Larry Croft and Gordana Freeman

I’ve recently stumbled upon an interesting feature on Game Career Guide. Time for Change is about what would happen if you swapped the gender of game heroes and heroines, and how that would affect them (and the game we’d get to play if they were for real).

“The aim of the project was to examine how female characters are created for games, what purpose they serve, and how they could be designed to stay true to the spirit of an exisiting character while offering a new experience that might appeal to a broader audience, and making sense in a real-world context.”

Not all of them are really appealing to me, but the idea made me think. I usually play games in which I can pick the gender of my avatar and that are dialog-heavy, already giving lots of options of behavior and thus a feel of being able to customize your avatar’s personality. Some of these options are more traditionally male, others are traditionally female. I might go one way in my first playthrough as female, and an entirely different one in a consecutive playthrough as male. But that’s my interpretation of the game, not an intentional “feminine path” that is offered to me. It is, as I have explained before in this post, that the “masculine path” is the norm of what we get to play, and often enough, all that get’s changed is the body of the avatar and the address of Sir to Ma’am.

[Side Note: Check out this list of action heroes on Wikipedia. See how Commander Shepard from Mass Effect is listed as male, but not female? MaleShep is considered the “iconic Shepard”. FemShep, in spite of being loved by many fans for her great personality (thanks to the fab voice acting by Jennifer Hale) is not mentioned.]

One of the gender-swapped concepts in Time for Change is Princess of Persia, who relies on subtlety and (even more) agility than the Prince. Another is Leisure Suit Larissa, whom you have to help finding a mate suitable for a lifelong relationship – ok, maybe not that exciting a game for me and many of you – that’s not the point right now, though. A third is playing Zelda instead of Link in Ocarina of Time, paying attention to the physical differences between men and women – i.e., Zelda has no heavy shield, but casts a magical barrier for protection, and so on.

I clicked more links, hoping for more such great ideas… and I promptly found a more ambiguous one showing sketches of a few gender-swapped action heroes and heroines. I like the ideas of the artworks, but as one of the comments suggests – there HAS to be more to heroines than big boobs and small pieces of fabric. [Mind you I like mini skirts myself, but I wouldn’t want to be defined by that choice.] I wish I could draw some sketches myself – instead I have found another great image of how different male body types can be within one and the same game, Team Fortress 2 in this case. (Although I must point out that TF2 doesn’t feature any women, so that’s not a perfect performance in my book, either.) These are all different classes from Medic to Heavy Gun Specialist, Spy, etc.:

Body types in Team Fortress 2

An artist took these as basis for designs for females… designs with which I’m in love!  😉  Note that these were, at least two of them, implemented in the game, so the basic models had to remain the same for the animations to work. That’s why these ladies have unchanging, and slightly off proportions within their class, but nonetheless, they are awesome! I had to laugh because the left gal in the 2nd row has visibly unshaved legs, and her creator wrote the note “stubble legs” next to it. I suppose survival should beat beauty on the battlefield.  ^_^

Concepts for female classes in Team Fortress 2 by Shaylyn Hamm

Of course, these are just female faces and bodies again – not a “feminine path” to play. But as I’ve talked about interpreting meaning into the choices we do have – I think I can more easily interpret game heroines like these as realistic women with character than “tits and ass in a steel bikini” [quote from the producer of Mirror’s Edge about a fan-made adaptation of its main character; also to be found in Shaylyn’s article at Game Career Guide, see link below].

Big recommendation: The whole article from which the two images were taken: The Aesthetics of Unique Video Game Characters by Shaylyn Hamm. The article features a link to her whole thesis about this topic. Great job!

What are your ideas for gender-swaps in games? What could work, what couldn’t at all?

