10/14/2009

Published on 10/14/2009 Written by 18 comments

The Gender Swap

I was reading this post over at Critical Hits about gaming women. As I was scanning the comments I noticed a few people stating that although they didn't game with women, the men in their groups would often play women. In my twenty eight years of gaming, I have gamed with men and women, both straight and gay and no one has ever played their opposite gender. So I have to ask, does gender swapping in game matter?

To me gender in a game is a non-issue. A player can create and mold their character in whatever image they want within the bounds of the campaign we're playing. So if a man wanted to play a woman, or a woman a man because that was the vision they had for their character, I don't think I would have a problem with it. Unfortunately, this has never come up for me so I'll just have to wander into hypothetical land for a minute here.

If a player desired to play the opposite gender in a game I was running, I think I would immediately ask them, why? If they answered that it was part of the way they saw the character, or they think it would be interesting or it just feels right, then I don't think I would care. If they looked at me all creepy and said, she/he is hot, and then snickered while pressing their hands together, I might refuse... and probably not invite them back to play again.

That's really all I can say. Does gender swapping matter in your game? If you have some experience with this, let me know. I am really interested in hearing about it from both the players and gamemasters perspective. Please comment away.

18 comments:

  1. The first long-term D&D character I played back in the late 70s/early '80s was a woman and I didn't give it a second thought; she kicked ass as well (if not better) than most of the male characters!

    In recent years, sitting in the DM's chair, we've introduced a female gamer to our group and the first character she played was a male (and she played it very well) and has since switched between male and female as her view of a particular character dictates.

    As you say, if done for the right reason, it's no problem... at least not in the hack'n'slash fantasy games we're currently engaging in.

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  2. I have played a number of female characters over the years. In fact, in our current 3.5 D&D game I play Rhiannon, a female shifter druid.

    I think your comment that "it is just how I see the character" is an accurate description as to why I play female characters from time to time. A good example is Rhiannon, who really fits well into a "Witch of the Woods" archetype in my mind.

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  3. Most of the people I game with play some of each. I can think of four people (out of about 14) who only ever play their own sex. One says that with his beard and voice it just comes across as silly if he plays a female, one is a 13-year old girl who tends to play idealized versions of herself, and I don't know the reasons for the other two. Me, I flip a coin unless I have a reason to go with one or the other. The way I look at it the sex of the character is pretty trivial difference compared to playing a member of an alien species, a robot, a demon, a hive-mind, or even a person from a thousand years ago, and we expect players to be able to do that.

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  4. jamused above uses one of my favorite arguments for allowing players to play characters of a gender different to their own.

    I allow it when as a GM and I often play female characters as a player. It is what strikes me for a character idea, some are obviously male, others female. It just depends on what inspires me at character creation.

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  5. This is an interesting concept. I actually never encountered it until I saw it discussed on the net a few years ago. In my nearing-20 years of playing, all of the guys wanted to play guys and all of the girls wanted to be girls.

    I don't think I'd say no to it. It just hasn't ever come up. Interesting...

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  6. Thanks for the comments everyone.

    jamused, I have to agree that playing an alien/non-human race is actually weirder than playing someone of your opposite gender.

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  7. Hm, I play a female character in one campaign, my wife started to play D&D with a male character in another campaign, two male players have taken on a female cohort that also serves as a secondary character if the primary character dies. I had never occured to me that it might be considered weird, since I'm playing lots of things I'm not – magic users, dwarves, strong, charismatic, wise, etc. Like previous commenters, gender just doesn't seem important enough to worry about.

    As to why, I don't know. I like strong female personalities in real life, I sometimes pick female characters in computer roleplaying games (thinkin of Jade Empire and Mass Effect).

    Love, sex, and gender issues play practically no role at all in our games. Maybe it was just curiosity.

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  8. I GM most of the time and rarely get to play, but once I did play a female PC. I just saw it as a challenge to roleplay, just as I would playing a different job or race than what I am IRL.

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  9. I think I might make it a poll coming up, about how many people play a different gendered character.

    I try not to be judgmental, but I always prefer the players in the game I'm running to be the same gender. Maybe it's a failure of imagination on my part, but I always view characters to look similar to their players (just like in The Gamers.) It's not a rule and I would allow it if someone asked, though.

    I myself never play female characters either. I have enough male (and Robot!) character ideas to last me long enough.

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  10. I have noticed this with my current Mutant Future group; everyone is playing a character of the same sex that they are. I personally have played more female characters than male characters, and my last three characters in a row have all been females (I am a guy). I think that when you play a character that is the same sex as you, it makes it easier to fall into the trap of just playing an ingame version of yourself. If you play a character of the opposite sex it really makes you stop for a moment and consider things from another point of view, and in my opinion, it encourages role playing.

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  11. I should add that one of my players is playing a character of a different sexual orientation than himself, and another is actually playing a shapeshifting mutant plant capable of making both male and female sexual organs. So maybe things weren't as clear cut as I made them out to be above!

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  12. I should add that one of my players is playing a character of a different sexual orientation than himself, and another is actually playing a shapeshifting mutant plant capable of making both male and female sexual organs. So maybe things weren't as clear cut as I made them out to be above!

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  13. I GM most of the time and rarely get to play, but once I did play a female PC. I just saw it as a challenge to roleplay, just as I would playing a different job or race than what I am IRL.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hm, I play a female character in one campaign, my wife started to play D&D with a male character in another campaign, two male players have taken on a female cohort that also serves as a secondary character if the primary character dies. I had never occured to me that it might be considered weird, since I'm playing lots of things I'm not – magic users, dwarves, strong, charismatic, wise, etc. Like previous commenters, gender just doesn't seem important enough to worry about.

    As to why, I don't know. I like strong female personalities in real life, I sometimes pick female characters in computer roleplaying games (thinkin of Jade Empire and Mass Effect).

    Love, sex, and gender issues play practically no role at all in our games. Maybe it was just curiosity.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This is an interesting concept. I actually never encountered it until I saw it discussed on the net a few years ago. In my nearing-20 years of playing, all of the guys wanted to play guys and all of the girls wanted to be girls.

    I don't think I'd say no to it. It just hasn't ever come up. Interesting...

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks for the comments everyone.

    jamused, I have to agree that playing an alien/non-human race is actually weirder than playing someone of your opposite gender.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Most of the people I game with play some of each. I can think of four people (out of about 14) who only ever play their own sex. One says that with his beard and voice it just comes across as silly if he plays a female, one is a 13-year old girl who tends to play idealized versions of herself, and I don't know the reasons for the other two. Me, I flip a coin unless I have a reason to go with one or the other. The way I look at it the sex of the character is pretty trivial difference compared to playing a member of an alien species, a robot, a demon, a hive-mind, or even a person from a thousand years ago, and we expect players to be able to do that.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Book_ScorpionFebruary 02, 2011

    Interesting article and comments. Swapping gender has always been normal for me, my second RPG character ever was a male and I kept it up. I also have played with a lot of guys who play females. I never gave it a second thought until I read that some of you have never come across this at all.
    I made a post of my own about this, if you're interested.

    ReplyDelete

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