My Experiences as an “MMO Girl” (Part 2)

My nearly six-month experiment came to a close earlier this month when I officially retired “Chichi” and restored Kijimuna to his former glory.  For those of you that may have missed the original article; back in January I wrote a piece about my attempt to see what gaming is like through the eyes of a female. Having spoken with several girls I know in Final Fantasy XIV, I decided to quietly moonlight as a female character for six months to see just how different, if at all, I would be treated.

If you read my original article, you’ll learn that aside from people being just generally nicer, my initial experience was not all that different. Back in January, I wrote that I had not encountered any harassment or sexisim, etc. So, now, six months later has that changed? Well, the answer is both yes and no.

In the months since my original article, I finally consented to joining a free company (guild). I decided to pick one of the largest on the server. From my personal experiences, larger MMO guilds tend to be busy and impersonal. People come and go all the time. I didn’t want to become close to anyone or have to lie about my identity, so a large guild would allow me to simply be another face in the crowd. This worked well for quite some time. Then, one day I volunteered to join some members on a trial (big monster battle). This event marked the first time since I started playing a female character that I was “hit on”…

As I stood there, healing my companions, a member of our party made a semi off-color comment about how well Chichi was able to “handle her staff” and would I like to see if I could “handle his”. This was quickly dealt with as Chichi informed him that if he presented his staff to her, she would snap it in half and sheathe the two pieces in a very uncomfortable place. This person later apologized to me in private for his behavior.

A few weeks later, another person seemed to become infatuated with Chichi. He followed me around and volunteered to help me with whatever I was doing. At one point, he even offered to pay for a private house so Chichi could have her own dwelling. For those who do not played FFXIV, let me tell you this is a VERY generous offer. Housing is scant and expensive on nearly every server in the game. I politely declined the offer.

As my time playing as Chichi drew to a close, I found myself realizing that I was going to miss her. Chichi had come to grow on me. The character was simply adorable. I entertained the thought of just continuing to play her, but I also missed playing as Kijimuna, a character I created almost 7 yeas ago. So that I wouldn’t have to completely say goodbye, I came to a compromise. I hired a new in-game “retainer” or virtual companion and named/modeled it after Chichi. So now, even though Chichi is no more – a part of her still exists in the world of Eorzea.

So, after six months of playing a female character incognito, what are my thoughts?

Well, overall – even though I never actually presented myself as a female, acted flirty or feminine, the majority of players did seem to treat me nicer that they did when I would play a male. As I originally observed, many players were more patient and helpful. Aside from one sexual remark by a single individual, I was never objectified or harassed.  Perhaps this was because I never did come out and claim to be a woman. I really can’t say. But based on this experiment, albeit unscientific as it was, I was relieved to see that players perceived to be female are not the subject of sexual harassment day in and day out.  I’m not claiming that women gamers tend to to cry wolf about such topics, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be quite as bad as one might think by simply hanging out on twitter for five minutes.

When dealing with other players in any multiplayer environment, it’s always wise to remember the wisdom of Rufus from Bill and Ted’s Excellent adventure… regardless of who you are or who you are dealing with, “Be excellent to each other”.

My Experiences as an “MMO Girl” (Part 1)

So, as I promised, in 2017 I’m going to try to do more with this site besides write and post reviews. This post is a prime example of that. This is an article about a secret experiment I’ve been conducting. One that I’m now ready to share. In this post, I’m going to describe my experiences as playing an MMO under the guise of being a female.

Now, I’m not doing this in attempt to be controversial or shocking. This was an idea borne out of sincere curiosity. Please allow me to explain. If you’re a frequent reader to this site, you know that I’m an avid player of Final Fantasy XIV. My character, Kijimuna was created during 1.0 early access and has persisted throughout the entire course of the game. It was with this character that I founded one of the first Free Companies on the Balmung Server:  The Luminous Company.  However, over the years being a “casual only” company on one of the most competitive and overcrowded servers took it’s toll.  The numbers of active players in my company dwindled from over a hundred, down to about two dozen in a few years. In the last twelve months, I found that only myself and about three other players were active in company. Eventually, the company finally just came down to myself and one other player; a girl I had known since the original 1.0 version of the game. The day finally came when I logged on and noticed that even she had not logged on in over 30 days. It was then, I decided it was time to close up shop and consider finding a new group of in-game friends to join.

