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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

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Arcadia Codesmith

DCUO fumbled badly on body type customization, and from interviews it appears that they refuse to accept that they made the wrong choices. That level of hubris bodes ill for their long-term viability.

At the risk of playing into gender stereotypes, I'd add an item to your list; lack of housing and community/social tools. We found in UO that many of the biggest and most successful guilds formed around a nucleus of strong female leadership, and one of the draws for that leadership was the ability to create establishments and player towns.

The social game is critical for maintaining a dynamic, invested, long-term player community, and women in our culture tend to be trained to play social games better than men (just a trend -- I know some quite wonderful exceptions).

I don't know why recent MMO releases have been neglecting their community building, and I feel like shouting at the developers when they bumble around confused after the newness wears off and their subscriptions plummet: "IT'S THE COMMUNITY, DUMMIES!"

Brenek

I do wonder to what extent females are attracted to 'female' roles and over-sexualized avatars. It's not an excuse for any game developer (as your statistics show), but something I'm curious about.

The one time I made a healer in an MMO, I made it a female (I'm male). Partially because I'd been wanting to create a female character and healer seemed the best fit. I've subsequently made a female warrior character but don't feel great affinity for her yet (not that I do for the healer either but that's because I find healing boring). A separate but related question is how many females use male characters to compensate for the poor female choices.

I think LOTRO does a good job with regard to its female users. The avatars are not over-sexualized, though slender. Females can play any class. There are no female dwarves, per se, but that is due to the lore of Lord of the Rings. Limited character customization is an annoyance for both genders but there are some decent options nonetheless.

Adeon Writer

As a guy, I can also confirm that gender locked classes are a universal bad idea. It's always a pain.

Scylla Rhiadra

Interesting and very worthwhile post.

I don't, I confess, know a great deal about MMORPGs. Could another inhibiting factor for women be the "gendered" nature of the kinds of activities -- and not merely the roles or classes -- available in such games? Perhaps those games that want a higher participation rate among women (and it's a question -- do they?) need to create alternate narrative curves that are more likely to appeal to women?

Kim Anubis

It is insulting to be sent into battle in a corset.

Eva

I'll just say for what its worth, I am a career advertising/fashion model in real life, though I do play MMOs on occassion.

One thing I will say is that as a woman who has a better than average body, is that I'd absolutely revolt against playing an "average" character. I don't work my behind off in the gym 4 days a week just to plop down behind an avatar with a less idealized body than my own.

That said, I do agree with the portrayed Forsaken World avatar as being possibly a little too much, but then hey its a fantasy world! I'm a 34-24-34 myself, and I sure don't have that small of a waist, and don't want one that small either. But I'd still play that avatar any day over one based on "average" measurements.

Who wants to be average?

Char

I think this kinda of idea varies depending on the kind of female playing the game. I, as a female, have played MMO's for as long as I have had the chance to. From my perspective, I refuse to play a Male character because I personally prefer how the female characters look in a game. I think it's unfair to say that companies single out women.

As an ex-WoW, player, I can safely say that there are options to make an "non pin up" looking Troll, pulling out the example from the article. Sure you can't pick the body type of the character you want, but in many MMOs you don't really have that much room for that anyway. Games like DCUniverse, the character customisation is indeed limited - but I for one, speaking from personal experience, have never met a Female gamer that hasn't wanted a "more normal body type” than the ones presented. Sure it can seem sexist, but there's not that many gamers that are against it as far as I am aware.

I am also unaware of any Gender-specific classes in the more popular MMOs. Phantasy Star, yes, but AFAIK no MMO I have played. Unless I am forgetting one. In the games that have a more diverse body type customisation - for example Champions Online, City of Heroes and various other games of this type. The body shape is the same, just larger, more blown up and less realistic than the more “pin-up” shapes are. It’s the same with the male characters.

I think as an MMO player, comparing the customisation of a game to something like Second Life which has pretty much unlimited customisation is again a tad unfair. Perfect World, only has two gender-locked classes. The Barbarian and the Venomancer.

In Vindictus, you play a Character - premade. Hence the gender lock. It would be like complaining that Gimli in LOTR was a guy and not a woman because there should be more female dwarves.

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