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Old 07-28-2004, 12:54 PM   #1
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In an effort to rekindle active discussion in this forum, I'm going to make it a point to start up some regular Talking Points.

First up, I'd like for our participants to discuss gender issues in roleplaying.

Specifically, I'd like to hear your thoughts on the plusses and pitfalls of cross-gender RP (you're one gender IRL but playing another gender in-game), and your thoughts on the plusses and pitfalls of being female IRL playing a female in-game (particularly in a gaming genre that's generally perceived to be male-dominated).
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Old 07-28-2004, 02:45 PM   #2
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Well there's a little joke among players where I play - that you can always tell that a male is playing a female because her description always includes her breasts (which are usually large and firm), and because she is a typical "f-me PC." Men, it seems, have a tough time playing just any old ordinary female, and instead focus on "femininity" when they roleplay them, as if that is always their primary personality trait.

This isn't to say that "f-me PCs" aren't useful or valued - they certainly have their place in the RP world, especially when played realistically and consistent to the game world. It's just kinda funny (in an amusing way, not a bad way) to learn that F-me PC #676 is yet one more male's interpretation of a female.

I think the same is true for the opposite - that many women who try to play males ultimately go for the crotch-scratching roleplay. We might pick up on one aspect of the "male stereotype" and exploit it with our character's personality. Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's just an interesting discovery when you realize that Crotch-scratcher #496 is yet another female's interpetation of a male.

I have also noticed that "believable and multi-dimensional" female PCs, being played more often by women, get more positive attention than the F-me PCs, played more often by men. Note I say more often and not exclusively, please.

What does all this mean? I dunno. It's just a funky little observation.
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Old 07-28-2004, 02:53 PM   #3
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This is a pretty comprehensive question.

I'm a female RL, and I play both males and females, so that's where I'm coming from.

I also play (and staff) on Chia and OS, so I'm in a very heavy-RP environment which is about 50% female by character numbers. I can also see which people have alts of both genders.

I've been RPing for about seven years now, three and a half of which were spent in heavy RPing environments with lots of social interaction. Previous to my heavy RP experience, I played a mix of males and females on MUCKs and such. There wasn't deep interaction between the characters on those places, and so it was very easy for me to play the males. As to whether I did a good job, I tend to think I avoided the major pitfalls.

I then took a break from male characters for about a year and a half on OS, and resumed playing them again on Chia. Currently one of my favourite characters on Chia is a male.

I find that it takes a lot more chutzpah to play a male. My boys are more flamboyant, they talk more to strangers, they do what they want more often than the girls. The take the initiative in things more. They are less subtle. This is true even outside the context of Chia's gender-segregated medieval world.

I don't set out to play these differences deliberately, they just boil out of the character. This is probably a sign of my gender socialisation iRL, and I can see how some of my actions RL support the beliefs that guys are expected to take initiative, etc.

The pitfalls of crossgendering from female to male that I've seen are two in particular: cheesiness and attention-centered characters.

As a female in a roleplaying environment, for many years I expected attention for my female characters simply because they were female, and I often got that. When a roleplayer of that type comes to OS or Chia (as I did) they make a female character in a relatively balanced world gender-wise, and less attention is forthcoming simply because you're female. If you rely on male initiative to approach you, you get less RP than you're used to and you miss out on RPing with half the MUSH.

Many people who've gone through this then make a male character, because with all these girls around then guys will probably get attention, right?

It doesn't work that way, though. So often someone with three or four female characters pops out with a male who, after a week or two, just languishes away until an idlepurge comes. I'm not sure exactly why it should work this way, I think it's because the character isn't much thought out beyond being attractive to women... there are no hooks for the player to get in character and enjoy the experience.

These characters are also pretty cheesy sometimes. Because they are designed to attract women, they often wander around murmuring things like, "you are so beautiful, milady," and "let me kiss your hand." It's kind of humorous to watch, and it really doesn't work. People tend to seek out well-developed characters to have relationships with, and cheesiness and overdone romanticism does not a developed char make.

I'm by no means saying all females who play males are like this. It's a stage I grew out of, I've seen other people in it, but it definitely happens.

