Only 18% Of Mass Effect Players Play Female

By John Walker on July 20th, 2011 at 10:36 am.

The One True Shepard.

As if I needed any further proof that other people are wrong, BioWare have revealed to VG247 that only 18% of Mass Effect players pick the lady Shepard. With the obviously better choice finally getting recognised by the game’s marketing, that less than a fifth of gamers pick the Jennifer Hale-voiced heroine genuinely surprises me. Because, well, girls are best.

It does raise the matter of who plays who. There are so many different arguments and rationales for which style of character you choose to be in a game. Clearly it makes sense that if games are opportunities to live out fantasies, then why not play the giant, muscley hero man? But, I would whimper in response, such an unsophisticated stereotype offers nothing of interest to me – generally the only option to avoid steroid-induced hulkiness in a game is to pick the girl. That way at least I have the option of both strength and some threads of humanity. Then I look at the success of Gears Of War and realise that I’m not exactly in the majority.

Although if I’m honest, my motivations aren’t exclusively pure. The other big factor is: whose bum do I want to stare at for 30 hours? The MMO I spent the most time with – City Of Heroes – was in the pleasant company of Nitefall’s curvy purple bottom. Whereas Jim only ever saw Andov’s robot-bot. Again, this clearly isn’t a prominent factor in most players’ decision making. I am clearly an over-sensitive pervert.

Of course Mass Effect is a little different. If you want to play a sensitive male Shepard, that’s an option. Just as you can be hard-angry LadyShep. And in light of finding out 82% of players pick the boy, it finally makes sense that he’s all you’ve ever seen in the advertising. Or is it because he’s all you see that people think he’s the more “correct” choice? Oh, I don’t know! I do know, however, that it’s been extremely strange as a FemShepper to have watched the trailers and promotional material for Mass Effect 2 and 3 featuring a central character I absolutely don’t recognise.

Interestingly, the VG247 article reports that this huge favouring of the ManShep is not because people just go with the default character. They report that… well, they report some rather odd maths so I’m not quite sure which figure is correct:

“But Silverman revealed that only 13 percent of Mass Effect players use the default Commander Shepard: the remaining 83 percent customise their hero, changing class, abilities, appearance – and gender.”

Perhaps 4% of players just can’t cope with the choice and never get past the character creator? Anyhow, it means that people are deliberately designing their own Shepard, but in the massive majority not taking away his penis.

It does leave me with one appeal. Jennifer Hale does the most wonderful job voicing the Shepardess (she was also Bastila in KotOR), and it saddens me greatly that four-fifths of players are never hearing her performance. Clearly if you played Mass Effects 1 and 2 with a boy, you’re going to carry that boy over into the third. But perhaps just roll a female character to give it a listen. Then you can kick yourselves for what you’ve been missing out on. (It’s probably important to note at this point that the exact same can be said right back to me, since I’ve no experience at all of Mark Meer’s performance.)

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258 Comments »

  1. Uglycat says:

    Never play a man if I can help it.

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      Carra says:

      Same here. If I have the choice, I roll female.

    • Kuroko says:

      Same here, if given the option, I never choose male either.

    • Ubernutz says:

      I never want to be inside another man.

    • skinlo says:

      Rarely play female.

      Bottom staring aside, if I’m ‘role playing’, I’m male sp I usually become a male character.

    • Nick Ahlhelm says:

      Yeah, I always play female if it’s a choice in gaming. Pretty much for all the reasons listed in the article as well.

    • Ross Angus says:

      Amen, brothers. Uh, and sisters.

    • Shaz says:

      Ditto, but it’s because I’m female, and I am so sick and tired of games that give me no choice in character gender- and that choice nearly ALL of the time being male- that, when GIVEN the choice, I will only pick female.

      Plus, I’m kind of the ‘first person’ type of role player… I get into my character’s head, the character is me and I am the character and, well, I’m just not interested in being a guy.

    • Aemony says:

      I seventh, or something, this opinion.

    • pepper says:

      I never really care whom or what my character is, I prefer playing from the first person perspective anyway. I enjoy Half-Life as Gordon Freeman, but also Mirror’s Edge as Faith.
      To be fair, I really dont care about selections/inventory’s etc et al. For example, when playing ARMA 2 the people I play with spend 5 minutes picking gear and arguing about it, whilst im done in about a minute and sit waiting in the tank listening to them playing dress up, and the worst thing is, WE ARE DRIVING A TANK, we dont even have to select a specialized load out!! It is rather strange that in ARMA you cant select any female characters come to think of it.

    • nayon says:

      @OP: And in the game.

    • FKD says:

      @Shaz: I agree 100%. I am so tired of never having a choice period, that when I finally DO it is nice to play as who you ARE! As Pepper mentions, I did enjoy playing HL as Gordon Freeman, but I wish more games would have a female main character, and when you have the ability to choose characters, I would prefer a more in depth generation options so that I can be “myself” and also play whatever character I want at the same time.

    • EOT says:

      @pepper: That’s because ArmA II prides itself on its realism and women are almost never used in front line combat roles by western armies. So it’s not really strange at all.

      Anyway, I played MaleShep because; A) I am a manly man of manlyness who likes playing as his own gender and B) Because even after managing to stomach half of ME1 as FemShep i still couldn’t stand Jennifer Hale’s VO. I really don’t get the love. Or maybe it’s just because I find the fanbase so obnoxious and unwilling to accept any criticism of their Goddess Hale that i took a dislike. Who knows.

