First of all – as a long time gamer of all genres I obviously have no problem playing as a male character in games. Especially in an online FPS where everyone is just a generic solider. But as soon as a game adds avatar customization but leaves out the ability to choose your character’s gender I get frustrated.
Why would I want to customize my online avatar if I can’t even get in touch with or immersed in my character’s shoes because it is not my gender? Give me a reason to want to care about my character, but no option to make it female, then we’re gonna have a problem.
There are some exceptions to this though, some games have what I consider ‘character locked’ player characters, for example, if you want to play the Siren class in Borderlands, you have to play a female character because she is the Siren. They designed the player classes to have strong characters relevant to the game.
Avatar customization isn’t the only that bugs me about this either; if a game focuses on strong development (ie; any RPG or MMO) and doesn’t allow you to play as the gender of your choice then I also find it hard to want to care about and develop my character.
Again there are exceptions to this with story driven RPGs such as The Witcher; the game is about Geralt of Rivia, a very strong character crucial to the story of the series. The reason there are so few story driven RPGs with female player character is obvious – there are so few female gamers.
Another part of this subject is historical or geographical accuracy. Why do World War II games have no female American soldiers? Obviously because there were no female American soldiers in World War II. We all know this, but does this make the game sexist in any way? Of cause not, but the premise on which the game is based is sexist and that should not be ignored.
There is one last thing I’d like to mention as well – games that have female avatars only as a purchasable DLC. As you can imagine this annoys me to no end! Some of the offenders include Killing Floor and Infestation: Survivor Stories (formally The War Z).
Warframe is borderline in this regard; yes, you need to pay for the female characters (or spend dozens of hours farming in game), but the classes are kind of character-locked. But they barely have any kind of back story or personality to give the developers any reason to force people to play certain classes as certain genders.
Some games that have my utmost praise for going to extra mile to appeal to female gamers as well as male gamers:
- The Elder Scrolls series
- Fallout series
- Saints Row series
These are few of the titles where the developers could of easily released these games without the option to play as a female character and pleased the majority of their player base, instead they not only went out of their way to add loads of customization for female characters, but all of them have some kind of separate content based on the gender you are. Bravo to the developers, would love to see more of this in the future as well.
Oh, by the way, Call of Duty Ghosts is a great game, loads of new features in the multiplayer such as contextual lean, improved score streak system, dynamic maps and care package/field orders system make it one of my favorite Call of Duty games to date.