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The Demographics of Gender-Bending

And so instead of relying solely on the absolute number of characters of the opposite gender, another analysis was performed that used the proportion of characters of the opposite gender in terms of total characters. And this showed that older male players were indeed much more likely to have characters of the opposite gender.

Theories for male gender-bending I have explored in the past have included:

-Social gender boundaries more stringent in real-life for men, and in an anonymous space, men are more likely to explore gender roles.
-Female avatars receive more "freebies" and are treated "better" than male avatars.
-Male gender-bending is another form of dominating the female body.
-In PvP games, female avatars are perceived to be weaker and this might give the player a psychological edge against unsuspecting chauvinistic players.

None of these theories, however, explain why older men would be most likely to gender-bend. Any ideas?


Posted on September 3, 2003 | Comments (89) | TrackBack (2)


I am an older female married to an older male and we both play and we both gender bend. I think it has alot to do with "perceived rules of society". I have read that teenagers, despite thinking they are sexually liberal, are really the most straight-laced and conventional thinkers about sex and sexual identity of all the age groups. I tend to agree with that from what I have seen and experienced, both in my own life and in dealing with my own children thru their adolescence. As you get older, you tend to realize how artificial alot of those "perceived rules of society" are and how unnecessary to survival they are. So you discard them and allow yourself more freedom to be and do whatever you want. And in-game this means more gender-bending. I did notice the number of females that gender bent went up at the older end, and not just the males. As for the much higher numbers of males than females that gender-bend, it might be the fact the society's roles for them are so much stricter than for females so when they do discard the restraints, they have more exploring of identities to do than females.

Posted by: Deborah on September 5, 2003 1:23 PM

I think Deborah is right. Male teenagers are more likely to be insecure about playing female characters, and hence less likely to play them. Older males are not so insecure about their RL/EQ identities. It could also be that, given the interest in using EQ relationships to form RL relationships, the younger males are "cruising" for RL females whereas the older males are not.

Posted by: YT on September 5, 2003 2:04 PM

I ascribe a lot of it to "the personality factor." There's a definite behavioral difference in young males, chalk it up to excess testosterone if you like. As men age, they are more likely to find mature company with female-presenting players. In other words, female presentation in the game is an indicator of personality more than it is of gender.

I would bet that you'd also find that healer types and other support roles start out heavily favoring females, but that older mena also tend to pick up support roles.

Posted by: Raph on September 5, 2003 9:59 PM

I'm female, and I made my main character female, without thinking too much about it. After playing for a short time, and realizing all the special attention I'd get for being female, I started rolling up male chars. Now, if I want to be left alone, with no help, or people trying to talk to me, I'll go on one of my typical, non-descript male chars.

Posted by: Lilija on September 5, 2003 11:31 PM

I'm an 'older' male (over 40). I tend to play male fighters & assassins & female support-classes & mages.

My female characters get a lot more in-game help than my male characters, and are generally not slapped around so much. On the negative side my female characters get a lot more unwanted sexual attention than my male characters, mainly from younger males, who often want to meet me IRL.

I don't discuss my RL sex with anyone in-game, but people whose main ingame experience of me is as a female tend to assume that I'm also a female IRL, and people whose main experience of me is as a male character tend to assume that I'm male IRL. People who know I play both tend to get rather confused.

I really don't know why younger men specifically can't seperate an RPG from RL. I assume it's something hormonal.

Posted by: Mark on September 5, 2003 11:44 PM

I'm an older female and began playing by creating female characters. I now have a male character that I primarily play, but my guild mates rarely respond to him as male. They know the person behind him is female and pay no attention to the character's gender. It confuses the heck out of non-guild people as my guild mates consistently refer to me as m'lady. :)

Posted by: Sue on September 6, 2003 8:40 AM

I am a male and 18 so I guess I get to give the 'young male' a voice here. Personaly when I play a RPG I don't mind being male or female but I connect better with a male char as I am male, makes it more easy to get a role playing experience from the game. as far as sexual comments to female char's, never any thing other than used as some thing to kind of joke kinda some thing to laugh at, like telling some one I know who is male playing a female char that their char is sexy in some way, or a female playing a male I might ask their oppinion on the attractiveness of a female. This is typicaly done with guildys and ppl I have known for long periods of time. As far as ppl wanting to meet IRL I would class that as the age group of 12-15, and their wanting to meet would most likely never be followed through with, more like some thing to tell their friends in their third period math class about how some hot chick on the net wants to meet with them. Also as a male I do tend to help female chars out more and ask nothing in compensation, just like IRL I might hold the door open for a female friend of mine and not a male. in responce to Sue, I do find it quite funny to talk to some one I know if a male playing a female char and refer to them as male around newer guild members, make them all confused =)

Posted by: Aaron on September 7, 2003 12:21 PM

Well I am 27 male. I have an interesting view of the whole gender bending thing. I play two separate accounts in EQ, my first account I have a male for my main character. But when I picked up my second account I made a female character as my second main. Then what did I do? I married the two characters.

Both accounts have other characters that I made for different purposes, between all the other characters I have more male than female, but I picked based on what the character’s main function was to be.

I had an interesting experience while playing my female main. At the time, very few people in my guild knew I played both characters. I happened to say some opinion about a current affair topic on the news. What I said apparently offended a lot of people in the guild. I later learned that part of the reason people took offence was due to the fact they thought I was female. And, apparently, that would have been a very offensive opinion for a lady to have. My point is I didn’t even think about what gender of character I was playing. When I choose the gender I play I am neither “discarding gender restraints” nor “cruising for RL females” I am simply playing a game.

Posted by: Nathan Tyler on September 7, 2003 12:27 PM

I see it like this. If Im going to stare at a butt all day, it might as well be female. :-)

Posted by: Malkin on September 11, 2003 7:42 AM

I played female toons but I got tired of all the unwanted attention, all the young doods asking me, "r u hot IRL?", making sexual comments, following me around and "helping" me. I found it intrusive.

So rolled a male toon and I much prefer it. I've only told a few people what gender I am in RL because I know they will not judge or treat me any differently knowing my RL gender. It's very liberating to be judged on equal terms.

Posted by: Ruthie on September 15, 2003 2:11 PM

I'm a female player IRL, and I typically have a male character in my stable of characters.

I use him for when I want anonymity to do my own thing, and especially when it comes to main fighter/tank classes. People just seem to trust male tanks better.

Plus, I really don't like to be thought of as "butch" and in a weird sense, it just seems better for me if I play fighter-types as male. I mainly play support type classes as "myself", my main female characters. It's what I enjoy.

But occassionally I just want to bash and fight things, and I prefer to do that with a male character.

Posted by: Shannon on September 16, 2003 2:40 AM

To follow this up, I have a good friend in EQ. He's male, and plays paladins. Very decent, noble guy who I like and enjoy being with a lot.

But in a way, his real chivalry gets in the way of our playing. I tried fighting with him "shoulder to shoulder" but he was always protecting me, and insisted on doing the pulling, tanking, and would even stop fighting to heal me if my hit points started dropping.

It was nice but it was frustrating at the same time. So I bought a male fighter character, transferred him over to my account, and sought out and befriended my game friend, not letting him know that it was me.

I finally got to tank with him, pull, and do all the things with him that I wished he'd let me do as my real characters. And yes, I talked to him about it, but I guess it's just "hard coded" into him to protect females. He can't help it. It's just automatic with him.

To this day, he doesn't know that his "bud" is actually me. And I guess I'll just have to keep it that way. To tell him the truth now, just to make a point might hurt his feelings or give him a sense of betrayal or something, which I don't want.

He's a good guy, and I love him for his noble qualities, even if they are frustrating at times.

Posted by: Shannon on September 16, 2003 2:52 AM

I've always felt female characters are treated a touch nicer, so I take advantage of it. Roleplaying a female is interesting and can be a lot of fun. Plus, I'd really rather look at the backside of a female character anyway.

