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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!

grimfall writes:

Well, I think for one, when you're talking about a High Fantasy or Sci-Fi MMORPG, only a small percentage of players are humans anyway.  If you move outside of the human race it's the developer's decision to decide if dwarf and orc woman are bigger or smaller than their male counteparts.

The original EQ had a lot of race inequality which wound up biting them in the ass because players realized that if they made an Ogre warrior he would be much more powerful than a gnome warrior.  There were certain times when it was advantageous to be small, but then they had the shrink spell and potion and warrior bracer to fix that.  WoW 'fixed' this, making race selection primarily a cosmetic thing so that people didn't have to re-roll gimped characters (they also took away choosing ability points to this end).

It could easily be done, but what benefit are you seeking to add?  Realism?  You've got elves swinging flaming axes already.  Realism is out the window as soon as you log on.

Wed Jul 02 2008 3:15AM Report
just1opinion writes:

Why is it, exactly, that in a FANTASY game, you think things need to be more like "real life?"  I don't understand the logic in that.  Secondly...you did a pretty good job of saying why you don't think women would do well as tanks, basically, so....do tell....what would men suck at?  Since you've boxed women into and out of certain classes.  Let's be fair....men couldn't be rogues.  They're too bulky.  O.o  Frankly, I think this wasn't a very enlightened article.  No offense.  Oh yeah...another thing....a lot of the sexist Asian countries already limit the classes men and women can play in THEIR MMOs.  So let's all take a step BACKWARD in time and follow in suit.  /rollseyes

Wed Jul 02 2008 3:23AM Report
Daedren writes:

@girlgeek: I specifically stated that females, with a smaller stature, would be better off in a sneaky / rogue type archetype. Did you even read past the first paragraph?

I never said anything about limiting. I just said to make them not equal, reflecting what we perceive as true in regards to physical stature and characteristics.

You are very defensive about the subject. May I ask why?

Wed Jul 02 2008 3:32AM Report
Daedren writes:

@grimfall: I agree on your first point.

I remember that in EQ. I really liked that Ogres were better warriors than gnomes and halflings. It was utterly ridiculous that someone 20 times smaller could take damage or put a beating down in the same way. LOTRO fails in this aspect for me: Hobbits being equal in almost all ways to a Dwarf as a tank. It's just stupid.

Realism... I know its a touchy subject when we're talking about games. That's what I was asking. For me, it would make the gameplay experience better. For some people I guess it wouldn't.

Wed Jul 02 2008 3:35AM Report
jindra81 writes:

geekgirl I think you have some issues!

I agree that in human-like races in games it'd be fine (or even better) to give them strengths and weaknesses based on reality. Why not? Us girls would be better at being sneaky , maybe harder to hit, maybe better at magic or spellcasting... let the guys be the big brutes mindlessly doing whatever.

The great thing about this idea is that you could use the same logic with other races... like if a fantasy race females were bigger (cant think of one... anyway, like spiders) and stronger and it was the males who were smaller and better at being sneaky.

 

Wed Jul 02 2008 3:38AM Report
triste writes:

the only thing keeping this from ever happening is americans political correctness and their willingness to sacrifice quality and realism in order to try and make everyone happy.

males and females being 100% equal in games is just a combination of fear of criticism and lazing programming.

Wed Jul 02 2008 3:41AM Report
Daedren writes:

@jindra81: Thanks... was starting to get afraid I'd be fending off the angry masses(?) of female gamers here!

 

Wed Jul 02 2008 3:45AM Report
Crose writes:

People want as many options as they can get when it comes to customizing their character.  They want to be able to choose their class and their gender and their hair style.  Customization is a major feature people look for in any RPG, particularly MMO's.

Honestly, I thought this post may have been a joke until I read the comments.  Maybe your next entry should be about the mysterious absence of bodily functions in MMO's.  Why does my character never have to pee?  I can only assume PR thought the feature too potentially controversial.

Wed Jul 02 2008 6:01AM Report
Sketch5 writes:

I personally don't think it would add much (if anything) to gameplay or mechanics.. I generally enjoy enhancing realism in games (yes, even fantasy games), however I think a video game should also be an escape. Maybe your "typical" feeble girl wants to start kicking ass, she should be able to do so, just like a "typical" brutish male might want to sneak around and slit throats.

