A commenter named "Andy" has the following questions in response to a post on Amber Night about gender equity in game avatars:
1. Are boys and girls different in real life?
2. If they are, and in important ways, should those differences be reflected in game characters such that those differences are meaningful to the play experience?
I'd like to take a stab at answering these below the cut.
1. Well, yes, Andy. I have an innie and you have an outie. I have breasts and you have useless nipples. I am more likely, on average, to have less upper body strength and more lower body. I am statistically more likely to stand about 3-4 inches shorter. And once a month, my body purges unnecessary lining tissue in a mostly painless fashion. Last I checked, that was the extent to most of the male-female differences that we can definately attribute to our sex and not to our learned gender.
2. So what if we do have some differences? Should those be reflected in game play? Go ahead, show me the game where solving any particular puzzle involves giving birth to another human being, and maybe I'll agree with you. Until then, let's assume that any woman is capable of going to the gym and building her strength and endurance to the point where she can beat the average man into the ground like a tent stake, and stop giving the token female character in the RPG kitchen implements as beginning weapons.
you are never forced to play *your* gender, eh? See “role” in “roleplaying.” I would love an RPG where the gender differences were subtly, important and played to the story. Where, yes, you could be a female warrior… but maybe not use edged weapons for some weird reason without paying a cultural disad; like many monks in fantasy tales who have to use clubs, etc.
While Andy's first comment made me giggle, wondering how they could fit the proven biological differences between men and women into a game, his second made me want to beat my head into my desk.
You are never forced to play *your* gender.
I just read something recently (and I'll update this when I re-locate the link) about cross-gender roleplaying in games. The gist of the article came down to - given the power differences assigned to "male" and "female" in our world, it's not as comfortable for many women to play male characters - there's a slight discomfort involved in assuming a role that defaults to more power, as well as an awareness that learned experiences cause men and women to react to situations differently.
So no, you're never FORCED to play your own gender. But it's just plain uncomfortable not to. Reminds me a lot of the post I commented on here last fall. Choosing between discomfort and exclusion isn't a real choice. I reject that dichotomy.