Posted by: Steve on October 13, 2003 12:13 PM

This is great stuff! I'm doing my Master's thesis on this very subject and would LOVE to talk to you about your research. Please e-mail me if you would be willing to discuss this.

Posted by: Anna on October 14, 2003 3:13 PM


I'm doing my Master's thesis on gender bending in virtual environments? How about you? I have some resources to share if you'd like.

Posted by: Patricia on October 17, 2003 9:11 AM

Im a 20 yr old guy, I play as female characters because there are too many restrictions on men irl, and the fact that it's legal to descriminate against men (ladies nights at bars, insurance rates) doesnt help my lack of an ego.

I do find as a female char, I do get more help. But since I chose a healer class I'm weaker and need it anyway.

Posted by: Raijin on October 18, 2003 7:55 AM

I'm a 22-year-old female IRL, and I generally start out with a female character as I'm getting to know the game. I tend to like playing mage/healer classes, which isn't too out-of-character for a female (female tanks just aren't accepted the same as male tanks, although there's never any in-game differences). My "main" character tends to end up being male, though. For one thing, I like making friends with my female character early on (people who are generally helpful, not just because I'm female), and it's a good way to tell who will be a creep and who is just nice. Then later I can befriend the same people with my new "main" char and join the guild/party, etc. Sometimes a few people know it's still me, which seems to work fine, but it's just a heck of a lot easier to play a male character when you're looking at casual everyday interactions with other players.

Posted by: Wendy on October 18, 2003 8:55 AM

Hello all, very good question. Starting off for myself I am a 28 male gamer, and I only play male chars, has something to do with ego.

On to my point, I have played with many female gamers and from discussions found that they will play male chars or a female of a race that is unattractive because they do not want to be viewed as a sex object.

Some games I have encountered exemplify these ladies opinions. Lineage II is probably the most notable of this issue, from the screenshots I have seen the female chars wear cloths look like lingerie.

Posted by: Rico from NV on November 4, 2003 8:58 AM

Hello all, very good question. Starting off for myself I am a 28 male gamer, and I only play male chars, has something to do with ego.

On to my point, I have played with many female gamers and from discussions found that they will play male chars or a female of a race that is unattractive because they do not want to be viewed as a sex object.

Some games I have encountered exemplify these ladies opinions. Lineage II is probably the most notable of this issue, from the screenshots I have seen the female chars wear cloths look like lingerie.

Posted by: Rico from NV on November 4, 2003 8:58 AM

My life experience has produced a different opinion concerning cross-dressers or gender -bending and the winner is---females! Women have gotten a free pass concerning their sexual abberations.Concerning cross-dressing, there is a total double standard.Women's wardrobes from the last 45 yrs. have been taken from men's wear. When liberal male designers offered women a masculine wardrobe, they took the bait and ran with it---like a thief from the scene of a crime. Traditionally, anytime a women had seen another wearing the same feminine outfit, she would leave the scene but you can have numerous women wearing the same male outfit at a gathering and they are all confortable about their clothes.I have noticed this quirk many times over many years ; women love to rub their pant leg over and over again while seating at a meeting, as to reassure themselves that they are really wearing men's apparel and it is not a dream. Just to-day at church; a women of about 55 years of age, continuously rub her leg of her blue jeans while sitting cross-legged during the service.

Posted by: W.O'Leary on December 14, 2003 6:52 PM

I am 46 and have been playing rpg's since mud days, pretty much as male until recently. I ended up creating two female characters (priestess and a thief) and the experience was interesting. I think we all have aspects of male and female but we usually only pay attention to the dominant one. I found that when I was playing a female, I had to pay attention to my speech patterns and behavior to not let my dominant male patterns take over. My characters were not extraorinarily beautiful or popular but I was accepted by female pretty well or at least no one accused me of being a man. It was a good experience and I probably learned a lot more about women by trying to play one than any other experience. My wife who is also a MUD player helped with advice. I look at it as good way to explore all aspects of your personality that you can't really do in real life.. which is maybe one of the appeals of gaming :)

Posted by: Jamie on December 28, 2003 11:51 AM

I don't heavily RP my chars, but I heavily tend to playing non-aggressive chars (miners, builders, healers) as female and aggressive chars as male. That seems to me to be the opposite of gender-bending, ie, I replicate RL stereotypes/roles in the game.

I will also admit to treating female players differently than male players. Not avatars, but players. If the gender of the person at the keyboard is not clear, then my interpersonal style will be more driven by how I perceive the other player's interpersonal style.

In RL, my communication/interpersonal style does adjust depending upon the style of the person I am interacting with. I am much more likely to have discussions about emotions with female friends and very unlikely to discuss emotions with male friends. I am also very likely to be protective with females in/out of game, and much tougher in my expectations of independence in interacting with males.

I suppose the conclusion I would draw is that for me, in-game social interaction style is a reflection of RL. I play games for enjoyment and to escape to a world with different structural rules, but I bring along the same social patterns of engagement that exist in real life.

Posted by: Pragmatic Idealist on January 7, 2004 12:37 PM

I create my characters without much thought to what gender they are. It sort of comes naturally. Some characters predispose themselves to being male or female simply because of the way you want to portray them.
Having said that, I, like many others here, have a male tank that is my 'leave me alone' character. In a way, it's the character I don't RP with, because he generally fights alone and is pretty mediocre, so no one really asks him to group. And since no one knows it's me, if I want to play but feel the need to be alone, I don't have my friends around me to interrupt my play. The only person who knows it's me is my boyfriend, who will bring his only female character in if I want to play with him but no one else.
I find that my characters tend to reflect aspects of my personality, more than anything else. I play my girlie gnome when I'm in a cute mood, which represents the part of me who would like to be popular and carefree; when I'm in a strong mood or things have gone well I'll play my main toon who is essentially a fantasy version of myself; when I want to be alone I play my tank and when I want to be sociable I get my cleric out.
It never fails to suprise me how many people assume you are the same sex as your character, or who will react differently to a character if they don't know it's you. Apparently prejudice can seep into MMORPG's regardless.
I have had people who profess to 'hate' me as a person, happily group with a character and bend over backwards for them, until they find out it's me - then they don't have anything to do with that character anymore. Similarly, I have had people who are always pleasant and kind to my known characters be outright rude to ones they don't know. Yet less so to my female characters than my male ones. My male tank, even when being friendly is often shunned, whereas my cute gnome can get into just about any group despite being cheeky and ninja-looting (she's a thief - what do you expect?)
I think that as we get older, we're not only more secure about who we are and willing to recognise our different aspects, but also we have more knowledge of how the opposite sex reacts to situations. This facilitates us being more willing to experiment and represent ourselves as something different, because essentially, we know who we 'really' are.

Posted by: Laura on February 17, 2004 2:25 AM

I play DAOC and been a male all my characters are female. It is just because female char looks so better. I tryed a lot of times starting a male character but everytime I disliked it. In DAOC male characters are so goofy...
I also normally use human races for the same reason, so may be its just me.

Also in my guild we are mostly males and we mostly have female chars. Still we use the male gender and real life names talking each other in the guild chat. Many of them use female characters for the same reason.

All in all , probably we crete female, because we just love them to much....

Posted by: Mario on February 23, 2004 2:27 AM

I am a 24/f. I'd like to comment that Women are not always treated more favorably than men. They may recieve the benefits of items and aid, but when it comes to leadership or authority, some people have a difficult time following a female character.

I am an "alpha" type woman. In DAOC, I lead a good sized guild and Alliance. Atleast once a week, and for a while once every day, I would lead a raid, so I have a very strong presence on my server as a leader. However, people do not believe I am a real woman because no one would behave as I do (aggressive, assertive, perverse, bold, confident).

Those that do believe that I am a woman call me a bitch, but men who display the same personality traits are considered decisive, strong leaders, proactive. Things I've said or done have been perceived in different lights than my male leading counter parts. Some have even said "She must be on PMS", "She's female so she's emotional".

Its all about perception.

