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Jan 25, 2006



there is an underlying assumption here i must point out, which is that you're assuming that a player associates the conrolled character with him/herself. i think this is highly flawed, as i think in most games, and most game genres, this does not work.

even in (MMO)RPG's, players inevitably end up controlling multiple characters, either via NPC party members, henchmen, alts, mules, etc. which controlled character does a player relate with: one of them, some of them, all of them? yes, some games impart a sense that the character is the player's avatar. however, i honestly think only a statistically irrelevant number of players thought of Pacman, Ms. Pacman, Lara Croft, or Samus Aran as their virtual sexual persona.

yes, it is true that a very large number of men are create female avatars in MMORPG's. i would argue this correlates with the very large number of men who go out and buy offline titles featuring attractive female characters. it is not that the players want to be the characters. it is that they want to see the female characters.

males who buy and play DOA Volleyball do not imagine they are Kasumi and Helena. women who buy and play The Sims do not imagine they are the virtual Barbies and Kens whom they drown in swimming pools.

p.s. Nick Yee has some numbers on cross-gender play at http://www.nickyee.com/daedalus/gateway_genderbend.html


I play both male and female characters in WoW. For me, it was a question of aesthetics and what felt "right" for a character. Paladins seem inherently male, face melters female. There may be more interesting social commentary in my thought process than the idea of transvestitism as sexual identity.

Two more RL examples where identity and sexuality are mismatched:

1. A football player and a "butch" gay man may both be aggressive, testosterone-pumped musclemen, but their sexuality could not be more different.

2. RL transvestites come in the gay AND straight varieties. There's even men who go through sex change, and then call themselves "lesbian" - they may want to be women, but they were always into women, and never gay.

As for sexuality in WoW, there are those few RL women who go to great lengths to PROVE they are female IRL, because the teenaged boys fall over each other to curry her favor.

Finally, there's the simple idea that, if a guy has to look at the backside of a toon all the time, it might as well be a female toon.


Men and women who present cross-gender in these worlds seem to be more open to the idea that their transvestitism has meaning. Not that it necessarily carries some huge psychological or philosophical weight, but that virtual gender choice reflects, in one way or another, not just the avatar but the player behind it.

I don't think these assertions have been demonstrated to be the case. In fact I suspect most, especially males, would say that their choice of gender-representation has little if anything to do with themselves as a player, and everything to do with the look of the avatar (there's the classic comment in games where the camera follows your character that, "if I'm going to be looking at someone's butt all the time, I might as well make it an attractive one.").

It's true that males and (somewhat less so) females regularly choose characters of the opposite sex when a choice is available, and shrug and play whatever character is supplied when no choice is available.

But IMO, calling this "virtual transvestitism" is unwarranted. I could see invoking this label in a world like SL where avatars of one gender could present or wear clothing of the opposite gender. But typically the choice of avatar gender has, I think, either psychological roots that are completely different from physical transvestitism (and if not, this needs to be shown, not just asserted), or no real psychological significance at all. I see Hikaru has already referenced Nick Yee's work on gender-bending online. The motivations and psychological significance he gives appear to me to be more rooted in observation and plausibility than trying to draw a link between this online behavior and transvestitism.

"Sometimes an avatar is just an avatar."


Well I have to concur that at least in my experience, the majority of male players who play female characters are doing so for other reasons than association with their female side, judging by feedback from friends whom I trust to relate the truth. I play some female characters for the simple reason that when I create any character I come up with a character "concept" and sometimes that is better suited to a female character rather than a male. Its not so cut and dried as male=physically aggressive, female=face melter" as indicated above, but probably falls along some subconscious division related to how I perceive gender rolls. I would have to think deeply about that to decide.

Yes, there is a certain element of "if I have to stare at a backside for X hours to play this character, it might as well be a nice one to look at" (for instance in City of Heroes/Villains where they have a fantastic female form model in place), but I think by and large its a function of the character concept primarily. I don't think this is usually a conscious decision either, usually once I have a character concept, the gender is more or less clearly defined in my head without thinking about it. I would say roughly 1/4-1/3 of my characters are female in COH/V.

That said, I don't *play* them as female to be honest. I may have created a female character but I don't actively attempt to convince people I am female by words or actions, and I don't change my behaviour in any regards.

My wife occasionally creates a male character but usually ends up deleting them in the long run in favor of another female character I have noticed.


I do not associate the gender of my avatars with my own yet currently. Be it D and D, WoW, a MUD, regardless.

My current reasoning is twofold:

  • The VW games I currently play have minimal embedded sexual content.

  • I believe that games like second life provide a better example of virtual transvestism than say City of heroes or WoW. SL has a highly developed culture surrounding VL sex, hence the connotations by avatar.

  • Thus, due to the type of VW games I play, I do not associate my sexuality or gender with my character's whatsoever.

  • When I play my good looking, black, orange haired female mage named Lanky, I am playing a character designed by me, likely with elementsof my persona embedded in look and feel, but certainly not my sexuality.

    Judgin by the other comments too, it seems safe to isolate virtual transvestism to certain social contexts or VWs.



    Thus far Hikaru: you're assuming that a player associates the conrolled character with him/herself

    Basically, transvestitism isn't worth discussing unless you vest in the first place. There'll always be people who don't identify or involve themselves with the character, or use it as a proxy for themselves, but to be honest, I can't identify with that attitude enough to discuss it.

    Back to the original - it occurs to me that sometimes, transvestitism is the only real or acceptable choice, even when there is supposedly a free and equal choice between male and female avatars. In Guild Wars, for example, I can't play a male character because they all look awful to me (which is to say I can't identify with any of them), whereas the females range from generic-game-character to very nice, despite their exaggerated measurements - and I'm quite sure there are women who refuse to play the female avatars for similar reasons. Perhaps we have more stringent standards for identification with a character of our own sex?

    So I don't think you can consider transvestitism as being solely about the player's presentation of him- or herself, even with that open choice - it's also about to what extent they want to buy into that particular VW's (necessarily simplified) conceptions of masculinity and femininity, even modified by race and/or class.


    Hmmm . . . I'm a male who chose a female character to play in World of Warcraft. I picked it because because she was prettier than the male characters. I guess I could have put more thinking into it, but really I just wanted to get started.

    I was neither thinking "hey, I wish I was a girl," or "hey, I wish I could look at a girl's rear end all day." I just thought she looked more "Priest-like" than my other rather limited options.

    Now that you have the "details of my personal experience," I'm mildly interested to discover that I'm a "virtual cross-dresser." The label doesn't really bother me, but I'm not quite sure how I'm using the medium of cyberspace to experiment with the bounds of gender ideologies and performance."

