ONTD Political

Why is Blizzard still OK with Gender Inequality in World of Warcraft?

10:24 am - 04/04/2012
In most games I play, from World of Warcraft to Star Wars: The Old Republic, I make an effort to play mainly female characters. Unlike other males who play female characters, this isn't for cosmetic reasons; I'm not one of those dudes who can't bear to stare at his male character's butt for multiple hours a day. (How this is ever an argument that makes sense to people, I don't know.) This was a conscious decision on my part a few years ago, when I started to become aware of the discrimination faced by female characters.

See, when you make the decision to make a female character, you're intentionally and unintentionally signing up for a number of things. First, you are intentionally signing up to play a female character. This could be because you identify as female, because you prefer the look of female characters, or any number of other reasons (including the butt one). What you're unintentionally signing up for goes further.

You're unintentionally signing up for jokes made at your expense in a raid, like when my priest hit 85 and did BH in leveling gear, and my low HPS was mocked because I was a girl playing WoW. You're unintentionally signing up for harassment, for the catcalls and people begging you to talk in Vent, like you're a rare species of bird they'll only be able to hear once. You're unintentionally signing up to be victimized by other players because you dared roll something other than male at level 1, and you didn't know there'd be consequences for that choice.

Those forms of sexism aren't anything new to the World of Warcraft, but thankfully they're largely limited to the immature playerbase and not the game's creators. Unfortunately, Blizzard has its own gender issues to work out, and some of them are made clear by just rolling a female character

Gender inequality in my World of Warcraft? Can't be!

Yesterday morning, a forum post on the Mists of Pandaria Beta Feedback forum highlighted some of the sexism players are unintentionally signing up for when they sign on to their female character. Ji Firepaw, an NPC you meet on the Wandering Isle who goes on to become leader of the pandaren Horde faction, greets female characters in a very creepy way, saying "Hello, friend! You're some kind of gorgeous, aren't you? I bet you can't keep the men off of you! Join me! You and I are going to be good friends!" To men, he instead says "Hello, friend! You've got a strong look to you! I bet you're all the rage with the ladies! Join me! You and I are going to be good friends!"

This sort of gendered gameplay is unsettling, especially due to how out of sync with the pandaren race it is. Ji Firepaw's comments about the male looking strong would have been just as appropriate for a female character. For a female pandaren monk or warrior, "gorgeous" is most likely not the compliment they're looking for, and players aren't playing those characters to be complimented on their looks.

What's worse is that these aren't the only problems foist upon a player for choosing to play a female character. The most prominent issue, as old as girls in games themselves, is the armor issue, where game developers turn a torso-covering breastplate into a chainmail bra when it's on a female character. In this case, women who didn't want their female warriors to tank in metal bras and panties weren't really considered. Likewise, for some reason, male characters were never forced to wear chainmail underwear when the same item appeared as pants on a woman.

Seriously, why does this still exist?(OP note: Oh you poor, naïve soul)

My question, though, is why is this a thing? Why is it that developers are fine providing women with an unequal and often worse game experience? Why are developers OK with allowing female PCs to be harassed by male NPCs or requiring them to wear totally impractical armor pieces? It seems easy enough to make a game that isn't gender insensitive -- all you have to do is treat female and male characters equally. If you want people to have chainmail bra and panties, make the same piece as objectifying on a male character as it is on a women. If you're going to have a creepy dude running the pandaren race for the Horde, make his interactions equally creepy if you're a male PC -- or better, don't make them creepy at all, and have him remark on how strong your female pandaren look.

Unfortunately, I'm not a Blizzard developer (and while this is aimed at Blizzard, it's a critique of most game companies as a whole), and I can't fathom why they're OK with this going on. My best guess would be that they find the number of creepy dudes who think Ji's harassment is funny and that chainmail bikinis are hot is higher than the number of women gamers who would get offended by them, and they're trying to appeal to the majority. On a business sense, this might be practical. On a moral sense, it's reprehensible.

Unfortunately, it's the best idea I have to go on, because I can't otherwise fathom why unequal gender experiences still exist and are still being supported in the World of Warcraft.

