My Milkshake Brings the Orcs to the Yard – I was so excited when I first saw that Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion would use Facegen. I imagined the great butch avatar I’d always longed to play, merging my desire to represent my biology without being forced to adopt an ultra-feminized appearance. Sure, I champion the inclusion of all ladies in video games, but they just don’t represent me personally. While many of our favorite pixelated heroines are tough, non-conformist ass kickers, nobody ever gives a second thought to their gender identity. Lara Croft’s long hair, sizable chest, and hot pants make her undoubtedly female. Rayne’s cat-suit enhanced figure and Alyx Vance’s impeccably shaped eyebrows and teasingly exposed midriff give us clues that say, “Yup, there’s two X chromosomes, right there.” But not all girls are like that, no-siree. I know I’m not, and I longed for the opportunity to see myself running through Tamriel, fighting bandits and showing Imperial citizens why a binary gender system doesn’t cut it anymore. I wanted to make a character that would take a quick look around before ducking into the Mage’s Guild Ladies’ Room.
Due to technical difficulties (e.g. lacking the computing power and funds to gain it), it was a while before I could realize my dream. My first playthrough featured a male Wood Elf who was unremarkable in almost every way, mostly due to the fact that it wasn’t worth trying to make him respectable because the textures were too fuzzy. By the time I finished, I had installed a respectable graphics card and got right down to the business of making my dream character. I raced through the tutorial and spent upwards of half an hour sculpting, turning, tweaking until I was satisfied with the look of my digital doppelganger.
And I was so proud – until I put on some armor. Most games these days use an armor system where each sex has an outfit that is a variation on a central theme. Oblivion is no different. This important fact, however, slipped my mind during my zealous endeavor. I was greatly disturbed to see my character’s breasts proudly extruding from behind an chainmail cuirass. Say what?
Perhaps I was blinded by desire. Perhaps I assumed that since I would never wear armor cut this way, my avatar wouldn’t either. It disturbed me and stopped me in my tracks. I had no recourse.
I simply buckled down and tried not to look at my awkward, incongruous character. I tried to pick armor that was understated, like the Ebony set, but it doesn’t solve my problem. Where the hell are the Mithril Ace Bandages? Who do I need to kill to to find a Glass Binder? How about a “toggle breasts” option in the console? I don’t recall having this problem in the previous Elder Scrolls game, Morrowind. I guess technological advances have granted us the ability to mesh boobs better. I was only mildly annoyed until I received as a quest reward The Deceiver’s Finery, some fancy enchanted clothes.
On my previous playthrough, the outfit took the form of a shirt and pants set. Eager to see my character in these new digs, I donned them without much thought. What I saw repulsed me. It was a dress. A big flowy dress. No no no. It can’t be. I want the one with trousers. This isn’t fair. All I wanted was to role-play a butch character. Is that so wrong?
I suppose I could hack the console or go create my own mod to correct this problem, but that is not the point. As women gamers we have faced significant hurdles to introduce strong, well developed, plot central female characters who aren’t just eye candy.
As gay gamers we have faced complete exclusion or harsh portrayals. Only a few years ago, character options were infinitely more limited, but sometimes progress isn’t pressed to go as far as it should. As tough as it is to be gender-different in the real world, at least you have control over your gender expression. It’s near impossible to be anything other than a he-man or a girly-girl in a video game. Please, developers, give the rest of us some recognition.
Article by: OurLastHurrah