As for playing females on Chia? Like I said, you need a character. You can't count on femaleness. And I notice that females *do* get approached more often than males, and that it does even seem to be split along player-gender lines, so guys playing guys approach girls playing girls.

I wonder if this is where the 'guys play slutty females' idea comes from? Because they tend to approach people more?

The women chars on Chia for the most part aren't standoffish to other women, and the men approach you for RP. Those are both good things. I think the pitfalls of playing inly women on Chia are that you sort of lose initiative after awhile, you tend to expect other people to initiate close friendships. Now, that subtle dynamic might add to the RP atmosphere, but it sucks in practice.

Hm. And that's about what I think about that. I do think everyone should try crossgendering, even if the attempt only lasts a week. It's an interesting experience.
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Old 07-28-2004, 02:55 PM   #4
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(And females tend to have more alts, this I think we have fewer female players but an about-even number of female chars. This may be due to make-a-girl-to-catch-the-guy syndrome, where someone likes another character and wants to RP with them, but can't think of a way to get romantically involved on their current char. So they make another char that's compatible).
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Old 07-28-2004, 03:03 PM   #5
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The opposite gender is potentially the most difficult concept to roleplay effectively simply because our experiences tend not to align themselves with any true depth of understanding. Males playing females will generally do either one of two things. First, they will simply play their character as though they were a male regardless. They make little to no effort to make their gender RP a prominent part of their character simply because it doesn't usually matter to them. They play as a female for benefits other than the RP, such as gaining access to gender-restricted guilds or, and this is the exception to their lack of RP, to gain more attention from the numerous testosterone-charged males willing and eager to play knight in shining armor.

Second, they will pick an extremely specific model of a female and emulate it to a T. Generally, this model is based more on their own fantasies than on any real world comparison. The character, as previously noted, usually has extensively described physical traits that border on the impossibly beautiful, and the character is usually portrayed as vulnerable and open to suggestion. This again mirrors the male player's fantasy of the perfect female, who takes little to no effort to seduce and is willing and ready to perform whatever function is desired. The character is generally not played out to such an extent where intense sexual experiences become part and parcel to the character's existence, excepting for those individuals previously noted who desire further benefits from their character's gender role than simply the rewarding RP.

That being said, it has been my experience that those males who succesfully play deep female characters end up having extremely good times and often gain a lot of respect in their communities. Whether this is  a reflection of some deeper attempt to unify the yin and yang of masculinity and femininity or if it is simply more noted because of the general rarity, I am hard pressed to say.

The more seldomly occuring case of females playing males usually follows much of the same logic. They extrapolate a character from a small set of generic personality traits that they have had experience with in the males they have known. Females are often able to roleplay a male easier than males are able to roleplay a female, and this is as easily attributed to the fact that there are more male hero archetypes available than female heroine archetypes in common myth and media as it is to the fact that, for fear of incriminating my own gender, females tend on the whole to recognize and emulate behavior more readily.


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Old 07-28-2004, 03:05 PM   #6
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The opposite gender is potentially the most difficult concept to roleplay effectively simply because our experiences tend not to align themselves with any true depth of understanding. Males playing females will generally do either one of two things. First, they will simply play their character as though they were a male regardless. They make little to no effort to make their gender RP a prominent part of their character simply because it doesn't usually matter to them. They play as a female for benefits other than the RP, such as gaining access to gender-restricted guilds or, and this is the exception to their lack of RP, to gain more attention from the numerous testosterone-charged males willing and eager to play knight in shining armor.

Second, they will pick an extremely specific model of a female and emulate it to a T. Generally, this model is based more on their own fantasies than on any real world comparison. The character, as previously noted, usually has extensively described physical traits that border on the impossibly beautiful, and the character is usually portrayed as vulnerable and open to suggestion. This again mirrors the male player's fantasy of the perfect female, who takes little to no effort to seduce and is willing and ready to perform whatever function is desired. The character is generally not played out to such an extent where intense sexual experiences become part and parcel to the character's existence, excepting for those individuals previously noted who desire further benefits from their character's gender role than simply the rewarding RP.