 

Even when disregarding the fact that everyone would complain due to the issue of political correctness, I just don't think it adds to the gaming experience.

Wed Jul 02 2008 6:10AM Report
zymurgeist writes:

You'd just end up pigeonholing genders into specific classes. It's a genre where min-maxing is rampant  Let people build what they want without the artificial limitations and you'll see more variety instead of the same trite archetypes. 

Wed Jul 02 2008 6:37AM Report
Daedren writes:

Thanks for the feedback. I knew I'd get both positive and negative feedback which is one of the reasons I originally wanted to express the idea.

I don't really understand how added realism would detract from immersion or the overall gaming experience. Doesn't the fact that a petite goth-emo hottie can swing around a huge mace the same as a lumbering, massive hulk of an ogre-man limit the gameplay experience as well? In games where it's blatant super powers (like City of Heroes) or using some supernatural power (like the Jedi "force") I can understand that these feats would be possible within reason... but we're treading the line of physics and just plain sillyness when we see certain characters able to do certain things with no certain reason.

I don't want to construe the idea that these sort of things are game-breaking or some sort of "change it or I quit!" issue - no, no - what I'm talking about really is the evolution of our MMO genre and trying to give players the overall best experience for their time.

 

Wed Jul 02 2008 8:08AM Report
Daedren writes:

@zymurgeist: I think in a class based MMO this might be the case. What about a skill based MMO? Or perhaps where melee archetypes depending on multiple things other than raw strength? Imagine that male characters could do more raw damage but also were easier to hit due to their naturally bigger stature. With this logic, a female "tank" would excel at more of a "dodge / evade" role while a male "tank would excel at a "soak damage" role. This is just a rough example.

Of course min/maxing exists. Any player that choses their gender based on mechanics such as these isn't going to be easy to please in the first place I suppose. I would never - ever - ever - ever play a female character in an MMO. I just can't do it. I dont care if every female was god mode one hitting everything running around, I can't bring myself to do it. I'm sure many people are the same way. ;)

Wed Jul 02 2008 8:12AM Report
Bealzagre writes:

I do not see why it would be a huge issue. I mean, look at single-player roleplaying games, like TES: Oblivion. Males tend to be the stronger, even if only slightly, of the genders, but also the less intelligent, and sometimes, the less charming. The females tend to be far better casters, and even have better agility. It works fine in that sense, so I do not see why a fair balance could not be found in an MMO.

Wed Jul 02 2008 9:05AM Report
jindra81 writes:

I agree completely Bealzagre! Weren't the female Dark Elves naturally better at certain magic skills? Been a while since I played.

Now that I'm thinking about it this gender equality thing is actually pretty stupid in an RPG. What's next: Male Drow Priests in a Forgotten Realms setting?

At least Warhammer Online wasn't afraid to make certain classes based on gender according to lore.

Wed Jul 02 2008 9:13AM Report
theguru22 writes:

Ok, first of all: When people like the OP here and I talk about "realism" in video games, we're saying things like "I don't want to be able to survive a flury of axe swipes which are unlbocked with no armor on (conan), without dodging or partially dodging those blows." Or, "I want realistic physics and fall damage so that people can't jump 200 feet in the air just because they spent hours practicing." Saying things like "You're already an elf, which doesn't exist IRL," is really just thoughtless. That being true (that you're an elf) I still want to be the most realistic elf possible. I want to fall into a world that doesn't seem like a video game, where I can run around doing things that look rediculous.

Furthermore, to the OP: If you consider that when you create an archetype in Conan you've essentially had a whole life of training behind you, it makes sense that all characters should be equal no matter what sex, because you've already "done the work" to acheive your physique. Same goes for most MMOs.

Wed Jul 02 2008 9:39AM Report
MapsYYY writes:

If realism is the issue, then I would think gender differences should be the least of our worries; what with dragons, reanimated corpses, and all manner of "silly" fantasy creatures running around all over the place. As far as I'm concerned magic and other supernatural powers run way past the line of real-world physics and don't look back. That's pretty much half of the fun. If I'm an elf running through the magical forest killing goblins with my mega-awesome holy sword, then the biological predisposition for the male homo sapien to have bigger body mass just doesn't seem so important.