    It could have something to do with the fact that I don't think of my online avatar as an extension of myself. I think of it as a "rule of the game." When I play Monopoly, I pick the little dog. Not because I want to be dog, or because I am experimenting with the bounds of my species ideology. He's just cuter than the hat, and my sister hogs the car. But I neither think of myself as "property owning dog" when I play Monopoly or a "female priest with magic powers" when I play World of Warcraft. To me, its just a game.

    This probably sounds more sarcastic than I mean it to be - I don't mean any disrespect. I guess my first impression is you are reading a lot of meaning into a decision that I spent less than two seconds making and no seconds considering on a regular basis. Maybe it is fraught with subconsious power. But maybe sometimes a cigar is just a cigar?


    My first character in WoW was a human male warrior, who is currently my main raider. After I saw the Night Elf fighting styles, however - vastly visually superior to the clunky human variety - I decided to create an Elf warrior. For both aesthetic and lore reasons, I decided it would be a female (in WoW lore, male elves who became druids went into hibernation in the Emerald Dream, while their womenfolk became Sentinels). Staying within the bounds of lore doesn’t mean one is a cross-dresser, virtual or otherwise. =)


    I just think its cool that a little pink haired, Gnome warrior can tank in a dungeon as well as the big bad Night Elf or Human male.


    Well now, this is bound to be interesting.

    I am a notorious online transvestite. I am male, and I almost exclusively play female characters. As mentioned before, there are several quite simple and unpsychological reasons for it:

    - If you spend hours online, it's nicer to look at a girl. Guess why Lara Croft / Tomb Raider were such successful games, eh?
    - Certain characters or game styles are more prone to females. A healer character is, following our cultural definition of gender, nearly inescapably female. A warrior is male.
    - Most players don't identify with the character they play. True, but only to a certain extent, see below...

    But there's not one typcial MMORPG and no one typical playing style. In Guild Wars, yes, most players do not identify with their characters and hack away (inherent in the game design). But I used to play a lot of Neverwinter Nights online (persistent worlds), and there it can be quite different.

    Roleplaying servers (or districts, or whatever they are called in the different games) are what attracts me most. I want to play someone else, I want to act out another role, another personality. On an NWN server, I was famous for being Lina Bloggins, the psychotic halfling Druid, who was slightly evil but still somehow cute and nice. In reality, I am neither evil nor psychotic, and, above all, I am male.

    Now this isn't all. In game, I *cough*... Lina... had a romantic relationship with Furbo, whom she finally married. Yes, we did act out the whole process from flirting to sex. So, looking at it objectively: Two guys having virtual sex, one of them playing a female.

    It stuck me. Does that mean something about my psychology? Well, maybe it does. While I would never even think of a sex change or dressing in female clothes, I am not the stereotypical male personality: I do not like sports, I do not like cars, I do not like violence. I don't like perfume either, I don't like jewellery, I don't like cheesy films.

    Of course there's more than these few examples, but overall, what am I? My sex is definitely male, but my gender isn't that clearly defined, is it? Does my MMORPG play style have anything to do with it? Is it revealing something about my personality?

    A friend of mine once told me: "Dude, you're a woman in a man's body, and your girlfriend is a lesbian!"


    Warren>Finally, there's the simple idea that, if a guy has to look at the backside of a toon all the time, it might as well be a female toon.

    Thats me. I usually never play males, they're no fun to look at. My wife on the other hand cannot understand it because she projects herself into her character. I've always played females since my days of griefing in UO... it packs on one more level of cognitive dissonance when you spring tha Bomb.


    I think the choice of the term "Virtual Transvestitism" may be a bit too strong for what you intend to discuss (at least if I understood well). It only becomes virtual transvestitism in full effect if the player consciously choose to invest on a personal level in an avatar of the opposite sex.

    Most of the time we're stuck with a much more diffuse (and for that reason much more intersesting I think) situation, let's say "cross-gendering".

    In that regard, I think the previous comments that, in WOW, " Paladins seem inherently male" or women 'looked more "Priest-like"' were very interesting. Some qualities get associated to avatars by genres. The problem gets two-fold in that, on the one hand creators associate some qualities they see fit in avatars by genre and class, and players look for them with another lecture grid. The discrepancy between what is implemented, and why, and what is expected, and why, is interesting in its own right in what it tells us of gender perceptions.

    In the end, though, the real meat here happens to be not in how genders are being defined, but in how the definitions are being twisted all over the place without much of the actors ever noticing, thus further blurring the lines.

    [Which makes me think, interesting that the coined word "metrosexual" refers to a place rather than a state, as if the environment was more important than the nature of the individual. Is it the blurring of the lines as a byproduct of our highly multi-coded society or, more because we are more and more process driven instead of content driven ?]

    Sorry for the rambling.


    I occasionally choose a female character in video games. I didn't realize I was a tranvestite. I guess my cross-dressing tendencies began when I was 8, when I would play Metroid for hours on end. I thought I was just playing a game. I didn't know I was confused about my gender. In high school, I once read a book with a female protagonist. It's all so clear in hindsight.

    I think it runs in my family. My grandfather served on a WWII bomber. He and the other crew painted a sexy woman on the side of the plane. What a bunch of fags.

    This would explain why that one time I kept intentionally killing my female characters, printed out screenshots of their dead bodies, and sewed the pictures into a body suit.

    It rubs the potion on its skin...


    First of all.. if you put on the body of the opposite sex, it should be "virtual transexuality," not "virtual transvestitism," as "transvestitism" implies only the clothes of the other gender. And we've all seen that those female avatars in WoW have plenty goin' on besides the clothes...

    I have RP'd female characters in both pen-and-paper games and in MMORPG's for the same reasons that I've RP'd non-human characters, evil characters, old characters, stupid characters, wise characters, undead characters, slimy characters, beautiful characters and characters made of pure energy -- IT'S ROLE-PLAYING!!!

    I love the general discussion of what we can learn about ourselves by how we play different characters in RPG, and what it can mean for us... in general... but if we're going to hang a term on every variation? I'm going to be in real trouble. Because I will be a transvestite, lycanthropite, mordanthrapile, dwarvanthropist, archangaline, etc.

    "Transvestitism" is, I think, an inappropriate term to use here, except as it would apply to folks who *only* (or almost always) prefer to play characters of the opposite gender. And, even then, only do so for reasons related to their own sexuality. As stated above, if you do it 'cause you like the pics of the nymphs better... that ain't transvestitism, that's hetero-videoism. You ain't playin' her, you're playin *with* her.

    And, as we all know -- both from posts here and from our own play experiences -- many folks who play MMORPGs, don't really role play. They just *play*. So the role-play aspect of it doesn't really scan for them. They are themselves busting heads, and looking at some cute 'tchooch while they're doing it is a side benefit.

