I'm usually a woman.
Let me come around and take another pass at that. I usually play a female. Maybe not usually. More like often. That is to say, in games where you can choose either a male or female character, I often pick female.
I realize that there is almost no way to bring this up without seeming skeezy. That’s not why I play the characters I play. At least I don’t think so, but that might require more introspection than I’m capable of. I’ll attempt to explain.
The time worn quote uttered by many a gamer dude is “if I have to look at a characters butt for 40 hours, I want it to be a female butt”. This is laughable nonsense. Nathan Drake, Marcus Fenix, Kratos, Leon Kennedy, Ezio Auditore, Snake. Litteral weeks of my life have been spent looking at these digital male butts. I suspect that other gamers have done the same. Never once have I heard the complaint that someone wished Marcus Fenix had been a woman so that they can look at her butt. I might complain that Nathan Drake’s butt looked flatter in the last game than it did in the earlier ones, but that isn’t really what I want to talk about.
Like most people I tend to gravitate toward more attractive and interesting character designs. Let’s be perfectly clear. Nathan Drake is designed to be attractive. He’s handsome, rugged, rakish. If you are a guy and think that this doesn’t affect you, you may have some things about yourself to figure out. It does. That’s why he looks like that. That attraction to the character is largely subconscious, and typically not sexual. Still after a few minutes you probably don’t notice the character at all. You only see what he is aiming at.
I have spent so many hours planted firmly behind a butt at this point, I barely take notice of the character on screen. Why would I. The player character acts only as an anchor for the game camera to pivot around. I’m usually only paying attention to what is out in front of my character. The actual game part of the game. Where my character is only matters in relation to the obstacles in my path. Who my character is matters even less. It’s all that game happening in front of the character that matters. The gender of that butt just doesn't matter.
I played the hell out of Mass Effect. I played as much as I could of each game, before moving on. I tried to do a second play through of ME1 and ME2, but only got a short distance in before stopping. My Commander Shepard is tough, considerate, kind, ferocious, and willing to obey conscience over orders. She is also slightly awkward socially, military before manners. She has short hair, but long enough to push the boundaries of regulations. She is also possibly of indian descent, back when that sort of thing would have mattered. She was born on another planet, far from any terran political boundary. When I attempted to play through as the unmodified male shepard, I had to stop. This was not his story. Those were not his words. They belonged to the other Shepard. The real one.
My Dovahkiin character in Skyrim is a Redguard. She carries two swords and shoots fire from her hands. I played Knights of the old Republic twice. One character was female, fair skinned and bald with a green lightsaber. The other was male, dark skinned, mustache, but also bald with a green lightsaber. My character in Saints Row is usually female, but sometimes male, sometimes a toilet, and sometimes a ridiculous nightmare creature that runs naked through the streets wearing a top hat and a full face tattoo.
It's worth noting that none of these characters are dressed in skimpy outfits. They wear heavy armour and carry heavier weapons. They are geared up for what the game demands, which is usually ample combat. The thought of boob armour and warriors wearing six inch heels into battle gives me the screaming heebie jeebies. I find it offensive, not just to women, but to a basic sense of practicality. Also, I lied. Sometimes they wear skimpy outfits, but only if it has some comedic value.
Obviously all of these characters are just my personal take on these archetypes. Each player gets the opportunity to create their own Commander Shepard or Dovahkiin. There are limits to the character creation tools of course. Within those limits, players can create any character they want. This is where we get into why I think I create the characters I do.
I'm a 6 foot tall white heterosexual male 30 something of some pan-european descent, born and raised in North America. We'll shorten that to one word. Default. Hero of big summer blockbuster movie? Default. Hero of romantic comedy that plays in theatre against big summer blockbuster? Default. Hero of sci-fi fantasy epic where over half of the characters are rainbow hued aliens and creatures? Default. Villain in all previous examples? Default. You can take it from here.
Why? Why is someone who looks like me (likely more handsome and fit, but still) the default. Who determined that this is default? When I walk among actual humans, something I typically avoid, sure I see quite a few people who look like me due to where I live, but the majority of people don’t. At least half of the people I see are female. A lot of the people I see are not white. The default, is not, in fact, the default. Turns out, there is no default. Just a bunch of people. All different, but, more importantly, all kind of the same.
I want to see the tough as nails space commander punch the fluids out of some evil alien dirtbag. I want to see the chosen one march up to a towering horror from the depths of the earth, sword in hand, vengeance in heart. I would like to see that person be a woman. Just once in a while. Please.
I know there are examples of characters like these in movies and books and what have you. They are extremely rare. As long as people think that there is a default hero it seems unlikely I’ll see many of these women in movies or on TV or in games anytime soon. Lucky for me, there are other games. Games where you can create and act out any character you like. It only takes a few sliders to be something other than default.