The Optional Gender (Repost)

Game developers are fickle, when it comes to gender options. Some games that you wouldn’t expect to let you choose your gender do, and some that you would hope would let you pick your gender don’t. At times it feels like developers are just flipping a coin with “gender options” written on one side and “male” written on the other.

Of course, I would hardly expect to see every single-player character driven story-heavy game let you swap your character’s gender at any point (the overabundance of male protagonists is another topic for another day). But in a multiplayer game, or when playing a game where the protagonist is a voiceless avatar who’s primary purpose is to kill shit, it feels a bit odd that you would only be able to play as men.

2014’s Assassin’s Creed: Unity featured co-op missions where 4 players could work together, each one taking the role of a different assassin with a unique look. Of course, this raised some eyebrows when it was revealed that all 4 assassins would be male, with no female playable characters. Ubisoft claimed that adding female characters would have been too much work, but those claims were quickly disproven by numerous other developers.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Saints Row is a series that I would not have expected to have very free-form gender options. Not only can you pick the gender of the boss, but you can switch gender at any time by visiting a plastic surgeon. Volition’s Insomniac Games’ Sunset Overdrive takes it a step further by letting you change your gender for free.

As a transgender woman, I’ve spent far too much time pretending to be a guy as is. I don’t want to play as a man in video games if I don’t have to be, and I always get a bit annoyed when a game forces me to play a male character for no good reason. If the character already has no personality, why shouldn’t I be allowed to pick my character’s gender?

Gender options should not be an optional feature.

Ed: A correction, Sunset Overdrive is made by Insomniac, not Volition. Thanks to the person who pointed that out!

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