I believe Gender bending is all about how you wish your character to be percieved and how you believe you'll interact with other people. There are benefits and downfalls to both.

Posted by: Raina on February 26, 2004 4:28 PM

I just wanted to say that my good friend (a guy) plays a female character strictly because he would rather look at her for hours on end. I guess this is a common reason for guys playing gals.

Posted by: trav on February 26, 2004 8:47 PM

I play 2 female characters on Everquest, a rogue and an enchanter. I have played female characters occasionally in tabletop rpgs too. I am an aspiring writer and getting inside the heads of these characters has helped me write female characters that are deeper and more realistic than I wuld have been able to write otherwise.

Posted by: Charles on March 1, 2004 7:27 PM

I am a 39 year old female, and for some reason I have never even considered playing a male character.

I have been playing MMORPG's for about 6 years, and I have seen changes in the way that girls are treated over time in games.

Not sure if it because I have gotten too old for the testosterone laden teenagers to be interested any more, or if because girls IRL are not looked on as a rarity any more.. or both ;/.

Posted by: Kimi on July 18, 2004 11:37 PM

Personally, in a full RP environment? Its easier to come up with a story, and a history, and live that as a female. Im a 17 year old male, ive played NWN (PW are similar to MMORPG's) and FFXI. on NWN i first made a Paladin, liked him, but the whole chivalry thing got old, he was quick to find friends, but hard to keep them. I made a female half-elf ranger with tragic past, and being female allowed for more "emotional" roleplaying. I.E. isnt wierd, but is seen as a weaker character, not possessing of the typically stereotyped "stoicness" of the male gender.
In ffxi i started out as a female-only race, as a thief. I picked the race for the job, and i can say, there is drastic changes in how people treat you. I never led the illusion i was male or female irl until later on, when i got sick of the attention. I like to lead things, and any FFXI'ers out there, know what AF, Eco-Warrior, Genkai, Renkai and such is. I also led a Linkshell (Guild) and Co-lead another one at different points, Females are definately less-respected as leaders, but far more respected as supporters. All in all, they are fun to play, and you can learn a lot about the other gender in trying to be them, but the Males are stereotyped leaders, IE tanks, and females, supporters, IE whm. Read a fantasy novel and see what i mean. The advice that is offered by the females is more oftenly listened to tho...confusing? i think so.
-my two cents-

Posted by: Mike on August 1, 2004 1:02 PM

I am a young male (14 years old) and I play mostly female characters. I do this for two reasons: 1) this has been said before, but they're nice to look at, and more aesthetically pleasing. 2) is more specific. Say, I'm hanging out in a 'bar' in-game, or somewhere, and some guy asks me to cyber. I say sure, we go to a secluded spot, he takes off his armor. I turn into a bear and squash him. He'll probably scream and call me a bitch, but it was fun!

Posted by: Matthew Hubbard on August 2, 2004 9:17 AM

I'm a 21 year old male with a very healthy sex life, and I primarily play female characters.

Is it because of some kind of unconscious desire to exert control over women?

Is it because I want to experience what it's like to be a woman?

Nope. I play female characters because I like looking at attractive women. I like looking at attractive women in real life, so why wouldn't I want to look at attractive women in my games?

Posted by: Martin on September 20, 2004 1:29 AM

I am a gay 33 y/o male, I gender bend as well. Playing women definatley has its advantages as far as treatment goes, I am able to seduce men out of gold, diamonds, money, help, you name it. And most often with very little effort, I don't do this to take advantage of men, I do it because being a seductress wields an inherent power over men. I have attempted the same with male characters that I play as GAY characters, this is extremely challenging but I have had my successes, even with straight men. But the most interesting experiences have been with female characters who are secretly hermaphrodites. To me the hermaphrodite woman is the most honest character for me to play because I am a gay male, and I wanted a way to Roll Play my RL sexuality into the game, in this way even straight men still have an opportunity to have a romance with my character and they can choose how far they want to experiment with their sexual tolerance or curiosities. I usually reveal my "situation" when the man makes it clear they want "sexual" relations to progress our relationship (in game that is), I usually break the news in the form of a curse that was put upon me for some arbitrary deed of one of my forbearers that offended some deity. One guy (who was straight in RL) wanted desperately to find a cure for my condition so we could continue our relationship...he learned that he could easily develope feelings for a gay man, and I learned that even when straight men fall for gay men, it doesn't change there inherent disposition. I always keep in mind when I roll play this phrase...oh the webs we weave when first we set out to decieve...and it is by this that I try to mind the feelings of other people because IRL or Roll Playing...we still have feelings that are strong and run deep. Good Journey all and happy hunting. Lascivious Ghayguy (Rallos Zek, EQ)...Lascivette Sylvermynx (Quellious, EQ)

Posted by: James on September 20, 2004 12:30 PM

Took the day off and was just reading up some blogs and thought I would post here

Posted by: gender bending on November 11, 2004 10:43 PM

Supposing that souls and spirits do exist and we embrace the dualist theory.It would be quite a fantasy and a dream to leave one's body and enter the opposite sex for a brief or long exploration to that "other" we often spend a whole life trying to conquer, or understand for whatever reason it may be. Just the fact that you are now, not only someone else (usually who you WANT to be) but also, you get to become that who you generally are trying to ''possess'' sexually and emotionally is indeed one of the biggest thrills in life, and that is what most MMORPG now offer.

The only reason I see that in most general cases would lead not to agree with this thrilling exprience, is the usual 'sexual' taboos in some individuals who see anything sexual (gender speaking) matters as something off limits.

Posted by: Roleplayer (OMT) on November 20, 2004 9:31 AM

44 year old male, playing m/f toons in a 50/50 ratio (more or less..)
Crafter toons often end up female for me, because of the "..if I have to stare at a butt for hours.." view of things mentioned already.

I do not chose the adventurer professions of my toons by sex, but usually by race. Either going the obvious way - race with bonus in a certain field gets the job - or going the hard way - the least inclined race gets the job.
And sometimes, it's just because I think of an interesting name that makes me choose sex/profession.. "Daemonica Pandaemonium" can't be a warrior or healer, right? Has to be a witch ;)
Some of my toons are flirts, some are shy, some like men and women, some don't.. some are racists, some are not.. it's roleplay - so my toons end up all quite different from another.

Funny thing is that a (RL) female friend of mine who plays the (female) lover of my (female) witch is thought to be male in RL by most people we meet, due to her behaviour in that relationship, while people that don't know my RL gender tend to think of me as female in RL due to my behaviour with that toon.

Posted by: Dan de Lion on January 7, 2005 11:10 AM

Your summary states that older men are the most likely to roleplay women? "None of these theories, however, explain why older men would be most likely to gender-bend."

The graph doesn't support that unless you are trying to tell me that 18-35 is "old." There are not two age groups represented here. Young and Old has many shades of gray in between. I think Young, Adult, Middle-aged, and Elderly are fair representations of age categories for both men and women.

I roleplay women almost exclusively now, though I played a male Iksar for four years as a main in EQ. I have always had female characters in every RPG I've played. I feel the world is empty without them. It's like saying that "only men are allowed" when I see a large group of guys doing something with little or no female representation.

What do I get out of playing a female? Not much. I rebuff gifts and "backrubs" alike. It's cheesy and not roleplaying. Go cyber on someone else's dime please. 8)

Have I received gifts as a female character? Yes. Did I offer to pay for the goods given? Every time. In fact, I refuse to accept something without paying for it now because I don't want to feed into the stereotype that women need that kind of help from men.

Have I ever tried to rescue a female character? Only if they are going to die. Same thing goes for males though too, so I can't really claim that I'm motivated by chivalry. I'm motivated by a love of helping others.

I don't cross-dress in real life - I could never get away with it. Even if I did, I could never "pass" with these shoulders and this face. My characters can do that for me, though. My restrictions of having to wear pants and keeping to tame colors and "dressing to the nines" means that I have to wear clothes I don't like - I've no choice in the matter, lest I wish to be ridiculed.

