Preferred Gender Tropes

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday, everyone!
Have you ever noticed if the gender of the protagonist effects the game? Perhaps one gender has better stats or different powers or something as simple as clothing options?
Many games, particularly RPGs, allow the player to choose between playing a male or a female protagonist. While most games tend not to have much of a difference between the genders, there are some games that can be skewed to favor one over the other.
One of the most notable examples that I’ve heard of Harvest Moon 3. While I’ve never played the game myself, I have heard that the game is cut short as soon as you marry while playing as a female. While, as a male, you get married and can continue working on your farm, as well as get a child. Granted, each gender had different perks — males tended to be better with the farmland, while females were better with the animals — but why would the game just end if you get married as a female?
Different stats in games, such as the Fire Emblem franchise, favor one gender over the other as well. Males tend to have higher strength and defense while females are better with magic and speed. In many Fire Emblem games, some character classes are restricted as well — only males can be fighters while females can be pegasus knights, for example. One of my favorite aspects of the Fates trio is that these class restrictions were lifted, and I was disappointed when Echoes brought them back.
In hindsight, being a remake, Echoes probably brought the class restrictions back in order to be as faithful as it could to the original. With that said, though, I do wish it was updated to not only lift those restrictions, but also lift the healer restrictions. In the very beginning of the game, if you are following Alm’s story and have Faye with you, she has one less class promotion available than the boys. Archer is not available for her, yet when she was introduced to the Fire Emblem Heroes mobile game, archer is her class rather than cleric.
If the female gender is favored over the male, it tends to be for aesthetic reasons. In Pokemon X and Y, the female character has almost double the amount of clothing and hair options. The Sims franchise also tended to have gender options based on aesthetics only — with jobs and skill building being exactly the same across the board — but Sims 4 took this a step forward to allow transgender sims and lift the gender restrictions on all the clothing and hair options.
Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of Stardew Valley is how absolutely little your gender matters. No NPCs treat your character differently no matter what gender they are and your skills do not depend on your gender. You can also marry whatever eligible NPC you want, no matter the gender.

Any games that you’ve played that tend to favor one gender over another?

Connect with us:
Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Twitch

Readers Comments (9)

  1. Thank you for this! It’s a big topic worth discussing and it really struck a chord with me. Hence, the big response below.
    The role of gender in society is a hot-button topic everywhere, including the world of video games. As a whole, we have a lot to work through with regards to how gender impacts our lives. I haven’t played Harvest Moon 3 either, but it broke my heart to read that the path of the female character ends in that manner due what it’s directly or indirectly saying about a woman’s role in society.
    There are other examples in-and-around the games themselves that could be used to add to or broaden the discussion.
    In Street Fighter II, the designer of the game originally wanted Chun-Li’s health bar to be shorter because quote, “women are not as strong”
    I’m glad that they ultimately went away from that. Her inclusion in that game as a worthy adversary laid the groundwork for strong female characters to be a staple of the genre since its inception. Still work to be done with regards to the costumes and other design choices that make male and female characters different within these games, but having them fight as equals is a win.
    A few years back, Ubisoft said that they cut female assassins from the game because it was “too hard/costly” to implement voices/animations for female characters.
    They have since added female assassins to the franchise and the newest game allows you to choose between a male or female protagonist.
    A few months ago, there was a backlash from some angry gamers who revolted over EA’s decision to include female soldiers in Battlefield V due to it not being “historically accurate”. EA has vehemently put their foot down in defending the decision to include female soldiers in the game.
    Fortnite streamer Ninja a few months back said that he wouldn’t stream with female gamers to prevent others from creating rumors and adding strain to his marriage.
    While I respect his decision to protect his family, I hate the broader message his actions say about what it means to interact with female gamers, even if he doesn’t mean it that way.
    Gender is complicated. There are so many factors at play, from the gamers who play the games, to the developers creating them, and the broader societies around the world whose differing views influence the final products. But those aren’t excuses for us to have our voices heard and to push for what we think is right and just. Whether it’s us buying/avoiding buying certain games, to voicing our opinions to those in charge, streaming with people of all sorts, or even just having this conversation among ourselves, we should all work together to make an impact on gender in games and gender as a whole.

