Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Being a Female Gamer for Profit....or why do I get so many presents?

Due to this not being read by just those in my class, I feel it necessary to post additional comments. I have observed being female being an advantage (sometimes) when dealing with others in World of Warcraft on a small scale. I am not suggesting that being a female in WoW makes it that much easier or the effect I am mentioning is rampant.

The part I mention about the night elf and receiving attention from male toons is, ironically, based on what I have observed from one of my male friends and his playing of a female night elf character. When asked, he would say he was a female. Deceptive? Perhaps. Wrong? Who I am to judge that?

My main goal in posting this (initially) was to comment on what can the perception of being a female gamer in WoW. Although the SomethingAwful article exaggerates this, it can be noted that being female can sometimes be an advantage in WoW. This is not to say it doesn't have its' disadvantages, sometimes you won't be taken as seriously or refused to let tank (the latter being personal experiences).

This is all just my two cents and should be taken as such, I am not a game theorist, I am merely just someone sharing their experiences.

Original entry:
I'll admit, being a female gamer can have it's advantages sometimes. However, the majority of the time, these advantages leave me feeling disgusting and somehow taken advantage of, not a fun way to feel while trying to play a game for fun. The advantages I refer to are the attention, but more importantly, the presents and gold you can receive by being a female gamer in World of Warcraft. But these advantages (of receiving gold from male gamers) soon turn into feeling yucky in general and sometimes worse.

However, this aspect of being a female gamer, while it can initially be fun, can degenerate into being stalked across servers (to be covered in another installment), and just generally feeling bad that you, just because of your gender, received gold and other help in a game that, while a lot of times fosters teamwork, is usually reliant on individual achievement. Whether that achievement is grinding levels out by killing kodos in the Barrens till you hit level 20, or collecting mats for the few items you can sell for massive gold on the auction house, the rush you feel from hitting a new level, or finishing a goal, is a big part of the game.

The site has a series of articles based on these interactions between gamers, and some of them are truly hilarious. In the following entry, I will analyze one of the articles and how they reflect on my actual experiences of being a gamer in World of Warcraft (more articles to come). I recommend the Something Awful series of articles titled "The Art of Warcraft" because those articles are a good satirical take on the whole MMORPG and WoW experience.

The first article that mentions being a female gamer that I will briefly look at it is the article "How to Properly Enjoy the World of Warcraft" . As the article title suggests, it is a list of suggestions as to how to enjoy playing the World of Warcraft (albeit a bit satirical in nature), and the majority of suggestions are comical and make fun of the idiosyncrasies that occur within game.

But the one suggestion that they make (in a tongue-in-cheek manner) still makes a lot of sense, because I've seen it happen and experiences it myself.

Here's the suggestion (full text from the article available here )

"The only profitable tradeskill is being a female. Play as a girl. Do not ever, EVER, even hint that you are male unless you dislike getting free gold from desperate nerds. Most players should be skeptical that every elf with long hair and boobs is offering to dance for him in her underwear for gold, especially because the game has been live for more then a year now. Well, you can be a female Tauren with one horn, mange and the name BullBalls and still be solicited for whispered chat companionship. In a pinch for that sword you want to purchase? Tell your group that you are AFK because your period started, and come back to a myriad of invitations to be their online mistress. Mining/Skinning has nothing on the amount of profit that Gold Digging brings in. "
("The Art of Warcraft, How to Properly Enjoy the World of Warcraft",, November 29, 2005, Caylen Burroughs)

Although initially the reaction to this may be to either laugh or dismiss it as mere satire, like many satirical commentaries, this paragraph does have a kernel of truth, believe it or not. Being a girl within the World of Warcraft, especially on servers that don't have many female characters or in a guild where you are one of few females, can be highly profitable. I know this from personal experience as well as observation.

Although it is reportedly not as common nowadays as it was in the earlier days of WoW, every once in awhile, I will receive whispered questions of "Are you really a girl?" or "What do you look like IRL?". I usually just shrug them off, but sometimes the invitations can be tempting. If you are supposedly a true female AND a sexy race (Night Elf or Blood Elf in particular) the attention you may receive can be insane. Being offered 5G (which when you are lower levels can be a small fortune) to "talk dirty" to a male character or a purported male player, isn't all that uncommon.

