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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Female avatars and you

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Came across an interesting read about what makes the female Shepard avatar so much fun in Mass Effect at Gamasutra. The article and comments turn into a more open discussion about why men especially play female avatars in games and it contains some interesting insights.

For those who don't know, Mass Effect and it's sequel are some of the best roleplaying games out there, combining an epic story with great characters and incredible gameplay. Time Magazine called Mass Effect 2 "the Avatar of video games - except it's better written." If you hadn't actually played the game however you would be forgiven for thinking that the main protagonist is male; all the advertising, trailers and even the game box only show the male hero. However, in the game you create the hero character yourself, and are able to choose your sex, career and appearance.

I've played Mass Effect and it's sequel several times now, and I'm currently playing the first game through for the fourth time. It's my first playthrough using a female avatar however, and the experience is just.... better. In the Gamasutra article the author discusses why he thinks playing the game as a female character drastically changes the experience.

I didn't expect the game to feel that different myself. After all, apart from the romances, the character's lines are all the same, the gameplay is the same, even the animations are the same. Yet, the experience is definately better. For me the major reason is one that the author of the article seems to miss, and can be summed up in two words: Jennifer Hale. Hale is the actress who speaks Shepard's lines when you play as a female character, and she manages to imbue the character with so much verve, belief and attitude (especially when playing through the Renegade options) that Shepard springs to life in a whole new way. Her performance is simply stunning, creating the first major female game character that isn't just a pair of boobs with a gun or sword.

I have played female avatars before, mainly in some of the many MMOs I have played over the years, but apart from player-created roleplay situations, they all may as well have been male.

So, it's an interesting article, go have a read.

On another note I met up with a friend this weekend that I hadn't seen for ages and he took me along to a wargaming convention. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, having not been to one before, but what I wasn't expecting was it to be so damn busy! There were hundreds of people there packed into three large halls, and another surprise was the very small presence of Games Workshop product. It seems serious wargaming is very much alive and well as a hobby (I was under the misapprehension that it started and ended with Warhammer nowadays). Anyway, had a good time and a nice beer in the sun as well.

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