According to a fascinating new study, one in three male gamers will always choose to play as a female character when given the option in a video game.
New research compiled by Quantic Foundry (thanks, TheGamer) finds that just 29% of males would go for the likes of Kassandra over Alexios in Assassin's Creed Odyssey, or female Shephard over male Shephard in Mass Effect. This is compared to less than one in ten female gamers picking male characters if given the choice.
Personally, I'd typically choose female wherever possible. A lot of the time it's because I find it to be the more interesting choice! Maybe I prefer the female voice actor (as is the case in Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Mass Effect), or maybe I just want a change of pace from the last several decades of games where the default option is a grizzled white dude.
Whatever the case, 48% of male respondents said they'd preferred playing as characters of the same gender. That's a staggering contrast to the female participants: 76% said they preferred to play as a woman, with 9% going for male when given a choice. Again, I'd assume a large part of this is because women aren't exactly showered with opportunities to play as other women - at least they haven't been, historically speaking.
The researchers posit that some men may choose to play as a female because they find the characters more attractive when compared to male avatars. They also suggest that video games in which you can choose to be a man or a woman give men a safer space to explore their own relationship with gender norms and push the boundaries on their own terms.
Non-binary players and characters were also included in the study, with non-binary gamers opting to play as non-binary characters where possible. Of course, there's still a massive lack of non-binary representation in video games right now, with most character creators offering up plain male/female options.
In these instances, 33% of non-binary respondents would choose female, and 10% male.