      Edit: I love how the edit function completely destroys your fucking formatting.

    • Kent says:

      I picked male shepherd in the first game and female shepherd in the second. Sadly both of these voice actors gives horrible performances in their “voice acting”, but Jennifer Hale can at least sound 15 % less monotone, instead of being the soulless drone that male shepherd is.

    • Zoombini says:

      If my character speaks, I usually play female.

      If my character doesn’t, I play a bald guy with the largest beard the character creator lets me have.

    • Flobulon says:

      Maybe I’m alone in this, but I generally feel that the gender of the character I play has little impact on my ability to ‘roleplay’ or feel ‘immersed’. I picked femShep for the voice acting, and, er, aesthetic reasons.

    • plugmonkey says:

      @ skinio

      But if you’re just being you, then you are hardly ‘playing a role’.

      I’m not very stealthy, but I sometimes roll stealthy characters. I’m certainly not evil, but I sometimes roll evil characters. I’m not a woman, but I sometimes roll female characters.

      We ended up with female Shep just because we thought it would be a better fit with the setting. I thought it would be more fun to be an Ellen Ripley / Aeryn Sun sort of character rather than a Riddick sort of a character, which was very much where the male Shep seemed to take us.

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      lurkalisk says:

      I don’t understand how it could possibly matter. At all. I mean, the biggest difference between fe-shep and he-shep is the latter has hilariously poor voice acting. Fe-shep’s is just mediocre, and definitely not funny. That’s it.

      As if I needed any further proof that mass effect players are insane…

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      drewski says:

      I wonder if more guys play as girls when given the choice than girls play as guys.

      The whole “I don’t want to be a guy” thing is completely alien to me. I’m perfectly happy playing characters of either gender.

    • Nalano says:

      I like my fem!Shep, but what I came away from this article was that, aside from that boring 13%, nobody recognizes the guy in all the advertising.

      And drewski, in my (admittedly anecdotal) experience, I’ve met a small army of guys playing girls, but only two girls playing guys – and both of them did it to stop getting hit on in MMOs.

    • Sicram says:

      Ditto, although I have a tendency to once in a while try out a radically different character personality wise and then I often change gender.

    • xsikal says:

      I never play a male character either, if I can help it. I don’t roleplay, and would much rather stare at a woman’s ass / play dress-up with a female barbie :P. It does make Bioware’s ham-handed romances annoying though… feels like I’m having to smack down the overly aggressive male characters every time I speak to them or they think it’s a sign I want to sleep with them.

      I guess that’s not horribly different from real life.

    • Araxiel says:

      I always roll with a female character if I can chose. If there is the possibility of a lesbian romance I don’t even play a single playthrough as male character.

    • BirdsUseStars says:

      For me it’s much more innocent than whose butt I want to be staring at. I just feel like I empathize with women more maybe? I try playing male characters sometimes, but I almost always get bored with them. I stop really caring what happens to them or what they are doing altogether.

    • Dave Mongoose says:

      @BirdsUseStars

      I have the same experience. I’d be the first to admit I’m not a very manly man, so when Muscles McBurly is doing his tough guy act it just doesn’t resonate with me. With the dialogue they give the genders, it’s much easier for me to sympathise with the female character.

    • dwl says:

      It’s all Tomb Raider’s fault.

      Although its about 20% made the choice its the fact that there is a choice that important. Lets face it. If your going to be staring at the back of a character for twenty or thirty hours you might as well pick a view you like.

      FTR manShep’s voice was irritating.

    • pipman3000 says:

      I always pick a female character because games are fucking sausage fests and it pisses me off.

    • mejoff says:

      Hmm, thinking about it, I generally play a female character if I’m playing in 1st person, and with the exception of DA:O a male in 3rd. And as a fairly comfortable cis-male I have no idea why that is…

    • RegisteredUser says:

      I always choose male.
      Not because the point of any and all games should be – and usually is – to kill and destroy as much as possible and this is rightfully the sole domain of man, but because playing a girl on the computer means you want to be a girl in real life and are yearning to be penetrated, which, of course, is a sign of inferiority and weakness.

  2. gwathdring says:

    I think Hale’s performance was more interesting, having played both. That said, my main character, and first character, is a male. I default to my own gender, and in Bioware-style roleplaying games do whatever I think is just and good or at least whatever evil is less potent. Subsequent run-throughs, I’ll create more of a unique character in my head and play according to what they would do rather than what I would do. Sometimes this means doing things that make me uncomfortable. These playthroughs I don’t always finish and this is also when I try out some characters of different genders or of classes I normally wouldn’t enjoy playing.

    I do something similar in MMOs, only the characters have unique non-surrogate personalities from the get-go and I usually play them simultaneously instead of one after the other. It’s usually a fifty fifty gender breakdown in MMOs.

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      alphager says:

      Wow, I have the same playstyle. My first play-through was with MaleShep, choosing Paragon7Renegade-Actions when I saw fit. My second playthrough was an arrogant violent FemShep who protects her crew at all costs. The result was a very Renegade character with some Paragon action.