---
Source (which has links supporting his argument):http://wow.joystiq.com/2012/04/03/why-is-blizzard-still-ok-with-gender-inequality-in-world-of-warc/#continued
Posting this article because the last few articles on sexism and gaming have been major faily fail that are all "what's everyone so upset about?" I wish the article writer also mentioned how during an Uldum questline, you play with Indiana Jones's clone Harrison Jones, who tells a male character when something is going to blow up to move out of the way because "We wouldn't want you to get hurt." For women? "I wouldn't want a pretty little thing like you getting hurt." You bet my orc /spat and /rude at him. She was not amused.

Also, DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS. It is full, as always, of whining dudebros whose precious egos are bruised by the fact that the article's calling out WoW's sexism.
dragonhawker 4th-Apr-2012 06:08 pm (UTC)
Ji Firepaw, an NPC you meet on the Wandering Isle who goes on to become leader of the pandaren Horde faction, greets female characters in a very creepy way, saying "Hello, friend! You're some kind of gorgeous, aren't you? I bet you can't keep the men off of you! Join me! You and I are going to be good friends!" To men, he instead says "Hello, friend! You've got a strong look to you! I bet you're all the rage with the ladies! Join me! You and I are going to be good friends!"

This sort of gendered gameplay is unsettling...


No kidding O_o Especially given how infrequently that sort of thing had appeared before. I can only think of ONE other NPC in the game that reacts differently to you by your gender (though there may be more that I don't know about.) Ugh. That means Blizz not only isn't getting better, but is actively going backwards.
theguindo 4th-Apr-2012 07:21 pm (UTC)
There's the female goblin in Razor Hill who will be hostile toward you if you're female but flirt if you're male, I assume that's the one you're thinking of.
theguindo 4th-Apr-2012 07:41 pm (UTC)
This was one thing that really bothered me about WoW. The sexual dimorphism among character models is what really gets me, and as a Horde player it's particularly egregious.

I love the hell outta trolls, but female trolls are essentially the exact same body model as female night elves, just with different feet/hands/head. Male and female trolls don't even look like the same SPECIES. Tauren are better about this, but even there the female tauren stand up straighter and have their heads higher-placed than male tauren. Male orcs walk with a slouch and their heads are forward-placed, and again female orcs walk rod-straight with their heads high-placed. Worgen are like the tauren, almost got it right but put in the posture differences to make female worgen look less monstrous.

I don't think I need to explain why this is wrong.

The thing is, if you want to play a sexy character, there are plenty of races to choose from. If you want to look pretty, you will pick a pretty race. If you're picking one of the monstrous races, sexiness is probably not at the top of your "desirable traits" list. Let the monstrous female characters look monstrous instead of trying to pretty them up!


If you want people to have chainmail bra and panties, make the same piece as objectifying on a male character as it is on a women.

I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY THIS IS A DIFFICULT CONCEPT

Hell, Monster Hunter's got it mostly figured out. Even if there is a tendency for female armours to have a flash of thigh, most of them are pretty good about covering similar amounts of skin on both genders.

Examples:
Loc Lac Armour
Bone Armour
Great Jaggi Armour
Diabolus Armour
kahluaandcream 4th-Apr-2012 09:20 pm (UTC)
When I wrote my paper I tested out every single female role you could have and compared their male and female level 1 costumes. Females are always more exposed; I think I decided being an undead priest was the least sexy you could get, but even she had her tiny waist and big boobs. Because, you know, god forbid the dead woman wasn't sexy enough.
uluviel 4th-Apr-2012 07:43 pm (UTC)
Why are developers OK with allowing female PCs to be harassed by male NPCs or requiring them to wear totally impractical armor pieces?

Because most of them are male and don't care about (or can't even see) the problem. Check, priviledge, etc, etc.

