Monday, April 22, 2013

Behind the Scenes: Tips on Playing the Opposite Gender


A warm welcome to the folks returning from Arkship EU 2013. Hope you guys had a wonderful time and definitely looking forwards to seeing all the stuff you can share with us over the next few days here!

Check out this FANTASTIC gift from Himmel of WSRP for the Scowling Cassian! Agent Hawkens in his full scowling glory! It's PERFECT! Also, be sure to check out Himmel's art thread to check out more of their excellent art here on WSRP. Thanks Himmel <3

The Scowling Cassian himself

Today's topic is a suggestion from InnocentCivilian from WSC. Many people play characters of the opposite gender as their physical selves, perhaps for aesthetics or really any number of reasons. However, there isn't always the best connotations associated with this from creepy perverts to pathetic wanna-be's. The question InnocentCivilian asked was : what are your pro tips for roleplaying a member of the opposite gender?

Although I have played a few female characters, I tend to stick with males, with the exception of WoW. I just couldn't get over those beefcake hamfisted musclelumps they called men... So I usually stuck with Tauren females. Although I enjoyed my shaman, she was often referred to as “manly,” so instead I decided to ask my close friend to share his opinion as he has much more experience in this than I. Without further ado, here is Londrieved:


"I was asked (or rather, I openly volunteered) to speak a little bit about Role-Playing as the opposite gender. It is something I've a little (re: an embarrassingly large amount of) experience in. So, without further ado:

It's honestly not a huge deal.

I suppose I should expand on this. I mean, some people seem to have a mental hang-up with men playing women and /vice versa/, so there is a lot to say on the matter. But, as a general rule of thumb, if you over think it, you'll make a mess of it. In fact, if you're already concerned about doing it well, you're probably well on your way of /not/ messing it up.

The things to keep in mind when going outside of your own gender, is that men and women have more in common than they have differences. It's when you try to overcompensate what differences you assume exist that may or may not that the mistakes happen. Men and women can easily have the same ideals, motivations, thoughts, strengths and weaknesses.

There are the physical and social differences though. Unless you're playing in an idealized world in which there are absolutely no gender roles at any given time, society is going to treat you differently. It's a fact of life. A woman may be considered an equal in all things, but it is still customary for them to be raised with pink, dolls, and lace. It's perfectly okay and reasonable to assume that there are fields that are more usual for a man to be in than a woman, and /vice versa/. This isn't a limitation, it's background fuel. Characters, male or female, are dictated by the challenges they face to reach their status and place in life.

Is your woman a Cassian in the Military, earning a high ranking and a reputation for no-nonsense leadership? Imagine the heads she must have turned in her rise to the top. How many doubters she silenced? How many condescending men she was able to turn their smiles upside down?

These men clearly respect their commanding officer, whether or not she is female.

Of course one mustn't not overdo this. A sassy Commander can easily become a caricature of a feminist should she become viciously man-hating and bitter. I'm not stating that every woman needs to have a fragile flower within her as is the modern cliché in film and video games. If you do not wish there to be a gentle soul within your hard as nails soldier, then by all means, don't put one there. In fact, bait and switch. Make someone think there is a softness there just to pull the wool over their eyes. That idea is free, I should be charging for these...

To keep things on topic, and without this point being overwrought, simply put don't push your luck. You don't win hearts and minds by competing with another about who's the most feminine (or masculine). Define your character as who he or she is, independent of his or her gender. A gender is only a part of their identity, not the screen that colors their entire identity.

In fact, I'm going to bold and underline that last line. I like it, and it's the thesis of my little paper here:

A gender is only a part of their identity, not the screen that colors their entire identity.

I could almost end this entire treatise here, but while I'm at it, people like lists. So, I got you a list. Or a few.

Common Pitfalls in Role-Playing a Female
  1. Lesbians! Okay, playing a lesbian isn't a no-no in and of itself. That would make me a horrible hypocrite at that. But, seriously, if you're not comfortable role-playing a woman already, pairing off with another woman is only going to shine a spotlight on you. Whether or not it's deserved (I personally don't see the big deal, but some people are /very/ adamant that men shouldn't play lesbians), people are going to watch you very closely for any sign that you're not an actual girl, if not outright just assume you're some no-life, basement dwelling pervert. In fact, a lot of actual lesbian and bisexual girls I've spoken to /refuse/ to play lesbian or bisexual characters due to this assumption. Just be warned, is all.