    Now... when I've role-played females, I do it -- like any hard-core RP'er -- to explore those aspects of character that (I imagine) are "more female." My longest running WoW character, for example, was a female undead Warlock, and her best friend was another Warlock Priestess who began her "unlife" on the same day. Our back-story had us un-earthed at next-door graves, and so we imagined ourselves "sisters in un-life." We called each other "sister" in all our dealings, and that was, when we started a guild, a tradition that continued in our guild structure. Just one aspect of the "female" part of our relationship.

    We also loved to shop together.

    I've also GM'd pen-and-paper games with both men and women who have had long-running (10+ years) characters of opposite gender. It never ocurred to me to refer to that relationship as "transvestitism" in any way; probably because their characters were represented by small pewter figures rather than animated, on-screen avatars. Another way in which online games tend to warp our sense of reality.

    So... as I said... unless you are playing cross-gender characters pretty much all the time, and because you really want to exclusively relate to the other gender as such, I am going to come down on the side of, "No." Playing the opposite gender in a role-playing game is *not* an act of transvestitism; it is an act of role-playing. Gender is simply another "difference" that is fun (one hopes) to pretend to.

    Now... in Second Life, where cybersex is a ready and potent affair (ahem), it's a whole new kettle of leather... If you are dialing up an avatar of a different gender in order to have cybersex, then what you are looking to roleplay *clearly* has something to do with some sexuality issues, as we're not talking about roleplaying as "game" anymore, but roleplaying as an actual sexual act. The game has become the thing. And your "thing" gets into the game.

    So... if a man puts on a female avatar in SL in order to have cybersex... yes. That's virtual transexuality, since you're not putting on the *clothes* of the other gender, but the entire physical being.

    And if two men each put on female avatars so that they can have virtual lesbian sex, I'd call that "hyper-virtual-transexualesbianality." But only because it was so much fun to type...


    Urgh... what a horrible choice of phrase; 'virtual transvestism'. It's not about the clothes, my friend, it's about the identity! :)

    In tabletop RPGs, there is no underlying assumption that people will play characters with matching genders. Why is there no study on this for comparison with its virtual equivalent?

    Role play is escapism - why should we match our real world gender to a character we are choosing to play?


    "it is not that the players want to be the characters. it is that they want to see the female characters."

    I'll be another to admit to that. Of course, I also have an inherent "observer complex" and have a very hard time actually identifying with a character/avatar/alt.

    To perhaps move the conversation forward a bit, now that quite a few people have mentioned it... one of the things that I've noticed is that I *have* picked up, diffusively, an interesting mannerism that is often a "female mannerism" according to books/studies, and have even integrated it into my "real life" speech. It might be interesting to hear if any others have noticed such things. I'll go ahead and describe mine... I call it the "I'm Sorry" game.

    Basically, when things don't go all right (and in MMORPGs that happens all too often) the stereotypical ("book") guy reaction is to silently attempt to fix it and the stereotypical ("book") female reaction is to apologize for even minor blame or even to just apologize if no one else feels up to it. So, in game I have developed the habit now of often prefixing or postfixing "Sorry" or "sry". Keep in mind, it wasn't really much of a conscious decision, it just seemed the thing to do.

    Just recently I realized I've been saying "I'm sorry" a lot more often in my speech in real life. The interesting thing about this is that transfered into my day to day "guy" speak I find it often takes on light tones of sarcasm and hidden meanings of "What the hell can I do about that?", or otherwise can be simply patronizing.


    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.


    Bonnie, you know it's possible to get plenty of responses to posts on TN without trolling? Transvestistism is, if you know even a smidgen of latin, cross-dressing (from the verb "vestere"). I think that you'll find it difficult to find a dictionary of transvestisism which includes the definition "controling a character in a virtual world of the opposite sex."

    So to boil it down, unless a person dresses up the toon they control in clothes of the opposite gender then no tranvestisism is occuring. One is not the character one plays at any given time.

    I do hope that your presence on TN doesn't signal a flood of childishly attention-seeking shock-posts intended to goad responses from gullibly irascible types like myself.


    To all who have questioned the use of the phrase "virtual transvestite": this phrase, in it's everyday, RL use, means someone who wears the clothing of the person of the opposite gender (Thanks, Endie, I studied Latin for six years.) When applied to a virtual environment, however, it takes on a different meaning. In many ways, avatars function as our virtual "clothing" - therefore, "wearing" a cross-gender avatar is much like wearing cross-gender clothing. Also, as in RL, transvestitism doesn't not necessarily imply homosexuality. It simply indicates a cross-dressing, a performance or presentation, through appearances, of the traits of the opposite gender.

    No matter what your reason for virtual cross-dressing, it is still just that. I'm not saying it has any innate pyschological or philosophical weight - that's stated clearly. I wouldn't make such a claim without specific cases and interviews to refer to. My point, in this post at least, is very simple: when people of one gender play (or represent themselves) through an avatar of the opposite gender, they are taking part in virtual transvestitism. Unfortunately, in our society, the word "transvestite" may have negative connotations you're bringing over to the discussion.

    No one is telling you why you play cross-gender, or that it reflects on your sexuality. "A cigar is just a cigar," as a few of you have so cleverly mentioned; and I'm not arguing with you. But the cigar here is putting on cross-gendered skin. The end. At least for now.

    Notice that we've heard none of this defensiveness from women who play as men... When masculinity is in question -- not by me, but potentially by the judgemental community -- words like "transvestite" become unacceptable (Again, thanks Endie - this isn't trolling, this is sexuality. Sorry if it shocks you.)

    The only argument I've really seen here against the idea of virtual transvestitism is the claim that, perhaps, avatars do not actually stand in for/as a representative of the player at all. This, please remember, is acknowledged as a possible approach in the post. Aside from this though, whether you are identifying with your toon or not (a distinction many have brought up) playing through a virtual cross-gendered skin, like putting on RL cross-gendered clothing, is an act of transvestitism -- no strings attached.


    Old cartoon from the UK magazine Viz: an animated piece of household furniture is stomping around angrily. One observer is saying "is that a TV?", and the other is replying "no, it's a cross dresser".

    I don't doubt that what we're seeing here is basically cross-dressing, which is to say that it's people wearing the clothing of a different gender for whatever reason. Although it doesn't use clothes per se, that's mainly due to the limitations of reality rather than something intrinsic to the world. Pretty well all the reasons people might cross-dress in reality apply to playing virtual characters of another gender, plus a few more that reality doesn't have (or makes very difficult). The only exceptions are people for whom the clothing is itself intensely significant for some physical reason.