    • Nalano says:

      When I play male characters I tend to split the gameworld into me/not-me and act accordingly. When I play female characters I – I suppose due to the alien nature of it – empathize more with the NPCs.

      …which is not terribly dissimilar from you.

    • nofing says:

      I play both as well and started ME1 with a male Shepard, but started ME2 with a female Shepard first. My first playthrough is always mostly paragon with renegade brought into the mix, if I feel like it and my second playthrough is mostly renegade and only a little paragon to get what I need :)

    • Lukasz says:

      I tend to play male at first as I am a male and I always tend to pick quest solutions which I would pick if i was the hero.
      then i play as a female.

      thats why most females i play are often evil bitches :D since on a second playthrough i tend to chose options i haven’t before… like help slavers in F2, kill secretary on Taris, kill the rachni queen in ME1 (damn. that was actually a painful thing to do. felt bad. like in KOTOR1 when you kill that poor hurt wookie)

  3. CMaster says:

    I play a mShep. With the face made into something normal and human looking, rather than weirdo pointy-out-the-sides face standard shep. (I think I actually used characteristics that are meant to be “asian” to make his face soften enough to look like a real person). Mostly, I just find it easier to play a male character in most games, although Mass Effect with it’s somewhat arms-length control over shepard a lot of the while perhaps matters less.

    I have to say I’m not entirely sold on the voice-acting thing. The mShep voice acting is generally pretty good, although not perfect, while a lot of the youtube videos I’ve seen with fShep vary between equally competent and well, really hollow-sounding.

    • Mad Hamish says:

      http://unrealitymag.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/commander-shepard1.jpg

      Male Shep is a real person.
      Also I though male sheds voice acting was grand. As good as the rest of the game anyway.

    • CMaster says:

      While that guy is very similar, the in-game defeault shepherd is pretty exaggerated from that even. In some of the trailers his cheek bones look sharp enough to be weapons, and his jaw juts out so much you’d think it was an attachment.

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      PoulWrist says:

      He’s modelled after that guy, he’s a dutch model, and it’s not something we’re making up :p the name is Mark Vanderloo.

    • Bingo Bango says:

      Mmmm … I don’t get why people say Mister Shephard has terrible voice acting. At all. I found him to be quite fabulous, really.

  4. checkers says:

    I wonder what percentage of ME players are female.

    • RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

      Indeed, and do they play as manshep or femshep?

      “That’s that 4% of players that never gets past the character creation.”
      I don’t know exactly who I’m quoting, but I’m sure someone made that joke.

    • S says:

      Well as a female …I can tell you I played a female Shepard. Whether the rest of the female ME population did or not is still a mystery. When picking characters it’s always h**s over bros for me… I can’t believe I just said that. I think I just died a little on the inside.

    • FKD says:

      Female playing fem-Shep, and I agree with S.. when given the chance (which does not seem to be often) I choose my own gender. And it is that kind of thing that annoys me whenever people (guys mainly to be honest..) say how games should not waste time making a female version. Yea, that is easy to say when you get to play your own gender all the time :/ And I understand the male char you are playing is probably nothing like you in real life, but the thing you have the same is your gender which is a very deep part of you.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Funnily enough I got my girlfriend to try the game. She got pissed off that you can’t customise the female characters as much as the males, especially when it comes to scars. Then she couldn’t stand the female voice actor and quit. I wouldn’t be able to play it through as her, but then I hear people saying then can’t stand the man.

      He is dull which I can live with, she just delivers stuff completely wrong consistantly, which I can’t. I would say you should make a female version, but do it right or don’t bother. My gf finds nothing more irritating than a token woman such as this that you can’t ugly up.

    • glix says:

      I think there are a fair few, probably still a minority, but more than you’d think. Personally, I’m female and have played as both genders in ME multiple times and enjoyed them equally, even with the faults both versions have.

    • scienceshoew says:

      My sister plays female exclusively in ME, whereas I (male) played female first, then male to see what I missed. I found the idea of a female space badass a lot more interesting, plus as (almost) every says, she’s got a much better actor behind her.

      So with what everyone else is saying, I suspect a greater proportion of male players choose an opposite gender than females do males. Maybe that’s just because female characters are still depressingly novel in games?

    • silver1881 says:

      I’m female, and all six of my Shepards are female. I play as a woman in every RPG, as long as it’s an option, which it should be.
      Also, I second everything that FKD said above.

  5. Chizu says:

    Generally pick female characters when I can 8D
    I have two run throughs of ME games though, one a pure paragon goody-goody male shep (I only really made him to romance Tali in 2 :V)
    And a pure Renegade, slap your shit soon as look at you femshep.
    Though I think I have lost my game saves, so I am going to have to replay the games before 3 comes out.
    Oh woe is me.

  6. President Weasel says:

    No offence to the voice actor for blokeshep, but she-pard sounds better. Jennifer Hale has the voice acting chops. I’ve played femshep since the first one, although I did initially play manshep for half an hour or so before I decide the soldier class was a bit arse and I wanted to start over with one of those psykers.

  7. Tomm says:

    Played the frankly uninspired choice of a Male Solider on my first playthroughs of ME1 and 2 but (fortunately) those saves got deleted, so I’m now working through ME1 with a Female Infiltrator. I have to agree, the voice acting is much better, but unfortunately, despite my best efforts, she still came out of the character creation process looking ugly as hell from certain angles. Something I hope to rectify in ME2 if I can.