If you're going to have a creepy dude running the pandaren race for the Horde, make his interactions equally creepy if you're a male PC

Bioware actually did this with Dragon Age II - one of the male NPCs, if you were nice to him, would hit on you regardless of your gender (whether this can be considered creepy depends on your opinion of that character). The dudebros went insane with entitlement and homophobia, to the point where the game creator had to tell them to get the fuck over it already. Mind you, the fact that a female NPC did the same thing (hit on you regardless of gender) went completely unnoticed.
blackflamerose 4th-Apr-2012 08:00 pm (UTC)
Ah, yes, the Anders effect. Even though it was perfectly in line with his characterization in that game, they still raged. To be fair, though, in the case of Isabela, it had been established in the previous game that she swung both ways; a very common dudebro rage tactic was to cry "RETCON" as well as "EWW". Still doesn't mean they weren't entitled and homophobic though. ::eyeroll::
dncingmalkavian 4th-Apr-2012 08:11 pm (UTC)
I'm a former WoW player, and I actually didn't see a lot wrong with the game's design, for these reasons:

1. A lot of WoW players are straight males, therefore it behooves Blizz to pander to the larger section of their audience. It's not about misogyny; it's about marketing.
2. I was occasionally wont to bitch about weird armor designs (I mean, what woman in the thick of battle would run in wearing a chain mail bikini or garter belt?), but ultimately, I didn't care. Stats are what count, not design.
3. Sexism exists much more staunchly among players. When I started playing WoW, I had guys falling all over themselves to help me get armor, get my mount, get leveled, etc etc. Some of these guys, once they figure out that they're not going to get jack out of you (either in the form of cyberz or actual sex) will bitch and cuss at you, and act like you don't exist.

In short: I can't get pissed about marketing to a game's majority audience. It's not deliberately misogynistic or sexist, in my view, and it's honestly never bothered me....except for all the times when I was in n00b gear and I had to run around wearing a plate mail garter belt.
spiffynamehere 4th-Apr-2012 08:29 pm (UTC)
Uhhhhh. Pandoring to misogynists is, indeed, a misogynist act.
lickety_split 4th-Apr-2012 08:33 pm (UTC)
You should have lurked a little longer before posting such a flop, apologist comment.

Edited at 2012-04-04 08:35 pm (UTC)
zombieroadtrip 4th-Apr-2012 08:46 pm (UTC)
So we have a bit of a chicken/egg thing here. You say male players are going to be sexist assholes anyway, so the game is just fitted for them. If the game was refitted then these sexist assholes would have to change or look elsewhere then? That... seems to be a great solution, actually. The less society panders to this misogynistic bile, the better. People should be told these opinions are unacceptable horseshit, not coddled because "oh well they'll just be sexist anyway!" It's not as if forms of media actually affect the way boys are raised and nurture these sexist attitudes, right? Why bother?
kahluaandcream 4th-Apr-2012 09:06 pm (UTC)
There's actually been studies done (by Nick Yee in particular) that show that women players have been avoiding online games for precisely the reasons you've listed as unproblematic - sexist game design, exposing costumes, and misogynist players. The fewer women that play these games, the fewer that challenge the dudebro culture, and then the cycle repeats itself.

A lot of people thought Blizzard was trying to attract more female players with their new pet system. Obviously they dropped the ball.

theguindo 4th-Apr-2012 09:46 pm (UTC)
1. A lot of WoW players are straight males, therefore it behooves Blizz to pander to the larger section of their audience. It's not about misogyny; it's about marketing.

Pandering to one group at the expense of another group is marginalizing. Period. What WoW does to provide eye-candy for straight male players objectifies the female players. Just because something is a marketing tactic does not excuse it from being misogynist.

2. I was occasionally wont to bitch about weird armor designs (I mean, what woman in the thick of battle would run in wearing a chain mail bikini or garter belt?), but ultimately, I didn't care. Stats are what count, not design.

Design does count. You just admitted to complaining about impracticality of design, which means it bothers you on some level, even if ultimately the stats are most important. The thing is, you can make armour that DOESN'T look like a chainmail bikini and give it good stats. It's NOT a trade-off. The two attributes are independent of each other. So why the insistence from developers that female characters need to wear swimsuits to get good stats?

3. Sexism exists much more staunchly among players. When I started playing WoW, I had guys falling all over themselves to help me get armor, get my mount, get leveled, etc etc. Some of these guys, once they figure out that they're not going to get jack out of you (either in the form of cyberz or actual sex) will bitch and cuss at you, and act like you don't exist.