    • This kind of topic has always hit home for me, for obvious reasons, and for many forms of medium. Despite women pioneers in the topics like computer programming and sci-fi — such as Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley — video games for some reason has always seemed like a boys club.
      Honestly, despite not being the biggest player of Street Fighter, I always wanted Chun-Li in the Smash Bros roster. She would have been another female on the roster, and it would have been a great celebration for the first female character in the fighting genre. I’m glad they chose not to do the shorter health bar for her!
      I’ll admit, seeing games have gender choices helps me decide to pick them up. Skyrim took me a few minutes when creating my character since I was momentarily disappointed I couldn’t make a female character (rather, the gender choice was on one of the last character creation pages, when I’m used to it being one of the first aspects of a character I would pick). Seeing a female playable character in the newest Assassin’s Creed definitely piqued my interest in the series.
      The “historical accuracy” over female soldiers in a fictional game always made me laugh. Historically speaking, women have always been involved in wars. Perhaps not as much on the front lines (although there were quite many disguised), but we’ve been there. In fact, the earliest female soldier in the US was back in the 1700s, far before the timeline for Battlefield V. It’s also been discovered that half of Viking warriors have been female as well.
      I saw Ninja’s statement about playing with female gamers as well. Like yourself, I understand what he was going for and I respect his decision to protect his family, as the type of rumors he’s trying to prevent can definitely spiral out of control, but… It does make me feel a little bitter that such a high profile gamer couldn’t use his position to promote equality and respect when it comes to genders and gaming.
      This is something that has been at the front of my mind especially since Rachel and I started streaming more regularly. We’ve met incredible people through this blog, Twitch, and other social media, and we’ve been lucky that we haven’t experienced any sort of harassment. It’s encouraging, especially with all the friends we’ve made along this journey. 🙂
      (Also, sorry for the late reply. Apparently your comment was flagged as spam? I’m guessing it’s from the links, but apologies for that nonetheless.)

      • No worries about the delayed response! I was more concerned that my comment may have cracked open the can of worms too far and maybe you made the executive decision to hold it back. Glad to see it posted, but if it never saw the light of day, I understand that it’s your blog, and you can publish/not publish any comments you want for whatever reasons you may have and you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
        Historically, I feel like video games have been a boys club at pretty much every level of the culture. Growing up, I never really thought of the larger ramifications of that. In my young, naive, and myopic view, video games simply were what they were and you either liked them or didn’t.
        Over time, a number of things that have happened in gaming, gaming culture, and the world in general that started to open my worldview. Just a few personal examples:
        – My mom would never classify herself as a gamer, but there are types of games she’s enjoyed. She liked Tetris on the NES and she’d play some of the puzzle games and Bomberman with us on the SNES. But for her, she had a breakout moment with the DS. With Nintendo’s focus towards broadening the audience, she would borrow a DS from us until she bought her own and started up her own collection of games. Most of which I have zero interest in playing. Not saying they’re bad games, but that they’re made specifically to appeal to her tastes. It got me thinking about how few consoles and games have interested her prior to that point because there simply wasn’t enough content for her to enjoy. She’s always up to play Overcooked with us now, but after the DS, her interest waned because she felt disconnected again with where things were going.
        – Gaming with my now-wife Steff. Her gaming background and tastes are very different from mine. It’s always been tough for us to find video games we can enjoy on equal footing. She owned her own SNES, PS1 and PS3 while we were dating, but I think she’s found her gaming home on mobile due to it having more of the type of experiences she wants to play in a form factor she’s more comfortable with.
        – eSports. Over the past 10 years, I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of trying to be the best fighting game player I can be. I’ve participated in many tournaments. In that time, I’ve fought a total of two female opponents, both of whom were talented players. After my first encounter, it’s always bothered me that there weren’t more women competing. Some may use biological differences as an argument. I can’t speak to that for all games, but I think that argument is crap when it comes to fighting games. Yes, there are elements of speed and dexterity to those games, but now that I understand what it takes to play those games at a high level, the physical elements of fighting games aren’t what set the best from the rest apart. It’s much more dependent on good decision making based on your understanding of the game’s mechanics and what you think your opponent is going to do next, not on who can hit the next button faster. Even if it were about speed, I don’t see how the types of inputs found in most fighting games would push the bounds of what women can do. Fighting games have grown steadily in popularity since Street Fighter IV brought the genre back from the dead, but there’s still a vast disproportion of male-to-female players. I think there are all sorts of factors that have created this reality, from not liking character designs, to being intimidated by other men, to being a target for harassment online, to broader perceptions of the genre being for men, among many others.
        – Real sports. Particularly baseball. As a kid, I had a female teammate in my baseball league. She was the only girl in the league. I always wondered why girls played softball instead. There’s nothing biologically stopping women from playing against other women with a smaller ball and an overhand pitch. Then I stumbled on a How Stuff Works podcast on how a female pitcher in the early 1900s struck out Babe Ruth and other legendary hitters back-to-back-to-back at a charity baseball game. Embarrassed by it, higher ups in the baseball scene pretty much blackballed women from playing baseball. Women’s baseball was essentially set back by 100 years because some guys had their egos hurt and the ramifications of that infuriate me to this day. Would love a fact-check on this (you don’t have to do it), but I’m pretty sure the reasons why women don’t play baseball aren’t founded in positive or truthful reasoning.
        All of this has led me to a place where it really upsets me to see gender being a dividing line between the types of games that are made, the people that play them, and the conversation around games. According to the Electronic Software Association’s 2018 survey (I’m scared to post links here now, but a quick Google search will pull it up), 45% of gamers are women. If so, then why does it feel like so much of this hobby slants towards men at such a disproportionate amount?
        Representation is an important part of moving the needle. Of course you would gravitate towards games that feature female characters. Just like how men have gravitated towards games that just so happen to feature mostly male characters. Glad that Skyrim and Assassin’s Creed have those options in there for you and others. I might be a guy, but as someone of Filipino descent, people that look like me largely don’t exist in games. I was taken aback when Tekken 7 added a Filipino fighter, as I realized I hadn’t even thought of my people being in video games before. After Googling it, you can count on one hand how many Filipino characters appear in games.
        There are larger cultural factors as well. I hope that we can all can get to a point where Ninja or someone like Ninja doesn’t feel like he has to choose his marriage over gaming with women. Or a place where people don’t draw lines between what a “boys game” is and what a “girls game” is. At the cosplay masquerade I was at yesterday, a girl in the youth division dressed up as her Fortnite character. It’s in a genre that would be considered a “boys game”, but she loves that game as much as anyone else, and the game gives her the tools to play as any gender on equal footing.
        What you and Rachel do on Double Jump is important too. Your voices in the greater gaming conversation matter. Even when you’re not speaking specifically to this topic, you’re making a difference by being involved in the gaming conversation in the way that you are. You inspired me to share my thoughts on the matter when I’ve had almost 10 years to do so on my own blog and haven’t for whatever reason. Keep up the great work!