    Transvestites are a sub-category of cross-dressers, and unlike the term "cross-dresser" there is an implied reason for transvestism. The clothes are just an outer symbol of something deeper. If someone were to develop a super nanobot pill that if you took it it changed your entire body to that of the opposite sex for half a day then it went back to what it was originally, that would appeal to transvestites exactly the same way that dressing in female clothes does (although I guess they might be fussy over which set of reproductive organs they had). Basically, though, the "-vestism" is descriptive of an outward manifestation of the TV condition, not the heart of the definition.

    OK, so although it's certain that there are people who play virtual worlds cross-gender who are TV in real life, most of the reasons people are giving here (and have given in the past - yes, this is another area which has been done to death in 1990s discussions of textual worlds) concern non-TV motivations.

    The best study of virtual cross-gender play that I have come across is http://web.mit.edu/21w.784/www/BD%20Supplementals/Materials/Unit%20Two/Security%20Privacy%20Identity/gender%20switching%20online.pdf. If you want to find out more about this area rather than just throwing in your two cents, read this first.

    For some people, there's a sexual element in cross-gender play. For most, there isn't. Basically, they're role-playing: inserting a difference between their virtual self and their real self so that they can use the former to figure out more about the latter. Playing a Dark Elf doesn't mean you harbour secret desires to have purple skin and ears the size of a donkey's, and playing an other-gendered character doesn't mean you want to be other-gendered. It doesn't mean you don't, and it's not statistically significant enough even to be implied.

    I've played female characters many times, perhaps more than I have male characters. Does that make me a virtual cross-dresser? Sure. Does it make me a virtual transvestite? No. Should I be worried? Not at all! For me, the question isn't "why would people play the opposite to their RL gender" but "why wouldn't they?".



    "If you want to find out more about this area rather than just throwing in your two cents, read this first."
    Bartle, this post is merely an introduction. For more extensive research, and more extensive work with previous publications on the subject, please see future posts. Thanks.

    Also, Bartle, I think the distinction you (and the Wikipedia) are making is a good one, but, as the entries themselves remind us, one that is by no means solid. Plus, there is of course the argument that, like it or not, by playing through a cross-gender character users are by necessity identifying with that character - even simply in action.


    Bonnie, I think it's naive to assume that terms like 'transvestitism' won't elicit a strong reaction unless used precisely and accurately. You're suggesting a new use for this term, but simply assuming rather than arguing for its acceptance (e.g. "In many ways, avatars function as our virtual "clothing" - therefore, "wearing" a cross-gender avatar is much like wearing cross-gender clothing" and "playing through a virtual cross-gendered skin, like putting on RL cross-gendered clothing, is an act of transvestitism"). As Richard has pointed out, there are sexual connotations that your usage here either blurs or ignores, and at least some relevant past work (done in non-graphical environments though) which ought to be referenced right from the beginning given your novel take on transvestitism and its relationship to player/character gender.

    You have not, for example, addressed how it is that playing a different-gender character is an act of cross-dressing, but playing with (and dressing!) a different-gendered doll, drawing a picture of a different-gendered person, or reading a book with a different-gendered protagonist are not. Each of these has the same relationship to the individual concerned as does playing a different-gendered character, and yet the issue of cross-dressing (much less transvestitism) never appears because the intent and context are so clearly different. You seem to be attempting to elide that contextual difference but without arguing for why this is tenable, much less significant.

    You also assume "defensiveness" in the reaction to this asserted thesis, rather than (as several have pointed out) this reaction being about the insufficiency of the assertion itself and the premeses behind it.

    You go on to say that you're "not saying [playing a character of the opposite sex] has any innate pyschological or philosophical weight." Given that, I'm left to wonder what the point is. Draining off the shock-value of (misapplied IMO) terms like "transvestitism" and "cross-dressing," we're left with the statement that sometimes, by choice or not (based on the game) people play characters of the opposite gender.

    Okay. What's interesting about that again?

    When sexual play enters the picture (which is much less common in some games and for some people than for others), this may become more interesting. One poster has noted the practice of people engaging in cybersex as the gender their character presents, which may not match their own, and the behavior may thus not match their own typical sexual orientation. This at least has some psychological territory that might be worth exploring.

    But noting that people sometimes play characters of the opposite gender is, by itself, not all that remarkable.


    Mike, as I have mentioned, this post is an introduction. What I mean when I say that this does not necessarily have psychological weight is precisely that: necessarily. More specifically, I mean to say that this post in particular, which is what the posters are responding to, does not imply any particular meaning, though they are reacting as if it does. What does this cross-gender play mean/why is it interesting? Does this issue only have weight when brought into a sexual context? These are issues I will explore at greater lengths in later posts.

    I do understand, however, that the terms could have used a more extensive explanation is the initial post. Also, I see that, since this is a sensitive topic, references to the others' work right at the beginning may have been helpful to ease the introduction.

    As for playing with a different gendered "doll," this is, of course, also true. In playing any such game, you are playing both with and as your avatar. These things are hardly mutually exclusive. Why have these topics not been explored more in novels? Because, only in games do your decisions shape the decisions, and therefore the selfhood, of the character. It's a very different experience.


    I think there's an important distinction in the original post that a lot of people have ignored, which is the idea of a "sexual environment".

    Suppose that You create a cross-gendered character with the intention of only interacting with your friends, guild, etc. I.e. people who know that the character does not reflect your true gender. This would be a type of interaction akin to roleplaying at a table-top game, because people are all aware of each other's true identity. I would say that in this case, no "sexual environment" exists.

    However, like it or not, characters of different genders are treated differently in the greater virtual world, where people are unaware of your true identity. What does it mean to create a cross-gendered character in this situation, knowing that the world will perceive you differently? Some reasons may be pragmatic (more presents!) or character driven (I'm a valkyrie!), but _if_ the player is aware that the environment for male and female characters is different, they must have considered this social effect when making their decision.

    Again, if there is not difference in the reaction of one's VW playmates, then the decision can be purely aesthetic. Perhaps this allows some flexibility in the single-player realm as well. If the world's reaction to my gender is unchanged, it doesn't matter if I'm Samus Aran or Duke Nukem. Within the context of their adventures, I was given no choice.


    Oh Richard Bartle had will, to make the earth stand still
    Through text prompts and wizards and toads
    After two decades of MUDs, you'd think he'd get some love
    From college students, who can't even code
    Then stuff went wrong for Nick Yee and RPGs
    Their study of relationships was ignored
    At a deadly pace it came from blogging space
    From a pen that likes to act like a sword:

    Terra Nova - Shock Post Feature
    Poor Dan will unknowingly... Bring on a creature..
    See MU* Gods Fighting... Against Wills of Granite...
    And Bonnie arguing... with the Whole Planet...
    Oh Oh Oh Ohhhhhhhhhh ohhhhhhh
    at the late night, Terra Nova, shock post show.