The problem I ran into was this: my server was jammed packed with elitist players. Despite my long term experience with the game, I am very much a casual player. I cannot commit to any schedule and I don’t have the ability to dedicate hours and hours to endless grinding. A few companies I did join up with never really felt like home to me as I was unable to participate in many activities due to my schedule. The one thing I really loved doing in the game, helping new players, was an impossibility on my server. You see, Balmung (my server) is super popular and therefore almost always locked for new character creation. There are simply no new players to help. That’s when I decided to take the plunge and move to a non-legacy server. A place where I could interact with newer players. As I was preparing for this move, I recalled a conversation that I had with my longtime in-game friend. One night, when it was just the two of us playing, she described to me her experiences being a female player in an online game. She explained how for the most part, people are generally kind. But how occasionally, she would find herself being objectified or suffering some minor unwanted advances. She also described how, if she really wanted to, she was able to manipulate a large portion of male players into providing her with help and sometimes even get them to carry her through difficult content.  I always wondered just how true that was.  – Well, as I sat there preparing to move Kijimuna to his new home, a thought occurred to me; what would happen if I transformed Kiji into a female? I mean, I had a number of these Fantasia potions (character re-design items) stashed away, perks from playing 1.0. I could use one and design my character as a female, temporarily – and blog about my experiences. It sounded like an interesting idea, so… I did it!   With that, Kijimuna Kudaka was no more.

……… drumroll

                                   ……..                            ……..

                                                                      …….                  …….  MEET:     Chichi !!!

First, I want to clear something up. When I transformed Kiji to Chichi, I did so solely with this article in mind. I had no intentions of using the transformation as an attempt to benefit or enrich my character. In fact, when creating my new persona I decided to stick with the very mundane and “unsexual” Lalafell race. The last thing I wanted to do was create some buxom, sexy fem fatale. I wanted to see what a real female mmo-player might experience.

I have now been playing as Chichi for almost three months and it has been an interesting experience. But before I get into the details, I want to layout some important facts around this experiment:

First – I never come out and claim to be a female. I’m simply playing a female character, and allowing others to make assumptions.

Second – I don’t flirt, act girly or cutesy, or change my in-game behavior in any way.

Now, with that in mind let’s talk about the results. Well, the last three months have been interesting. First, I’m amazed at just how many people automatically assume that because I am playing a female character, that I must be a female. Perhaps it is because I’m playing a cute little Lalafell and not some bikini-clad Valkyrie… I don’t know. But the majority of players I interact with do assume that the person behind my keyboard is indeed a female.

I’m proud to report that most players treat me no different than they did before. I’ve not been sexually harassed, or looked down on. However, it does seem that people actually seem to be a little kinder and patient with Chichi then they were with Kijimuna.  If I’m playing with others and I botch something, there’s less frustration exhibited.  I have also received more offers for help and more invitations for groups than I did before.

In fact, this led me to making another very important decision in regards to this experiment.  I decided to politely decline all free company invitations for the first few months or so. Just so I could see how many invites I would receive.  When playing as Kijimuna, after disbanding The Luminous Company, I received a total of two invites in the three months before deciding to leave Balmung.  As Chichi, I received a total of eleven in the same amount of time!

In fact, my refusal to join with any established groups created a bit of a buzz. A lot of people seemed puzzled by my insistence on playing solo. Well, I’ve recently caved and accepted an invitation to a small, but established Free Company. This will no doubt result in more social interactions with other players. So, I’m curious to see just where that might lead.  To date, I have yet to experience any off-color comments or negative experiences. Let’s see if that changes as I begin to mingle more with other players. Stay tuned for an update in the coming months!