  2. Slutty dresses! Okay, I loathe most outfits that games push on their female characters. Tera is very likely the worst offender at this. Okay, let's be frank. Most women do not bare their body easily. Sluts exist, but if people perceive you as a pervert, they're less likely to take you seriously. This may be an example of community perception, as female players are just as likely to dress their characters up this way too (it's the same effect of things that are being marketed to men use sexy women, and things marketed to women use sexy women as well). But if nothing else, it's unpractical, it's a little degrading, it's objectifying, and it's just simply silly. Robes of the Guardian Saint aren't classy, pretty, or anything of the like. It's revealing, and yes, a little slutty. For extra loss of credibility, combine 1 and 2!

    Now there isn't anything wrong with liking the dress, but it is hard to deny the extreme sexualizing of this dress
    (picture found on WoWhead)
  3. While I'm at it, oversexualizing in general. Sexuality is a natural part of the human condition. Woman aren't turned on by emotions any more than men are; they are just as attracted and in tune to physical desire. But, guys, just like you don't need to make a man-hating butch, you don't have (and shouldn't) make a woman who need men to survive. Or any other hypersexualized cliché.

  4. Do have lots of inspirations! As a rule of thumb, drawing inspiration for a character is not only unavoidable, but a positive part of character writing. There's a quote about there being no original ideas left, but that's not so much true as ideas do not spring forth from thin air. We make ideas from a combination of outside stimuli and our own bias. Think of it like a machine that feeds in ideas, rolls it around with it's own internal programming, and spits out the original idea. Having strong/nuanced female roles to call on to form your female character will only do you good. You simply need to define their own uniqueness independent of their inspirations. As a rule of thumb, and by no means a law or strict rule, having more than three character inspirations, as well as other non-character inspirations, will lend itself to making a fairly nuanced final result. This thread here is a good example of outward inspirations forming a character, and is a fun exercise in character creation as well.

Common Pitfalls in Role-Playing Men
  1. There are much fewer of these, as for some reason, I've not run into many botched female-helm men. The first is this: Too feminized. This is the opposite of the overly butch lesbian, the overly girly gay guy. He is sparkly, blonde, cooks, cleans, and never ever ever wants to be on top. Feminine boys are wonderful. There is a point, though, when the person role-playing with you is wondering why you didn't just roll a female character... I mean to say, I'm all for pushing boundaries of gender roles, but putting a man into stereotypes that are degrading for women in the first place isn't very progressive as much as it's exploitative. As an aside, thanks to society's views on lesbians as opposed to society's views on gay men, you enjoy a broader freedom to enjoy gay role-play that men do not get when doing the opposite.

  2. Did you ever see Mulan, where the character just tried so hard to appear manly that she looked like an unlikable dork? Yeah, don't do that. Like stated earlier, don't over think it.

So, to recap, avoid becoming a walking stereotype, a walking pornography, or a caricature, and you should be just fine. Don't over think it, relax, and remember, have fun!"


The only thing I can think to add would be some of my pieces of advice from my thread Playing the Exotic. You can sometimes reinforce you point by emphasizing your race, or in this case, gender. Go ahead a play up a stereotype now and then. If you take it lightly and don't play it off offensively it can sometimes help. Same for commenting on the differences between your character and others'. Just remember to be respectful when you can.

I don't really have much else to add. When roleplaying, men and women are more alike then many like to think. Though there may be some variant in social stigmas, they can have the same hopes, dreams and aspirations that make us each a unique and wonderful individuals.

Like Lond said: Don't over think it, relax, and remember, have fun! If you are comfortable and having a good time, so will other people!

Thanks to InnocentCivilian for the topic question and Londrieved for your help in answering! 


Thank you once again for joining us, dear readers! As always feel free to leave comments and suggestions to either myself or Agent Hawkens and we will reply as soon as able!


  1. This is a great article filled with terrific advice. I tend to alternate back and forth in my main characters because it allows me more room for creativity. I find it helps that I've been married for close to 20 years and heard any number of speeches about what I (as a RL male) am doing wrong / right LOL. While that is somewhat myopic in that it comes from one woman, it does give some insight as to how the different sexes often perceive the same things very differently. If you can use that in small and specific instances (like you said -- don't overdo it), then you will be fine. It's more of a mindset than it is anything else.

    1. Thanks! I very much appreciated Lond taking the time to impart his wisdom to us here.

      It's just as you said, it's a mindset more then anything else. That includes the differences as well as the similarities.

      And ultimately if you relax and believe in what you are doing, you will do well and have fun. And help others around you do the same. This goes for really everything to do with a character, not just gender.