“Women Gamers”

Posted: February 7, 2010 in Gaming, Humans

Ah yes, now back to a subject near and dear to my heart:  being a female gamer.  I have been one of these for many years now, and by in large I enjoy it. Okay, understatement- I freakin’ love it…spent my snowed in day- 12 hours of it roughly- playing CoX.  Anyway… A few weeks ago I was told by someone who plays WoW that within their guild (mixed gender, more males than females, but a good percentage of women) that there had been a lot of discussion about women gamers.  Now, I do not play WoW, but the conversation and topics could pretty much be applied to any MMORPG.    Two topics seemed to rise to the forefront in this one: 

1)      Why do women play male characters?

2)      Why are there seemingly very different styles of play when comparing male gamers to female gamers?

Course, you knew I was gonna jump all over that, right? 

First it amused me that dudes, who often play women characters, would wonder why females play male characters and have such a stunted and one sided view on the whole thing.  I mean, apparently according to the WoW dudes, this is really basic:  Men play women cause women are hot, and women play men because, you know, they wish they were tougher and stronger and stuff….

Now riddle me this- isn’t a monty macked out kick ass tank tough regardless of gender?

But anyway…that seemed to be the whole depth of their thinking there- which made me laugh.  Sure enough, I play some dude characters.  Most of mine are women, but yep, dudes present.  Now, I am a big fan of the “if you are gonna have to stare at an animated ass for five hours, might as well be one you like” theory, but it goes way, way beyond that.  See, I happen to know a lot of female gamers myself, and in speaking with them and all…there are a whole host of reasons a woman might play a male character…lets roll with that…


1)      If playing a dude, one is far less likely to be have their avatar hit on.

2)      If playing a dude, and not on a chat tool where people can hear you, they will assume you are a dude and take you seriously.

3)      In real life, you are female 24-7, so it is fun to create and be something different.

4)      Heheh, different costume options!

5)      Sometimes, it is just fun to play a dude character.

Now, I am not going to deny that there is some validity to the WoW crews mentality.  By in large, women are smaller, physically weaker, and more often to be victimized in various ways than men are…so in a fantasy setting….well, maybe some women DO have the desire to be men because of that- I mean, even in gaming, female avatars can be treated rudely in an unwanted way by male players/ avatars.  I mean, it is one thing (in my game of choice) for a male villain to tell a female hero she sucks and he is going to kick her ass…. that’s villain/hero smack talk.  It is another thing for a male avatar to make unwanted and crude statements to a female avatar he does not know from Adam.  A lot of women put up with that shit in real life, so in game…they don’t want to.  And in groups of people who play together often, well, with some folk this is more acceptable.  It’s a matter of comfort.  I mean, I have male characters who say horrible things to female characters, and female characters who say horrible things to male characters, and I am one half of the twisted brain trust behind one of the most vile and infamous Villain Groups on our server …but I am PLAYING my Character (usually a villain)- people know that- and they know who I am as a player…. and so far as I know, in my main CoX lunatic posse…I’m one of two women.  Everyone else?  Dudes…and guess what…they are awesome players.  I floor them with shit I say and the way I play.  And never once has this crew made me feel uncomfortable or off as a woman gamer, no matter if I am playing a dude like Maverick Six, or a gal like Roxanne Black.  Within good Super/Villain/Guild groups…. you know, I am not sure such things are always an issue.  But just out there in game world in general…hell, I am not surprised a lot of women play men, whether it be for the staring at an animated ass factor or countless others.

