Gender Roles in MMORPGs versus MUDs

Playable Siren race from Achaea MMORPG
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Anyone who's played an MMORPG has seen certain stereotypes in video games. The “tank” is a dude, the “healer” is a chick. It doesn't matter what gender the toons, or even the characters behind them, are. That's the stereotype most players start with and its clear the real world perceptions of gender roles bleed into what people automatically assume in gaming.


Studies have been done to investigate what motivates male gamers versus female gamers. One of the most common results found is that women prefer socialization and communal achievements, while men aim for competition and direct victory over opponents. Beyond that, evidence suggests that females will actually lose interest in games that lack interaction or engagement beyond just the gameplay and mechanics.


Perhaps this is why the “nurturer” roles like healers are often assumed to be feminine roles, while PvP is considered a male domain. In fact, in a study done on EverQuest II players, levels of aggression showed a distinct impact from who gamers played with: men actually demonstrated more aggression, and females less, when they gamed with significant others.


However, unlike MMOs, MUDs are far more encompassing of what one's “role” means and is defined by. PvP and PvE are not isolated scenarios divorced from the rest of the game itself, but are intrinsically intertwined with core gameplay. In Lusternia, for example, you might hunt creatures or quest to increase your city's power levels, or jump in and help fight at a revolt to increase your commune's influence in the world. Under Aetolia's Ylem system, cities group up for team combat every few hours to secure precious resources for their factions, and in Achaea you may find yourself called upon to defend your house's icon from attack. 


Each of these situations listed yield all types of participants as the effects from victory are tangible rewards for both the individuals and the characters' organizations. Combat and PvE participation is both about competition and socialization. A player can fight for the sake of fighting and aim to crush their opponents; but they are just as likely to be driven to join in out of a desire to help make their organizations stronger. 


But MUDs are not just about PvP and PvE. They are complex, with many other facets to the roles available. Players can design and craft clothing, jewelry and even alcoholic beverages, run shops as merchants, be a priest for an all-powerful god, or deftly manipulate political alliances as a government official. You'll find intrepid economists, shadowy spies, philosophers, scientists, artists, because the mechanics of MUDs tie all of these elements – roleplay, combat, PvE, PvP, politics, economy - together to weave who a character is.


However, even with this depth to character that MUDs offer, do gender roles still echo through? In Aetolia, for example, there is a guild called the Druids which is focused on a defensive, supporting role, with the ideals based around protecting nature and communicating with plantlife. Membership in this guild has shown a far larger proportion of female characters than male, with all of the current leadership being women. Is this the MUD equivalent of an MMO's “healer” role?


So, what do you think? Have MUDs found a magical balance in incentive and motivation, making things appealing to both genders, a goal MMORPGs are still struggling to reach? Or are things still largely defined around real world gender roles? Weigh in with your comments!


Author: Moirean of Aetolia

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Graphical MMOs reinforce stereotypes more because many of us want to play idealized versions of ourselves, and sex appeal definitely sells.


MUDs have many avenues of progression, so they'll appeal from all genders and walks of life, but for the most part, the aggressive PvPers trump what others want to do.

Maybe. I find that I'm pretty hostile and aggro as a fighter in MUDs though, far more than I am in MMOs. Why is that?

Maybe because the XP loss on death makes it more realistic and your survival instincts kick in? I've only done spars but I've found I play agressive on MMOs as well, just differently. Death doesn't matter so much (unless it is a game like EVE Online) so I take on a more suicidal playstyle. Going to be interesting to see how I fare in 'live' combat.


Have you seen them? They're all either super hot or super ugly. I don't believe I've seen someone ordinary looking yet. That, or they're blank.

He is a mhun of average height. Lean and lightly built, he moves with swift economy, grey eyes constantly assessing and re-assessing his surroundings.  Framed by short-cropped dark hair, his features are thin and youthful, lined by hardships and weariness rather than age.


Don't know if that's ordinary or not, but I don't think it's extreme either.

In my experience playing Avalon and Aetolia both, I would say that PVPing and other offensive type roles, read: War Minister/Minister of Justice type positions, are definitely accessible to female characters as well as male. I have known several city-leaders who were females and at the same time very aggressive/violent characters who indulge in wars and PVP. Even at this time, Moirean of Aetolia is the leader of the Carnifex; a guild of vicious soul-thieving knights.


That being said, while I feel that every role is accessible to every player, I think that willing participation in these roles by females is generally lacking (in the games I have played.) I have indeed known female Ministers of War, female characters who are as violent and aggressive as any male could possibly be (even moreso in some cases.) However in my experience, these seem to be the exception rather than the norm; the majority of female characters I know personally, prefer to indulge in PVP only when necessary, and lean more heavily towards the builder/development roles rather than aggressive destructive ones.

