Creation suites, and how I do gender expression in games

I’m sitting down in front of my tv, fiddling around with a complicated series of sliders and RGB color palettes. Every brush my thumb makes causes a woman’s facial features to bend and warp in unnatural ways. I’ve been doing this for nearly twenty minutes now. Every now and again, I stop to see how things are looking. “Still not right,” I say, and go right back to work. She has to look just right.

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This happens in every game. At least, every game that lets me create my own protagonist. Most folks are content to either:

  1. Make small alterations, and just go with the default look the game in question may give you.
  2. Make some fucked up, blue skinned monstrosity with a goofy name that kills all of the NPCs and picks all of the evil dialogue options.
  3. The same as number 2, only it’s some type of anime character, celebrity, or other public figure.

I fit into number 4: I’m trying to make my ideal “look.” A woman that has bears some resemblance to what I would like to become one day, as opposed to the gungy dude I look like now. Like a digital funhouse mirror giving me a look into a hopeful future.

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It’s been long enough, I think this is as good as it will get. Now she just needs a name. What will I go with this time? I used to just sit there and think of a name. Sometimes, it would take longer to type out a name than to make the actual character. It’s much easier now; all I have to do is put in my own name. This character isn’t just want I to be, it is me now. This story, which will probably be really hokey and badly written, is mine now as well.

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This is not a new development. I’ve been making female characters in games forever. The only exceptions being if it was a game I was playing for the internet, because, lol, my self-insert getting into wacky adventures wasn’t something I felt I could pass up.

And when I made my character a woman, there was always some terrible excuse I would give myself. “The best armor in Demon’s Souls is female only!” “Fallout 3 is much easier if you make a woman with the Black Widow perk!” “The creepy perverts who designed these graphics obviously spent more time making the women parts look better than the boring man parts!” “Skate 2 gives you an achievement for having a character change gender!” “Female Shepard has a better actor than Male Shepard!” I just refused to accept the fact that the woman I was putting together was my subconscious telling me, “this should be you!”

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I type in my name, and hover the cursor over the “CONFIRM” option for a bit, taking a quick once over of my character. My weapons and skill classes are already decided. Men get knives, for backstabbing, and magic, which they use from a distance. Women are brave and courageous, in your face with big swords and hammers for smacking down monsters with. I had no idea why I had such strict differences in the genders for so long. It makes sense now. I want to be a badass woman in the real world, but for the time being, I have to settle for video games.

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