The second theory- the style in which women play- I have to say I have seen to be true.  A lot of women gamers (not all, but a lot), tend to play “back up” characters.  They are necessary for good teams, but yeah- healers, buffers/debuffers, non-aggressive types.  It has been pointed out to me by the wise Dead Vladimir that often these women might be women who game because their men folk game and not…er…gamer girlz…but I know some pretty hardcore gamer women who do tend to fall into these rolls.  I have also been told by a couple people that it is not only for my foul language and…er…charming personality that a lot of folk who don’t know me in real life assume I am…a dude gamer.  Things like I prefer to play massive damage dealer/up front/meat shield types of characters- some in full tactical gear and some in not much at all- of both genders.  It’s because I will jump fearlessly (and sometimes suicidally) right into the middle of a fight, that I love drawing and holding aggro, that I do not mind dying- that, well, I love smash mouth slash and burn style gaming.  And even my healer/buff/debuff types will jump right in the middle of it.  Hell, even in our once in awhile D&D game…guess who the axe-wielding fighter is?  Apparently, this is not so common in gamer world.  Oh yeah, and because many of my CoX characters have non-gender specific names like D-Day, Black Sunday, Phreak Drive, Obsidian McKnight, Maverick Six, Shining Express, Upsilon Black, Operative Twitch, Flashpoint…so on, so forth- people assume I might be a dude.   One has no idea, by name alone, if those characters are male or female…which apparently is a dude gamer thing (hahaha, hell, people in blog world assumed I was a dude for the moniker Renegade Evolution…its my curse!)  So, I wondered about this for awhile…

And came to the following conclusions.  Get ready for this- big feminist analysis for the month-  I think a lot of women, “gamer girlz” or women who game because their men game, play these types of non up front aggressive characters because one: women are not supposed to be aggressive, and two, are socialized to “fix things” and keep things calm and help people- to ahem, be caretakers.  Whereas dudes?  Not so much.  They are supposed to fight and win and protect (which trust me, if you are a meat shield, you are a meat shield so other people do not get hurt-well, hero-wise anyway).  Playing non-hyper aggressive/tactically brilliant killing machines (hero or villain or…er… alliance or horde or whatever) is perhaps a socialized thing.  Holy shit, imagine that?  Playing caretakers…well…it is. 

And as I said below, I am poorly socialized  😉

Be that as it may…I will say this, in all of my years of CoX play, the best “Hi, I am here to fuck your shit up” player I know of, ever, as any character they play? 

Woman.  And she ain’t me.  I am a mere plebe compared to her ass-kickery.  In fact, she whacked one of my toughest characters like 13 times in PvP!

Okay, gamer women, what say you???

  1. Sheniver says:

    I am a gamer female – I like to game. I do all sorts of gaming not just on line, table top or LARP. I have found I prefer to play a certain type of character that comes easy to me so I often play the healer in groups, not because my hubby plays & I am appeasing him but because it’s what I am actually good at.

    I will flip that and say I also have a tank or two in COH & I do use those to solo. I enjoy the “group” dynamics one can get in raids or teams. I often prefer the “healer” due to my attention only having to be on the team I am playing with.

    While playing WOW I did the horde side and played all the various options. I think I was best with my sorceress but hey my rogue was kick ass too. As for the groups – I was in the most fabulous WoW guild when I worked 3rd shift. And I was the rare female in that group.

    I am odd – I don’t Gender bend. Not my thing – all my “toons” are female & it’s just how I prefer it. I have friends that don’t care & make what ever they want. But when I go to play with them – I have noticed most “men” have a style – even if they are playing a girl. And most “women” have a whole different style.

    Ok done rambling.

    • Ren says:

      LOL I remember that Time Your Tank and My Scrapper teamed up at did that AE arc of mine with the “local crew”….you, me and that guy from FL had it down…you grabbed the Aggro and he and I slaughtered the baddies, but,er, the cautious style of the others had us eating floor like mad! And I remember us both via tell swearing a blue streak due to that guy for FL’s massive knock back….and the whole thing was in those damn mage caves!

      Smirk. You so need to make up a villain corruptor…I think you would like them a lot. They can buff and heal, but also dish out some serious pain.

      • Sheniver says:

        I have one…. now if my lap top would cooperate I would be able to join you in the taking over the world….. 😉

  2. Lisa Harney says:

    I do know quite a few women who like to deal the damage or play the tank – this includes me.

    In my WoW guild, I think probably 2/3 of the women in the guild DPS classes, with the remaining 1/3 going for tanks and healers.

    In City of Heroes, it seems like there’s a lot more variety – people are less likely to invest in a single character, so most players of any gender are likely to have a bit of everything in their stable.

    I don’t play male characters.

    • Ren says:

      You have that macked out paladin, don’t you?

