Posted in General

What’s wrong with male characters in MMORPGs?

A recent survey on character gender choices in MMORPGs sparked a whole lot of discussion this past week on Massively OP. There was a lot of data here, but the biggest takeaway is that 33% of guys roll female characters while only 10% of females roll male characters. Typically when this subject comes up, talk revolves around why guys — such as myself — roll girl toons, but I think that’s missing a bigger issue.

The flip-side of this is that, as a whole, people aren’t that excited about rolling up male characters. If only 10% of women and 66% of men want to create a male avatar, that’s a disproportionate swing toward the female side.

This touches on one of the biggest reasons why I roll female characters — I hardly ever see male character options that are appealing and relatable. More often than not, they’re beefy gym bros with those shoulder-neck muscle ramps that I could only dream about. I don’t connect with that. Nor do I connect with angry-looking beanpoles.

When I think about it, it comes down to the face over the body type, however. Most option for guy faces aren’t appealing. They look like they’re holding a grudge against me or are sneering down upon me or are heading out to audition for a role as a villain NPC or something. I hardly ever get that positive vibe that I do from male heroes on TV and in movies. I think of some of those guys, and I wouldn’t mind being best friends with them. That’s not what I find in MMO character creators.

Because that’s where my gut check lies. I want my character, if he or she was real, to be my friend. Not an object of sexual desire or a revenge substitute. Just someone whom I would genuinely like to hang out with because they exude friendliness and welcome. Is it any surprise that female characters showcase this more?

6 thoughts on “What’s wrong with male characters in MMORPGs?

  1. You (like me) also play quite a few of the smaller races, though, where the beefcake/cheesecake arguments don’t always apply. It’s generally quite easy to make very similar-looking characters of both genders with many of the small-race options. My current character in Bless Unleashed is so undiferrentiated I sometimes forget what gender I picked at character creation.

    In Guild Wars 2 it’s possible to make Asuras look like anything from super-cute children to feral gremlins Most of mine end up looking like the latter whichever gender I pick while Mrs Bhagpuss’s asuras all look like the winners of a cute toddler competition. These kinds of extreme variations rarely seem possible in the standard human-type races, which makes the issues with not feeling able to identify with one or other gender more acute, I think. The problem is, if you allow the same level of variation with human models you’re going to end up in some awkward areas that the diminutive races (and the animal ones and the robots and the aliens…) can more easily sidestep.

  2. @bhagpuss — back in the EQ days, when they came out with Frogloks as a playable race, there was a guy in my guild that legit didn’t know he’d made a female Froglok.

  3. So one thing I love about FFXIV is that there are face expression emotes. I can make my character a smiling buffoon if I want. I wish they’d let us take that into the character creator with us. Because every time I make a male character there, that first click-to-continue cutscene on the chocobo carriage, all male characters look like they have SEEN. SOME. SHIT. And that first impression just about always makes me recoil, log out, and reroll.

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