Wednesday, August 27

Hermaphrodites, Transvestites and Transsexuals, oh my!

Double post today, there was a sudden two hour gap in my schedule and I got busy.

There are plenty of games that can't easily be categorised as either female or male.

Hermaphroditic games like SingStar, Lips, Guitar Hero, Rock Band and maybe even The Sims can easily switch between gender associations depending on content chosen by the "player". I wonder if their developers / publishers ever thought some nobody would describe these games as hermaphroditic. I know I often consider every day items as hermaphroditic. Doesn't everyone?

Earlier I stated that I felt Lara Croft was a man in woman's clothing. Leigh Alexander at Sexy VideoGameLand would be more qualified to answer this than me but I'm not linking to her site because the last time I did that it turned into an ironic moment. While the game retains its masculine tag (spatial puzzles, brutish violence, smug trash talking) I'm going to move Lara into the transvestite category (as a character) now that it's defined. This is a bit of a stretch but Dante and in particular his boyf... er, his replacement Nero from Devil May Cry 4 reside here too as do many many characters from Japanese games. For what it's worth I don't specifically see these characters as males dressing as women, they are males dressing effeminately with character assets that serve to neutralise their gender. I can't think of any games that I would classify as transvestitic though, I must try harder at this as I want more transvestiticness.

Daedalist mentioned several games in one of his comments that I had overlooked MGS's emphasis on avoidance of violence, or more perhaps with its emphasis on choreographed violence with minimalist themes suggesting a neutering or feminisation of this traditionally "male" arena. Some even feel that Solid / Old Snake lacks the equipment necessary to be masculine, I don't think it's particularly relevant but it's nice to know I'm not the only "special" individual posting on the interwebs!

Devil May Cry is a masculine game series as it focuses on violence. It averts the wholly masculine tag by including a somewhat effeminate hero who is rewarded for "stylish" violence. While choreography and dance are not strictly the domain of women, males who dance are seen as "sensitive" and they are often considered homosexual - a strong indicator of how deeply ingrained the stereotype is in popular consciousness. The Devil May Cry series is much more effiminate than any of its western contemporaries (Too Human, Viking: The Battle for Asgard and many other melee smash fests) in this instance it's a good thing because an otherwise predictable button mash mechanic is elevated into an exercise of precision, timing, excellence and elegance. Trés chic!

Transgender games probably don't exist and for good reason. For the purposes of this discussion I'm going to define such games a little differently to their real world inspiration. A transgender game is a game that starts as one gender and becomes another. Think something like a first person shooter heavy on brutal, hard, unyielding violence switching halfway through into a social networking game concerned with nurturing positive, welcoming relationships. Jarring! Mass Effect? Well only if one plays for paragon points, I suppose.

Finally there's the "third" gender, genderless games. Puzzle games are the dominant form of this type of game. These sorts of games are often marketed at families. There is no advantage to a player of either gender, there is no association with gender within gameplay and thus no real barrier to entry either. It's a little flippant to include this relatively large game category in such a small paragraph here, it isn't intended to be flippant it's just that these games don't lend themselves to gender play and gender subversion like the others may.

I did this little experiment. I counted the games that I own (not games I have played just the ones I own) and classified each into male, female and ambiguous. Can you guess how the numbers were distributed? How about you? Do you prefer masculine, feminine or ambiguously gendered games? And if you have a preference, what is its source?

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