It seems like most of the more famous PvPers in Achaea are male, or at least playing male characters.

There are always exceptions to steriotypes and also people who fit into the stereotypes. I personally like non super combative roles, but I know plenty of women who like combat. Likewise with male healers etc....

Just hazarding a guess that females like to wear nice dresses and cloths more than men, on average. 

with that guy ^^

Has always been a place where people could explore various facets of themselves, less confined by many social mores. 



...and I found that while combat is exhilarating, I don't have an overwhelming sense of the need to dominate others. I liked the macro-vision (all facets) in mid-sized or large scale engagements and what goes into planning, preparation, and execution. Hyperlith as a character has been more lucky than good to beat others in combat but is better in supply, transport, planning, etc. of the combat goings-on.


While often overlooked or sometimes taken for granted, most people do appreciate the role taken on to heal and supply from other players.

theres no comparison


I sometimes wonder how different it would be if I had a male character.  Maybe if I'm bored one day, I'll try making an alt.

I always play female characters and have rarely felt like I was expected to fill any gender role. Although I did make a Bahkatu character in Aetolia and the alpha was a complete misogynist. But I don't think I've ever made a male character, so I can't really compare.


Surely there are no women on the internet......

none, we keep them inside and veiled.

because of the higher rp rates.

Not to say you do still get the random person with perfectly rounded breasts >_>


I wish male players would stop playing female characters and perpetuating demeaning stereotypes.

Maybe start with the woemen who play demeaning sterotypical female characters?

I think for a woman named Toot I act rather rough...

beacuase I can? Ok I am not lying this is seriously just fr the credit.



A bit confusing

Me too

unfortunately, it is seems to me that it is hard to accurately tell what percentage of the playerbase is what gender, making it hard to tell where the balance is





there are, I believe, far more female priests then Knights in Achaea

There are a lot of factors playing into that, though, based on only 2 factions having priests, while all 6 can have knights, but the factions that have priests are a bit soft. Knight combatants do tend to be male though.

I find it intresting looking at Mhaldor's gender demographics

how come?

There was a mention above regarding the fact leadership roles generally equate to paperwork and willingness to nurture, spending time fostering the growth of other characters - this is all true, and is why I tend to find more females involved in the higher echelons of orgs. Likewise, over the last decade in Achaea there has been a noticeably higher ratio of men to women heavily involved in PvP.

Really don't agree. You don't have to nuture to be a good leader, you simply have to not undermine others.

I really don't have much to contribute to this, Still a good read.

I find there are roughly equal numbers of female and male characters. And the females can be scary there... As for combat: I'm learning equal amounts from both male and female characters. The balance is interesting, and not so skewed that it stands out.

I used to play achaea, and I honestly never noticed any stark difference between male and female... influence(?), on the game itself.

That was my experience when I played there.




are better


how so?

of course, people playing opposite gendered characters make the accuracy of any analysis hard to judge

Everything is an illusion.

Never really noticed any gender roles of significant importance.

I agree



The "tank" is a dude... and the dude is Jeff Bridges.


But I think you need to take note of the people being studied, Everquest fans are crazy after all!




still a credit



Yeah I agree and all that.

Bikini armor ftw?


Though I wouldn't call it armor. Battle clothing maybe.





@Till Meh?







Fun fun article


Still waiting on that sex change artifact.


We already have one in Lusternia, it's called the Bubble of Gender Switching, costs 100 credits (there is also another artifact that costs more that lets you switch genders once per weave)


For those that are on a more limited budget and take up some Dramatics training you can Genderbend for 5 aetheric power =p


Would, let's just not have that o.O

One of them has graphics

They have something like a sex change thing in Lusternia :P

Permanent as well as non-permanent, even. And a Divine who blurs the lines between genders, as well as certain aspects in Gaudiguch RP seem to revolve around this. I think it is quite refreshing to see a game embed such things which may be seen as controvercial or taboo.

do girl bahkatu like the extra hair in bear form? i've always wondered...

Still do to some degree, I'm sure.

Is it bad I look forward to the day a ritual backfires so hard it causes a temporary gender change? That's gonna be some fun RP.

There once was an april fools event in guildwars which changed the gender of every character for the day. It'd be pretty amusing to see that in a mud 'Divine mishap' or something.

I can't RP as a girl :<

valid points were made by all


With the point I said here.

I still want to be a guy.

I am curious to see what percentage of players roleplay a gender other than their own

That number probably wouldn't surprise you nearly as much as you would think.

