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Butch Character Creation – Creating the butch look in gaming

Butch Character Creation – Creating the butch look in gaming

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

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20 Responses to “Butch Character Creation – Creating the butch look in gaming”

  1. Avitty says:

    Seeing as I’m not that feminine in real life I always found it fun to play the girly girls in games. I think you’re right though, there’s definitely need for more diverse characters in games. You can’t have a Final Fantasy game without girly boys, when do we get our butch girls?

  2. teh spikey says:

    You should have went with heavy armor. I know the Imperial and Blades sets at least have the same flat breastplate for male and female characters…

  3. OurLastHurrah says:

    @teh spikey
    Yeah, but I was playing a stealth based character, so I chose light armor. And heavy armor takes up so much valuable weight, which I need to carry around my thieves guild hauls…
    And with the overhaul of the female characters in Guitar Hero, I’m pretty sure I was right about my boob technology theory.

  4. Katie T says:

    How about a “toggle breasts” option in the console?
    LOL! Why the hell not? While you’re at it, how about a general ‘gender’ switch for some male-dominated games. That would be nice for the Grand Theft Auto games, for sure!

  5. Jube says:

    Toggle breasts?
    It’s definatly worth coding, designing and animating a function that is not only unrealistic but appeals to a ridiculous subset of a subset of a subset of gamers.
    Why not just ask for controll over the ability to customise breast size at character creation? Equal amounts of effort to make it but you’d have the pre-Pubescent boys on your side too.

  6. Xanadugrrl says:

    I agree- that has always irritated me about games with character creation. I either haven’t been able to find a game that lets me create a good, butch character.

  7. Champagne says:

    Hey, I work in the game industry and a lot of what I do, being low on the chain still, is skin outfits to character models for big huge openended games like Oblivion. A lot of people at my company anyway would love to do away with the dual-gendered clothing thing. The reason we don’t do this is because of a lack of time and resources. With the current system, you have a dress on a girl and pants and a shirt on a guy. Modify the pants and shirt to make a female sized version and the dress so the man can wear it and you’ve nearly doubled your workload after skinning all four outfits and making sure they all work in the game. Before I actually started working, I was really vocal about wishing games had more body-type options, I had no idea how much more work it adds. If you have fifty outfits in the game, now you have a hundred. And when you look at it like that, the choice of whether you want to spend the time doing that or making new unique content becomes very difficult.
    It sucks like that. Maybe when morph-target technology gets better we’ll have more customizability but if you look at games which use morph targets for figure customization, the textures get really ugly really fast.
    Anyway I just wanted to let you know that it’s not an arbitrary decision to force dresses and curvy armor on you, at least not all of the time, and a lot of us do care.

  8. Matucho says:

    PS: I wanted to comment on the article about GOW2 but the comment site was down, so I decided to comment here since it seemed relevant to this article as well. Its not a 100% relevant but still pretty close =)
    I totally agree, we need more badass butch female characters in video games. Like Vazquez from Aliens but even more butchy if possible. I read that article about peoples negative reactions to Gears of War 2 getting female characters, wow that really got my blood boiling. Cliffy B recently said that he wants to make GOW2 more “Girlfriend friendly” and he thinks that he can accomplish that by simply just not making any female characters with ginormous breast and having better options of adjusting the difficulty level of the game. Well I guess that’s fine but we need more, we need bad ass hardcore buchty female soldiers in the squad armed to the teeth to take on some locust, not just some bi-standing female character with moderate breast size that you don’t even get as a playable character. I say strap on some amour on Maria Santiago and give her a lancer so she can kick some locust ass! Well I don’t want to pick on GOW to much it’s still a great game, so pretty please with sugar on top, please Cliffy B give us kick ass women for GOW2
    Check out this link for more info on Cliffy B intentions for GOW2:
    http://blog.wired.com/games/2008/05/cliffy-b-gears.html

  9. stinger822 says:

    Extra depth in character creation is always a good thing, but to expect what your asking to happen is’nt being very logical. The majority of people that will play GOW2 for example will be the hardcore crowd, most of which will be guys. So if 99% of your player base wants Marcus and Dom and likes the way they are and the other 1% want a big butch women to be a playable charater, guess what the developer is going with. And a side note there is just a “binary gender system” there is no more or less. You have either male organs or female organs and surgery and court orders can’t change what you already are.

