My first video game was Mario Brosâ„¢. The era of 8-bit graphics and my really young age are probably the reason why I did not care about playing a male protagonist. The game story is rather easy: Peach, the token girlfriend, was kidnapped by Bowser, and Mario the Plumber had to save her. He searched castle after castle to find her only to find the wrong person until the last level. At the time, I do not remember caring about the game story; only years later did I realize what the game was about and then came my realization that Mario Bros was all about a damsel in distress. Although Nintendo has created playable female characters in some of their Mario games by now, most of them are so clichÃ© that I didn’t bother playing them. They are clearly designed to please the Japanese male market.
Do you want to play the muscular marine or the sexy, clothed bimbo? These are the usual predefined characters in games, both meant to please the male audience as though women do not bother to spend hours looking at pixels as a form of entertainment. I find both types uninteresting and unappealing, but at least the muscular marine does not require me to look at a left and right balancing ass for hours while saying in my head, “no women walks like that.” Also, unless he is overly muscular, the male protagonist is usually rather pleasing on the eye and much more entertaining to watch running around.
Other games, mostly single player and online role-playing games, are more flexible, allowing the player to fill the shoes of both male and female characters. Although, some game developers, for marketing reasons, have started to promote their single-player RPGs with a finite male protagonist, despite the game allowing for gender selection. BioWare is known for this, just having “upgraded” Dragon Age 2 to have a predefined male protagonist to join their Shepard of Mass Effect on their promotional posters. Yet, FemShep is still extremely popular, despite never being marketed. I also prefer FemShep, and not because of the romances; I prefer Jennifer Hale’s voice acting over Mark Meer’s. Sometimes it’s just about immersion, so I have a few exceptions to my “I only play male character” habits. Unfortunately, RPGs sometimes don’t escape the sexy female protagonist by making female armor covering almost nothing; it’s like women get armor class bonuses the less clothing they have on. That’s why I usually play male in RPGs: look is important, and I don’t want to go medieval in a steel bikini.
Of course, not all video games have male protagonist or sexy ladies. Metroid, Tomb Raider and a few others all tell their stories through the adventures of women. Capcom did an amazing job with their Resident Evil franchise, balancing their female and male protagonists through most of their games and giving us memorable characters like Jill Valentine and Claire Redfield.
Still, most of the time I play male characters in video games because the female choices do not interest me or there isn’t one to pick. I usually avoid the type of games with the sexy female protagonist, though; video games are mostly visual content and they need to be visually appealing to the viewer for them to be interested in the first place.