Female Gamers and Gender Representation in SWTOR

Hey Everyone,

On the latest TOROCast Episode 233, I was a guest on the show, along with Aaree and we talked about female gamer issues and our experiences as female gamers. So I wanted to take the opportunity to elaborate and offer some additional thought’s on this subject.

shae viz crop

My SWTOR Experience

As SWTOR was my first MMO, I was pretty anxious about how I would be treated as a female gamer. I had read about various nasty experiences girls experienced when playing WoW so I expected to be greeted with that behaviour in SWTOR. I never spoke on voice comms, unless I heard another female voice and I made sure to not reveal my gender general conversing.

Around 4 months after I started playing I found an amazing guild (which I’m still part of to this day). Initially, I was shy about speaking but once I found out that the GM (at the
time) was a female, I was a lot more comfortable talking and socialising with the guild talking on voice comms and such. I know I’ve been pretty lucky to have found a great group of people to hang out with who are nice and respectful of women.

I’ve been pretty fortunate to have not coped any gender related abuse. Perhaps some gender prejudice and times I felt I was being talked over and not listened to. But then again, I am a naturally quiet person so that happens to me a lot anyway.

Outside of SWTOR I have coped first hand some prejudice as a female gamer. Up until recently I’ve not wanted to go into any video game store or comic book store because of the weird glances/looks I would get. I found it really unsettling and on top of being pretty shy as it is, I decided it was best to avoid those kinds of stores traditionally viewed as being ‘for boys’. Back in high school I recall a boy sitting behind me saying that girls don’t play video games, so I would hear it. I was always the weird one at school but oh well, thank god that’s long behind me.

Gender Representation in SWTOR

Bioware are a progressive gaming company (well, compared to others) that has a good history of fairly good representation of women in their games, from character creation to female NPC’s. They always aim to make things more equal, story wise for both genders depending on setting, place etc.

Thankfully, we don’t see this much in SWTOR.

For the most part I feel SWTOR does a pretty good job at representing females, both characters and NPC’s. The character creation system which allows to play either gender for all 8 classes enables this. I cannot really think of any particular instance where a female character is treated differently then a male in the story because of her gender (companion conversation romances being the exception obviously). Gender isn’t seen as a barrier in the SWTOR universe, anyone can do anything they wish as long as they have the capability. There are also many prominent female characters in the franchise such as Satele Shan, Chancellor Sareesh, General Garza, Shae Vizla etc.

In terms of outfits, overall the skimpiness for the most part is kept to a minimum. At the beginning of the game there were only ‘slave Leia style’ outfits available for female characters and the Sorcerer War Hero(?) chest piece exposed the midriff on a female, but not male character. But with the introduction of the Cartel Market there are now plenty of skimpy outfit options for both male and female characters. Initially however, the skimpy outfits were limited to female characters but they eventually changed this. So now outfit wise things are more or less equal for both genders.

rishi cantina dancers
Rishi Blaster’s Path Cantina Dancers. Notice there are male and female dancers?!

Other Games, the Gaming Industry and Gender

Compared to the majority of games out there, SWTOR and other Bioware RPG’s are great games for women. They offer us the opportunity to play as females where so few games outside of RPG’s/MMO’s allow. Most people like to play characters that represent them and view their characters as their own personification. I know myself, when given the opportunity, will always play as (or create) a female character. The number of games that have female protagonists, you can barely number with your fingers. Lara Croft, Chell (Portal) and Faith (Mirror’s Edge) are arguably the most well known female protagonists.

Changing this norm isn’t going to happen overnight. But it’s something that is slowly taking shape (people are more conscientious about it) but realistically it will be many many years before we see more female character protagonists in games let alone more games that portray women with civility and respect. There is a hell of a lot more I could go on about on this topic but that would quadruple the length of this blog post.

All I’m going to say is, a lot more could (and should) be done to improve the representation of women in video games by the gaming industry. The only way I can see this happening is by employing more women, but first they need to make the industry more respectful towards women which it currently is not. Again, this all a discussion for another time.

Ugh.. Close enough?...
Meh. Close enough…

What are your experiences as a female gamer or with female gamers in SWTOR? Would you say you’ve had a better experience here that in other games or do think it’s the same as everywhere else? What do you think should be done to improve the representation of women in video games and in the industry as a whole?

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  • Personally, I have found that having female gamers around improves the behavior of all involved. Exponentially so when there are strangers involved (pugging). We’ve always had female gamers in our guild/group. In fact, two couples have gotten married through our little internet group (so far). I guess my point is that I never really new female gamers were treated badly until I read one of your tweets. Women have just always been a part of my gaming experience, just as they have been in real life.

  • Wow, Xami, what a great post! I am glad that someone is bringing this issue out. It seems that SWTOR is attracting a lot of strong female personalities because most of the blogs that I have found and follow are written by women (yours, Pretty Little Sith, Pixelkaffe’s, Ravalation, PowerDress Gaming, Going Commando). I am male and currently have three toons, one of which is a female Rattataki Sorc healer. During the time that I have done flashpoints with her, I have gotten some rather lewd comments from some of the other people on the Ebon Hawk server, and the only “sexy” piece of gear on Dodola is a top that exposed her midriff. I think many guys that are into gaming see women gamers as objectifiable simply because they have had such issues attracting women in the real world (at least I have). Personally, I love seeing the growing presence of women in gaming and really hope that the industry begins to take a greater role in employing women in game development. I have never played any other MMO’s so my only experience is in SWTOR. It pains me to hear that you have had to deal with mockery and belittlement in the gaming community (within or outside of SWTOR)-especially because many male gamers have faced the same ridicule in the outside world and should not desire to do the same to others. I am very glad that you have taken on the role you have for gender representation in gaming and I sincerely hope that things get better for women in gaming. The gaming industry also needs to understand the massive untapped market of female gamers. Whether we are male or female, humans enjoy video games. Some, of course, more than others. Keep up the good work, Xami, and I look forward to listening to your appearance on Torocast (I just subscribed to it this morning and will probably listen to it later today).

  • Rae

    I’ll have to agree with you this game I haven’t seen much discrimination against girls in this game. I’ve been in a few guilds where we have had girls in our ops and even a few times they were the ops leaders making us guys feel bad when they parsing way higher than most of us or out tanking us. Most of the time they were supported and encouraged by everyone.Was something i wasn’t expecting in an mmo