On Video Games, pt. 1

Because my last post(s) had some pretty dark overtones, I’m going to resist my impulse to immediately follow it up with something else depressing, and instead, I’m going to talk about video games.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a pretty heavy gamer, and that I pretty much always have been. In fact, one of the oldest home videos of me involves me playing Wolfenstein on my parents’ now-ancient (and long-dead) CompuAdd computer. I was probably three or so, and too short to see the CRT monitor while sitting down, so I had to stand on the computer chair while playing. What a “me” video.

Anyway, I grew up playing PC games, my parents (admittedly rightly) believing that I would never do anything else if I had a console to play. Though the point was pretty moot: I already spent all my time playing on the computer.

The first time I made the conscious decision to play a female character (that I remember) was in Baldur’s Gate II, which is, to date, one of the greatest games of all time. I was probably 11 or 12 or so. I say “conscious decision” because this was the first game I owned that allowed me to make a character from the ground-up, and thus the first time where my character’s gender was my choice.

I remember the excitement when I saw that option, and also the shame and fear, as though I were doing something wrong. But my time playing Baldur’s Gate II was completely my own. I might be scared, but ultimately, no one would know. And so, I made a Female Elf, and that was that.

That said, she was not my only character, nor was she the only one I ever played. I probably even played her less than any of the others. I could never get past the guilt of even having made that character, and playing her made me feel even more guilty. But it was an important first step.

Since that day, I slowly began playing more and more female characters in the games I played. When I say slowly, I mean slowly. I wanted to do it, I wanted to exclusively play female characters, but that required a courage I was slow to gain. During every new character creation in whatever game I was playing at the time, I would hesitate at the gender selection, clicking back and forth between “male” and “female.” Sometimes I would chicken out and choose the former, sometimes I would smile slyly to myself and choose the latter.

These days, I pretty much exclusively play female characters, but in some multiplayer games, out of guilt, I will create a male character, just to keep up appearances. Granted, the stereotype is that guys who play girls don’t do it because they actually want to be one.

It’s become one of my most-used coping methods, being a digital female. In a very, very small way, I feel that I am able to really be myself in that synthetic space.

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