My best in-character moments have been with those who were of an otherworldly race. Iksars, Ratongas, Kerrans, Vah Shir, Dwarves, Trolls, Taurens, Orcs, etc. Gender didn't matter.

I have played female and male barbarians, humans, half-elves, and others of the basic human appearance. I loved being accepted as female without people trying to surmise my RL gender. I felt I was doing well as a roleplayer during those times.

With my latest character, I haven't tried to hold back the influence of my personality at all. I shoot straight from the hip and snap at fools (in a joking manner) who make bone-headed mistakes. I play a human shadowknight. It seems to fit the character to be a bit more "grounded" and in a hard fight, shyness or timidness might mean that people die.

Not like I play any of my characters with timidness or shyness. To me, that type of character shouldn't be an adventurer. I'm happy to give such characters an education in decisive action through example. ;)

I recently quit my guild and stopped playing my "main" character in EQII because a guild member made a female character to "rake in teh lewt" from male players. Not only that, this person wanted the guild to help their character obtain quest armor that was slightly above the guild's ability, for the sole purpose of looking "hawt" as a trader alt. I left the guild because I was one of two people who had a problem with that.

The person who was asking for the "help" with their character's wardrobe is in his early 20s. I'm in my early 30s. Our ages were never a problem before, but in as far as how women are treated, we are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

He will fawn over female characters in-game and throw his character to his death to protect them, while I treat them as equals.

It takes all kinds, I suppose, but men have a long, long, long way to go in accepting women as their equals - or better.

Pre-20s men seem to regard women as "the other sex" rather than as "the other humans."

Your statistics above show nothing about security as a male. That's something for psychologists to figure out. They merely reflect that some men see a means to an end (free lewt, as it were) and take advantage of others like them (perhaps as repayment for the items they have doled out to "women").

I hope that in our time, we see a redefining of roles for men and women or simply have the line blurred into oblivion.

Posted by: MJ on March 11, 2005 10:48 AM

Im a 30 yo male, and 2 of my 3 favorite characters right now are female. Lately I've been really focusing on good backstory and RP for all my characters and have found these 3 characters to simply be the best. No matter which toon I'm playing I always get comments on how much other players like my bio and character concept (in city of heroes).

I played my first female character when my fiance was out of town and I was missing her. I slapped together a toon that mildly resembled her. This same character has made appearances now in several games, and there is a familiar comfort in playing her. Maybe I'll get really lucky and my fiance will take over this character and play with me.

(I can always hope) :)

Posted by: Steve on March 14, 2005 2:21 PM

Well I'm a bloke and tend to enjoy playing female characters as well as male ones. I always find out that I'm more likely to get assistance/free stuff. It's sweet, but I'd perfer not to be treated as if I need the extra help because I'm "female".

I've had a few odd experiences playing as a female character. As a Mithra (female cat creature) on FFXI, a male player who I got along with quite well, insisted on calling me his "girlfriend". I wasn't sure if he was role playing, or if he actually meant it. When I told him who I was in RL he seemed a bit upsest, but I pacified him by promising that there "must be loads of real women on-line for us to find". Luckily he saw the funny side of this, and we carried on getting along!

What most puzzles me about the gender that I pick for online characters, is that despite my openess to playing female characters, I almost always end up playing as a male. I find it much easier to identify with my avatar, and playing female just doesnt quite feel right somehow. Funny how I can't escape sterotyping myself...

Posted by: Caradg on March 31, 2005 3:42 AM

I am female in RL, and when I play tabletop games, AD&D and such, I often will roll dice to see which gender my char will be. I feel comfortable in either gender in that style of gaming, a style that has a ton of role play to it.

When I started EQ back in the day, my first char was male, from the roll of the dice, but after a while I found that I was uncomfortable with that choice. I wanted to try to flirt with the guys I was meeting online, but they were uncomfortable with a male char flirting with them, even tho they knew my real gender.

So I started a new char, female, and havent looked back. As a female, I have gotten more harrassment than I ever did as a male, and more gifts. But the flirting is much more fun now. :)

Posted by: Energist on April 22, 2005 10:17 PM

I'm a 20 year old male and I play male characters. Though, I don't really play to interact and build relationships. I'm just very competitive and this is a fun way to do it. See how fast I can level.

For me I just would rather play what I am in real life. Seems more real that way.

Posted by: Tyler on April 28, 2005 3:06 PM

Hmm I'm a 26 year old female gamer - but MUDs only - and I play both male and female characters.

However, as a rule I IMPLY that the _player_ is a male. This tends to resonate well with stereotypes (can't escape 'em), because I am very much a power gamer. I _am_ an enthusiastic RPer as well, but I'm not the kind who sits and writes up back-stories, nor do I tend to blatantly advertise the fact that I RP. When I RP, I do it via immersion and persona instead.

For my "main" characters, I tend to have one male, one female. The male one is the one I'm RPing, the female one is - me - basically. She's just an avatar.

Now the interesting thing is, due to the general impression I give out (implications and all that), people who aren't close friends tend to perceive the male persona _as the player_. I think the female one seems too hyperactive and silly to be the 'real person' and to connect with the power-gaming side which is also very apparent.

While gender-bending, the kick for me is - seduction - of both genders, as well as in general. There's the challenge that online sexual/emotional - conquests - gives. But there's also challenge in making people BELIEVE the male persona IS the player... that's a big part of it for me. It's interesting to be on the male side of 'gender roles' as it were. My male persona is in many ways a total rake - think the Vicomte de Valmont and you have something close.

I read somewhere that in ?Kabuki? plays, only women can act the true masculine hero, and men the perfect feminine heroine, because men playing men or women playing women are too reliant on their physical attributes.

To some extent this (for me) carries over to gender-bending online as well, since it's more or less a direct pipeline into 'what women (or men) want' - or at least a certain type that mirrors your own psychological makeup.

Posted by: Jellydonut on May 3, 2005 2:13 AM

I'm 23, I am an alt-whore, I never have enough character slots, but I am only comfortable playing female characters - I like the attention from being attractive since I'm not IRL (hey... it's a fantasy world!) My hubby is 33, also an alt-whore, but is comfortable playing either - and he enjoys not worrying about me getting jealous when women flirt with him if he's playing a female himself. =)

In Everquest, last year, we became friends with a self-proclaimed "hot, single, female" who tended to cyber everyone she knew online, male or female. We found out a few months later it was a married man fooling us all. So we learned the hard way - when someone in-game tells you their gender, don't get too serious until you get some concrete proof. This isn't the first time I've heard of someone lying about their RL gender just to have sex online.

Posted by: Annie on May 7, 2005 10:13 PM

Maybe you need another graph to show whether people who read & comment on websites like this are more likely to gender-bend? Judging from this page the answer would be yes. I would even hazzard a guess that its because you need a certain level of maturity - for males at least -to do both.

An interesting question would be why females between 22 & 35 *dont* feel comfortable playing a character of the opposite sex

Posted by: Jam on May 17, 2005 12:35 AM

In RPG's we can be what we are not in real life. We can be mighty wizards with powerful spells. We can be evil warlocks with armies of undead. We can be rightious kings that bring prosperity to the land. We can be raging barbarians, stealthy thieves and many other things that we are not in real life, but maybe wish to be. In my case it's clear why I play characters of the other gender...

Posted by: on May 24, 2005 5:04 PM

I'm a 19 year old male, and while my characters in such games tend to be equally split, I must say it seems I play the female characters more often.

I have thought about it before, and besides some slight influence for role-play of certain character concepts, I have noticed that the first character I make is usually male, while the second is female (and usually made with more game knowledge, therefore: better).

There is also the simple factor that I would prefer staring at a woman for hours than a man (though I find myself not drawn to games where there is a large distinction bewteen woman's and men's armor/clothing).

Posted by: Erik on June 21, 2005 8:18 PM

I have been an avid rpg player, mudder, and most recently mmorpger for many years, covering everything from Achaea to Realms of Despair to Kingdom of Loathing to World or Warcraft.