    I knew Mithra's wife would have, quite some strife
    As he played a girl because she looked nice.
    What about about chicks who play dudes? This is all quite rude,
    Gender profiling? It makes me think twice.
    Andy Havens, Chris Bateman, and MD Twwwwwo,
    Your argument about terms did compel,
    Too bad the best comment, so far, in this whole thread
    was damn funny, but anonymous as well.

    So it's aaaaaaa...........

    Terra Nova - Shock Post Feature
    Bonnie, please stop now... You're no sex teacher....
    See MU* Gods Fighting... Against Wills of Granite...
    Misguided Gender Theory... Pisses off the Planet...
    Oh Oh Oh Ohhhhhhhhhh ohhhhhhh
    at the late night, Terra Nova, shock post show.
    I wanna go, oh-oh,
    to the late night, Terra Nova, shock post show.
    Can't let my panties show, oh-oh,
    at the late night, Terra Nova, shock post show.
    In the back row
    at the late night,
    Terra Nova,
    shock post show.

    (Thank you, thank you, my Filk CDs will be available in the lobby)


    Jessica! Dan! Dr. Bartle! Rocky!


    I'm sorry if this comes across as rude, but if, as you suggest, this post implies no particular meaning, then why post it at all? If there truly is no implied meaning to your post, then really all that you've done is assigned a term with a distinctly negative connotation to something that is rather common practice. Introduction or not, I would've waited until you had something a bit more concrete, and avoid all the animosity.


    I think a more interesting variant of this topic would be "Cross-gender toons: Who gets torqued off about them and who doesn't understand all the fuss?"

    Seriously -- you can start a really fun argument on WoW by talking about guys playing girl toons.

    Speaking for myself -- I'm an old pen-and-paper style player myself. It's all about character concept, although I do note MOST of my toons are female rather than male. Gender's just another option to me -- I don't see anything "Weirder" about being a female than I do about playing a Night Elf. I'm neither in real life, so why does one upset some more than the other?

    I have found that younger players -- especially those right around the junior high school years (11 to 14) seem to be the ones with the least amount of comfort with the notion.

    I admit, the addition of voice software is going to be interesting -- the disconnect between a female avatar and a male voice might cause issues.


    Must say I am not a big fan of the assaults lobbed at the OP by several replies. Its a post, not a research paper. Food for thought, not for the flames. Her opinion, your opinion, they differ, you discuss this difference, everyone logs off to eat pie. Allez!




    Heh, do you feel welcomed yet?

    I have to agree with the emerging consensus here that "transvestitism" is a poor choice of term to describe the general act of playing a character of the opposite sex. (I HATE the term "gender" when applied to physical attributes, by the way. That is as bad on its own as this use of "transvestitism.")

    I've played characters of both sexes for decades too. Sometimes it has been the "I'd rather look at a female rear than a male one," others it's been a deliberate exploration of whether I could "pass," and even at times it's been to enter that sexually charged environment as an "other" to see things with new eyes.

    But I'd never consider it transvestitism in any sense. Why? Because transvestism existed early on INSIDE the game worlds. It's actually less common now, because of the better graphics and models I assume, to allow males to wear female garb, and vice versa. I suppose with the exaggerated physical attributes that seem mandatory the clothes just don't fit well now. It was easier back when we all were just little composites of ASCII characters :P.

    I know academic sorts like to define their own terms. That can be a powerful tool. But when "adjusting" existing terms to fit sometimes one just creates opportunitites for miscommunication. As you can see from the reactions here, using this term is clearly miscommunicating. Why not just coin a term that you can attach your own meaning to, since it's pretty clear we have none now? I think we need one for the act of simply playing a role of the opposite sex. (I don't recall ever reading or hearing Elizabethan troupes called transvestites, but it's possible I just missed it... not being THAT interested in the more outre sorts of gender criticism floating around in English Lit these days. I have heard the term "gender-bending" employed though, in a "technical" fashion.)

    Beyond that, it can be refined to specify motivations or other relevant issues, but I think it would be best for serious thought and inquiry to avoid using words with the baggage (and lingerie!) associated with "transvestitism." Unless, of course, you just want to shock. Doubt you'll shock many of the regulars here though.

    We didn't just read the book and see the movie :P.

    As an aside, why "transvestitism" and not "transvestism?" The latter is considered the primary form, the former the alternate, according to my sources. Is that a move to distance from the existing baggage? (Not working, but it would be the right impulse.)


    As a random tangent, I tend to play female melee (and hybrids), and male casters - mainly to stand out from the crowd a little.

    I mean, my old EQ main's race/class/gender had to be one of the rarest out there: Female erudite shadowknight.

    Novelty cannot be discounted as a cause for 'virtual transvestitism'.


    Bonnie> "Unfortunately, in our society, the word "transvestite" may have negative connotations you're bringing over to the discussion."

    You mean it's a loaded term? Agreed. So why did you choose to use it again?

    And why do you assert the following definition of transvestitism in such factual terms?

    Bonnie> "Aside from this though, whether you are identifying with your toon or not (a distinction many have brought up) playing through a virtual cross-gendered skin, like putting on RL cross-gendered clothing, is an act of transvestitism -- no strings attached."

    But later point out that the Wikipedia definition Richard referenced is by no means solid?

    Bonnie> "Also, Bartle, I think the distinction you (and the Wikipedia) are making is a good one, but, as the entries themselves remind us, one that is by no means solid."

    Was your definition (one without a hint of any such distinction) somehow more solid than Wikipedia's, which included the distinction? If not, why was it asserted so strongly?

    And if you knew that your assertion of a definition for transvestitism was not solid (i.e. there were valid distinctions that would place it on shaky ground) and also that the term you chose to use was quite probably loaded, how is it again that your original post wasn't trolling? Perhaps you chose the word to push a particular agenda instead of merely as a sensationalistic tactic?

    Over the span of several decades, numerous gentlemen, including Walter Karig, Leslie McFarlane, James Duncan Lawrence, Charles Strong, and George Waller Jr., adopted the pseudonym "Carolyn Keene" in order to write novels featuring the female heroine, Nacy Drew. Other than for shock value or to promote a particular agenda, what could we possibly gain by labeling all of these men "transvestites?" And how is your post here any more interesting or insightful than one that set out merely to do this very thing?



    A quick note on the Eng. Lit. criticism tangent raised by Dan S. above - what we're looking for here is queer theory.