    • ezekiel2517 says:

      ME was not very kind on the faces. They try to be like movies so hard, but they failed miserably at picking proper camera angles. They might work on the default Shepard, though. I never played that.

    • coffeetable says:

      Nah, stick with the ugly character. RPGs are that much more interesting when you take the game world as an insight into what the developer expects you to do.

      In this case, all the uncomfortable flirting becomes even more uncomfortable.

    • Tomm says:

      I spent so long trying to make her look half attractive, but at the 5 hour mark it became apparent that she looked like Jack Bauer’s wife, and that was, as they say, something I couldn’t unsee.

    • meatshit says:

      I wish they would go back to having a large variety of premade faces to choose from. Playing with a bunch of sliders to make your character look just the way you want sounds nice, but in practice you’re more likely to fiddle with them for half an hour, give up and settle for the horrible mutant you’ve created.

    • Nalano says:

      Just went through a 51-hour playthrough of ME1 and 2, which I’m sad to say 4 of those hours were fussing at the face construction.

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      soulblur says:

      I played through ME2 with a guy twice, and then decided that I’m missing out. So now I’m playing through ME1 with a woman, to see how different it is.I do like her voice. But then, in ME1, I thought the male Shepherd’s voice was fine. It was ME2 that I started to dislike him. Arrogant prick.

      But my femshep is a lesbian (well, with Liara – is that lesbian? Practically, yes). So… yeah. I don’t really know if I’m breaking sterotypes there or fulfilling them.

    • Nalano says:

      Well, they keep saying “mono-gendered,” but the cut dialogue for the Presidium groundskeeper does keep pointing out those “funny bumps” on their chests.

    • Erd says:

      I found the character creation to be pretty awful and capable of producing only the most generic looking characters. When you make a game where all your principal characters (including default advertising Shepard) cannot be made inside your own character creator, it seems to me like Bioware themselves have no faith in the thing.

      Also, why no realistic blonde hair?

  8. Orija says:

    Is it sexist to think a female can’t be as a good a soldier as a male?

    • mistwolf says:

      @Orija:

      Yes, it very definitely is. That you had to ask scares me and I hope you were trolling/being sarcastic.

    • Orija says:

      Gah! Yes, that was supposed to be sarcastic about the fact that people may have chosen thinking that the male shepherd may be better suited for saving the galaxy without realizing that they are being sexist.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      You mean something in their brain picked male due to some underlying archaic mindset buried so deep they may not even be aware of it, which also encourages video games to keep portraying women as sex toys and also explains our lack of action movie heroines? Or do you mean they weren’t aware of video game logic and genuinely thought men were physically stronger than women?

      Edit: Actually scratch that, it’s a silly question. You meant the first one.

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      PoulWrist says:

      Maybe in the future women will be treated equally and have military service mandatory :p

    • skinlo says:

      You mean women aren’t walking life support for vaginas?? :O

      Thats probably where I’ve been going wrong all these years!

      ;) :)

    • pepper says:

      They are von neumann machines!

      http://xkcd.com/387/

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-replicating_machine

      Well, almost.

    • Pathetic Phallacy says:

      @PoulWrist

      That should do it. Then, in order for men to be equal, they can lose their right to vote, their right to justice, their jobs and almost every social freedom men experienced during the earlier days of mandatory military service.

    • Droopy The Dog says:

      Filter released the flood

    • Droopy The Dog says:

      @Pathetic Phalacy (sigh)

      In the earlier days? You do know the guy you’re having a kneejerk reaction to could easily be from say, Finnland, Switzerland, Denmark, etc. where there still exists mandatory military service for men today?

      Heck even if you’re just talking about the UK that’s the 1960s and I’m pretty sure women didn’t lose their right to vote or justice suddenly in the 50s.

      I’m not denying there’s still some unfair inequity to either sex in society still, but trying to convince people with absurd hyperbole isn’t going to help anyone’s case.

      Jus’ sayin’

  9. Moni says:

    For the first two games I’ve played manshep as a super good messiah character, and ladyshep as the super evil dick character.

    I’ve just thought the voice performances were better in those roles, maybe I’m just sexist and think all women are bitchy.

    I think I’ll try it the other way around in the third game.

    • Dom_01 says:

      Same here. My first play-through of the game was with the male Shepard as Paragon, the second was with female Shepard as Renegade.

      I really liked Jennifer Hale’s voice for the Renegade options, her voice drips with cold sarcasm.

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      Daiv says:

      My male and female Shepards are different people. It’s not as simple as “one’s goody two shoes and the other is an asshole”, but I consistently make different choices for them and they have well defined natures in my head. Strangely they work out roughly equivalent on the Paragon/Renegade scale but they get there by different means.

  10. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    I wonder if a lot of people who have played Mass Effect even know what the female Shepard sounds/plays like.

  11. ananachaphobiac says:

    When I was a little boy, many years ago, my brother and I made a pact that when presented with such a choice, he would play female and I would play male. Not really sure why. I think it was supposed to be insulting…

    So I’m afraid my hands are now tied by ancient familial customs. I wish I could help, but I can’t.

    • Ross Angus says:

      I’ve played the first Mass Effect with both genders. The second just with my FemShep. But my ManShep will have his chance, once nostalgia kicks in again (around the time the promos for Mass Effect 3 start popping up here think and fast, I guess).