      Any reason you don’t play male characters specifically, or just prefer not to?

      In CoX there is a pretty big variety of character types, some similar to others, but yeah, all slightly different. Plus, since max level is 50, people are likely to have lots of alts.

      Heh. I have one lvl 50 who is more of a support type/buffer/healer character. I will play her if needed, but man is it boring 🙂

    • Ren says:

      Oh, side bar Lisa!

      PvP? You do it or not? I hear that the PvPer’s on WoW have a nasty, nasty rep for being ASSHOLES. On CoX, I do some PvP (seems to be mostly men there, but yah, some women too) and while some of them are jerks…for the most part it’s folk checking out the awesomeness of their characters.

      I will say Damn On CoX however for more or less NUKING villain powers is PvP. You can tell the dev’s far prefer the hero side of the game in almost all ways.

      • Lisa Harney says:

        I did some pvp back before issue 13 – not a lot, but it was generally fun if we could get some organized teams going at it.

        I did some PVP in WoW – arena stuff, didn’t really notice much assholishness. Most of that seems to come out in battlegrounds, that big zone in Northrend, and on the forum. I always loved being told I don’t deserve an opinion on PVE stuff because the character I was posting on had no arena score or honorable kills – and of course, because said character was a warlock, I would be accused of playing her to be OP in PVP, sometimes in the same post. Dumbasses.

        Post-issue 13 PVP in CoH I haven’t done. I’ve gone into the zones for Shivans or whatever, or to get temporary stealth powers, but I almost never see other players.

        Anyway, I don’t have a macked-out paladin. I have a death knight tank and a warlock. My highest paladin is still in her 40s. 🙂

        I just prefer not to play male characters. I’ve made a couple, but they never got past 3rd-4th level before I deleted them.

  3. Lisa Harney says:

    One of the most annoying things that comes up when the topic of women gamers comes up is that men will frequently stampede all over the conversation, filling up every available square inch with sophomoric jokes about how there are no women on the internet, and how every female character you encounter in-game is played either by a teenaged boy or 40-year old man getting his rocks off.

    It makes these conversations rather fraught if they come up on your typical gaming forum, and is probably the primary reason I don’t participate much in those things.

    • Ren says:

      In my main CoX group there is the occasional joke about that….but they are pretty rare. Sad thing about the female character being played by the teenager/40 year old is…while not every one of them is…it is a horrible stereotype based in truth. The crew I play with is pretty talkative, but its not a matter of the men running conversation all over the women (all, what, two of us), I just don’t tend to type as fast as they do when I am, er, knee deep in aggroed enemies lol.

      I still giggle at the occasional “wait….what….Phreak’s actually a GIRL?” thing that happens from time to time.

      I know in CoX there are groups (“guilds”) that are all female, and I have heard the same is true in WoW.

      • Lisa Harney says:

        Yeah, I see it happen less often in-game than on the forum.

        Although there was this one guy who asked the entire team I was in (all characters women, all players but one were women) if we were really girls or just guys playing female characters. A couple of us said “Yeah, we’re women” and he got really really nasty, accused us all of being men, said some really misogynist things, and threatened to sic a GM on us.

        And yeah, it is a stereotype based on truth, but when it’s used to erase actual women playing the game and shout us down, that’s when it gets out of hand.

        And yeah, I’ve heard of more than a few all-girl SGs and VGs, as well as guilds in WoW, but I’ve never joined one. I usually end up following my friends, which tends to put me in mixed groups.

        • Ren says:

          Well, there has been the occasional “Phreak is a dude” until someone games with me and knows me in RL is like “Nope, shes a girl”

          then there is shaking of heads and envy LOL.

  4. Jill Brenneman says:

    Mostly offtopic but I wanted you to know I was thinking of you the whole time you were shoveling.