Primarily, in text games, I play males [as I am a 22 year old one myself], and in visual games, I use female avatars.

A good part of this, is that in many games, the male avatars are possessed of enormous codpieces and gigantuan biceps, which obscure noticeably more of the screen than female avatars, not to mention it just bothers me on a visceral level.

As well as simply being able to see somewhat better around a female av, their physical rendering is often much preferrable to the male ones. This is not in the manner of "I'd rather stare at a female backside", but in that the male models are very often absurdly-to-repugnantly muscle-bound, and usually have very poorly realized facial features. Take World of Warcraft, for example, where my gnome and human are female, because the male models for those races look alternately creepy/leering or just plain neandertal and slow-witted. Furthermore, I have yet to find a game, where the male models come close to representing my own form, and here the female avs are almsot a more reasonable approximation.

Moreover, I rather enjoy collecting and fashioning various garb, and I find that outfitting my female avs tends to lend to more aesthetic results than the males. The primary exception here, is my male Tauren Warrior, who looks awe-inspiring in heavy arms and armor.

Finally, my use of female avs is something of an attempt to balance the demographics of the game world. It can be a bit bothersome, or disconcerting, to wander through cities where 90% of the people you pass are male.

Posted by: Dormouse on July 5, 2005 2:07 AM

I'd much rather play a female character than a male chararacter. As a 20-yr old femle myself, I'd much rather look at my shapely Twi'lek than some guy. Moreover, what social benefit do I gain by playing a male character? Frankly, I'm used to people being very nice to me becasue they think I'm a girl. It's also much more fun to roleplay and dress a female character. As an Image Designer in Star Wars Galaxies, I also spend a good deal of time color-coordinating myself to match clothing. I also think business is better in that profession because I play a female character. Before I became an ID myself, I always picked female-avatar IDs over male ones. Moreoever, the male IDs tend to have garish coloring and they look like birds in mating plumage. Moreover, you can usually spot gender-bending IDs for the same reason. I do know a good number of very well coordinated male characters, but my experience in general has biased me against them.

Posted by: Madison on August 1, 2005 8:13 AM

Interestingly in EvE it is not always easy to tell the gender of the player. Without a bipedal avatar all you have to go on is a small picture that is easily ignored. I do find that if I think a player is female, not based on any explicit information mind you, I treat them differently. To be fair though I have a terrible time interacting with real females, and my social alkwardness is only slightly improved online.

Posted by: alaph on January 14, 2006 12:27 PM

I think there's a huge question here that hasn't been discussed. Do people imagine that the character running around on the screen is a representation of themselves, or do they believe that it's just a tool to interact with the game? When I play WoW, I see my character in 3/4 view from the back. I can clearly make the distinction that this is not me. I can't normally float above my own head and look down at myself. I would love to see a study about what types of people project themselves into their character, versus the types of people who see their character as more of a tool to manipulate. I see in a lot of the posts people who do one or the other, or sometimes one and sometimes another. Some of the men say they like to look at a female character, and I suggest that for these people the character is not a projection of their selves. Some of the people say they have a main character that they roleplay, and then other characters that are more of a tool for interacting in a different way. Perhaps the younger generation has a harder time projecting themselves into a character that doesn't match their self image? Perhaps the older generation doesn't project their selves into their characters as much? Someone has to have done this study already...

Posted by: Caecias on January 17, 2006 9:44 AM

I'm a 16-year-old girl IRLside and I play both pretty evenly. I've been RPing on the Internet since I-can't-remember-when, and genderbending in roleplay has just never seemed that odd to me. I played male characters all the time. In an MMO setting I've found it a litle more difficult to get into playing male characters the same way, especially in World of Warcraft (the human and elf males are just so *ugly*!), but that doesn't stop me from trying.

I've never understood why character gender was such "a thing". One of my best friends is a 17-year-old male who plays a female Night Elf as his main. It just never occurred to me that people might have thought it was weird.

Posted by: rebecca on January 18, 2006 2:53 PM

For me, I play both table-top rpgs in which my characters are all male. This is simply due to ease of interaction as my those games tend to be rather chaotic in nature.

As for the world in an MMORPG, there is more freedom to play around. Usually, like another stated, my preferences for characters generally go along with what they are best at. I generally prefer fast, agile characters and that lends itself more to play a female character.

My other reason for choosing a female character is an added layer of anonymity. It allows me to play around more, get more of my character's background developed in-game. That, and it's a fantasy setting and, I'll be straight-forward and say that there are fantasies involving being transformed. I'm stable enough in my masculinity to say that kind of thing. Besides, who wouldn't want to stare at the backside of a beautiful woman? (Although, in all honesty, there are some really hot male character models in some games as well ;)

Posted by: Neverwind on February 2, 2006 3:21 PM

I'm agreeing with what several people here have said. Most older men who play females do so because the character that you spend the most time looking at is your own -- and a man would rather stare at a female character.

Younger males, however, are less secure in their own masculinity.

Posted by: Homr on February 3, 2006 1:11 PM

well i may be the first transgendered person here =) ... i have to say it was just natural for me to play with all girl models =) ...

maybe its just cause more guys want to be girls =) lol

Posted by: Kristi on March 4, 2006 8:04 PM

So much I could say. Being male (42) and playing almost exclusively female characters, I chose to do so for a number of reasons.

When I first started in EQ1 I chose female initially for largely superficial reasons:

1) Appearance - the ole "I want to look at an attractive bum" argument;
2) I thought (rightly so) that people would be more friendly to a female toon.

While these initial reasons were somewhat shallow (and I am the first to admit that toon gender is of little consequence), the choice soon became more important to me. As a highly social player I realised that I was more approachable to both genders while in female form (RL social biases and conditioning at play there). As a general rule both RL males and females feel a tad less guarded when faced with a female toon (my opinion).

Additionally, as I had been through the torrid culmination of an unpleasant RL relationship at the time, the female toon provided a more acceptable avenue to re-discover and invigorate the gentler "feminine" side of my RL character. As such it was a particularly successful and rewarding exercise. I joked about it in SWG when my bride to be (whom I went on to meet in RL, and sadly passed away 11 days later .. another story) jokingly refused to marry a female, so I deleted Lin'lea in favour of a male toon. At the time I joked "Lin had opened my male sensitive slot."

We project much of our own character into these realms. Were this not the case I am sure the Daedalus Project would not exist. In truth the many incarnations of Linolea (EQ1, SWG and now WoW) have affected my RL as much as I have controlled her actions in the imaginary. A separation of the two would be an exercise in futility. I fully appreciate that many people do seperate the two realms, and they are the true RP'ers, not I.

Lastly I would like to relay a favourite analogy of mine...
"At the cinema we know the characters are not real, the stories often completely fictional, but does that make our emotional responses any less real? Think on the nature of MMORPG's, and you start to realise they are a step closer to reality. Now the people playing the toons are very real and they exist in real time."
I honestly believe that Red Dwarf's "better than life" is the addiction of the furture. Gender bending will be part of the allure.

Posted by: Linolea on March 22, 2006 8:22 PM

I am a 30+ male, and my main is a female rogue in WoW. My reason for doing this is purely tactical- I began playing with a male undead, but quickly discovered that the females were a lot smaller, and thus easier to see around. In a third-person game, the smaller character can be much easier to play with when your class requires careful positioning, as the rogue does.

The below-mentioned concept of 'preferring to stare at the backside of a female character' seems a bit impolite in concept, as well as just plain gross in practice (when you're talking about the undead).

Posted by: Josh on April 5, 2006 10:04 AM

I’m a 30-something y/o male who has had transgender feelings his whole life, and so I invariably play females when I go online.

Oh, I try male characters, and am just… well, BORED with them. They’re like cardboard to me; I quickly lose interest. I simply enjoy being perceived as and interacted with as female when I’m online; it makes me come alive in a way that I do not when I play a male character. I feel better about life and myself.