  12. Angel Dust says:

    I generally go with a female or a 50+ year old guy (for that Liam-Neeson-in-Taken vibe) if given the choice, simply because for 99% of all other games, I’m stuck with some grizzly 20-30 something white dude. Currently I’m playing Saints Row 2 as a moderately overweight Hispanic woman and it’s great. It doesn’t look ridiculous and she can more than hold her own with all the macho, gangster posturing. One of the thngs I love about games is the ability to subvert the norms like that.

    • Jesse L says:

      Also, the actress doing the voice for ‘Latina Saints’ Row Thug’ is excellent. Y’all are always in hysterics about Jennifer Hale, but for my money this actress is better. “Fuck you say?”

    • Nick says:

      Character creation in SR2 is amazing.. I can’t wait for SR3.

    • mejoff says:

      Septigenarian cockney punk for me:)

  13. Kapitol says:

    The “average” person is by, statistical default, the majority. So take heart, sophist smartypantses. 18% is an impressive number of people willing to switch genders if you think about games and gamers and how successful Mass Effect is.

    • MiniMatt says:

      Although we don’t know if 18% switched genders if we don’t know the genders of people playing. If 18% of players were female and picked femshep then, with the exception of Mr Walker, precisely zero percent swapped genders.

    • steviesteveo says:

      Strictly speaking that depends on the data set and which average you’re using, though.

      Naturally the “statistical majority” doesn’t mean “everyone” either. The mode gamer might be male but there’s still female gamers.

    • Nalano says:

      I dunno if the mode gamer is male nowadays, either.

      But the original point is right: We dunno who’s gender-swapping because we don’t know the gender breakdown of the player base.

  14. Kdansky says:

    Are you really surprised that the same people who had a homophobic reaction to Anders in DA2 have a hard time playing a female character?

    • Gnoupi says:

      Yes, because Mass Effect players are totally the same as the DA2 players and you are not at all making a silly shortcut.

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      Tom De Roeck says:

      I had a problem in DA:O with leliana, because she took offence when I jumped that spanish elf guy and I said that casual sex was OK. so in order to “get” leliana I had to abstain? how silly.

      And thats one of the very few games where I had a female character.

    • bleeters says:

      @ Gnoupi

      Given the typical reaction to the announcement of s/s in ME3, it’s not that much of a stretch, really.

      My favourite part of that thread are the posts arguing that homosexual people aren’t as brave as and can’t fight as soldiers as well as heterosexual people. Classy stuff.

    • steviesteveo says:

      @Tom De Roeck:

      How excessively picky of her.

    • Nick says:

      Yeah, personally I play a male character because I hate gays and women.

    • Kdansky says:

      @bleeters: That thread is what inspired my comment. Thanks for the link.

      And assuming that ME players also buy Dragon Age seems very… logical?

    • Erd says:

      I only read the OP in that thread, but I love the way he outlines that there is to be no gay bashing in the sentence before he starts bashing gays.

      Edit- 20 Pages?

  15. Tei says:

    Most people from FPS backgrounds have no choice. For the FPS players is very weird to play as a women wen you are a men. For RPG players can be more natural, but even in the RPG world, there are people that think that is very weird to roleplay a women if you are a men.

    The same people that has played as men would have loved the better genuine and more fun version: FemShep, but where not free to make this choice.

    • Nalano says:

      I wonder what the ratio is for TPS players, considering Ms. Croft et al.

    • Urthman says:

      Really? I don’t understand that, Tei. Did you find playing Half-Life weird because you’re not really a scientist? Was Doom weird because you’re not really a space marine? Was Duke Nukem 3D weird because your voice is an octave higher than Jon St. John’s?

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    Tom De Roeck says:

    The thing is, however, I felt completely alienated from any MR trailer, because my male shepard looks nothing like that tardface thats on the promotion. So I honestly get the femshep worshipping, but the problem with any promotion is that they choose the default character anyway. People are going to feel alienated no matter what they do.

    • Wilson says:

      Yeah, same here (and I’d imagine for lots of other people) – my Shepard isn’t going to look like the one in the promos (I haven’t watched them, but I’ve seen banners for the game and things). I would be interested in just how much people tend to customize his appearance and how many change him hugely from the standard.
      Having a Shepard who looks nothing like my Shepard in the marketing stuff never bothered me, because I didn’t think of him as Shepard. He was just a generic space marine showing what you can do in the game, I imagine I’d think the same if I had chosen a female Shepard. Just disconnect the marketing space marine from Shepard as you know them.

    • steviesteveo says:

      I’m slightly unsure people should feel alienated because they changed some settings in the character creation screen. That said, Male Shep sounds like Male Shep regardless of how you play it or mess with the face but there’s a different voice actor involved in Fem Shep

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      Big Murray says:

      Maybe the solution would be to do something radical and release an in-game rendered trailer … a trailer which puts your personal Shepard in the mix.

  17. StingingVelvet says:

    It’s funny that everyone talks about how awesome Hale is as Shep. I played through the original game as both genders and preferred the male Shep voice acting by a wiiiiiidddeeee margin. I never played female Shep in ME2 as a result.

    Guess I’m weird.

  18. zipdrive says:

    *gasp* There’s an option to play a GUY shepard?