  5. Lisa KS says:

    Before I read anybody else’s comments–

    Re our list of reasons why women sometimes play male toons:

    1) yep
    2) yep
    3) yep
    4) yep
    5) yep

    And re women taking “backup” roles–embarrassingly true, and not really much because we are faux-gaming as some dude’s girlfriend, truly. In my current guild there is only one other regular female gamer. She has 2 toons, a pally and a shammy (if someone doesn’t know what those are and actually wants to know, tell me and I’ll share). Both of them are dual-spec’d (which means they can fulfill two different roles), but the main spec of both is guess what? Healer. (The off-specs are tank and melee damage.) She is married in Real Life, but she often mourns that not only does her husband not play WoW, he thinks video games are stupid.

    My main toon is a…yep…healer…sigh (though her offspec is melee damage). Now, my second toon, who I am hard at work on, is damage, but…she’s a cloth armor-wearing caster…not an in-your-face ass-kickin’ brawler. And I have noticed the same trend as you, Ren–women players are by far most often healers, followed by ranged damage…interestingly enough, followed by tanks, with melee damage being last. It seems like women (very generalized statement here, with of course multiple exceptions) are most common caretaking, and if they’re gonna kick ass, they want to do it from a distance with spells–I personally think it’s because we have an easier time imagining that we really could do so on true par with the guys, and less easy for us to suspend our disbelief that we could don plate armor and wield an axe to the level of strength and speed that a man could.

    In short, yer pretty much dead on here in everything you say, in terms of my gaming experiences agreeing with you. 🙂

    • Ren says:

      Apparently, more women need to be in fist fights 😛

      My mains? A ranged mass damage Rifle gal who you do not want to get close to….and a brute (read tank, only way meaner)

      • Lisa KS says:

        To be fair, a lot of women (at least in my case), the only fistfights we’ve been in as adults have been with men who were like a foot taller and outweighted us by 100lbs and they ended, you know, how’d you expect. Which gives us this subconscious conviction that in a fistfight situation against dudes, we tend to lose. One reason I’ve always been so fond of technology, to be honest…it really levels the o’l playing field in RL. 😀

  6. Lisa KS says:

    OMG, voice chat…it is the killer. Because so many guys in WoW play female toons, nobody ever assumes that because your toon is female, YOU are female…but when you raid, you gotta get on voice chat, and if you’re me, that is the END. Now, not the end of being respected as a player, cuz to be honest, I am one hell of a healer on my main and I crush the DPS on my alt and I’m usually doing raids with obsessive types who wanna WIN WIN WIN so the fact that I’m a female is not as important to them as the fact that my presence contributes heavily to our chances of WINNING. But it is the end of any sort of nonpersonal anonymity at all. If we have pugs (non-guildies) in the raid, I am besieged by whispers asking how old I am, and even fellow male guildies can’t stop themselves from making all kinds of random remarks about How much they loooove to hear my voice over Vent…!

    • Ren says:

      Pick Up Groups..guh.

      I don’t vent (hahaha you get it) because frankly, the rage that comes outta my mouth with bad teams could land me in prison. And I have a strange from everywhere accent that makes no sense.

      But, I gotta say, in that grim way….it is kinda funny when male gamres (at cons andstuff) actually, oh, see me, and realize I am not there to be seen, but to kick ass and chew bubble gum.

      • Lisa KS says:

        LOL, in vent most ppl, male AND female, tend to be nicer than they’d like to be…I wish you played WoW though, you and Blakkstar (guy in my guild) would SO make such a perfect team…most of us waffle when someone’s really fuckin’ up, but Blakkstar…? Somebody fucks up and then makes some lame-ass suggestion (I’m sure you’re familiar with that dynamic) and instead of just keeping his mouth shut, like most of us do, Blakkstar goes (real life example): “WTF was that you just said about not getting heals..? Motherf*cker, you can’t even be bothered to look around and seeing if you’re aggroing the reanimated fanatics, you f*ckin’ tunnelvision MF’er, learn to play!” 😀 I love him so much.

  7. Lisa KS says:

    Last remark! 😀

    They did it to us AGAIN…the new Holy Pally gear from the end-game ICC raid instance…the new leg gear? YES IT IS A FULL LENGTH PLATE SKIRT AGAIN…why, whyyyyyy?

  8. Rivikah says:

    Hmm…Well for myself, I play a healer because it’s easier. I’m not terribly experienced as a gamer and I know that there are some things that I’m just not as good at as I could be. Manouverability in particultar seems to be somewhere that I’m not particularly skilled and that matters less for healers than for the others.

