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TankFox avatar 7:40 PM on 05.19.2013  (server time)
Who gets to play Rochelle? (Yet more on gender in games)

I don't pretend that my friends actually represent a full-spectrum slice of people, females, or even white female college-educated gamers living in Texas.  But all of my female friends have played a video game.  A small minority play mostly things like Angry Birds or Farmville, with the occasional bout of Okami to spice things up.  Others play at least as often as I do.

"There are plenty of male gamers who will tell you that they prefer playing as female characters. Why couldn't the opposite be true?"

Why does it have to be true?  Why must female players play predominately male characters?  Why can't we have a fairly even split?

Last year, a friend of mine gifted three of us with copies of Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2.  Both were already very popular with one of my friends, we'll call her "K."  K is an occasional player.  She goes for things like League of Legends, WoW, and other multiplayer games.  She's also fairly recent to the world of video gaming. 

When we began playing L4D, she played Zoe.  Since she often instigated the games, she'd get first choice of character.  Nevermind that we had all of one male in our regular rotation of players and that one of the other female players might want an occasional turn with Zoe.  I was a bit miffed, myself, since I didn't really like any of the others.  After a while we all just chose the same characters.  K got Zoe, I got Francis, the token guy played Bill, and whichever of the other two women we were running with any given night picked up Louis. 

And then we moved on to Left 4 Dead 2.  Stop the presses, this game has a black chick.  Rochelle.  And once again, K took the only female character.  I grumbled but didn't press.  I wanted to play a chick, too, but I didn't want to start a fight.  Later on I discovered that our friend T had much the same reaction.

I have never seen K run anything other than a female character.  She says she'll play males "if the game is good enough...or when I finish with the storyline with a girl and the guy is a different class."  I've never seen her do it.   

T and I have a longer history with video games.  We've already become assimilated into a culture where having the option to play a black chick is something to be remarked upon.  We're accustomed to playing predominately male characters.  It's not that we want to play male characters, but that we've been doing it for so long we only notice when the PC is female. 

K isn't accustomed to this.  She identifies as female, and she wants to play female characters.

So is it that female gamers don't care one way or the other, or is it that we're so rarely given a choice in the matter that we've learned not to care?

And since so many of us have already become accustomed to playing males, should we continue to sit quietly while new female gamers are alienated until they grow accustomed to this phenomenon?  Are female protagonists truly unpopular, or is the lack of female protagonists due to old, tired ideas about gender norms that leaves female gamers with the option to play a male or play not at all?

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