  19. Mad Hamish says:

    I try to role play the character as a John McClaine type person. Which is basically a good guy who usually takes the renegade actions(not so much in conversation). Much more entertaining, I wouldn’t want to have missed shooting that fuel tank with the Krogan nattering away on it and plenty of other great renegade moments. But a paragon at heart. So naturally I chose the dude.

    Also I’m a dude and have never harboured fantasies about being a woman. I don’t get the whole “I don’t want to stare at a guys bum for 30 hours” thing. It always sounded like an excuse to me, like they don’t want to admit they just want to play as a women. Although John did just that. Although I like staring at women’s bums, I have other opportunities for that. But after 30 hours do you even still notice the bum?

    • Snidesworth says:

      I think that many people don’t look at their Shepard and go “that’s me in the game.” Shepard has his or her own voice, mannerisms, quirks and history. You can define the personality and history to a fair extent but the character is very much separate from the player. You just get to choose what choices Shepard makes, what direction is taken in conversations and how to blow up that angry bug warrior thing over there.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      >Also I’m a dude and have never harboured fantasies about being a woman.

      Also I’m a dude and I usually don’t play a burly gruff space marine due to my lack of teenage insecurity.

      You can spin it both ways.

    • Nalano says:

      I’m a dude and I’ve very glad to be a dude IRL, but I primarily play female characters in RPGs. Why? Because they’re not me.

    • Mad Hamish says:

      I hold no shame in my John McClane fantasies.

      I was also joking. Every guy’s thought about being a woman. But if I was saving the galaxy, well call me old fashioned but a man’s your only man.

    • Nalano says:

      Okay: You’re old-fashioned.

  20. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    So 82% of Mass Effect players are very incorrect?

  21. Zogtee says:

    /me stands up and clears throat

    I’m a man and I play FemShep.

    It actually has very little to do with playing a different gender and even less to do with looking at a polygon bum throughout the game. It’s all about hardness, you see. I originally rolled a ManShep, customized him to look as badass and hard as possible, but the illusion fell apart quickly when he was given the male voice. That voice is weak and wimpy. It’s not a very masculine voice, if I’m totally honest.

    The female voice on the other hand, is hard as fucking nails. It’s a strong and convincing voice, and that’s why I settled with it.

    • MadMatty says:

      yeah thats the one ;)

      also, i originally coined the term “if i want to stare at someones arse for hours on end, it might aswell be a female one” here on RPS- seems it got into widespread use.

      Hell, it was so popular, i even got haters now.

      /me laughing inside

  22. Premium User Badge

    Malibu Stacey says:

    This just in. Insecure teenage boys with Xbox 360′s apparently like to role play big musclebound men with large weapons (puns intended).

    In other news water is wet, sky is blue & bears have been observed defecating primarily in areas with large concentrations of arboreal growth.

  23. ezekiel2517 says:

    I agree on choosing female characters, if only to break the seemingly unending and tedious Bruce Willis’ clones on video games.

    Come to think of it, Bruce has more dimensions than a lot of video games’ protagonists.

    • IDtenT says:

      That’s because Bruce is fucking awesome

    • Nalano says:

      Only because Bruce Willis plays ONE character throughout all his movies.

      Most FPS protagonists don’t have any character.

  24. Jams O'Donnell says:

    I prefer the male Shepard. I have played ME and ME2 as male and then female (mostly sto see what I was missing since everyone raves about Jennifer Hale), and honestly didn’t like the female voice acting. I also dislike how the female Shepard is your standard gamer boy fantasy lady and not someone who actually looks like a veteran soldier.

  25. Fetthesten says:

    When given a choice, I usually play as a female character despite being a guy myself. Partially for the reasons John give above but also because, well, most game protagonists are men. Makes for a nice change.

    That said, I don’t really appreciate that the biggest difference playing as a female Shepard makes is seen in your available choice of sexual partners, but it’s a start. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Biscuit Shepard’s company as she saved the galaxy twice over.

    Also: I would like it if Rockstar made a game with a female protagonist once. GTA protagonists represent a variety of ethnic backgrounds, but all are male. I’d like to see that kind of story played out from a woman’s point of view.

    Coming soon: GTAV, where you play as an Inuit woman down on her luck in the big city.

    • Gnoupi says:

      And their personalities aren’t the most varied either, in GTA4. Most I have seen so far fall under the basic “amazed by the guy/potentially falling for the guy with the most power or money”.

    • Nalano says:

      Lessee, R* protagonists…

      Black dude (Warriors, GTA:SA, GTA:VCS)
      Latino dude (GTA4:BGT)
      Asian dude (GTA:CW)

      Six games. Not bad, compared to the 14 with white dudes (GTA3, GTA:VC, GTA: LCS, GTA4, GTA4:L&D, Bully, Max Payne, Max Payne 2, Max Payne 3, Manhunt, Manhunt 2, RDRevolver, RDRedemption, LANoire)

  26. Gnoupi says:

    For my girlfriend and I, it’s simple: I’m a guy, I play a guy, she’s a girl, she plays a girl (whenever possible, and it’s rare in FPS for example).

    I don’t care whose “bum” I’m watching for 30 hours. The avatar is “me”, and I’ll rather spend my time watching something else than myself. And since the avatar is “me”, I find it logical to play a guy. Even if I don’t particularly feel related to some perfect muscled hero, it’s still closer than the female equivalent.