    So with my current skills, I can be a good healer or I can be mediocre in some other role. And it sure is easier to find groups as a decent (or even mediocre) healer than it is to find groups as a mediocre damage-dealer or tank.

    I’ve played both male and female characters. But Alliance side I always play male. Mostly it’s because all available female Alliance side toons have mostly expressionless faces. Partly it’s because I have a gut feeling that the culture Alliance side is less respectful of women. I’ve never been able to pin down exactly what that is though.

    • Ren says:


      True enough ,as a newer gamer it is easier, and I am not saying playing healers and what not is bad….but do you think there is an element of conditioning to it?

      • Rivikah says:

        Possibly. Just like everything else I’m sure there are a lot of interacting factors. And I suspect there is some expectations/conditioning stuff going on down in the bottom of several of those factors.

        I may feel less skilled at movement because I didn’t play that many video games as a kid. Which maybe comes back to the “computers are a boy thing” thing.

        I also heal in part because I don’t want to have to compete with my whole team via the dps meter. Which might be partially “Women aren’t supposed to be competative” and because that’s bull shit because I’m totally a competative type it’s also partially “Riv feels awful when she puts herself in a competative situation and then totally loses”

        I also heal because at some point I looked around and said “How can I be most useful to the groups I’m running with” and in a game/server with a chronic shortage of healers plus my skill set the decision wasn’t too hard. That could totally have been a conditioned thing. On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s something specific to healing. It’s more about being helpful and cheerful and a little passive.

        If my guild came to me and said “We’ve got a glut of healers right now, but we really need another tank. We’ll help you gear up” I might be nervous, but (given that I have a character or two that just need some gear and a lot of practice to fill that role) I’d totally be game to give it a try.

        • Ren says:

          Nods…makes sense, we do that too when building teams…might go in expecting to play a tank type, but if we have enough of those, will flip to something else that is needed…just makes sense and all.

    • Lisa Harney says:

      I’ve experienced sexual harassment both Alliance- and Horde-side.

      I haven’t really noticed a difference in overall attitude.

  9. Morganna says:

    I’m a female gamer who plays tabletops and I tend to play women and men equally often, but my male characters tend to be the “stand back and do things rather than jumping in” types-archers, snipers, spell casters, while my women charachters tend to fuck people up and be buffs.
    I like using support type characters as serious kick your ass fighters. I think it’s because I find it more fun to kill people with magic than with a weapon. It’s difference between lopping off someones head and infesting someone’s fat layer with maggots.

    But yeah, I get complained at in my party for not healing people all the time, and not buffing them before battle. Never mind that I’m chaotic/evil alignment…I’m supposed to heal everyone who asks or needs it no matter what. This only freaking happens to me, the chick magic user, and not the male healer/tank. It annoys me a hell of a lot, but at least the men in the group (7 men, 3 women) don’t ignore or talk over us-probably b/c if they did we’d kill them in and out of game.

    • Ren says:


      C/E I love you already!

      I tend to play the fighter thou…magic….tooo much shit to remember, I just want to hit it!

  10. Lindsay says:

    I used to play City of Heroes a lot, and I also do a fair amount of tabletop gaming.

    Every CoH character I made was female, because I’m queer and prefer to look at a female avatar. Plus, I hadn’t experienced much, if any, sexual harrassment online, so I didn’t have that factor to steer me towards a male avatar. In tabletop RPGs, where I’m not actually looking at my character, I started out going about 50/50 male and female characters, based on what gender the character seemed to be when I made him/her up. More recently, I’ve been skewing more and more heavily female.

    I’m also about even in terms of whether I play a support or combat-oriented character. In CoH, my highest level character, and the one I spent far and away the most time playing, was a scrapper. I liked how easy it was to solo as her; with my controller and defender characters, I felt like I always had to have a team to do missions with, while my scrapper could join a team *OR* just go by herself. I wasn’t dependent on other people’s wanting to team up with me when I played her.