8 thoughts on “Larry Croft and Gordana Freeman”

  1. 1. TF2 hat doch ein Mäderl:

    Verdammt ich dachte die Idee von Leisure Suit Lara war innovativ von meiner Seite *seufz*. Ich persönlich miss ja bei Overlord ein weiblichen Counterpart – ich meine es weiß doch jeder, dass Frauen bessere Bösewichte abgeben, oder? 😉

    Verwunderlich, dass nur der Iconic Shep von ME gelistet ist – ich fand das weibliche auch interessanter bei ME2 – irgendwie.
    Generell macht’s mir aber Angst, wenn ich mir die Bilder von ‘nem Female Heavy gebe – das würde sicherlich kontraproduktive Diskussionen bringen. Generelle Akzeptanz für dicke, russische Männer ist wohl etwas höher. Auch sonst bei einigen Spielen misst man den weiblichen Counterpart tatsächlich, bei anderen fühlt man sich eher als wäre er erzwungenerweise ins Konzept gepresst worden. Die Idee fällt ja nicht unbedingt mit dem Geschlecht. Great Giana Sisters war auch gut obwohl’s nur Mädls waren (oder weil?) – Klempnerarbeit bei Super Mario war auch von Anfang an einer Männerdomäne usw.
    Bei vielen Spielen wäre es auch sinnvoller das Budget und die Ressourcen in den Haupthandlungsstrang zu stecken als in Sekundärpfade :-/. (mbMn/imho)

    1. Es geht doch aber genau darum, nicht immer nur zu tun, was generell akzeptiert wird! Da wären wir ja noch immer im Mittelalter! 😉

      Tja, das mit den Bösewichten ist mein nächster Stein des Anstoßes, darüber denk ich schon ewig nach – weibliche Bösewichte sind meistens überdrübersexy, männliche Bösewichte hässlich und entstellt. Das ist doch auch unfair, wo ist denn unser zwiespältiges Eye Candy? :-p

      Und zuletzt, ad Ressourcen – ich finde Sekundärpfade sollten nicht auf Kosten der Haupthandlung gehen (Mass Effect 2) aber sie sind schon sehr wichtig. Und wenn wir schon verschiedene Romances für Männlein und Weiblein haben, warum nicht auch eine Kleinigkeit hier und da? Oft sind sie ja auch klassen-, entscheidungs- oder Companion-bezogen verschieden, warum nicht mal was verschiedenes für beide Geschlechter bieten? Spielen ja eh genug Männer als Frau – oder ist genau das das Problem?!?

  2. The “concept” of gender swapping actually creeps me out a bit hahah, but as long as it’s not about turning a character into a woman, and just having a different, new female character instead of them, it’s an interesting idea.
    So yeah while I’d rather not think about Larry Croft and Gordana Freeman… it made me consider that for genderqueer people it must be even worse than for us women.
    And I can’t help getting pissed at EA/Bioware for going the same route with Hawke as with Shepard. To me femShep is the only Shep. I never had any interest in playing maleShep, except maybe curiosity just to be able to romance Miranda since apparently she was gonna be a bi choice but Bioware didn’t include it (they did that in ME1 as well, didn’t they?). I am the kind of gamer that will play females whenever given the chance. It must have something to do with why I prefer to roleplay females with my original characters/drawings/text.
    I found that on Facebook some people were asking if you could play as a girl in Dragon Age II. Again, naturally people assumed Hawke is male and that’s it. Would it be so damn confusing if Bioware showed the female options as well?! I think it would be much less confusing actually! People don’t know they can play their own Hawke/Shepard! Customizing your character used to be an important feature in rpgs, what happened?

    …Changing subjects, that fan-created “improvement” for Mirror’s Edge simultaneously made her look like a child (face) and a woman with a bra-less boob job in the cold (body). Wtf.

    …And changing subjects again, on the topic of variety of females, I wish we could play a character like Ripley from Aliens. She kicked so much ass and I like to think of her as the female equivalent to a classic male action hero role, like of Bruce Willis’ in the Die Hard series. We really need a new Ripley, a new Sarah Connor (from the old movie, not the series). While I do love some sexy women, and I think my femShep is sexier than Miranda (hahah I do), where are our rough-looking women?

    But have you noticed how us women have some deep self-image problems as well? How we can accept muscular men but muscular women are all considered ugly, by ourselves as well? How fat men are just normal, but fat women are inacceptable? How “butch” women are looked upon, small (or normal sized) breasts equal flat-chest? How if you don’t shave, everyone, I mean EVERYONE thinks you’re gross, both men and women! I keep thinking that these “out of the norm” female figures are more taboo then we’d like to admit, and it helps hold back the chance of more variety in female video game characters. It’s a deeper, social, issue unfortunately. And I have my doubts that the video game community is any more open minded than the average person… maybe even less.

    Okay I’m sorry for the wall of text.

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