    • Nalano says:

      About the “I’d rather spend time watching something else,” most Bioware games have the camera situated directly at your character’s face every time s/he talks, which is quite often.

  27. aircool says:

    I just went with the default male Shep. Which, now I think about it, is quite suprising as I usually have a 50/50-ish split in male and female characters in RPG’s (single player and mmo). However, there’s just no way I can play a female dwarf or orc/goblin.

  28. Angel Dust says:

    I’ve always thought it would be cool if Bioware released some teaser/trailer that ran in ME2, using your savegame to insert ‘The One True Shepard’. I’m guessing it wouldn’t be worth the trouble though.

  29. Sinnorfin says:

    I play ME as Duke NUKEM! :D it’s possible..He even has a casual appearance that goes with the persona..

  30. Premium User Badge

    JiminyJickers says:

    I played as both. On ME2 I first played as a good male character, then as a renegade female character.

    I always tend to play most of the RPG’s with both male and female if there is good reason to play it twice.

  31. Premium User Badge

    Oozo says:

    Just wanted to mention: Tom Bissell will have a portrait of Jennifer Hale in one of the upcoming issues of the “New Yorker”. Knowing Bissell’s and Hale’s work, that auto-qualifies as an interesting read.

  32. Pop says:

    I always ran with the default Shepherd in ME2. My attempts at character creation looked too much like a fish. Why would I want a female fish?

  33. Premium User Badge

    Shockeh says:

    I’d love to have used Jennifer Hale, had I realised all that time ago. But I picked Manshep back in ME, so when I ported to ME2, I had a Manshep. As the OCD in me would require me to play all three again as Femshep, I’m stuck with Manshep. It’s that simple.

  34. indirectx says:

    Um, it’s an RPG. The question I ask is,
    “What would it be like if I (a boy man) were on an epic intergalactic mission?”

    On a second playthrough, perhaps I might ask,
    “What would it be like if I were on an epic intergalactic mission… and I was a woman?”
    at least to enjoy the extra dialogue and voice acting as mentioned.

    I’d be interested to know how many people played through twice and then what proportion picked the opposite gender the second time. (Assuming, of course, that only men played this game…cough)

    • Lacessit says:

      I can at least give you my account:

      I played through the original ME as a burly boy space-cowboy, then started over again as a slightly different burly space-cowboy. The main difference being a hideous porn moustache on the first one that I hadn’t really noticed in all it’s vileness during char creation. So second run through, that’s canon you know, That’s the one true Shepard, the one I wanted to stick with. So after another 2 runthroughs, mainly with varying degrees of dicksishness that the One True Shepard wouldn’t dream of perpetrating I DID get curious about Fem-Shep. So I booted one up. Called her Kara (yes, I went there) And it was all pretty cool, it was all pretty nice, I got pretty far too. But I never finished that run through. Same on ME 2 btw. Again with a Kara :p

  35. Jumwa says:

    Though I’ve barely gotten into the game at all, I created a female main character for Mass Effect. However, it’s not something I always do in games. Just… a large portion of the times. Maybe most, I don’t know. I enjoy playing a female character for the reasons John listed, all of them, I’ll confess.

    One thing my puny male brain can’t understand, however, is why they want to keep thrusting the main character into the spotlight for the advertising when the main character isn’t a fixed persona. I don’t recall there being a big image of a pre-defined Revan on the cover of Old Republic. I’d find it downright bizarre to see an image of a fixed “Dragonborn” on the advertisements for Skyrim.

    Surely they could come up with ways to promote the game other than a pre-defined white male hero front and center? It has been done in the past successfully, after all.

  36. Josh Wanamaker says:

    Jennifer Hale’s performance as femShep just completely blows away whatever-his-name-is that did ManShep. Hale’s performance is full of emotion, and she sounds like she actually gives a damn about what’s happening in the game. ManShep sounds like he couldn’t be more bored of the script and he just wants to get out of the studio. He puts no passion into his performance, and his voice is a boring monotone.

    It’s also rather frightful how similar John’s Shepard is to mine…although I don’t know why I went with the green eyeshadow this time around. Regardless I’m pretty sure my Shepard is the only real Shepard, and all you other Shepards are just imitating.

    http://i.imgur.com/eVZNu.jpg

  37. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    Male Shep’s voice acting is nowhere near as bad as some suggest (I played ME1 once with him instead of my usual female Shepard) but yeah Hale’s voice acting is certain;y more pleasing to my ears.

    It’s natural habit for me now to play as a female character in any RPG that offers a choice. Although funnily enough in any non RPG that offers a gender choice I’ll tend to plump for a bloke (though these games are few and far between).

  38. McDan says:

    I’ve got 4 playtrhoughs of both male and female shepards (1 paragon and renegade of each sex) but femshep is better, it just feels more right to have her as the real shepard, saying that as a man. Probably because of the outstanding voice acting. I’m going to go play them both again now, get a 5th character run through mass effects 1 and 2 to have a saved game for the third one, probably be a woman again, because it’s better.

  39. Drake Sigar says:

    I never played a female character before, but with Mass Effect I feel obligated to play through at least once each for both genders. Always as renegade of course.

