The title of this piece is, frighteningly enough, all to common for me – and probably many others – to hear.
In my last World of Warcraft guild I was often the target of flirtation from some of my male guild members while playing as one of the raid healers (I mean, fine I was playing a female character but c’mon dudes play females all the time!). Soon after I posted a little introduction in the guild forums as to who I was and a little about me the flirtation dropped instantly – with one even going so far as to message me a little bit awkwardly about the fact he just assumed I was a girl.
This trend of the assumption that girls are playing in the support role may stem from the fact that many games that feature some form of healing role typically have female characters in this role (highlighted in this interesting piece) or could potentially just be an assumption that women are only interested in playing these sorts of characters.
In this Lyte Byte, I’m going to take a nibble into this topic and hopefully open the discussion to others as to why this may be the case!
When I google “healer rpg” I am met with, generally, an image similar to this one:
The image of the woman wrapped in flowing robes is an all too common image in the first few images that you are met with – though there is a small male presence here.
When I google “warrior rpg” there is a typically
more male oriented showing here – with the barbaric, savage man taking centrefold:
Of-course, this piece of five minute research only gives a glimpse into the common picture of what a healer and what a warrior is within an RPG setting – but it fills the all too common narrative of these roles being gendered.
You could argue that the perception of women as nurturing and caring within society helps to perpetuate this myth – that the woman as the caregiver and mother translates into the support to the male, he who brings back the bacon (or perhaps orc head in this case) as the valiant warrior, aided by his healer wife from the background.
Calabar’s blog post “Girl in the Machine” also asks of the effect that these stereotypes within gaming have on the wider world. The brutish fury of the male warrior might deny a caring, sensitive side can exist for males – or that a woman can unleash her own brutish fury herself.
From my perspective, I know many female gamers that love to bust out these damage dealing types whilst I, along with other guy gamers I know, like to play the supporting roles. Whilst Calabar’s post is, perhaps, outdated, I believe the issue still stands today and it’s something that needs to be addressed.
What do you think? Are women typically shown as ‘the healer’ or ‘the support’ in video games you’ve played? Do you think what role you play in a game is suggestive of the gender of the player?