That being said, it has been my experience that those males who succesfully play deep female characters end up having extremely good times and often gain a lot of respect in their communities. Whether this is  a reflection of some deeper attempt to unify the yin and yang of masculinity and femininity or if it is simply more noted because of the general rarity, I am hard pressed to say.

The more seldomly occuring case of females playing males usually follows much of the same logic. They extrapolate a character from a small set of generic personality traits that they have had experience with in the males they have known. Females are often able to roleplay a male easier than males are able to roleplay a female, and this is as easily attributed to the fact that there are more male hero archetypes available than female heroine archetypes in common myth and media as it is to the fact that, for fear of incriminating my own gender, females tend on the whole to recognize and emulate behavior more readily.

Edit: Not necessarily more seldomly occuring, I suppose, just more seldom in so far as the cases I am aware of are concerned.


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Old 07-28-2004, 04:11 PM   #7
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That's a very interesting point about the breadth of male archetypes vs. female archetypes. I think you have something there.
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Old 07-28-2004, 04:25 PM   #8
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Having never played a female character before, my knowledge about the subject is pretty limited.  This is one of the reasons that I have avoided playing female characters, apart from small children as NPC's, up to this point.  I feel like I lack the knowledge to do a good job, or it.  While I think it could provide some very interesting opportunities, I don't want to end up playing a completely stereotyped character.

That being said, I think that there are just as many insane stereotypes forwarded by characters played by players of the same gender.  Particularly in cases where the player is a less experienced roleplayer or is younger.  These people tend to emphasize the fantasy in roleplaying, and as such play an extreme character both with the intention of getting lots of attention for their character and to be the the most 'something', whether it be most beautiful, or most intelligent, most charismatic, most powerful.  I think that experience dampens that a little bit and encourages players to make an effort to play more realistic characters both within their own gender and outside of it.
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Old 07-28-2004, 04:44 PM   #9
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I've only once tried to play a male character (the opposite gender) and it didn't turn out so well. I felt that it was less believable even that my females that are polar opposites to my personality, and constantly wondered when people would realize that I wasn't really a guy. I met a female char who started trying to flirt with me via tells (that is ooc). This was on a mostly H&S mud, so that sort of thing was sadly commonplace. When I failed to really respond to her flirtation, she told somebody else that I was "SO WEIRD." He was a friend of mine and so promptly told me and we had a good laugh. But I never really felt in the skin of this male char, didn't get into playing him much, and have never again tried a male char.
I have noticed the overly-courtly male chars of female players, and f-me female chars of male players. Female players are just as guilty as males at making their characters unrealistically attractive and having stereotypical feminine attributes.
I think the tendency with both genders is to make our personal ideals; the character of the same sex is the person we wish we could be, and the opposite sex is who we wish for in a mate. This is rather unfortunate, since the most interesting characters are those who are not ideals, but as flawed as possible while remaining likeable.
Plusses of playing a female character... It is a lot easier to get help. This isn't due to the attention factor, but just because women can admit to weakness without embarrassment, while men like to always seem capable and in control. So when a newbie, you get a lot more help if you are cute, vulnerable, mildly flirtatious and female, without having to resort to going ooc to ask for help. Also we have so many more options for clothing.
Pitfalls...there are none! I used to be annoyed with too much attention, too many idiots hitting on me. I mean, there are more interesting things to roleplay than romance and relationships. But I've since changed muds and get treated more naturally now, so it's all good.
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Old 07-28-2004, 05:21 PM   #10
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In over two and a half decades of roleplaying, I've done both ... played Characters of my gender, and played Characters of another gender ... and in some SF and hero cases, played characters of oddly variant genders.

I have been complemented on my opposite gender characters and their presentation.

And for me, at least, I believe is that, first and foremost, I look to create a PERSON as opposed to a gender or any other archtype (which is just a stereotype in a fancy, more palatable name. Though in terms of plot and storytelling, stereotypes/archtypes have important roles as both PC or NPC).

