My topic for discussion in critical theory will be gender as a form of identity in online games (I really hope online games will NOT be the majority of the class’ blog topics). I’ve played a lot of games, but the games that I spent a lot of time and money on are Ragnarok Online, Freestyle, Dragon Nest and Grand Chase. I also specifically chose these four examples to reinforce my would be claims.
The kind of games I noticed was most feasible for this study and responsible for this gender swapping culture is massively multiplayer online role playing games. The first and obvious reason would be because it is massively multiplayer. Second, it is because MMORPGs usually provide the freedom to customize your avatar with the basic sex-defining traits – male or female. Lastly, it is only in role playing games where one can truly immerse in the presence of gender freedom in that particular culture. No, it is not the online presence which was in my first point. More of this will be discussed later on.
Ragnarok Online is the very first MMORPG that launched in the Philippines. Unsurprisingly, it was a hit and is still alive after a decade. Since it is the first of its kind, the point of the game is its online presence wherein you can interact and play with other people; customization of character was just a bonus feature. But now, the choice of gender, a mere variable that only depicts 2 options, became a game changer… literally.
I was a kid when I started playing, around 10 years old I think. My point of view before was that if you’re a guy, you play as a guy and if you’re a girl, you play as a girl. NEVER have I been so WRONG. I see these people who are guys that play as girls and girls that play as guys. I soon found out girls play as guys to avoid being harassed, unless they want to do the harassing (haha jk). And guys play as girls just for fun or to scam other clueless people. This made me curious, so I tried it. I played as a girl… a pretty girl :”>. I made my persona one of those girls that typical men usually like at the time –the pa-cute, caring, friendly, crush-ng-bayan type of girl. I couldn’t believe the feedback. I get a lot and I mean A LOT of attention. I think it came to a point where I had a groupie. Although I don’t think these kinds of things happen if you’re don’t spend a lot of time in the game and if you sucked at it. These people think that my real identity was a female and they become attached to this belief.
Freestyle was an online basketball game wherein you can also choose your gender. In this game, I took my female character “role-playing” further. I went as far as to take advantage of other people’s infatuation over my virtual identity and stupidity, and received in-game currency and items. I know it’s evil and twisted, but it’s not my fault they fall for it. The best things in life are free after all. All I had to do is pretend to be a girl and flirt.
My claim earlier was that RPGs are the ones responsible for the culture that gender freedom creates in online games. With the previous two games I’ve used as evidence, you might say that it’s not RPGs but the ability to choose your gender in the game that allows for this culture to develop. Now let’s take a look at Dragon Nest.
Dragon Nest is an MMORPG where the roles are gender locked. For example, a mercenary would force you to be male and a magician would force you to be female. The most logical objectification I can think of this is that males are tough and females are squishy, thus the roles of front liners and “sa-likod-ka-lang” respectively. You have no choice; it’s a package deal (haha package). Even with this gender lock, you can still customize your character’s appearance. Your avatar is able to interact with other people’s avatars that have their true identity concealed from you. Interact in a way that it is not just talking to each other, but also do things together. It still delves within the context of gender swapping cultures.
You can be stubborn and say that even with gender locking, there is still the choice of gender regardless of your interest in the role it plays. Here comes Grand Chase. In this game, they also have gender locks for each role. However it is not an RPG, it is an arcade game. It is where you go on dungeon missions together or you play PvP. Both require you to accomplish the task as quickly as possible. Moreover, since it is a matchmaking system, there is no place where you can make tambay. This removes the interaction that is needed for the gender free culture to survive. The only possible interaction you can have is through chat rooms which prove to be less effective in portraying a virtual gender-based identity. There is also the lobby where both avatars are present but so is everyone else’s; and I doubt you want your private conversations to be public.
It is through an RPG that one can be more affected by the virtual gender of a person. One can argue that is the online presence that allows this. Yes it does, but it only contributes to this culture. You don’t get to know the person just by purely talking to them (only feeble minds fall for that). It is through the role you play that makes your gender identity believable. An arcade game fails in this because it only makes you focus on the task on hand. To differentiate games, this culture is more effective in games that allow more social interactivity. It is through the activities that are done together by 2 or more people that allow them to immerse into the identities of one another; just like in real life.
Forgive my lack of personal screenshots my characters in the games. I don’t like bragging my accomplishments in games coughnakatoptenakosamonthlypvpnggrandchasecough.