To many RPG players, it is common to find ourselves in the situation where we have to decide on the identity of our main character. And it would usually start with the question of which gender would you like to play as? To note, this does not reflect the players of how they identify themselves as, because I’ve seen a lot of my male friends that identify as he/him, who would create their online gaming avatars as female.
Not judging. Just stating my observations. I don’t want to delve into that issue because that’s a whole other behemoth of a topic to discuss about, filled with antagonistic comments just waiting beyond the veil. Instead, I want to look into the game itself. And in this post, I would like to discuss about the Persona 3 Portable game, which provided the players with a choice of being either a male or a female protagonist. Additionally, what we can observe from both playthroughs, is that there are significant differences in the dialogue and choices that you can take as a female or male character.
From the get-go, we start with a confused protagonist (either as a male MC or as a female MC, lovingly and neutrally referred to as FeMC) who was thrown into the world of Persona 3 at the stroke of midnight. After witnessing a series of strange incidents, our protagonist actively took part in what was happening by taking up the SEES gun (SEES: Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad) and entering a battle with the monsters of the Shin Megami Tensei universe: the shadows.
After the first battle with the shadows, we’re introduced to the other characters. Most of them are your housemates at the dorm and you’ll spend a lot of your time with them. Over time, you get to interact with more people and you build more relationships with people outside of your dorm and outside of your school. In terms of the game mechanics, the idea of having a variety of other characters helps the player spend their in-game time and also as a method to expand your selection of Personas, which you can unlock when you get closer with these characters. They are referred to as ‘Social Links’ (which were later renamed as ‘Confidants’ in Persona 5). In terms of these Social Links, we can also see that there is some form of variety as to who are assigned to each link. While there are still some Social Links that are shared between the MC and the FeMC, the changed ones can either be your friends, or they can end up as your lover(s). However, you can choose not to pursue these romantic interests. However, be careful not to lead them on, because if you do and you reject their confession(s), you’ll break your Social Link(s) and therefore you had to start over from scratch.
It is later revealed in the game that the backstory of the protagonist (both male and female) are the same. However, from the interactions that both characters are able to take, we can see that they have more differences than similarities. Therefore, we can see that, unlike many other RPGs with the selection between a female or male version of the same protagonist, these two characters are basically two different people with the same history. This proves that you can’t immediately assume how a person would be like just because they share the same background as someone else.
But these characters aren’t exactly playing their gender roles as we’ve come to know, especially when we’re referring to a lot of mainstream anime and JRPGs, where most of the leading ladies have a rather conservative nature, minus the occasional bursts of energy. But it’s pretty common for them to blush at the suggestion of something indecent.
And then there’s FeMC…
I’m not saying that she’s the only female JRPG character who would say something like that, but it’s pretty rare and I appreciate that they are. Overdoing the gag would take away the originality of a character. Emulating them is okay, but I don’t like my characters being carbon copies of something that has already existed in the archive of fictional characters.