“You’re a healer – you must be a girl!”

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:

healerchick
*Source*

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:

warriordude
*Source*

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.

So!

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?

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“You’re a healer – you must be a girl!”

6 thoughts on ““You’re a healer – you must be a girl!”

  1. Imtiaz Ahmed says:

    Man that explains all those weird comments from my guild mates back in the day!!

    I could see your point, but I think this is now more than ever taking a turn. Look at horizon zero dawn and the force awakens sporting some strong kick ass female leads. Bayonetta is another one that comes to mind, and even before the dawn of time, Samus was breaking this trend before it started.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lytebytes says:

      Oh, I definitely agree that there are some very strong female warrior archetypes in gaming – but I just seem to think that the majority of healers tend to be female! Interesting point with Samus, though, as many thought Samus to be male before she was de-helmeted, no? ^^

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Imtiaz Ahmed says:

        Yup Samus blew the world away when people found out Samus was a woman. Including me in Super Metroid.

        One I just realized that fits the stereotype, Mercy in overwatch. It could also be partly an angelic quality that makes healers who they are

        Liked by 1 person

      2. lytebytes says:

        It’s interesting that Ana and Mercy, of the female supports, are the two female healers and are both positioned in a mothering context – unlike the third female support, Symmetra, who is pictured as younger, colder and more ruthless and she is, of the three female supports, the only one that doesn’t heal.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Martin says:

    I definitely think that female characters are disproportionately likely to be healer types, for the sexist reasons that you’ve mentioned. There are lots of cases of badass women, for sure, but if you look at the healer characters, they’ll probably be women.

    But I far from automatically assume that the person playing a female character is themself female. Just from playing fighting games, I’ve known too many guys who liked playing most as Chun Li or Ivy or Millia, etc. 2/3 of my main King of Fighters team was female, usually. I just feel like until people introduce themselves, you can’t know in these situations. But that said, I think a lot of people do associate character gender with player gender. Which did happen in your case, I suppose. ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

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