BDO Black Desert Online female character with brown hair biting her lip.

Male Gamer, Female Avatar

Playing as a female character and my other video gaming quirks; an article on blurring the gender line as an avatar, by Brian Kaya.

My preferred types of video games allow me to create my own in-game avatar. Examples of my favorite games with substantial character-creation systems include the Saints Row series, Phantasy Star Online and Universe, White Knight Chronicles, and Dragon’s Dogma.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find an identical twin of your character in Dragon’s Dogma.

(Honorable Mentions: Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, Bioware’s Dragon Age and Mass Effect series, and Sunset Overdrive.)

For Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs), of the few I’ve played, my favorite is Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn’s anime-inspired character-creation system.

Red hair? Check. Blue eyes? Check. Archer? Check.

Big-Time Quirk Number One: In real-life, I’m an archer, specifically a traditional longbow archer, mostly because of Errol Flynn’s 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood and the Middle-Earth novels I read as a child. In games that offer the option, I always chose an archer archetype, or use a bow as my primary weapon.

If a fantasy game doesn’t have archery or bow options, (crossbows don’t count) I’m less inclined to play it.

I started the widely acclaimed Witcher III, but couldn’t finish. No archery. I was never into spellswords and battlemages. My loss, I know. But it’s a quirk.

When given a choice, I always start by making a male avatar. If the game’s character creation allows, I try to recreate my actual face and physique in-game. Especially in role-playing games, I want to put myself in the role of the central hero. If my avatar looks like me, I’ll more easily identify with my character, making for a much more immersive gaming experience.

My one-and-only successful video-game clone was created in Level 5’s White Knight Chronicles. So detail-oriented was White Knight Chronicles’ character-creation system, that my avatar was my actual height and build. He even had my upper-lip mole and long hair.

Virtual Me, 40 years and 15 pounds ago, in White Knight Chronicle

But that was the only time where my character looked like me in a game. I’ve discovered that, with many video-game character-creation systems, real-life me is a rather ugly, in-game character.

When all else fails, and I can’t make my virtual clone (or my ego can’t accept that I’m really that homely; quirk or just vanity?), I start all over from scratch, with a female avatar. The females avatars always turn out much less ugly than digital me.

Her Royal Highness, Lara Croft

Some males gamers have issues with guys who play as female characters. Whatever. It’s a video game. If you’re too scared to play as a female because you fear what others might think of you, the issues are yours, not mine.

I happen to love strong, smart, independent women, real and fictional. Lara Croft, Chun Li, and Jill Valentine are among my favorite video game heroes. Playing as a female badass in a video game is a no-brainer.

Chun Li could kick your ass, you insecure male gamer….

When creating my female characters, I always max out their height, and if the game allows, I make them muscular. Not professional body-building size, but more track-and-field athletic. Long legs are a must, as is a small waist, proportional bust measurements (not maxed out but not small either), blue eyes, and flaming red hair (more of a fetish than a quirk).

The fun-but-short Sunset Overdrive?

What I don’t do is I don’t play my female avatars any differently than I would a male one. She’s just as honorable and heroic as any knight in shining armor.

Big-Time Quirk Number Two: I have a hard time playing evil characters. When I get bored of being a “white hat,” I sometimes create a character who is specifically chaotic/evil.

This evil character only lasts a few hours, as I just can’t play a jerk or villain, randomly attacking innocent NPCs, killing livestock, or stealing items or gold. My guilty conscience always gets the better of me. (It’s only a game. It’s only a game.)

In games such as the Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row series, where the player takes on the role of a hardened criminal, I play as morally and ethically as possible, only breaking the law when the game forces me to.

My Boss in Saints Row 4

Besides appeasing my desire to be law-abiding and righteous, playing as a straight edge adds another layer of challenge to games where violence is celebrated. Several layers, really. Try driving defensively, obeying all traffic laws, on the streets of Los Santos or Steelport.

Big-Time Quirk Number Three: I hate fan service. Of any kind, be it in manga, anime, or video games. I never dress my female characters in skimpy outfits. Only in fantasy anime and video games is a metal bikini considered “armor.”

I wouldn’t go into combat wearing only a loincloth and headband, so what sensible woman would battle undead creatures, cannibalistic goblins, acid-spewing slime monsters, or blood-thirsty raiders wearing anything less than plate armor (or full leather from very far away)?

All leathered up in Elder Scrolls Online; sadly no red-headed Imperials…. 🙁

Big-Time Quirk Number Four: The one vanity I allow for my in-game characters, male or female, is hiding their helmets when given the choice. As I spend so much time working on their faces, I don’t want to cover them up.

Apparently I’m not alone in this quirk. Many games acknowledge player vanity and offer the option to “hide” helmets, where the in-game character will appear to be hat-less, but they still receive the protective benefits from their headgear.

Oh the memories and heartbreak of Destiny….

Big-Time Quirk Number Five: I cannot play as a character who reminds me of someone I know in real life. An extreme example of this happened when I unintentionally created my sister-in-law’s doppelganger in From Software’s Bloodborne.

My sister-in-law’s digital doppelganger in Bloodborne

Try as I might, I couldn’t make a decent copy of me in Bloodborne. Failing that, I resorted to my usual back-up plan and restarted as a female character.

No matter how much I tweaked and adjusted the character sliders, my female Hunter always looked like my sister-in-law. After several attempts, I gave up and hit the “Start” button.

Many, MANY deaths later (if you’ve played Bloodborne, or any of its predecessors, Demon Souls or the Dark Souls series, you can relate), I quit. Not only could I not immersive myself in the game, because I kept thinking of my sister-in-law, but watching her die over and over again was quite disturbing.

I haven’t touched Bloodborne since.

With all of my nitpicks, quirks, and demands, it’s amazing that I find any video games to my liking at all. Fortunately, video games are like food, music, movies, clothing; there’s something for everyone.

Based on my criteria above, my ideal game would be an open-world game where I can recreate a reasonable facsimile of myself played, in third-person perspective (because why play in first-person POV if I can’t see my character?), welding a bow, clad in leather armor, and heroic and righteous.

And if I can’t play as me, a beautiful, blue-eyed, red-headed woman will do just as nicely.

Is that too much to ask for? Oh, wait….

Aloy in Guerrilla Games’ Horizon: Zero Dawn: Red hair? Check. Blue eyes? Maybe…. Archer? Check. Sold!