    In D&D, I think I prefer melee characters. I seem to play more of them, though I tend to go more for higher-skilled variants than just plain old Fighters or Barbarians. (I often go for dual-sword-wielding rangers). But spellcasters are fun, too.
    @Morganna, the alignment thing! Oh my gosh, that is the one thing I do think gender expectations mess up for me. I’ve played a number of chaotic neutral characters, who are supposed to be selfish and mercenary, but I tend to play them nicer than I should because, well, I’m a girl and girls are supposed to be nice. With a chaotic neutral rogue/cleric, I became the Official Party Healer even though I don’t think the guy’s character would actually have chosen to *waste* his spells in that manner, just because my Inner Nice Lady freaked out that my friends were getting hurt. My male friends have no problem playing annoying, incompetent or asshole characters … *sigh*

    • Ren says:

      Scrappers solo really, really well. Two of my 50’s are scrappers (one male, one female).

      And I agree with sometimes, the concept just goes with a gender. The blonde dude up there…totally needed to be male.

  11. This reminds me of something I found interesting in my online game of choice (Final Fantasy XI). Not only did all the players in my linkshell who I knew were female play female characters, but most of them played mithra – the “catgirl” species.

    Of course, a lot of the male players had female characters too. While I can’t guess at other’s motivations, I know part of why I never made a male character was because of how *very* ugly I found all the male PC models.

    FFXI gets some of that same variation thing that Lisa Harney mentioned, but for different mechanical reasons. In that game, you can switch between different jobs on the same character, and combine the abilities of two jobs together at the same time. So a lot of people end up levelling jobs that fill at least some variety of roles. And then there’s some pretty weird ones. I’m currently levelling up “Dancer”, a job which gains the power to heal their friends by repeatedly stabbing their enemies with knives. Not your typical healer job at all. (Interestingly, it seems like in a lot of cases the jobs that are support in groups tend to become the better soloers. Beyond a certain point in FFXI it’s hard to fight much of anything without some kind of healing. Plus, White Mages get really awesome hammers to beat things down with.)

  12. Lisa KS says:

    I don’t know if anybody here is a KoToR fan, but there is an MMORPG version supposedly coming out sometime in the next year and I am REALLY interested in it. The RPG versions I and II were extremely awesome (II would have been even better had they actually finished it before they released it, and if you played it you know what I mean). If you played I, you know…how cool was it when it was revealed that YOU were the ultimo bad guy everybody was terrified of…LOL…but anyway, one of the aspects I find really compelling about it is, it’s keeping the aspect of the RPG where the actions you take determine your storyiline, just in an MMORPG setting. Anybody else waiting for this with baited breath or is it just me…?

  13. Sadinotna says:

    On thing I’ve noticed running tabletop games is that women doing any sort of power-based characters make them male. Not necessarily combat; I’ve been doing Exalted for years and I have seen quite a few playing female Solar combatants (ability-based), but I have not seen anyone doing combat Lunars (Attribute-based). Now, it’s obvious where this comes from,, and the lack of women playing female DPS in games tat make no distinction between physical prowess and physical skill (most of them, due to D&D’s influence) shouldn’t be surprising.

  14. Dw3t-Hthr says:

    (Yeah, I’m behind on the blogs.)

    Tabletop I tend to play spellcaster-and-melee hybrids, including in my current game (with Ari the druid). But I cut my RPG teeth on Shadowrun. (Of course, the time I built a street sam in Shadowrun she totally kicked ass. Stocky little mixed-ethnicity martial artist tactitian. Studied aikido because hey, when you’re five feet two overbalancing your opponents in melee sounds like a good idea.)

    My highest-level toons on WOW were DPS. Hunter and warlock. Highest hordeside was DPS/healing hybrid (lightning shammy). I’ve played every class in WOW except Death Knight (quit before that came out), and swapped among characters depending on what I felt like doing at the time. I guess I usually felt like laying down the hurt. The character I’ve played partly through Dragon Age is a melee rogue with leet social skills. Hrm trm.

    My major reasons for rolling a guy are probably closest to your #5. It’s basically – even for an MMO, I don’t start up a character unless I have a sort of character concept handy, some idea of what this person is like. Some people are guys, some aren’t, so some of my characters are guys and some aren’t.

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