I think that this really reflects on the role of women as gamers and players in World of Warcraft. In a seemingly equal environment, where the female characters have exactly the same abilities and traits as the male characters, from Strength to Spells, there is still inequality in the way players are treated. Although some female gamers might see the extra gold they can get as being beneficial (and trust me, gold and presents are usually not a bad thing), the fact that you can't even find equality in a place where your character is the face you present really speaks volumes on the reality of being a female gamer.

No matter how well you game, if the males you game with know you are female (in particular if you have provided proof) chances are you will inevitably get hit on by someone, be asked to just be a "companion" for someone, or the worst of all, have every mistake you make while raiding blamed on the fact that you are a girl.

The intricacies of a system where you are both a gendered gamer and a gendered character can be staggering, but in general, if it is known that you are a female gamer (or pretend to be one) you are treated differently, even if you play male characters and are as good a player or better than your fellow male players. Even in Azeroth, gender (in a multi-layered way, even) exists.

See You in Azeroth!



Leslie said...

hrm, i have never had this happen to me.

sure the guild makes little jokes to the few girls in there over vent, but i've never been asked anything randomly about my RL gender nor have i had gold thrown at me (i wish).

Gabriel said...

Characters may be equal templates in Azeroth, but on Earth there are still salient differences between men and women, and that includes the manner in which the two interact with one another. Remember, the avatars in the game are not real people, so all of the mannerisms, behaviors, and traits that they have that aren't determined by the game's operating complex are imported into the game world by the people who control them.

Gift-giving (i.e. developing a reputation for affluence and generosity) has always been a means by which males have attracted females. I won't into detail about the Darwinian imperatives behind this, but gift-giving from males to females in WoW doesn't come as a surprise to me - and it shouldn't to anyone else who is familiar with how men and women generally socialize with one another.

tool++ said...

In short, do not mention or hint at your sex. Do I go around saying I am male?

The other issue this leaves is that in the real world, which is where "normal" people meet their other halfs, you can see someone and see what they look like and then decide to talk to them.

However, online, which to many of us (the weirder, more thinky type people) online feels more at home, for numerous reasons that I will not go into. So how do you meet people online? Any guy can be a girl, and vice versa.

How do you talk and flirt with someone you generally think is a really cool person without coming across as a creepy pervert?

I respect a lot of girls for going online, because they're breaking barriers, entering a domain which has previously been a sausage fest. It garners more respect from me than the bland, generic people that inhabit my "real life" domain. I'm bored of them, but where do I go.

The internet is full of guys wishing there were more girls like guys, that didn't restrict themselves to lame humour and "normal" activities. Why is there this imbalance?

This raises further questions. Because girls like this, that break out so to speak are so rare, once they eventually become mainstream and society achieves another level of androgyny, what makes them special anymore?

We can see this with myspace - what previously cool people did, acted like guys, made lame jokes, laughed at retro ideas and being nerdy, now everyone is infesting this. Once it becomes mainstream, any meaning is stripped from it. Even Cyanide and Happiness is mainstream now.

So many questions. It sickens me that as a nerdy guy, worked up in his own overthinking, I have nowhere to look for someone like me.

Girls have a lot of problems online but they have a lot of things going for them. If a nerdy girl wants to find a nerdy guy it is the easiest thing in the world, if a nerdy guy wants to find someone like him, its pretty much the hardest thing ever.

Okay my head appears to have just taken a shit all over your comments. Fuck.


Urgh, tool++ comment was me, signing in being fucked up.


Oh I'll add that the vast majority of non-retarded nerdy guys dont play WoW.


Liz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liz said...

My response to all of the comments listed in order:

I personally have only encountered this a few times in my experience, I think it may occur in a more sporadic fashion now that the game has more users. This article was written (if I remember correctly), quite a while ago.

I don't make a habit of mentioning my RL gender, but quite a few of my fellow guildies know me IRL and have addressed me by my real first name on guild chat, so that makes most of the guild know my gender.

