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Community Forum Spotlight: The Gender Question

In the past here at MMORPG.com, we have run editorials on how our writers feel about real life gender in gaming and whether or not it is a factor. Today, Community Manager Laura Genender looks at what our community thinks about the subject.

The Gender Question
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Scene: It's your favorite MMO, late at night in the capital city. Few players are around, and you've just gotten back from a very prosperous hunt - not only did you finally reach max level, but you got a rare item drop along the way. Oh sure, it's only priest usable and no good to your necromancer, but a rare drop's a rare drop.

Up comes a female Elven healer. She's moderately geared, 3 levels below you, and immediately starts waving and dance emoting at you. She sends you a tell, "Hi! ^_^!" and gets you talking about your latest adventures. She seems impressed, and when you show her that rare drop she responds, "Oooooh! O.O that's GORGEOUS! XD"

Of course, we all know exactly what we do next. We wish her well, continue the conversation maybe, but ignore her hints about how wonderfully that item would improve her healing. You just met her, after all. Right?

Maybe.

As a female gamer, who plays female avatars, I can say from experience: even without cutesy smiles or feigned devotion, gals get their share of freebie gear, advice, leveling help, etc. I, personally, have received multiple unprovoked offers of free gifts in my gaming career - expensive swords in Lineage II, bridles in EverQuest, armor in Vanguard, and so much more. I, personally, have seen fellow women (or very convincing men) pull down fortunes or weedle their way into top raid guilds. Would you, male readers, shower your female counterparts with such gifts? Would you, female readers, take them?

This week on the forums, user Pappy13 started a thread and a poll entitled, "Does Gender Matter to You?" 22.3% of readers admitted to using gender as a judge in video games - 67% said they didn't care, and 10.2% opted for "depends on the situation." While the majority claims, at the least, to be gender ambiguous, 22.3% of our gamer population is not a number to scoff at.

Sramota is the first brave user to fess up on the thread that he cares, to an extent, about the gender of his companions. "I do prefer playing with women...they don't go 'uh uh I'm soo cool in my giant whatever' nor do they hit on everything with a pulse." Sramota quickly explains, though, that this is his only reason for enjoying female company - "as for hitting on women...never in a game." Xxthecorexx soon agrees with him, stating "there's much less epeen envy and IMHO they're more stable, rational players."

A later poster, dcb7774, gives us the view from the man-in-woman's-clothing. "There's nothing funnier than the dead silence after some guy's been hitting on my female character for a half hour and I destroy his adolescent fantasy."

User Elgareth states that, while he gives any extra gear to the first newbie he meets regardless of gender, he's more likely to help a female character than a male character when it comes to questing or grouping. "I guess it's just because I'm an old school gentleman, if a woman kindly asks me for help, I just can't say no."

My partner remarks on a weekly basis when watching me game that he is tempted to reroll a woman. In fact, his trader mule IS a female, and we joke around about the price cuts she gets over his main. For me, I can usually talk prices down a good 3 to 5% lower than my male friends - while I don't really take handouts, it's all fair game when you start to haggle.

So what does this do to the gender reputation of men and women in MMOs? Women in particular get hit pretty hard by this one - even if guys are chasing gals down to give them gifts, the ladies are blamed for being thieves, swindlers, and beggars. And so many men play female characters to receive these free gifts that our fellow gamers automatically assume us to be "fake girls."

What is mostly amusing to me is that, in the thread posted by Pappy13, very few guys OR gals admit to the darker sides of gender profiles. Most posters claim to be unaffected by a character's gender; the ones who do admit affect mostly cite positive symptoms. Where are all the men who tried to give me armor?! Where's the fellow who offered me dual Samurai Long Swords in Lineage II?! Phos sums it all up perfectly: "Gender matters. It always has and always will. People might genuinely think they're not influenced by gender, but most people are."

Read the whole thread here.