Whats more important is not "is it a boy or a girl" but "is the character one I and other folks can believe in as a real person. And not to diminish the importance of gender in personal development, the characteristic "keys" that make a roleplaying game feel real - depth of background, depth of personality, distinguishing traits - are, in the most part, arise from viewing the character as a whole as opposed to being a totem of a gender type.

Gender roles and presentation, in a gaming environment, also tend to be more influenced by the IC game culture and mores than our current views of 'what makes a man a man or a woman a woman. For an example, and on two ends of the spectrum, a High Science Fiction setting and a Traditional Mediaeval setting. The SF setting usually tends to be more egalitarian, diminishing the difference between male and female cultural standards and acceptable behaviors, where the roles taken by a player aren't determined by sex - its just as easy to find a chain smoking rough and tumble female starship pilot as a male pilot for example). Where as the Medieval Setting may have strict cultural roles for males and females, determining standrads of behavior, actions and manner for each sex (and we aren't even going to touch the complexity of gender roles in terms of social position). How a gendered character is played, created and presented in these two extremes results in very different mannerisms put forth by the player in order to create a believable role in each particular environment.

Create a person first ... and that person will tell you if they should be a male or female character. And its my experience that folks enjoy RP with a person more than a gender type.

Second, a while ago I stumbled upon an inherent contradiction in this whole discussion.

You see, for over 2/3rds of the time I've been roleplaying, its been at the task of gamemastering in one form or another.

As a Gamemaster, its not just a possibility, but a requirement to be able to present both male and female non-player characters in a believable and realistic-feeling manner.

And if one is expected to be be able to pull off cross-gender characters as a gamemaster ...

How much difference then is doing so as a player?

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Old 07-28-2004, 05:55 PM   #11
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Before coming to muds, I wrote fiction. So, when the question of playing a pc of another gender arose, I did not think it would produce any great conflict.

After all, I understood, that a character should be human (or what have you first) and everything else secondary. After all people are far more alike than different. So, male, female, no big deal. Right?

Oddly, the stumbling block for me was stage fright. I worried constantly that I'd be unmasked. The fear was very similar to fearing something under the bed. It didn't make a whole lot of sense. Had I been discovered, what would have happened? Would the rp police come to my door and take me away?

Since, I've gotten over it, and I don't think my male pc's are so different than female. But who knows - maybe the rp police just don't have my address.
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Old 07-28-2004, 06:16 PM   #12
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Is it considered 'bad' to roleplay the opposite gender where you are, Fifi? I mean, I don't make a secret of it where I am and no one cares. Are there any places where it's bad etiquette to play the other gender?
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Old 07-28-2004, 06:43 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Mikkel @ July 28 2004,16:21)
As a Gamemaster, its not just a possibility, but a requirement to be able to present both male and female non-player characters in a believable and realistic-feeling manner.

And if one is expected to be be able to pull off cross-gender characters as a gamemaster ...

How much difference then is doing so as a player?

Regardless of the fact that it is an expected requirement as a GM to be able to properly represent male and female characters with equal propensity, it doesn't always work out this way. However, I would be remiss to question whether, in the groups that you act as a GM, be they pen and paper type games or LARPing or what have you, do you not have certain individuals (obviously yourself included) who the group finds "better suited" to act as a GM? Some people are simply better at presenting a range of roles than others, and it is generally these people who make the best GM. I would say, then, that it would be little more than a philosophic footstep to say that it is this same type of person who effectively plays characters of the opposite gender.

So, to answer your question, it isn't much of a difference at all. But the ability is still relegated to what I would expect is a minority within a minority, that being those who are both effective GM's and, within that group, those who enjoy playing characters of an opposite gender.