  40. WolVenom says:

    I played first paragon male on PC and then renegade female on x360. The Renagade Female is the best character in the entire game. and I’m gonna play female first in ME3 and on PC ofc.

  41. Ginger Yellow says:

    I played default mShep for ME1, mainly because I suck at character creators. They always come out looking wrong. For ME2, I downloaded a save with the same choices as mine, but fShep, and tweaked her a tiny bit in the character creator. Much better. Definitely going fShep in ME3.

  42. Zelnick says:

    I always play a male human character if given choices as that’s what I am, and I like to role-play the character with a semblance of my own personality. Playing female or “evil” characters is a bit jarring to me as I cannot connect with them nearly as easily (plus it breaks my suspension of disbelief a bit with the way some of these games are written).

    Also, male Shepards voice was not bad.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      This. Except I always play a male neutral or evilton. But this.

    • Erd says:

      Yeah, I tend to play each decision individually. I don’t really see any reason to min/max the good and evil levels.

  43. Patches the Hyena says:

    I’ve played numerous Male and Female Shepards, in both Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. I particularly liked my Samuel L. Jackson Shep (Soldier. Come on, what else?) and Scully from X-Files Shep (Sentinel).

    Regarding voice acting, I prefer Jennifer Hale, but Mark Meer certainly does an above average job. It’s pleasing that FemShep is finally getting some love from Bioware, and it’ll be interesting to see the gender split statistic in Mass Effect 3.

  44. DK says:

    I played Male shep cause it’s an RPG with a fixed story, where the only variables are the choices you make – of course I’m going to play “me” making those choices. And I happen to be Male.

    I’ve played the female shep shortly cause of the supposedly good voice acting and, just like with Male shep, I very shortly started skipping the dialogue.

    Which brings me to the big problem Bioware games developed since Mass Effect:
    YOU CANT PROPERLY SKIP DIALOGUE. I read faster than those munchkins talk, and they’re not good enough actors to make me listen. I want to get on with it.

    But I can’t. Because the skip line button, SKIPS MULTIPLE LINES. How stupid a game designer do you have to be, to make the skip line button SKIP MULTIPLE LINES.

    • Tomm says:

      I’m playing ME1 at the moment and I’m pretty sure pressing X (on the Xbox) only skips the current line of dialog. I play with subtitles on and it just skips what’s currently on screen, regardless of who’s speaking next.

    • DK says:

      Yes, sorry – it actually works in Mass Effect 1, but has the problem of sometimes poping up the “choose your next dialogue option” wheel at different times into the current line – leading to many instances of accidental dialgoue selections depending your reading speed. It’s horrible, but admittedly not as horrible as the “skips a random amount of lines” of Mass Effect 2 and DA1/DA2.

    • Nalano says:

      The only way it’ll skip multiple lines is if you have bad timing and hit right at the end when a new line is spoken.

    • Tomm says:

      Also, if you hold the joystick in the up or down position you won’t skip the next dialogue choice.

    • DK says:

      Joystick? Have you noticed Mass Effect is a shooter – and Dragon Age is an RPG?

    • Tomm says:

      As I said, I play on Xbox, which has a controller which has joysticks on it.

  45. Teddy Leach says:

    I play a hard angry ManShep and punch people. I also shoot people. I also blew up the council.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      The council blew themselves up with their decadence and stagnation. If you ask me, they needed a little genocide to clear the air.

  46. jymkata says:

    I kind of want to play with mShep now that there’s going to be a gay option (representin’ yo,) but if that means sitting through ME 1 to get to 2 and 3, I might pass.

  47. tungstenHead says:

    Now, I don’t buy a huge amount of games; one a month maybe and I tend to go with what my clan mates are playing. But when I think about buying games for myself, one of the thoughts that runs through my head is, “Can I play as a female character?” If the answer is yes, my interest goes way up. I have bought games that I otherwise wouldn’t just because I can play as a female character. The genre and gameplay do matter more than playing as a female sometimes, but it has been a strong selling point to me in a few instances.

    I will always play a female when given the choice.

  48. Premium User Badge

    Big Murray says:

    What that figure needs is a statistic on what the gender split in the player base is, to put it in context. If it turns out that by odd turn of maths 80+% of that userbase is male, then it suddenly doesn’t become that surprising.

    I play a male character because I’ve always wanted to put myself in my character’s shoes as much as possible in any RPG. Not having lady-parts, I find this more difficult as a female character.

    • Premium User Badge

      Big Murray says:

      I wasn’t aware that everything on RPS had to be “news”, it not being a news site and all.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      So now it’s a “repost stories you already covered months ago” site?

      Or maybe this is just a big troll by John to provoke yet another FemShep discussion. Didn’t have enough of those.

    • Nalano says:

      Judging from the number of comments, it still hasn’t gotten old.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Fair enough.

  49. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I played ME1 (and consequently ME2) as a male Shepard, but that choice was more arbitrary than deliberate. I also changed his looks – nothing against that fashion model they used for the standard-guy, but his face just doesn’t say “veteran space soldier” to me.

    I like female main characters in games, especially if that goes against some of the clichés associated with the genre of the game in question. It’s nice to see a girl kicking butt in an unsubtle, “male” way (or solves problems in general without using methods connected to classical gender roles). If she actually possesses a nice butt herself, that’s a bonus.

    If I ever replay ME1, I would do it with a female Shepard.