My husband recently acquired The Witcher 3, and has been on me to make time to play. He insists it's just the sort of game that I like: immersive, open world, story-rich. Despite being pretty deep in the game himself, he's even gone so far as to entice me to the couch, start up a new game, and pass me the controller. But while I'm content to watch him play for a bit, or hear his stories about particularly well-executed plot lines, I just haven't felt the itch. Is it lack of time? Lack of interest? Lack of desire to really lose myself in a proven stellar game? Nope.
It's because I can't play a girl.
Despite growing up with Link and Mario, I didn't really get into gaming until college, when Morrowind blew. My. Mind. And guaranteed I'd spend the entire day in my pajamas monopolizing my then-boyfriend's Xbox, stopping only to take the stereotypical pee and Ramen breaks. The customization was laughable by today's standards, but carefully crafting an avatar, another self, and pursuing my wildest questing dreams in an open world was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
And that's just my marriage.
But truly, I was hooked. Over the years my favorites have always been those games that allowed for me to really immerse myself not only in a killer story, but also do so in a very personalized capacity. If there's a game with an algorithm that allows for it to accommodate <Insert Name Here>, chances are I've played the hell out of it. Knights of the Old Republic I and II, Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect, Fallout 3. I probably spent as much time in graduate school playing World of Warcraft as I did writing papers.
My desire to play a female avatar, to play through a story that doesn't assume I'm a dude, doesn't come from a place of just wanting to snog Alistair's face off - though I totally do. It has a whole lot more with feeling culturally like I'm always coming up against a male narrative as a universal narrative, which I feel like I shouldn't have to say isn't true, and because the very best games give the player the opportunity to forget they're playing, just like reading a good book. These are RPGs. Giving me the space and imagination to assume a role is what they're supposed to be doing. And if I'm constantly being reminded of my non-maleness by rescuing a princess, or visuals that are clearly designed to arouse your typical heterosexual dude, I'm pulled out of the story and reminded that this wasn't made or meant for me, at least not wholly.
I'm sure The Witcher 3 is stellar; I've heard and seen enough about the story to feel pretty confident in recommending it. But I've also heard just about every female character the protagonist encounters proposition him, so I feel pretty confident, too, about my decision to invest my time elsewhere.