Can't be a girl still


something like that

Shinji is a bit of a girl :P

The only class in Achaea I have seen consistently be less female are the knight houses - but even there its not like the leadership has been untouched by them (look at the Runewardes/Wardens after all, which most of the HL/GMs I've been active to see there HAVE been female). I think the thing about MUDs is that they really offer more room for this diversity in role because it is so much more then game mechanics.

There have been several active female characters in the Maldaathi. Which is interesting. I wonder how many of them are actual females IRL.


I've never had a problem with being taken seriously in games as a female, beyond the rare,  'there are no women on the internets' joke.


I thought men just went where ever the ladies were at and felt enticed to do things more so than gameplay mechanics allowed? Even sometimes against basic physics, stuff comes out of the hole but stuff does not go into the hole...

that's what you think!



1400h, 900m - touch penis
You have no penis.
1400h, 900m -

That one never gets old! :D 

Cutting edge of comedy.


The good thing about the world of Midkemia online is that along the way in the lore there were quite a few strong willed women characters. MKO Has a mix of genders fulfilling different roles in each city. Elvandar has historically been run mainly by female characters and some of the best soldiers I have played with have been women too.

achaea always been pretty well balanced, imp


Still agree







Can I have my credit?

I don't really understand the purpose of this article.

There's usually a good balance in Imperian as far as politics and roleplay seems to be concerned, though I've mainly had characters in Kinsarmar on and off. Combat also seems pretty balanced, but I haven't participated in many raids (though I'm always on defense) and shardfalls simply because I find it hard to follow all the combat messages going back and forth. 

Keep trying, combat "slows down" eventually.

Being able to create your own system helps to an extent. You can gag all the unimportant crap, replace many of the messages with easy to read stuff and basically 'slow' the combat down artificially by filtering it.

That being said, it's still hard to follow, lol.

get used to skim reading it eventually, and be able to keep up, at least one on one.

no such thing

I tried playing a guy once, It was annoying.

No gender roles, really in any mmorpg. Knights, thieves, combatants, leaders, blah.. Just don't be a novice girl in the Sentaari. Unless you're into that.


Into what? This sounds bad :(








As I get further into the Maldaathi (Evil Knight house, for non achaeans), there really is a huge lack of gender roles in the house. Male and female are expected to be strict with themselves and others, curt with any comments, and obey orders without question. Kind of interesting. Before I joined, Katz favoured study, art, crafting, and merchanting over combat, (was origionally bard for a few years before going infernal) but since, combat has taken a large role in her character.


Amusingly, my partner IRL (male, I am female) plays a gay, Hashani (neutral) runewarden, who loves to dance, and snuggle...  we couldn't really have gone in much different directions while still both being knights. 

Credit comment.

you certainly do see more males in Mhaldor, which is an intreting reflection of this

and of course they used that siren picture for this. Way to go, guys

I'm planning on trying to get into PvP, though it is a little scary. Never done anything like this before.

It's actually really fun when you get into it.



While common 'stereotypes' exist, in the end a female could easily do as much damage as a male, in certain roles you'd expect them to do more (such as monk based roles like Tahtetso/Ninjakari where a female would generally be more flexible, limber and agile which fits into the fact that most of their power comes from dexterity)

not much difference in roles based on gender in muds, as far as I can tell.  Except for in "brothels".

Stats can be used a million different ways.
In saying that I wouldn't be surprised if males are more PvP orientated

Good Article

i bet the male characters are more likely to have that visible flaw in their description.  Scar across the face or what-have-you.

Maybe. I know my Imperianite character is riddled with scars that are intended to show off that she's not what one would consider a "lady", everything from animal bites to knife wounds to carvings of amazonian tattoos. Half an ear missing... And I've noticed a lot of others in the guild doing the same thing, though granted there are those who continually describe themselves as "flawless". I've always considered it poor roleplay to describe oneself like that.

it's intresting that in Mhaldor the most female-dominated house is the monk house

of course they used that siren pic for this article

many aspects of the game seem fairly balanced

I'm a girl who's only ever played girls, but I've played many different classes. I had a magi for a year and a half-ish, and I've had a few alts (that almost all got deleted) of the various classes. Jester, Paladin, Serpent, Druid, Sylvan, Sentinel, and I currently have a Runewarden.

I hate PvP because I don't have a cure system (getting one soon though), and besides, my Magi used to participate in raid defense- and being Shallamese, there were a LOT of them- and I could never keep up with all the messages flying across my screen. After about two seconds, my eyes hurt, and three minutes in, I'm like, 'Screw this. (PT: I gotta go, sorry)' and left. I COULD NOT fight. Ugh.