The few times that this phenomena has happened to me is when someone assumed that I was a female behind the female avatar.

I think you are entirely correct in your comments. I don't know a lot about gaming theory yet (it's not my field of study) but you are correct in the gift-giving activity being common interaction between males and females. I think the article is quite sarcastic, and I am mainly interested in how, as you pointed out, the avatars are not real people, yet are sometimes treated as real representations of gender.

Tool+/James <3
I appreciate all comments, including criticism. As can be seen in my introductory post, this blog was mainly conceived as a project for an introductory women's studies class, so of course, my reasoning will not always be flawless or even coherent sometimes.

The problem with not mentioning your gender, as I mentioned above, is that sometimes it just comes out if you are chatting with anyone about anything IRL. Also, some of the guildies know me IRL and have addressed me as Liz in guild chat, instead of my toon name.

I can tell them over and over not to do it, but sometimes they slip, and most of the people in the guild know I am a girl anyways. In addition, the few times I have experienced the "gift-giving" has been someone not even asking me about my IRL gender, but assuming I was due to having a female toon.

Thanks to everyone that commented, I will try to keep up on answering these comments and questions.

As I have stated before, this article and my sole experience is not representative of the entire world of Warcraft. In fact, it's one user out of millions, so it is hardly representative of the "WoW experience".

Thanks for looking at my blog.

See you in Azeroth!


hey liz, thanks for taking the time to respond. Firstly I'd like to clarify how strongly you believe in the arguments - if its "just a project", then arguing is sorta nullified, because there's no person or opinion to back up the argument.

Secondly, I don't get what the issue with being a girl gamer is - sure, guys creep you out, on forums they pm you, on games they treat you (creepily) like a queen and shower you with crap, but this is something that can be brushed aside, just see it as meaningless, some lonely guy who is crappy at real life and is desperate for a chance with someone (for reference, I've never done this, but I can empathize because I understand them. Its like being close enough to the fence to look over.).

Secondly, WoW is FULL of people like this, stupid 12 year olds, idiotic addicts, annoying people that recycle memes in a vain attempt to be funny. People who continuously post LOLCATS and think this makes them cool. WoW is a crappy selection of Chinese farmers, immature retards and pseudonerds that have SuicideGirls pages. If you want to have an intelligent dialect with guys on the internet, WoW is not the place to go. Try something more mature like Eve (actually scratch that I play eve and it is the DEVIL) or a less personal game like CS.

Completely abandoning the last paragraph and because I'm in a wordy mood...I think the issue of "omg weirdo stalking me online" raises a whole issue of how the internet has arisen and attracted a whole element of people who feel unacustommed to the real life way of doing things - the judging stares, the giggling behind your back, the subtle references to peoples hairstyles, dress senses, humour. Obviously, like anything, the internet is just a big mix of different people, some good, some past morals, but what I'm saying is, there are a whole lot of people out there that pretty much fail at normality but yet are still desperate for someone.

Where are they supposed to look?

Liz said...

In response to your comment, James:

I do believe that the arguments (being a female gamer can be both an advantage and a disadvantage) and that you are treated differently if you have a female avatar and/or someone knows or THINKS they know your gender are true.

However, I was adding a disclaimer of sorts, moreso that I am not a game theorist and can only relate my own and my friends' experiences as gamers. Other bloggers and researchers have further knowledge of the reason behind why these interactions and differences occur.

It isn't just a project, it was started as such for a class, therefore earlier posts did not have the intention of being read by someone outside of the class who had extensive knowledge of WoW.

I guess my overly wordy response can be condensed to this: I do believe in the arguments of being treated differently due to gender and that such differences do exist.

I also do not believe these can be nullified, because no matter whether all the toons were genderless, there is the inevitable fact that there is a gendered person behind the toon, and even if not mentioned explicitly, sometimes gender can be mentioned (whether it be someone hearing my voice on Vent or me mentioning a real life situation and they infer I am a female).

As far as the issue of being a female gamer and what the "problem" is, in my opinion, it's the fact that I have to be labeled as such (and whether being a female gamer is an issue or not is even debatable in and of itself). I cannot be just a gamer, I have to be a "girl gamer" or "a female gamer". There are a lot of things that I haven't covered in my blog (a lot of the blogs I link do a better job of explaining).

