I am Woman, Hear me Roar: My Experiences Playing a Female Avatar
You never forget your first MMO. For me, it was Ragnarok Online, the Korean designed game about...well, to be honest, I never really understood the lore behind it. It was one of those games that mixed Eastern culture with another foreign mythology, in this case, Norse mythology. As I have gotten older, I have always been a sucker for game cocktails of that genre because they always seem to create such interesting worlds and redefines stories I love and am familiar with. I didn’t find the game on my own. Up until RO, I had been pretty much a console gamer my entire life except for the Sims. My first high school boyfriend, Thomas loved gaming of all forms, and we spent many weekends at our local arcade until one day, he downloaded RO onto my computer. I watched him play and was immediately drawn to it, so after his mom picked him up (ah, young love) I went on and made an account for myself.
The next time he came over, my sprite was already levels ahead of him, and I was well on my way to becoming a gypsy character. I loved her whip and her clothes and the look of having this sexy dancing character. She was the female that I wanted to look like in real life, cute and feisty so I will admit that I decided to go the path of the gypsy purely on looks. I was 16 and really didn’t care about class specs at the end of the day (I wouldn't have an interest in that until later years when I started a small game you may be familiar with, Wolrd of Warcraft) but RO was my first experience with something I never expected - the taboo of having a female avatar.
I had been playing on my own when a high-level gypsy decided to take me under her wing. While we completed quests and searched for treasures, we would chat about clothes and our favorite music and came to have a lovely in-game friendship with my mentor. In fact, our friendship grew so close she confided in me: she was really a he. My friend, whose name I can’t remember at this point, went on to let me in on a little secret - he used his female avatar to having in-game lesbian relationships with other characters. He lived out his own sexual fantasies with other “women” as a woman because a female avatar was more trusting apparently. I want to be clear - he never made ANY sexual remarks to me or about me. Maybe he thought I was also a guy or perhaps he was devoted to his lesbian relationship. In reality, I think, and hope, he knew I was an underage girl and wasn’t looking to prey on me but instead, wanted to help foster a newbie because that is precisely what he did. He taught me so much about the game and made it so much more fun, especially when I continued to outrank my IRL boyfriend. He also opened my eyes to how naive I had been when it came to gaming and an online presence in general, and even though I was more enlightened, it didn’t deter me from wanting to play a female avatar.
When I eventually found my way to World of Warcraft, again I picked a beautiful female character. Her name was Sophieeee, and she was a brunette blood elf rogue so obviously, she was for the Horde. I played with a group of guys, and they all warned me about picking a female avatar and using my name. I had strict instructions to only play while they were on which I promptly ignored and set off on my merry way to find a place for myself in the world of Azeroth.
It took one hour for me to be harassed.
It was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life to this day and showed me how naive I still was when it came to gaming. Another player offered to help me level up and remembering my past experiences with RO and my mentor/friend, I gladly accepted. I couldn’t wait until all my friends came online and would see how far ahead I got without their help. I was ready to show them that I could manage to find my way around the game without having them there to hold my hand.
It started easy enough; he helped me get through some beginner quests. He didn’t have much so say nor did he answer my questions about what gear I should be trying to look for but he seemed to know what he was doing and led me to another area. He told me to wait in the camp for him, so I did, but after five minutes I became bored and ran out into the jungle, only to realize the beasts were 40 times higher level than me. Back in the safety of the camp, he returned and told me to offer his trade. He gave me a dress and flowers and some other useless crap and told me to put it on.
I declined the trade, hearthed back to the beginner spot of the game and logged out since it was time to go to work. I learned my lesson and realized I wound up with a creep but at least I was rid of him, so there wasn’t a need to tell my friends of my failures of trying to get through Azeroth on my own even though they had their ways of figuring it out. You can check when the last time someone logged on and what they played and the fact I was slightly higher level would have tipped them off that I had played on my own. However, the cat was out of the bag when my “mentor” showed up and started harassing our party and me. I told them what had happened and I still found some humor in it, but all of them became immediately protective of me. They told me to block him immediately which I did and reported him to Blizzard.
I couldn’t see his messages anymore, but he kept following us from town to town, screaming my characters name in public chat (which you can do) apparently saying he was sorry and to please come back(???). I somehow, unknowingly, entered a relationship with this player (in his mind) when I accepted his request to party and offered to help me level up.
Then he started messaging our parties leader, offering him in-game gold to join our party so he could be with me. He wanted our party leader to pimp me out, and again, he was reported. After that I didn’t see or hear from him much, assuming he was banned for harassment. I went on to max level out that character and make my way through Azeroth playing solo many times, but that first encounter left me jaded and weary of party invites.
It didn’t however, stop me from playing female avatars. I know a simple solution to in-game harassment would be to simply pick a male avatar, but I don’t want to. I love female video game characters. They are beautiful, strong and kick ass so why should I want to play one just because I am a female? I will continue to play female characters and enjoy doing so, even if I am guarded when approached by other characters, especially males, but hey - I already have to do that in my real life, so it’s nothing I'm not used to.