I'm not even sure that adding realism necessarily adds to immersion. I also think that gender inequality would actually detract from the gaming experience because it (as others have mentioned before) takes away from character customization. What happens to male gamers who want to play caster/stealth roles? Or the female gamer who wants to suit up in plate-mail and beat the bejesus out of someone with a giant axe?

If people want to play stereotypical male/female roles, that is their prerogative, however I don't think anyone should be forced to do so by game mechanics. For me it's more about open-ended character building. When we start assigning specific roles based on class/race/gender/height/hairstyle/skin colour/ etc. (we could go on forever) then all you are really doing is limiting character customization.

@triste: It makes good business sense to try and make as many people as possible happy.

Wed Jul 02 2008 9:56AM Report
bufford writes:

Your off your rocker, seriously. Your talking about bringing reality into a FANTASY.  Want to bring in gender based variales? How about having EVERYONE get there ass kicked when trying to take on several enemies at once. How about dying immediatley when a 20 foot giant monster stomps on you. Useless blog, ridiculous.

Wed Jul 02 2008 11:45AM Report
streea writes:

I don't understand why you ask for sexism because it's more real, and then make broad generalizations as though everyone woman is sleak and stealthy while every man is big and strong and not so smart.

Here's a reality check for you.

Watch American Gladiator and tell me that Helga as a tank wouldn't cause most boss monsters to turn tail and run.

Quite honestly, you're not asking for "reality" as it exists in the real world. You're asking to take generalizations and then proclaim that they're reality. If you honestly wanted a little more reality with the sexes, you would be asking for a game that gives you the option to make it so that HOW you customize your male or female determines their stats. Want to tank as a woman? Build Helga. Want to cast spells as a guy or be sneaky/stealthy? Make Rocket (sheesh I'm stuck on using Gladiators as examples).

What you're asking for isn't "reality." You're asking for sexism in games. Thank goodness the game creators nowadays know that people would rather just play the game then be stuck playing a character they don't want to play just so they can play the role/class they want to.

Wed Jul 02 2008 1:00PM Report
Psymyn writes:

Great blog... ive pondered alot of questions as to why some things work the way the do in most MMO's. This one was definetly taken into account. For anyone whos seriously offended by this, your sad and laughably pathetic, and have no sense of optimism. The thing here is that this is a simple rendition to be had, its politcally correct and gives a more of a character to any race a game may have! The best part is that i think that the outcome would actually result in a more evenly balanced male to female ratio(character) Via class vs. sex. Thus having a more versitle aspect of needed classes vs.  mostly popular classes. So all in all i really think it would add a small touch of realism, yet a large change in diverse MMO socialism. *Note* I also saw somone elses post saying it could be even backwards for seperate races, Freakishly dominate larger women, more skulky pruned males.... who knows, but there is no excuse for why this couldnt be made possible!!!

Wed Jul 02 2008 1:10PM Report
tmbrwlf18 writes:

I think it's a great idea to place a boundry on the prowess of any and all genders for all races.

But, make the physical prowess match the skills.. If a female wants to be a warrior they are going to have to build mass with the strength they need to weild that huge flaming axe.. Let them, just show it on their character model. If you want to be a brick wall, you should look like a brick wall.. Increasing strength would increase your muscle mass..

If you want to make a male rogue, he should show flexability.. Skinny, frail, yet fast.. Lanky is the best word I can use here..

Want to make a spell caster.. they should be not only limited to what they wear for females and males, but they should show the destinguishable markings of a true spell caster.. Long arms and a slender body as spell casting acording to most games requires a high dexderity to be able to make the required movements to complete the spell..

Making the character shape into the roll would be a better way.. Even if the starting stats to differ a bit (IE: Women get more starting dex and intelegence where Men get more Strength and Stamina) would make it more acceptable to see that little elf girl of 5 foot nothing, all be it  with a huge battle axe with massive bulging arms and a stout frame that would resemble something to the effect of a small refrigerator, a little more believable.

Just my thoughts...

-Tmbrwlf

Thu Jul 03 2008 1:09PM Report
rsreston writes:

Agreed. But you did forget to talk about male disadvantages, like weaker social skills. But yeah, it'd make a game more realistic.

Sat Jul 05 2008 6:31AM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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