I do enjoy the more game-oriented MMO’s (like EQ2 or CoH), but really enjoy more social games such as Second Life, where avatar creation and stylization is seemingly limitless, and people really interact with each other as they would in RL. If there’s any sort of virtual reality that approximates RL, right now it would be Second Life – it’s very good.

I think I’ve been pretty successful at what I do. I don’t really have to “force myself to act female,” I just interact with others in ways that are natural for me, and people have automatically assumed I’m female in real life.

(My most recent experience was pretty funny: I was helping a female n00bie toon and quickly concluded she was actually a young adult male, not female at all, and soon enough he was hitting on me and making references to my daily RL as if I were a female there. The flirting was a little annoying, but I was flattered by his assumptions.)

Anyway, I find the whole online gender thing fascinating, watching the patterns with which men and women relate. Yes, people are similar to each other in many ways, but the two genders still approach and work through things differently, with somewhat different goals in mind.

Posted by: Wishful Thinker on May 19, 2006 9:10 AM

I am an older male, and I choose female avatars because I would rather look at a shapely female than a buff male. This is why Lara Croft is so popular.

It takes a bit of abstract thinking to play a character without being the character, and younger players haven't figured this out yet. They tend to become the avatar instead of playing the avatar.

Posted by: pawn on May 30, 2006 4:30 PM

Well, this is interesting. As someone typed, usually males tend to be rather bulky looking, or just plain boring, while females have alot of options to play around with. Also, they are more stylish in a sense.

What I find offensive is the fact that these guys you meet online are so desperate for affection that they want to be your online boyfriend, without really thinking of the person behind the avatar.

Posted by: WaffleMage on May 31, 2006 10:49 AM

I've played a variety of MMORPGs and had some male and some female characters. These days I find myself playing women much more often due to the way the different sexes are portrayed in the game.

It has been commented several times that the women in games tend to be of the perfect-body-not-wearing-much style, but not many people notice that the men are the same - they tend to be large muscley types, who in combat would be expected to rely heavily on brute force.
I personally don't like that for my characters - I prefer the small characters that rely on skill, and can use their speed and ability to take down the larger opponents (this applies when playing tanks too - it's not about being able to take a punch, it's about being quick enough that you avoid most or all of the blow) and women tend to fit that appearance much better in MMORPGs.

Posted by: After8 on June 2, 2006 4:00 AM

I'm a 34 year old male. I play multiple classes of both genders in various MMO's.

First of all, the sex of the character has no relevance to me, as it's just a few pixels on the screen. I don't associate character gender with actual gender, and generally don't make assumptions as to the actual gender of other players (though it's been my experience that a male character is generally played by a male player). Whether I am playing a male, and being 'hit on' by a female, or playing a female and being 'hit on' by a male, I feel the odds are just about the same that the other player is a male. Either way, it's pretty creepy. I don't like sexual interaction of any kind in games - that's what the real world is for.

Secondly, as many have said, I don't mind staring at a female butt while playing. This further highlights the disassociation of character from self. My character isn't 'me'. It's just a few pixels. I don't feel any more self-conscious about playing a female character, than I would feel hanging a pinup on my wall featuring a woman. It's just art.

But the previous two points have merely illustrated why I don't mind playing a female. They haven't explained why I actually do occasionally play a female. In my case, I tend to play passive characters as female, such as healers and support classes. At the same time, I play aggressive characters as male, such as damage dealers and tanks. It simply feels more appropriate to me.

I suspect alot of other players make their healers female, for the same reason (gender 'appropriate' roles - chauvanistic perhaps, but pervasive at a subconscious level). I'm also betting that older males tend to play support roles more often than younger males, so that might throw a real wrench in the statistical interpretation.

Posted by: DaImp on June 6, 2006 9:26 AM

Does "gender bending" only apply to people on RP servers or does it refer to anyone who has played an opposite sex character? I am female IRL and my WoW main is a female tauren. I do have a couple of male alts I play sometimes, but I am not on a RP server nor do RP in game. I don't in any way go out of my way to hide my RL gender from people I group with, but it doesn't always come up. Ususally, I can figure out someone's real gender when I chat with them about RL (or even in-game) subjects, but not always.

Once I was on a run where a bunch of the male players started picking on a guy for playing a female "toon". When I commented that I have a male alt they said that was "different". I guess women are still regarded as "inferior" and many young men are still very homophobic these days and so men who play a female character are regarded with suspicion.

As for reasons? Maybe some serious "role players" like the added challenge of playing someone who is totally different from their RL persona. Other reasons may be just to try out a different set of in-game jokes or emotes. Maybe female avatars are treated a little more nicely (by male players) than male ones, but I've only noticed that when playing an alliance night elf female, and it was actually kind of patronizing and annoying. Some may want to leer at "hot" opposite sex bods or to work through real ambivalence about their RL gender roles.

I guess I am not sure why it would be a big issue unless you are constantly sexualizing your character and are luring people into believing that RL romance is a possibility while misrepresenting your RL gender.

Posted by: Erica on August 6, 2006 3:41 PM

I play WoW a great deal, and I have many characters. I thought I'd like to add the idea of the game developer having quite a large say in whether people will Gender-bend.

This is the case with me and WoW. In WoW, I try and go for the character that looks the "coolest." The way it is, there are two ways to make a character - "cool" looking, or "goofy" looking. People with names like Cheesedoodle will want a goofy looking character, people with fantasy type names will want a "cool" looking character. That's just the style and seriousness that they prefer in the game.

In WoW, the male and female avatars correspond to these images. On average, the male characters in WoW have fewer options for "cool" looking characters than the females. It is fairly difficult to create a goofy looking female character, whereas nearly half of all avatar options on a male character will seem goofy. For example, the Gnome race has males and females - nearly all the females are made to look very cute, but nearly all the males are made to look very silly - with outrageous beards and goofy faces.

So, when I choose a character, I don't choose it for the gender of the character, but rather on how the character looks overall. A contrary example is the Undead race. Most Undead males are "cool" or scary looking, while the females are mostly just ugly. As an undead, I would pick a male over a female easily. The same with Tauren - the male characters are large and powerful looking, the females are ugly and odd-shaped. I have only male Tauren.

But again, I have only female Night Elves, Humans, and Gnomes.

I think gender roles are not only programmed into the people who play MMOs, but also the people who create them. As a whole, MMOs feature beautiful female characters, with flawless features and exaggarated sexual attractions. Players don't necessarily find such a chiseled and perfect looking character on the male end.

Thanks :)

Posted by: Matt on August 12, 2006 10:21 AM

I play female character exclusively on all MMOs that I have played.


The main reason is that I am gay and somewhat transgendered in real life, and playing as a female character allows me to express the transgendered part of that in a virtual environment. Having said that, I don't try to overdo it when I am in a roleplaying mode, but at the same time I do enjoy being able to act and interact in that gender in the virtual world.

I realize that my own reasons are different from those of most male players who choose to have female characters, but I figured I would add them in to the mix here.

Posted by: Brendan on August 22, 2006 12:44 PM

I play exclusively female characters in every game I play pretty much for the exact reasons Brendan just mentioned.

I don't sound like a girl on vent, but in game most people do think I'm a girl.

It is rather relaxing to be yourself and not have to deal with more typical negative reactions.

Posted by: Lyssa on August 25, 2006 1:57 PM

The only MMO I have played is WoW, and I have both male and female characters. I started with a female, but later on chose several males simply because of the way they looked. For instance, I tried a female tauren and I don't like the way the chatacter model runs or casts. She got deleted. I found I had no such problem with the male tauren. A male undead was chosen because I prefer the hairstyles available to the males over the overstyled ones the females get. A female night elf druid was deleted because I don't like the way the model casts, but I can play a female elf hunter without any problem. All in all, it comes down to what I can tolerate watching until level 60 and beyond. If the mannerisms of the character bother me, male or female, it has to go. If I make it to 20 without it driving me nuts, it's a keeper.