    • That is freaking amazing! Good for that woman! I hope it continues to be successful and spreads. 🙂
      Have you ever seen the movie A League of Their Own? It’s based on a true story of a women’s baseball league that was established when all the men went to go and fight in World War II. It’s a pretty good movie with Tom Hanks and Geena Davis, if you ever get the chance to see it.

      • Surprise! No, I have not seen it. I vividly remember it being a hit at the time. Steff likes it, and it seems to come up in conversation a lot to this day. I’ll add it to the list with the Lion King, Pocahontas, the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast….

    • I SAW THAT and… I can’t disagree with it, haha. Again, I understand what Ninja was going for when he made those comments but I still think they’re just such a miss.
      I saw a commercial fairly recently, I believe for Fortnite, that started with a young woman playing the game and, as the commercial went on, her mother would appear every so often and say, “Hey, [high ranking player/famous gamer/sponsor] called and wants you on their team!” and the woman just keeps going up in rank and on teams for Fortnite. It wasn’t a bad commercial and it was interesting to see the focus be on a female gamer.
      THEN the mother appeared and said, “Ninja just called!” and I was just turned off/confused by the whole commercial. Ninja appeared with this actress and they played Fortnite on the same team and… It felt really weird to see since I know the kind of comments he has made about playing with female gamers. Obviously it was just a commercial and Ninja is one of the most famous faces of Fortnite, so of course he’d be there, but it was still just a jarring moment.

      • Just watched the commercial and I agree with you. It is jarring in light of previous statements.
        I can see how he felt it was okay in this particular context. It’s a commercial in a controlled environment. I wouldn’t be surprised if he specifically wanted to star alongside of a female in that lead role as a direct response to the controversy.
        That said, it throws yet another monkey wrench in his stance. I’m glad that – at least for the sake of the commercial – he’s shown as an equal to her. But then do you look at it as him selling out on his own somewhat-understandable-yet-undeniably-problematic principles?
        I came across a forum post on ResetEra where there was a lot of debate about Ninja being nominated for the Trending Gamer award. A lot of scuttlebutt was thrown about, but the crux of the debate was, “Is it okay to give Ninja this award when he’s essentially discriminating against women?” He’s done a lot for streaming, he’s come a long way towards cleaning up his act for a broader audience, and his rationale for who he plays/streams with isn’t directly/intentionally meant to be malicious. Yet his actions ultimately are discriminatory in nature to 50% of the human population.
        Do you think he should be rewarded in light of the circumstances? I can see both sides of it, but it would be really hard for me to stomach him getting that award without some sort of about face on his stance.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


%d bloggers like this: