First off, let me state that those who know me, this only scrapes along the topics of my other writings. This will not going into gaming so much as it does a person’s identity.
Now, since we got that out of the way, gaming and relating to one’s gaming avatar seems to have surfaced quite a bit lately. I came across a podcast by a college professor expressing her love for gaming and other things that are nerdy. During the podcasts, a major part of the early on episodes focuses on gamer girls and how they represent themselves in game. She speaks about three different gamer types, role players, self players, and mastery players. (These podcasts are available on her site which is in the link above.)
To summarize role players are gamers who create fictional characters to immerse into the game their playing. The character that is created bears no resemblance to the player. Self gamers tend to be the opposite; their avatars are created as in-game representations of the player behind them. Sometimes these avatars can physically resemble the players, sometimes they can be the mental self-image that the player has of themselves. Mastery players are those who doesn’t focus on the story and representation of avatars, but instead focuses on game-play and mechanics. A lot of people can be a blend of the three.
After listening to the podcast, speaking to the podcast host, and now preparing myself for a guest appearance on her show, I had to ask, did my gender identity play a role in my avatar selections for the games I was playing. After thinking about it, I realized that not only do I self game a lot, but before coming out as trans, I used my avatar to try reinforce who I was trying to be.
Let me go into this just a little bit. Before I came out as trans, I tried to be a guy. I tried rather hard. I had facial hair, a hard attitude, and was quick tempered. In my game representations, I always had to have male avatars. For me not to have them while gaming meant that people could challenge my identity. I wasn’t ready to have that challenged, and if it did occur, those people were met with an unpleasant me.
This went all the way to World of Warcraft. In WoW, my first toon was still an in game representation of myself. Down to hair, goatee, and color tones. It wasn’t until my third alt (a character other the than the one I played primarily) that I started to test that gender line and made my first female toon, using the excuse so many guys do, “if I am going to stare at a character’s ass it might as well be a woman’s [ass].” Internally, it was a small sign of relief as the internal me started to break the bounds that I made to hide the woman inside.
Once I broke down that barrier, that was it. A lot of my avatars going forward started to be female characters. All the way up to my coming out and declaring I was transgender. At that point, my avatars went from a part of me attempting to be expressed; to the desire of wishing that my body didn’t take the wrong turns they did when I was younger.
I can say that I notice this a lot with trans folks. To date, every trans person I’ve met has an avatar that represents the gender they identify as. I think it comes down as its a way for us to express our gender and not be challenged. Its a part of ourselves in our game and allows us to be us.
Thank you Regina and @rhorhoom for your insight into the topic and helping put some words to the non-audible thoughts I had regarding this topic.