Posted by: Cynthia on August 30, 2006 11:25 AM

"None of these theories, however, explain why older men would be most likely to gender-bend. Any ideas?"

I have another theory on why this is so...Younger male players feel a bigger need to express their masculinity...While I think the older guys are less likely to feel uncomfortable with being labeled a "cross-dresser". Most of my gender-beding friends (in their 20s-30s) just laugh it off and role-play a bit for a larf. And they really just rather look at a female sprite.

I play male characters as well, but that's because those are accounts left to me by someone else, and I can choose :P.

Posted by: Piggy on September 4, 2006 7:13 PM

I think Piggy is right. I am a 36 year old male and play a female character partly because I think the male power fantasy stuff that dominates a lot of games, RPG and otherwise, is obnoxious and embarrassing. I doubt I would have thought that way as a teenager though.

The other part is true also. I really would rather look at a cute girl from behind than some kind of Conan the Barbarian, even if she's just a cartoon. I don't know why more men don't think of it that way. It's a lot more entertaining. Maybe I'm just a dirty old man, heh. :)

Not to mention that by now it has become a habit. I don't feel like making many kinds of characters and enjoy a sort of joke making the same one fit into various genres (in both RPG and RPG-style FPS play).

Posted by: Alex on October 19, 2006 8:13 AM

When I started online playing, I immediately went for the female that bore a striking resemblance to me in real life, simply because I'm a romantic and I love feeling as if I'm "in the game" to give me the overall experience of role-playing. That, and most importantly, in my opinion, I pick the characters of which the outfits would look most cute on my characters(strike me down for being a girl, god bless LOL). It's just the way I enjoy my online experience or any gaming experience for that matter.

When I first started playing, I really never paid attention or focused on the gender of other characters; I was just too nervous and confused on grasping the game to really care, and fumbling my way around.

Continuing my game play, I have a tendency to be curious as to who is behind that character just because it's human nature, I suppose, on my part. I'm a curious girl at heart and I love to go exploring. I came across an ingame situation closely related to this issue at hand, and developed into a major, catastrophic dilemma in real life.

I'm just going to spare details of the exact drama that ensued, but let's just say I learned to treat everyone equally in any online game. I learned to not focus or even attempt to care about gender in real life or ingame, and to only worry about oneself and one's own issues. For now, I say let others enjoy their game play by letting them experience it how they choose.

Posted by: Rose on November 8, 2006 7:50 PM

As a 18 Male. I always choose male characters, just because i think they are more..well,me.and that it would be 'appropriate' technically in a social environment such as a MMORPG, Adding the fact that I often like to think of the character as a part of myself.

To be truthful I think the female characters models look much prettier. and I most definately would not mind playing one, but I'm rather intolerant to harrassments that would quite possibly ruin my gaming experience.

Posted by: Jin on January 23, 2007 4:34 PM

I'm a 38 y/o male, and been playing MMORPG's from MUD's at University, Also played EQ, AC, DAoC, AO, CoH, EQII and WoW.

When I started playing, I used to play Male characters, mainly I think because I played these characters as representations of myself. I was the character if you get my drift.
Later, as I carried on playing, I was "playing" the character. I'm not sure when this dis-association took place, but I stopped playing males and only melee types (IRL I'd be the tank every time - too big and fat to do anything else) and started giving the characters I was playing the ability to be more than just a representation of me in a virtual game.
I started playing more and more female toon's, partly for the much mentioned "I live looking at women's butts" but also because I like the deceptive element of play that MMORPG's provide. I'll quite often play the female gnome warrior, just because I enjoy it more when she takes out the massive hulking Tauren. Something about liking the underdog to come out on top, or dup'ing the other player into thinking I'm harmless or weak when the reverse is the case.
In reality I'm over 6' and no one would confuse me for a woman, but thinking about it, most of the male characters I play are somewhat on the short side, and I suspect that the gender bending and the height thing come from the same place: To experience (all be it virtually) something you're not.

Posted by: Ed on February 2, 2007 3:56 AM

I'm a girl, 32 years old. I play wow and guild wars, and enjoy being male characters sometimes, although I play female chars more often. My friends have told me it's confusing when I'm a male character. Also, like other posters have written, people are kinder to my female characters than my male ones. It bothers me that I can't know who the real people are behind other characters in game. I fear miscommunication will affect my/our objectives. I only play with others when I can use ventrillo or am playing with real life friends.

Posted by: April on February 4, 2007 10:51 AM

In all of my MMO experience, which has been more or less limited to Maplestory and other platform sidescrolling games, I've had male characters. 4 of them, to be exact, because first of all the people I guilded with were people I knew on another forum, and I also was tired of every female player having female characters. Call me odd, but one is more anonymous online if you're male, because usually males seek out females in MMO. I never really wanted/want/have wanted female characters.

Posted by: Valence on February 4, 2007 7:37 PM

I'm a 32 years old guy, who plays only female characters. The reason being that like most transexual/cross-dressers, I consider myself a woman in a male's body. Yet not to the point of cross-dressing, or taking steps towards a gender reassingment operation. Which probably has to do with the fact that I'm also straight, considering myself a lesbian in a male body, so to speak. So playing females in MMOs is my way of acting out my transgender edge at low cost.
There's also probably that thing that's been mentionned many times : a female character is more pleasant to look at. But in my case it's secondary. I just like how easy it makes it to experience life as a female, with the simple act of closing the session to go back to reality.

Posted by: Novelty on May 6, 2007 1:36 AM

My (m/27) experience in WoW doesn't really fit with what many others have said; my first main character was a male tauren shaman, who has spent almost the entire endgame specced for healing.

More recently, I started a female tauren druid, now 70 and specced for tanking/dps. I originally started her as a tradeskill alt and, as far as I can recall, she is only a she because I was suffering a crisis of imagination at the character creation screen: I ended up picking the name Mozzarella, because it sounds nice, and once I'd picked it I decided it'd be a better name for a girl than a boy :).

However, the reasons I ended up playing her as my main are harder to quantify. Certainly, I found I preferred playing as a druid... but now, on the rare occasions when I log my male toon, I am struck by how clumsy and inelegant he seems by comparison.

Aside from the pleasure I take in subverting the 'cute deadly female' stereotype (by playing an 'ugly deadly female'), prettiness isn't a factor here. They're both anthropomorphised cows, and neither of them are remotely attractive, but I've found I'm much happier identifying with a graceful character than a clodhopping dolt ;).

Incidentally, despite their gender-inverted primary roles, my male character is a miner/engineer, while the female is a herbalist/alchemist/fisher/cook -- clearly my personality has some lurking traditionalist aspects too, even though I don't consciously consider my toon's gender at all when playing.

I'm not sure what all this information will do for you except muddy the waters, but I hope it's interesting nonetheless :).

Posted by: Mozz on June 29, 2007 6:43 AM

I just discussed this with my friend who's played female only characters for as long as I can remember. He said he's thought about it at length and concluded that it's mainly due to his elevated opinion of women. Why play a lowly male when you can be the superior sex?
I blame his wife, she's making us men look bad.

Posted by: Kheiron on June 29, 2007 5:09 PM

I'm ~50, male, and a VERY late bloomer when it comes to MMORPGs -- I just started with WoW last year, having only ever previously played 'video' games such as Tetris and Centipede. In minutes I was hooked, primarily by the wealth of detail and breadth and scope of the world and the in-game society.

Even so, I only rolled male toons at first, until it was pointed out to me that among our horde of game-playing teens were several boys playing female characters -- I remember the vivid sense of surprise, not that this was possible, but that I had not considered it.

Thereafter I made a female Blood Elf, and quickly outgrew making her run around in her red bikini. Now she's as thoroughly 'me' as any of the others, and I rarely consider gender consciously in-game. But I do refer to my various toons as 'he' or 'she', as the case may be.

Posted by: Mojarra on June 30, 2007 4:59 PM

I suppose many ideas will abound. BUT after a few decades of experience, childern, Jobs, and life in general. Men tend to finally acknowledge that gender is not the most attractive, or important part of a persons makeup. It is personality and the fact that they are a person. Not a gender or the socity imposed rules for that said gender.

