Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dear Fools and Trolls on the WOW Forums

Dear Fools and Trolls on the WOW Forums,

Every once in a while (sometimes it seems like five times a day, but that may just be my perception) you start a thread to express your shock and confusion over the notion that some male gamers play female toons and/or some female gamers play male toons.

I stopped opening those threads a long time ago, and I wish that everyone else would, too, because there are much more interesting things to talk about, like those "WTF, pandas, are you kidding me?!" threads.  But you keep on creating "OH NOES GENDER!" threads, so let's hash it all out now, so we can exhaust the subject and never bring it up again.

First, let me explain why I'm so hostile to these threads in the first place.  It's because they come across as the ridiculous and immature sort of gender policing engaged in by children who've only just learned that boys and girls are different and are still trying to negotiate the boundaries the patriarchy has placed on them.  When you express surprise/dismay/confusion over "men playing female toons, oh no!" it's like you're still trying to figure out whether women can be doctors and why different people have different genitals and why Jimmy's dad cooks dinner for Jimmy's family when only women make dinner and why Heather has two mommies.  Welcome to the wide world of humanity, where different people do different things for different reasons and we don't all confine ourselves into little "boys do this" and "girls do that" boxes.

In other words, please mature.  You're embarrassing yourself.

With that said, let's look at five simple reasons people might play toons which don't strictly mirror their own gender.  (Much of this also applies to why people play non-human characters, so apply it to that and stop asking why people play elves.)

Variety!  Why play the same old thing everywhere you go?  In a lot of games, I have to play whatever the game gives me.  Sometimes I can only be a human, or only be a man, or only be a particular main character.  There aren't other options available to me.  In WOW, there are a lot of choices.  My toon can be a human!  Or a gnome!  Or an elf!  Or a troll!  Or a bull-cow-thing!  My toon can be a warlock or a priest or a warrior or a hunter!  My toon can be a man or a woman!  My toon can have long hair or short hair or pink hair or green hair or no hair at all!  It's fun to try new things and get a plethora of experiences.  Some people find it boring to play the same old thing over and over, and since you can create 50 different characters on one account, why not try something new?

Fantasy!  Guess what, WOW is a fantasy game!  In a fantasy game, I might want to have fun exploring a different existence than the one I toil through every day.  WOW gives me the chance to get creative, especially from an RP perspective.  I can be anyone I want to be, so why limit myself to mimicking the very life I already inhabit?  CREATIVITY.  IT'S FUN.

Aesthetics!  As you may have noticed, the different toons look different.  They're taller, shorter, bonier, thicker, and so on.  They have different body types and different facial features.  They have different movements.  Different casting animations.  For instance, I like the staff animations for blood elf women, and when I roll a blood elf caster, I tend to make it a woman and give her a staff instead of, say, a dagger.  I find every single one of the available faces for human men unpleasant, and so I tend not to play very many human men.

Attraction!  Yes, some people like to look at something which appeals to them sexually, even in a minor way.  Whichever toon you play, you end up looking at it a lot, so why not make something you find easier on the eyes, so to speak?  If you think that draenei women are hot, you might want to play one.  If you find belf men hot, you might be more inclined to play one of those than, say, an undead woman.

Personal choice!  The human element!  Different people like different things for different reasons.  I play what appeals to me.  Sometimes I like to play a strong, tough character.  Sometimes I like to play a cute, fun character.  Sometimes I want to play a kind character, or a sinister one, or whatever I'm in the mood for.  I might be a human woman in real life and enjoy playing human women in the game, but like most people I tend to play more than one character, so I might roll something besides a human woman just because the options are there.

In explaining why some people play a variety of toons, I don't mean to mock people who only play toons who closely mimic their own characteristics.  That's fine.  Enjoy yourself.  But stop shaming and questioning people who make different choices than you do.  Shake off those narrow boundaries the gender police have erected around you and relax.  You might enjoy it.

With love,
Frank Lee

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