    The thru'penny-halfbit version? - everything gets complicated enough when you start talking about gender that broad-brush classifications like "female" are pointless, misleading, and counterproductive. You end up with "female in x context for y purposes and z amount of time to a..f audience", and the like.


    In videogames we do not incarnate (in flesh) a toon but we play with a toon. My toon is not me, but a kind of projection of my fantasies, regulated by technical and ludical norms. We can assimilate that to carnival that deals with a social order reversal.
    Because VG is a kind of individual and technical process, we make a reversal of identity, because our identity is our only link to reality, we can change only this. We make itjust for fun, estheticism, or anything else (but what's this else ? ;)
    More of that, beacause it is only a toon in a virtual world, we can experiment different identity game within the videogame, a king a game inside the game wich is not only sexual...

    Excuse my english... frenchies are so bad english speaking!


    This reminds me of the "Horde is Evil" article that Castronova posted a while ago. It basically claimed that the avatar a player chooses reflects back upon the character of the player himself. The problem with any claim like that is just that it is never black or white. I think each individual chooses to play his avatar in the way he likes best.

    The idea of not having a choice in the gender one plays in a game sets up an interesting parallel to transvestism. Not that I'm an expert on the subject, but I believe that transvestites feel as though they're born into the wrong gender, without any personal choice in the matter. =)


    yay, more logs for the bonfire...! ;)

    triona i think you're right in drawing a parallel. again here in some way it's an absolutist vs. relativist stance.

    semantics aside, essentially bonnie says playing samus is playing female, period.

    i would bet it is partially a difference in the way men and women empathize with the world. many (predominantly male) gamers can kill three hundred men, women, children, police, and prostitutes in one afternoon, go home, then snuggle up on the couch with their girlfriend and watch 24 while eating cherry pie. mmm, pie.

    that is, they can easily dissociate their identity from their in-game actions.

    it is 100% feasible as a male gamer to play a panda humping female undead shadow-spec'd christian priest with low self esteem -- and not be one in real life. yes, call it a stretch...

    "these virtual cross-dressers are using the medium of cyberspace to experiment with the bounds of gender ideologies and performance... whether they like it or not." going back to the original entry, i say, yes, it may be true that players who choose opposite sex characters may be experimenting with with "gender ideologies" -- but it is not with their own gender. beheading Barbie does not represent the desire to be headless, whether you're a boy or a girl.

    i need to wrap this up... for most men, we see our characters like objects. women are more likely to see their characters like themselves. hence, it is easier for a man to have a cross-sex character without any cognitive incongruity.

    numbers to back this up: http://www.nickyee.com/daedalus/archives/000431.php on identity projection, http://www.nickyee.com/daedalus/archives/001369.php showing 1 in 2 female chars being played by a male in WoW, vs. 1 in 100 male chars being played by a female.


    I used to be a transvestite when I was younger. I would dress up in womens cloths, makeup, wig and go out partying to clubs. I was never interested in sex with boys. It was more about just looking fantastic. And I was certainly alot better looking as a woman than as a man. There was a big thrill to know people found me desirable. The ultimate was to fool other woman. In essence it was pure role playing.

    In the early days of online games there was a similar thrill when playing an female character. Other players would treat you like a real woman. You get helped. You get given stuff. I once chat with a Swedish woman on a MOO where I refused to divulge my gender and she spent 3 hours trying to guess.

    More recently things are quite different. There is an automatic assumption now days that all female characters in MMOs are played by males. The statistics prove otherwise, but there is still that assumption. I play a mix of male and female characters in WOW. My main, a female troll, is never treated as a woman. My partner also plays a female troll and they assume she is a male as well.

    Gender has become almost a complete non-issue in contemporary MMOs.


    I am going to do something here that only happens once every 3-4 years, is accompanied (in my mind, anyways) by an enormous clash of cymbals and roll of drums and a great barking of disturbed dogs and flailing of id/ego hands. Ready? It won't happen again for awhile, and, if it does, odds are I won't report it in public:

    I'm changing my mind based on what other people have said.

    Bonnie>In playing any such game, you are playing both with and as your avatar. These things are hardly mutually exclusive... only in games do your decisions shape the decisions, and therefore the selfhood, of the character.

    Charles> However, like it or not, characters of different genders are treated differently in the greater virtual world, where people are unaware of your true identity.

    OK. Here's where I was wrong, in a couple parts.

    1. Bonnie is right -- when you play a character, you are, to a degree, "putting them on." So they are, like a character an actor plays, something you assume into/onto your own ego. In that sense, they become a layer "on top of" yourself, and, if they are of a different gender than yourself, then you are "dressed" in another gender's "seeming," even more so than just wearing a dress, pants, whatever. So the term "virtual transvestitism," is, in this very specific case, accurate. I do think (as we've seen here), that it may be fraught with peril. But I'm going to change my mind and agree with Bonnie and say, OK. If we can be said to "wear" our avatars, it's an OK term.

    That being said, Bonnie... nobody here -- that I've seen -- has been defensive, in terms of our sexuality per se, as males defending maleness, per se, or males defending males dressing up as gals, per se (per se). We're argumentative bastards on TN, period. You'll see this same level of belligerence over issues of philosophy, gold farming and whether or not it's OK to bring a knife to a gun-fight.

    2. I had one of those rare moments of self-Homer-Simpson "Doh!"isms while reading Charles' comment, and recalling some research that I'd read a female student had done on WoW where she'd played as a male character and encountered all kinds of sexist, raunchy, "boys' club" language she hadn't before when she'd played as a female character. My realization was this -- that while we can certainly role-play as many things that are totally outside the realm of anyone's experience (fantastic races, undead, animals, etc.), and while we can role-play actions that most everyone will never experience (murder, magic, mayhem), roleplaying gender differences is actually something that *is* readily applicable to real life.

    I'm not sure how to make this point as clear as I'd like to, because it seems important to me, having just jumped up and smacked me on the gob. I have enjoyed playing all sorts of good and bad, monsterous and beautiful, fantastic and mundane characters, for all kinds of different role-playing reasons; it's fun to do so, it poses different challenges, it's a good way to learn how to write/perform different parts, etc. But did I learn anything about my "inner werewolf" when I played a werewolf? I don't think that's possible, since there ain't no such thing. Some might argue that I learned about a part of myself that is equated with some Jungian archetype that's loosely "werewolfian." OK. Whatever. But the same would hold true for playing a vampire or any other monster, right?

    By contrast, any time I experiment with playing a female character, am I trying -- whether successfully or not -- to become "better" at "playing" the female?

    Whatever that means...

    Because, while being a better vampire, elf, undead, cyborg, paladin, guildmaster, warlock, etc. is of dubious distinction in the real world... being a better woman... well, that might not be such a bad goal. Even for a large bearded bastard such as myself



    Bonnie Ruberg>Bartle, this post is merely an introduction.