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Old 07-28-2004, 07:00 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by (Greenstorm @ July 28 2004,17:16)
Is it considered 'bad' to roleplay the opposite gender where you are, Fifi?  I mean, I don't make a secret of it where I am and no one cares.  Are there any places where it's bad etiquette to play the other gender?
There is a certain social stigma prevelant in realms where sexual or emotional attractions run deep towards those who attempt to deceive others into thinking that their character is of a gender other than what they are as a player. This is far more applicable to males, for whom I would ascribe the mass media/Judeo-Christian influence of induced homophobia as an impetus, who tend to react violently on both an IC and OOC level upon discovering their character's female mate is actually controlled by a male player. I'm not aware of any incidents of the reverse scenario, females tending to be far more forgiving of such things, but the stigma exists on a wide enough scale that the previously voiced concerns for the individual's ability to "mask" their true gender are realized on a relatively significant spectrum.
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Old 07-28-2004, 09:27 PM   #15
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I tend towards mainly female characters, because I am female; I know, generally, how a girl would react to certain situations.

I did make one male character, partly because I just wanted to see if I could pull it off. So far, I think I have; the main problem I have with him is that I have fairly little knowledge of how a guy would react to certain situations. I know how a girl would probably react to the same situation - but guys would react differently, I think. The problem is: differently, how?

For the most part, I try and work it out on a case-by-case basis and I go with how my character would react rather than how their gender would react, and that goes for both genders, not just my male character.
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Old 07-28-2004, 09:42 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Greenstorm @ July 28 2004,17:16)
Is it considered 'bad' to roleplay the opposite gender where you are, Fifi?  I mean, I don't make a secret of it where I am and no one cares.  Are there any places where it's bad etiquette to play the other gender?
Nope, it's not considered bad at all. It's just a weird irrational performance anxiety thing.
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Old 07-28-2004, 10:12 PM   #17
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But the ability is still relegated to what I would expect is a minority within a minority, that being those who are both effective GM's and, within that group, those who enjoy playing characters of an opposite gender.
Or is it simply a matter of ...

And yes, I am tempting the fates here ...

... the shadow of a much more basic and obvious principle - that the ability to play a cross-gendered character is simply based on the ability of a particular person to roleplay or gamemaster? For the argument can be certainly made (and i think it already has) that a guy presenting a less than stellar guy-stereotype can be just as unnerving as a guy presenting a poor gal-stereotype.

And yes, one component of all this is understanding which roles one steps into well and which ones they don't.

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Who, after over twenty five years of gaming STILL can't play a magic user without falling flat on his face ...
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Old 07-28-2004, 10:35 PM   #18
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I think in the case of cross-gender roleplaying, a lot depends on the particular environment and the expectations of other players in that environment.

While I might be fairly comfortable with playing a male character, the minute others expect me to maintain that gender OOC, with my persona, I back out rather quickly. That is also why I never play the opposite gender in an environment I'm not familiar with.

And it goes both ways. As long as everything stays purely IC, I couldn't care less what gender the person behind a character is. If they however insist on extending the role to their persona (where it is, I find, much harder to 'play' convincingly), it becomes difficult for me to trust the person. Irrational? Maybe. I'm not saying there have been no exceptions. I just feel more comfortable when I know who I'm playing with.

What experience do others have with the character/persona distinction when it comes to cross-gendering? I'd be interested in hearing more opinions.
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Old 07-28-2004, 11:53 PM   #19
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A personal observation, though it may or may be my own areas and not true of all games:

It seems like almost every IC lesbian couple I've known on a game turned out in RL to be one male and one female player. I'm not gonna extrapolate any theories from this. It's purely an observation.
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Old 07-29-2004, 12:40 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Mikkel @ July 28 2004,21:12)
Or is it simply a matter of ...
... the shadow of a much more basic and obvious principle - that the ability to play a cross-gendered character is simply based on the ability of a particular person to roleplay or gamemaster?
Sure, I can certainly agree with that to a point. But I wouldn't go so far as to put faith in a direct causal relationship. I know plenty of spectacular roleplayers who can't play a character of the other gender well at all. The correlation between being a really stellar GM and being able to effectively roleplay a cross-gendered character is probably closer to one, as the skills exemplified in one are reinforced by those in the other. But some people just play niche roles well, rather than a wide range of roles. This doesn't make them a poor roleplayer, it just makes them limited. But defining what exactly a limited roleplayer is or is not would be near impossible, so I would trust more in the ideas I initially postulated.
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