn’t have turned into a sexist chauvinistic pig ranting about game mechanics on the blogoweb?

In my opinion - and this is only my opinion - a more realistic gender balance system would enhance gameplay. I think that female gamers are more disposed towards non-melee classes anyway (in my experience) and would actually benefit from being superior in these other roles more than males would being superior at plain old smashing weapons together.

I’m curious to what some of my readers think. Let’s hear it!