Posted by: Mark on July 8, 2007 12:57 PM

I am a 17 Male, and I have quite a few female characters. I enjoy the aesthetics, and I also think playing male characters all the time becomes quite boring over time. My main and primary alt are male (Human Paladin and Tauren Shaman), but my highest level alt (Night Elf Druid) is female. I have never felt the "I must be He-Man woman hater!" urge apparently courted by younger players, and I have learned to not expect those playing female characters to actually be female. My rule is "Unless you know it to be otherwise, the person behind character X is male."

I do admit that I make my female characters into supportive roles usually (although I had a female Elven Knight on Lineage II), and was not aware that that might be my subconscious forcing its perception of gender roles onto my character choices. If these studies do anything, they certainly make me think.

Posted by: Treima on August 27, 2007 9:26 PM

I am somewhat perplexed by this whole thread. You know how In Game, it makes no difference whether the toon is male or female? Everyone fights and dies, or fights and wins - equally. I want to point out it's the same with their players. I don't care what your toon looks like, I don't care how many chromosomes you have nor what your anatomy is like. I will never meet you in RL, so in game you are a PERSON first, then a PLAYER. What I would say to you , I would say to anybody. Your gender is irrelevant because in the game, we are all the same.

Posted by: Powd on September 25, 2007 6:55 AM

Okay, writing this a little drunk so mind the grammar. Im a 26 year old male IRL. My first characture was a Male Blood Elf priest but after getting tired of running a caster I rolled a female Tauren Warrior for some melee fun...

I did this simply 'cause female Taurens are way hotter than night elves and/or blood elves in my humble option and I wanted something easy on the eye. I didnt really think about the social aspects until I was in game for a few levels.

I have to say phycologically it fascinates me in how differently my two charactures are treated and I have a whole new respect for females and the crap they have to put-up with IRL because of it.

Guess the worst thing about running a female char is having people flirt with me which is kind of creepy and awkward. The helping thing gets annoying too.

Again it totally gives me a new perspective and respect for IRL females.

Posted by: Reanimator on October 25, 2007 3:04 AM

Honestly, I think one of the biggest reasons younger men gender-bend less than older men is because they honestly just haven't thought about it.

There was a game a long time ago that I remember seeing that didn't ask you your character's gender at the beginning. It was a 1st-person perspective game, and you started at a bar. The first thing you did was get up to use the bathroom. Naturally, you (as the player) would just likely use the bathroom you (as the player) would normally use. Whichever bathroom you went in to: that was your character's gender. It was probably very uncommon for anyone to gender-bend in that game because they just didn't think about it: your character would just end up being the same gender as yourself. You just followed what patterns you normally would.

Younger males probably just haven't even thought about playing females as much. They simply gravitate toward the gender that they are because it's a more natural(?) response that way. It's a potentially foreign idea to them, whereas older males have certainly "heard of it" and possibly even tried it out.

Another variable you could account for would be "have you ever wanted to play a character of the opposite gender?" My hypothesis would be that younger males would answer no more often than older males.

Posted by: evilbob on October 31, 2007 9:51 AM

I think its a simple matter of the player's security with themselves. Young males may be naturally more uncomfortable with playing female characters, at that age they would be subject to questions from siblings, parents, etc about their character choice. Same with young females but if the girl felt oppressed in any way because of gender IRL (perceived or not) then it would make sense to roll a male char. As people grow older their sense of what their role is in lfie gets stronger and therefore roleplaying a different gender does not hold as many "consequences" for them.

Posted by: Lovelace on November 1, 2007 3:12 PM

I think there might be still another reason as yet unconsidered behind younger men beeing less likely to gender-bend, unless they have a specific reason such as being transgendered: To play a female, you must at least have any idea HOW to do that, meaning you need some amount of experience with women, their behaviour, their mannerisms and what not. As a man, having probably had several relationships, longer or shorter, you have that experience, even if it tells you that women are not, in fact, that different, after all... But only then do you know.

Posted by: Avaniel on November 8, 2007 10:38 AM

There's one reason for males creating female characters that I haven't seen: that some of us males are feminist enough to enjoy strong women and enjoy creating powerful female characters. I've created a number of characters in City of Heroes, and the 3 characters who've advanced the farthest are all female. And I stay away from the "woman as supporter/healer" stereotype. Two of them are tankers who are in the middle of any fight, taking punishment and dishing it out with the best of them. The third one is a crafty non-powered hero, but dishes out plenty of damage with a bow and arrow.

I have gotten some interesting attention with two of my female characters, but only once did it get a little creepy. And to their credit I've never had a male character on my team freak out when my statuesque blond in a skirt and heels suddenly sprouts stone armor and a large hammer.

Posted by: P2 on February 2, 2008 7:33 AM

I'm 28 male and i play a mix of sexs, I lean more towards female characters but some races/classes just are male to me.

In DAoC I have/had an ogre, hes male and he has a big axe in the same game i have a saracen female who has a pair of daggers and stealths. In this way i guess its just want i think would fit the classes.

I also play table top D20 games (D&D + Star Wars) i again play a mix of characters but i noticed that a lot of my females are lesbians and I will role play them as such. I have no problem looking at females or males across the table from me and pretending to be my character and flirt with them.

I also MMO with a lot of my RL friends, so i don't even see their avatars, most of the time i just think of them as my friends and have actually been know to suggest classes that they can't take because i didn't notice their race/sex.

As for females getting better treatment/hit on I've been playing MMOs for about 7 years if not longer and i must admit that i really haven't noticed it, possible because i'm a lone wolf type of player quiet happy to wander off and do my own thing solo.

Posted by: Greg on April 15, 2008 7:10 PM

In FFXI, I have both male and female characters. It's funny because they both represent aspects of my personality, and which one I choose to use (when I have a choice) depends largely on my mood.

My original character, Darkmoose (Hume Male), has typical male-expected jobs leveled, Warrior, Thief, Ranger, Paladin, Samurai, Ninja. However, my main character, Aramina (Hume Female), has White Mage and Bard main jobs, which are both support, and the only real melee class that I have leveled on her is Beastmaster, which is nice for when I just want to be alone.

It's funny that people will call me either Moose or Ara in-game, mostly dependent on what I was doing when they met me, or when they met me. People who met me before Aramina became my main still will call me Moose, even if I'm on Aramina, and people who've met me since will almost always call me Ara, even when I'm slashing it up as a Samurai on Moose.

As far as what my moods dictate, when I'm feeling more gregarious, friendly, social, etc. I'll usually be found on Aramina. If I'm feeling aggressive, blood-thirsty, etc. I'll usually be on Darkmoose.

While I'd say that I definitely would prefer to look at a female character, and I definitely get more freebies on Aramina, I enjoy having two characters, even though many times it means doing quests and missions that I would rather not repeat for a second time.

Posted by: Josh on April 17, 2008 2:16 AM

I also agree that it has to do mostly with personality. I know both males and females that genderbend,even i did it at a point. Mostly about what kind of approach you want in a game.

Posted by: Jason on December 11, 2008 6:35 PM

I think i have solved the problem on why more males gender-bend than females. Think about it. Females in history have been known for their beauty and males for their power. No offense to anyone, just stating some facts (yes i know that women has contributed much to society just stating the benefits nature gave to use since birth). In MMO's, male and female character's are quite equal in power obviously. This makes the perfect fantasy character female. To put it in better words.........imagine a perfect human being; obviosly they would have the female figure which is so famous in human history but they would have the strength of the male. Just something to think about.

Posted by: Adam on December 11, 2008 7:09 PM

Sorry. We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.
I am from Monaco and too poorly know English, give please true I wrote the following sentence: "Ebookers worldwide travel specialist in the mid and."

;-) Thanks in advance. Skule.

Posted by: Skule on April 5, 2009 1:22 AM
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