So really, the only reason I dislike PvP is that my eyes can't keep up with everything that's happening... And I kept getting afflicted, and dieing, losing like, 10 levels. :P

Women r 4 mudsecx


I think roles for both genders are significntly supported, to a point. That being said, there's still a few things that could use tweaking, but in instances when you've had these worlds going for as long as they have, there will alawys be something that has hit a rut for way too long, things that need to be changed somewhat to encourage new or returning players to give it a second look.


Still, I don't think that these gender roles are the issue, or at least not as they've been traditionally portrayed.

It's like pointing out theireare more female teachers than males.  Certain classes and races tend to appeal more to certain demographics.  Some people like to RP themselves with a bit of fantasy and some people like to use it as an outlet to RP someone completely the opposite of themselves in real life.  To each his own.


Credit comment.

Maybe I will now...




I can't believe people comment just to get a credit.









We need a new gender in Imperian a third one...(trolololololll)


// classlead..

My long post on a random message board used primarily for credit farm will SURELY change how genders are viewed in a game!



We all know every single female in a game is played by a fat ugly dude.

An illusion about an illusion

Credit comment.

Achaea has done a great job for both genders. I have known a few women who love playing this game.

On MUDs it all depends on how in depth the roleplay is. if its shallow then gender is not noticed

allow for more interaction beyond just gameplay mechanics so whatever role you want is more free but such roles still exist.

I've found that the gender roles in Achaea at least have been incredibly varied and potentially very far from what may be considered "traditional".

I can't really say anything one way or another in regards to "gender roles", all I know is that I, as a MALE, prefer the social and PVE aspects versus the PVP, and total combat mechanics of Achaea...

Seems like there are more male combatants in Achaea, as a rule, but there are some great female fighters too.

Gender is just a state of mind...or a flag in a character file.

It's not the games that enforce stereotypes. It's the human being, armed with the internet.

I think it's more that people have created the character the way they "perceive" to be a legitimate role, be that a male or female. If the woman want's a mighty combatant who kills everyone and eats kittens for breakfast. Then she will go with what she knows (Although there are a few of cases) which being in the Genre of fantasy, tends to be male. Whereas if a male wants to play a manipulative seductive healer who likes to tickle puppies for lunch, he goes for a female character.... Generally just genere stereotypes, rather than real world.

(That being said IRE has a healthy dose of originality in this regards... as well as run of the mill.)

I don't even

Seems like everyone's hunting on Achaea regardless of gender - but then again, I'm relatively new and resistant to a proper role in city/house politics just yet. :)


They're all dudes.



doesn't exist

That Siren says it all.

Most of the active Druids in Achaea are female, much like in Aetolia, it seems.

this is something that I have not considered

Credit comment.

no idea

Males rule.. Of course, isn't it obvious?


Males do rule and I need a credit too. Zaeel is on the right track.

Credit comment

even if these exist a bit, there are definitely some unstereotypical females

ugh, topic discussed to death

Credit comment.


Gender is what you do to languages, but as far as roles of the two sexes, I think it would matter more if females actually played! All of you are just dudes!

They are tedious at times

It'll be interesting to see how they play out in Midkemia.







There are no gender roles in MUDs.

I've noted none what-so-ever in all honesty.

Women > men

one thing that's rare is to see a player role-playing the opposite gender WELL.

Still seems that toons are too "beautified" regardless of medium

And article about gender roles, bascially asking, "How are you feeling." Sigh.

Credit comment.

An interesting insight as to females versus males.

I think this post is hooblah in mmo's I often play a stalwart female warrior or paladin type. It is one of my favorite tropes that I don't think we see nearly enough of in gaming today.

seems a bit thin.







Gender roles do not exist in mmorpgs

Gender roles exist everywhere. People just like to pretend they don't.

Credit comment.



Credit comment? Or did they stop that?



I guess it comes to deperation.

This article has made me think a lot about the subject; I find it quite fascinating that you can frequently find a lot more diverse people in a MUD rather then an MMO; and I'm not going to say that there are no male healers, and female tanks. I've actually made both characters; yet to my knowledge with Graham here, I based him solely on me. I would hardly think I'm the mannliest man, who eats steaks, and punches bears in the face; kind of difficult when you're a Paladin I'd think.

mean to sound sexist or anything... but in Achaea most people who engage in combat are male, even as "support" or "healing", not saying everyone is a guy but women really don't seem to find combat either 1v1 or team combat fun, I have tried to  teach what I know about fights to some women but they all end up losing interest

Opens you up to all sorts of stereotyping. Not that it is always wrong, or course, but it does pidgeonhole some into one type of roleplay.


There is nothing wrong with gender 'roles'.

gender roles in MUDs and games in general are changing.  You can be whoever you want to be.