    Do I get to call you Ruberg?

    You didn't say the post was merely an introduction. You said it was the first in a series, but that's not quite the same thing. If you had done, I (and others) might have just left people to bring up the kinds of thing that are always brought up when conversation comes round to this topic. As it was, I was having flashbacks of 1993 papers and thought I'd try at least get our vocabulary and some basic facts straight so people could engage with one another without getting confused over terms and figures.

    >For more extensive research, and more extensive work with previous publications on the subject, please see future posts.

    OK, well I guess we should all shut up and wait to see what they say, then.

    >Also, Bartle, I think the distinction you (and the Wikipedia) are making is a good one, but, as the entries themselves remind us, one that is by no means solid.

    That's correct, it's by no means solid. If only you'd pointed that out instead of choosing the word that was more likely to be taken as provocative, we wouldn't have had the discussion. I don't mind putting up a provocative headline to get a few readers, but it's normally good form to explain all in the body of the post.

    Besides, lines such as "While it may be hard to effectively determine just what percentage of toons are actually controlled by cross-gender players, transvestites have a presence in all types of online social environments" suggest that you're making a distinction between the two terms which we now find you're not. You can't blame us for thinking you were, though.

    >Plus, there is of course the argument that, like it or not, by playing through a cross-gender character users are by necessity identifying with that character - even simply in action.

    I certainly agree with you there.



    Count me in the "might as well be be a good looking back"/doesn't really get the fuss crowd.

    This - only tangentially related - piece of news really, really annoys me, otoh.



    Awoups. There is a post about it - verysorry.



    Data please. What percentage of crossers are women using a male avatar?


    Damnit, Janet! qDot has inspired me to bust out my copy of RHPS tonight.

    I must say that many people's definitions of transvestitism are shocking to me. These are the definitions I know: http://www.bigeye.com/sexeducation/transvestites.html. When I interviewed transgender and transvestite persons (different people from each group) for my design work on Rapture Online, these were the definitions I found to be true: transgendered people are persons who feel/know they have a gender identity differing from the one they are physically born into (which can ultimately result in a gender reassignment process to alter the physical body to better match the felt/known gender of the person); transvestites are fetishists who get off sexually on the wearing of women's garments and accessories (often they only care for the glamorized and superficial cutlural elements of womanhood... lingerie, make-up, heels, jewelry, tampons, etc. rather than the identity/core of actual lived-in womanhood). Transvestites are typically men, but transgendered people are often women (F/M transgenderism is woefully underexplored in part because most F/M transgenders don't pursue surgical body reassignment methods due to the resulting genitalia not having high rates of functional success, and partly because many of these people are able to live in lesbian relationships happily). For a M/F there is a much more difficult time finding meaningful LTRs with straight men who will accept them as a female partner while still having their male genitalia and the surgical process of changing the genitalia has a better success rate. In any event, transgendered people are not all transvestites, and transvesitism is not correlated all that strongly to transgenderism (though transgendered people necessarily need to cross-dress to take on the social aspects of their felt/known identity, it is NOT simply because they have a sexual fetish for the wearing of the items).

    Cross-dressing, to my knowledge encompasses all such behavior but with a strong emphasis on behaviors where one is NOT gender-bending or getting sexual gratification from the act (dressing as a woman for a comedy sketch or Halloween would be good examples of cross-dressing in its purest sense).

    I really see most game playing as "other gendered characters" falling solely under the cross-dressing category in this issue. For most, nothing is meant by it *especially* when one is playing a single-person game where it does not react differently no matter your gender AND when there is not acceptable "same gendered character" for the player to choose. I HAD to play GTA as a male mobster, etc.

    I think for future articles it would be best if the focus was on trying to research and ruminate the situations where gender in games *matter* to the player's status or the player acknowledges that they are *actively* or at least consciously exploring gender identity with their choice of avatar. If one wants to take the transvestite angle, I think you'd need to find/show gamers who admit arousal and fetishism at playing in the female skin (something we expect to genuinely see a lot of in a MMOEG where the sex is the gameplay).

    As Craig said in Being John Malkovich "the idea of becoming someone else for a little while. Being inside another skin- thinking differently, moving differently, feeling differently" IS a part of what the VR world avatar is all about. But you can't lump everyone playing "other gendered avatars" into a sexual fetish like transvestitism and you can't tie enormous social meanings about gender exploration to people who just played a girl/boy because it looked "cool" to do so. There has to be a way to break the issue down into meaningful parts where one can actually discuss the implications.

    This was my problem with the BDSM post too- that all of BDSM-dom was being referenced ham-fistedly with very few posts from *anyone* showing a broad knowledge of the extend of what falls under the umbrella BDSM term. Now we have the opposite sort of issue where a fraction of the people under discussion would rightfully be transvestites but we're talking circles because the original post wants to discuss transgenderism, cross-dressing, AND transvestitism issues in VR worlds without breaking it down.


    Is he a tranvestite?


    I think the whole issue of someone playing an opposite-gendered character is more interesting and significant in a social online game than it is in a combat-oriented online game (like WoW, EQ, UO, DAoC, etc.)

    Of course the time when it was a *really* big issue was in the 80s and into the early 90s, when a lot of people were very naive about online communications. Many people on chatrooms and games were fooled, got very upset, and spawned countless long ranting arguments and discussions about the subject. Every year the number of people who are aware "the person you're talking to could be either gender in real life" rises, and the percentage of people getting tricked and upset presumably is continually declining. Though in absolute numbers, they may still be rising because the internet population is rising at a good clip still.


    The problem with most so called MMO-RPGs (that I know of) is that the choice of gender has little to no impact on game play. There aren't any bonuses or drawbacks for chosing either. The differences are mainly how the characters are displayed, and that's it. I have yet to see a MMORPG where a female character can e.g. use her physical attributes to distract a guard or whatever.

    My favourite MMOG, the space simulation "JumpGate", doesn't even acknowledge the notion of different genders at all (in fact it isn't even a RPG in the "classical" meaning); yet a lot of players have and had great fun roleplaying female characters. In fact some of the most convincing females in this game were in fact played by men. I do play a female character myself, and I incorporated a few female NPCs while I was volunteer operator for the EU instance of the game (which was shut down meanwhile).

    For me, impersonating a female character has little to do with T & A, but a lot with expanding my roleplaying experience. In my opinion, assuming another gender in a virtual world can be the peak of a roleplaying experience.


    Andy said:
    'Bonnie is right -- when you play a character, you are, to a degree, "putting them on." So they are, like a character an actor plays, something you assume into/onto your own ego.'