  10. Kris says:

    Although your arguments are absolutely sound, catering to every possible personal taste is extremely hard to do. The choice to not allow you to create yourself a perfect representative character was most likely an issue with resources and time than any evil attempt to keep you from realizing your wishes.
    The problem with your demand is that there are currently more people wanting to play the feminine girls or buff dudes than there are people interested in diversification. Your insights and arguments certainly help to illuminate the issues our society faces in this regard, but even with more tolerance and understanding from the general public, the marketting dollar will still win out in the end. Perhaps a new player in the industry is whats needed to change the status quo in this case since its obviously not enough to expect the current players to be interested in changing the game.

  11. you cant be serious says:

    Your kidding?!?!? “Give the rest of us some recognition?” Listen, your choices in life are your choices and personally, i could care less. “Give us some recognition?” Aren’t you the one who chose to go against the grain? while its hopefully accepted in our cultures, Do you think anyone other than you worries about weather or not there is a out of shape man pant wearing woman in their list of character options? I’m sure it would be a lot to use generic genderless clothing in game, but that’s another article. don’t you think that this logic is not only selfish, but a little concerning? Truth is, weather your gay or strait, your still a man or a woman. what issues must you have that you need all that extra attention. Stop sucking other people into your world and its foolish insecurities.

  12. Nick says:

    Well hey, I dont See why Devs should have to Extend themselves to appeal to different Ilks, Like, if they appealed to “butch” lesbians, they would have to appeal to Straight sluts as well, and have a class that accels at cooking, cleaning, and sewing, and is so bad at combat, the only armor they bother to wear is a metal miniskirt, wearing a very evident thong, and a bra to small for her enormous rack. Also, you would have to be able to play as a FLAMING male homosexual, and have the ability to once a day, enlarge your package and use it as a weapon. they would have to add alot of character models to appeal to everyone.
    Solution: appeal to no one who will say “that person with obscure sexual taste or tendency to wear clothes of the opposite sex has theirs, why cant I have mine?”. I myself am a straight male, but I respect other..uhm… Gay people… and I mean cmon! I have to play as women in some games, and the only gay guy i can think of is in Enchanted arms, and I really dont care, just because they like to scissor fuck, or have anal with another man, shouldn’y upset you, I dont have a tale, why should I have to sit through FF 9 and play as Zidane.. God damnit..

  13. Faye says:

    Some people don’t seem to get the point.
    I would just like some more female characters – that don’t look like hookers.

  14. Heather says:

    I bought the game and the character creator is ok, but I exchanged it because the game didn’t appeal to me.
    Being a mtf trans lesbian, I found it utterly stupid that a lot of the facial features were hard to control or even get a proper look for someone who wanted something feminine but with a bit of masculinity because of my birth gender. Meh… oh well. I hope you find a better game that gives you what you want.

  15. ShadowTiger says:

    I think that games should be more accommodating of people’s choices. 2 people have stated that you are either male or female… “deal with it.”
    Unfortunatley thats not really true… since those are just social constructs. While it is true that their are 2 separate roles in procreation most video games don’t have pregnancy/childbirth (fable 2!!!)
    Anyways… there is a large spectrum of genders that people identify with, and a large number of body types that people feel are comfortable with. I think that game developers should offer more choices.
    BTW if you are playing on PC (upgrading = pc) you can download mods for oblivion which change the way you look. They are mostly to satisfy male fantasies but could provide you with what you desire (there are 2 or 3 different ones). In addition, it would take you about 5 minutes to create a mod that allows you to wear pants/shirts as a female. Actually you just replace the female graphics with the male ones, its pretty simple. I know that the original post was 5 months ago but i think this was important to mention.

  16. Gabi says:

    Well the character looks like a guy. Hate to break it to u. And I don’t date guys (personal opinion i kno).
    But u did a really good job on it aside from that. lol. good work! :-)

  17. lacrossegirlie says:

    To be honest I agree with the piece. saying games shouldn’t cater to a “sub group within a sub group”
    its.
    not.
    about.
    being.
    GAY.
    WOW!
    it has nothing to do with sexuality.its about not being a stereotype.
    i would think EVERYONE would benefit from more individualized character Customization.
    side note: there are more then two genders because there is more than XX and XY(geneticaly) and mental gender is more fluid and not always a CHOICE. take a look at gender studies and genetics

  18. Dsi Skin says:

    Excellent post, I read & enjoyed.

  19. Psp Skin says:

    Good story.You should have went with heavy armor. I know the Imperial and Blades sets at least have the same flat breastplate for male and female characters…

  20. sarah watkins says:

    would be interested to know how many lesbians are gamers and if we really are a small minority in the gaming world, cos if we are not – that could shoot the developers arguements down about what are really fantasy models for pre-pubescent straight males

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