As far as the last paragraph, I do agree that the Internet and the generation(s) accustomed more to screen-to-screen interaction than to IRL interaction, I think that raises a whole different issue.

I am not sure as to the question you posed. That is a good question, and I will think about it, because that does raise good questions as to where people who aren't used to IRL interaction should make friends or look for opposite gender companionship.
Hopefully I will be able to come up with a clearer answer eventually.

Thanks for the comments,


haywire'd said...

What the hell is a "game theorist" anyway. Of course you're a "game theorist". Nobody a needs a qualification or a title to think thoughts.

Anyway, I write my comments because sometimes I feel like I am in a bad place (I am odd, but I cannot find someone that accepts that and I like, who doesnt live miles away from me) and from this bad place I can see others opinions who usually are beyond normality.

Girl gamers will stop being labelled as such when they become as normal as guy gamers. When you are in a predominantly white country, the trend is to say "black guy" and "guy", whereas if you are in a predominantly black country, you say "guy" and "white guy". (not literally true, more symbollic than anything).

A lot of guy gamer's problems however are far more deep rooted and emotional. They are starving.

haywire'd said...

I am sorry for shitting up your blog. I merely want to know why everything is stacked against me.

Liz said...

In response to James:

It's no problem, I welcome comments on my blog.

The whole issue that in (my opinion) can be somewhat circular is that the environment may not be as welcoming for female gamers, and that is why they are perhaps not as common as male gamers. The same type of reasoning for why a male not ballet dance, or do something traditionally labelled as a "female" activity. It's a vicious cycle, in my opinion.

As far as the male gamers go, I've met more nice male gamers who have had no problem with me being a female than those who either having a problem or criticize my skills.

I refer to a "game theorist" as someone that has actually studied the ways games are created, made and the dynamics of interaction. Merely someone with more knowledge than me of the workings of the actual game, vs. my anecdotal experiences.


Pai said...

In short, do not mention or hint at your sex. Do I go around saying I am male?

If you don't mention your gender in a game, it's just ASSUMED that you are male. So it's not actually a 'gender neutral' environment.

A woman tends to stand out after a while, in this 'assumed male' atmosphere, by how she talks, what she talks about, and how she reacts to certain things. A woman would have to consciously CENSOR herself in order to not be 'found out'.
And I hardly think that's a fair thing to expect someone to do.

Better that the GUYS take responsibility for their behavior, rather than trying to hint that it's the woman's fault for not hiding her gender better. She shouldn't HAVE to hide in order to be treated with respect.

Liz said...

In Response to Pai:

I think you hit the nail on the head there.

It's true that I would have to censor myself in order to conceal my gender, and if we were on Vent, I would find it almost impossible (my voice is markedly female).

Pai said...

Secondly, I don't get what the issue with being a girl gamer is - sure, guys creep you out, on forums they pm you, on games they treat you (creepily) like a queen and shower you with crap, but this is something that can be brushed aside, just see it as meaningless
The real question is, why should it even happen in the first place? That kind of thing not okay.
Maybe you feel it should be brushed off, by that's ignoring the real feelings of someone who's the victim of that kind of bad behavior. It feels terrible, and it's insensitive to say those feelings don't matter and should be brushed off.

Guys are the majority in a lot of games still. Instead of blaming the victim for not tolerating in silence any abuse or harassment she may get for no other reason than for being female, how about the guys who act that way just stop acting like asshat creeps instead? It's wrong to tell someone to be quiet and tolerate bad behavior, you should be telling the people doing the bad stuff to stop it, instead.

The internet is full of guys wishing there were more girls like guys, that didn't restrict themselves to lame humour and "normal" activities. Why is there this imbalance?
Girl geeks are all over, they're just hanging out openly in their own online spaces, where they feel more comfortable and welcomed. As long as guys are the majority in a lot of game and other fandoms, they need to realize that they have to hold each other responsible for the kind of environment they encourage in their online communities. If they really want to attract more girls into their social circles, then they have to act like it.