    For you, that may very well be true. I, personally, am ruled by my Y chromosone and like looking at pretty girls, so the in-game toon (not avatar) I use (not adopt) is occasionally (not normally) a female. Now, assuming that no-one has found any pictures of me in a mink stole and thong, you just gotta live with the fact that much more use has to be made of "sometimes", "occasionally" and like terms in this argument. If the OP is saying that "some people use virtual worlds as ways to explore and express differing gender identities" then that's fine: there is research to back it up. But sweeeping generalisations make for perforated theories.

    At the risk of disagreeing with both Dr Bartle (or simply "Bartle", as we are apparently now to refer to him) and the OP, I don't identify with the actions of my characters, be they male, female or gender-neutral. I refer to their actions in third person. I see them as electronic constructs with a pictorial representation, free of emotion or consequence. And no, I am neither a griefer nor even a PKer (file me under explorer).

    Bonnie also said:
    "When [the term transvestite is] applied to a virtual environment, however, it takes on a different meaning."

    Well, that is proof by assertion. I'd need to see your workings there.

    And Bonnie said:
    '(Again, thanks Endie - this isn't trolling, this is sexuality. Sorry if it shocks you.)'

    Apology accepted.


    Endie>At the risk of disagreeing with both Dr Bartle (or simply "Bartle", as we are apparently now to refer to him)


    >I don't identify with the actions of my characters, be they male, female or gender-neutral. I refer to their actions in third person.

    Do you feel immersed in the virtual world? Or is that, too, something you look at thoroughly objectively? I ask because normally I'd expect immersion and identification to go hand-in-hand in the course of normal play. The main exception would perhaps be if you used to regard your characters as "you" but you don't any more.



    I don't identify with the actions of my characters, be they male, female or gender-neutral. I refer to their actions in third person.

    That's theoretically possible, but it's really hard (at least for me). I've played multiple characters before, one of which was intentionally designed as a mule, and thus I didn't identify with her. (Female, because it was on my girlfriend's account and I felt obliged to make the character female.) Yet when I typed in actions, there was a degree of "I'm making the sword go slash", rather than she is making the sword go slash. I didn't perceive myself to be her, nor her I, but the fictional action (sword slashing) had ME as the actor, rather than the fictional character.

    I find it hard to buy that you can so completely disassociate yourself to the point of zero immersion. Partial, sure. Minimal, sure. But not zero.


    Richard Bartle said:
    "Do you feel immersed in the virtual world? Or is that, too, something you look at thoroughly objectively?"

    Well, in textual worlds I feel deeply immersed, I don't deny that. In pen and paper rpgs, funnily enough, I *can* also feel a high degree of immersion.

    But in graphical worlds, thus far, I've never felt remotely like I was *there*. As I say, I'm an explorer by nature, but I don't really feel "Now I've been to Jabba's Palace" or "I know my way around Razorfen Krall".

    The third-person perspective is, I think, a huge part of that (and when I try to play first person, I get frustrated with not even noticing my toon is being ganked for the first few seconds of a fight). I am watching the toon from thirty-odd yards away, above and behind. It's clearly not "me". I'll roleplay, stay in character and use the first person for those around me, but it's an intellectual exercise.

    Being a programmer also doesn't help in my perception of game elements. And the reason I don't often play PvP (even after templating in SWG, way back) isn't that I feel sorry for the collection of numbers and states that is "Amethyst Starrunner". I just think of the effects on Bobby McBob, the real player.

    That's a lot more answer than you wanted, sorry...



    Michael Chui said:
    "Yet when I typed in actions, there was a degree of "I'm making the sword go slash", rather than she is making the sword go slash."

    You mention typing in actions: I agree totally in textual worlds. I find them, as i said above, wonderfully immersive. But then I don't think I've played a female character there, so I can't offer a personal perspective on what that would be like. I think I'd just forget that aspect of my role after a while: I'd be useless at it.

    Michael also said:
    "I find it hard to buy that you can so completely disassociate yourself to the point of zero immersion. Partial, sure. Minimal, sure. But not zero."

    You're right, of course: it's not *zero*. I can picture myself, during a fight, saying "I need a heal" rather than "my toon needs a heal". The latter is just such an awkward construction, for one thing: it's be an obvious debating point if I denied it. But there, I'd mean that I, as a player, need my toon healed. I don't mean that I really think, for a second, that "I'm" getting hurt.

    I fear I'm coming across as a virtual worlds sociopath, seeing those around me as two-dimensional artificial creations of my mind without feeling or rights. But I can't help thinking of the Matrix, and the numeric representation of those constructs that Neo sees. My actions towards PCs are moderated by the real people behind each.



    Identification is an interesting issue, and surely isn't all-or-nothing. Identifying with a character as he or she fights a monster is different from identifying with the character during casual in-character chat, and different from identifying with the character during sexually-oriented play.

    The former is akin to "playing with dolls" (physically or virtually). There may or may not be gender-oriented identification, or (given how thinly most MMO characters are defined) more identification than with any remote tool used to accomplish some purpose.

    For example, looking at other aspects of the character besides gender, I certainly don't identify with (or become immersed as) a giant bipedal cow, or an undead warlock -- those aspects of the character are peripheral to "me" in the game, being more like tools used to operate within the game. And these aspects of the character are, for me anyway, more significant than the character's gender.

    There may be greater gender/sexual identification if the player, through the character, engages in sexual play as the character -- but this is more an question to be studied rather than something we know. We need to be careful not to simply assert things in such areas, assuming them to be the case when there may be other, even more interesting psychological phenomena at work.

    Types and degrees of identification with characters in a game (or a character in a play, toys in a chest, etc.) remains a fascinating issue, but not one to which we can justifiably attach labels like 'transvestitism' or even necessarily full immersion and identification.


    Perhaps what Endie refers to is not a lack of identification with his characters, but instead a separation of created and creator, much like what a DM does in a DnD game. When I create very human, complex NPCs for the players to interact with, and then control them over long periods of time, they are not representing "me."

    I apply that same approach to GUI RPGS. Hence 3rd person.


    Dammit, Lanky, that's a much better way of putting it than I could come up with...



    i would wager then that Bonnie has never created complex NPC's and controlled them for long periods of time with the DM frame of mind.

    i have put hundreds of hours into characters which I could tell you i have no idea whether they're left or right handed, or what their combat animations are. however, i can tell you from memory where the spawns are for every single NPC in some zones/dungeons. i am still intimately familar with the bunker in live guk, and i have not played EQ in five years.

    is the game world immersive? yes. am i my character? no.


    Ruberg said
    This post will hopefully [sic] be the first in a series exploring tranvestitism in virtual environments.

    Oh joy.

    The comments to this entry are closed.