All Avatars Are Created Equal

Video Games! These tricky little devils. Video games let you experience stories from another person's perspective and can make you feel like the king of the world. Or maybe the queen? Some of my favourite games like Dragon Age or Skyrim leave it up to you, the player, whether you want to save the world as a man or as a woman. This might be the cure-all to all representation and identification problems you could ever have in games. Or isn't it?

Personally, I actually mostly play women if given the choice. That started with my assassin in Diablo II, continued with my Seraphin in Sacred and ended with my Cat, I mean, my Khajiit in Skyrim. You know. There is nothing more epic than a boss fight between a cat and a dragon. However, I played -- strangely enough -- a male demon hunter in Diablo 3. A class that was promoted solely with the female model. I blame the ridiculous standard pose of the male model. But is this really all there is to gender choice in games? Is it all aesthetics?

In old RPGs like Diablo and Sacred, the sex was fixed for any given character class. Within that context, the choice of sex was a mechanical decision that heavily influenced gameplay. But in Dragon Age 2 or Skyrim? Where even all romantic options are open to both sexes? Well, this is where it gets tricky. This is roleplay and some roles or characters are heavily influenced by the sex and gender of a person, invented or not. The question is: Why are these games still heavily promoted with the male standard character? Maybe this will all change after what happened with Femshep in Mass Effect 3.

But up till now, we haven't seen any material of Dragon Age Inquisition with a female avatar, albeit I have heard that it's yet going to happen. Sadly, it still reeks of "male = standard, female = gimmick". Would it be really that painful to promote a game with free choice of avatar sex with a female character from the start?

I'd be really interested in how other gamers handle avatar sex. Is it purely aesthetically motivated? Depended on the imagined character? Self-depiction?

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