You don't think that's a problem that can be fixed by removing the misogyny perpetuated by the game's design itself? You don't think that can be fixed by removing the environment that makes them think it's okay to treat women like eyecandy and objects to be won?
kishmet 5th-Apr-2012 12:58 am (UTC)
The thing is, it doesn't have to be blatant to be hurtful. I mean, that's like saying the main audience for a game is white, so it's okay to portray POC characters as stereotypes, or the main audience is straight or cis, so it's okay to leave portray gay/bi/whatever and trans characters badly.

This reminds me of detergent/paper towel/cleaning product commercials where the woman's always the one to clean up the guy's and the kids' messes. Sure, you can say women buy and use these products more often, but that doesn't mean it's a-okay to market them that way. It'll reinforce the mainstream idea that women are supposed to be the homemakers, just like putting women in more revealing costumes in fantasy games will reinforce the patriarchal idea that women (real women, not just pixel women) exist to provide men with eye candy.

So the sexism you mention that's shown by individual, male players? Those costume designs not-so-subtly support the notion that women in the game are there for their pleasure: to be looked at, to be admired in a purely physical way, as potential sex objects.
curseangel 5th-Apr-2012 03:37 am (UTC)
Oh, god. You sound like my brother. That's not a compliment, btw.

Sexism is not okay for any reason. Period. Not because "it's marketing" or "it's their audience," not because "stats are more important," not because "it's out there anyway." IT IS NEVER OKAY.

My brother, as said, likes to make this kind of argument. That sexism in media is "okay" because it "reflects the real world" and because "most gamers are men" (which is bullshit, but he refuses to believe me when I explain to him the many ways in which it is bullshit) so they're just pandering to their audience. Guess what? Still doesn't make it okay!

btw, I know a lot of women who play or have played WoW, so I seriously doubt that "incredibly sexist dudebros" is their only audience and they absolutely have to pander exclusively to them at the expense of anyone else who might like to play. jfc.
influencethis 5th-Apr-2012 03:43 am (UTC)
I'm a former WoW player, and I actually quit for all the reasons you listed as not bothering you. I switched to Rift and SWTOR, because in both I can wear armor and look like someone wearing armor, not a walking T&A show. And I've quit guilds because they assumed female and enjoys men=wants to date all of them.

So in short, I can get pissed about everything this comment chooses to be.
spiffynamehere 4th-Apr-2012 08:30 pm (UTC)
LADIES, REJOICE! A ~big, strong man~ has arrived to tell us what we've been trying to get out for ages!
recorded 5th-Apr-2012 02:11 am (UTC)
I think it's great to have men who are aware and disapproving of this bullshit. I appreciate them pointing out issues they notice (as long as they aren't trying to speak for women). Misogynist men sure aren't going to listen to women. Not that seeing a man speak for equality will suddenly change a sexist's mans mind, but maybe having those sexist guys see more men point out the same issues women have been point out for ages will make them take the complaints seriously.
kahluaandcream 4th-Apr-2012 09:00 pm (UTC)
Hey I wrote a paper on this last semester (prior to the new expansion coming out). How hilarious that it's actually worse now than when I did my study then. Thanks Blizzard!
romp 4th-Apr-2012 09:26 pm (UTC)
You bet my orc /spat and /rude at him.

:)
recorded made for dncingmalkavian5th-Apr-2012 08:19 am (UTC)

Awww, yeah.
lissibith Re: made for dncingmalkavian5th-Apr-2012 11:25 am (UTC)
Yes! It took me about a day to get my skimpy armor together for my ladytoon, but my capped male human priest? STILL looking. The best he can do is a couple little chest windows - none of the (very few for males) really skimpy pieces are ever on the auction house :(
mercat 5th-Apr-2012 10:02 am (UTC)
...you play with Indiana Jones's clone Harrison Jones, who tells a male character when something is going to blow up to move out of the way because "We wouldn't want you to get hurt." For women? "I wouldn't want a pretty little thing like you getting hurt."

While I realize this misses the point of the entire thing, I feel specifically in this scenario like this is not outside the characterization of Indiana Jones (pre-Crystal Skull).
jlsigman 5th-Apr-2012 11:45 am (UTC)
One of the many reasons I never got WoW. :-p

Come to Lord of the Rings: Online! Where the trolls don't last long and the women don't have chainmail bikinis!
angebleu 5th-Apr-2012 04:56 pm (UTC)
I don't get the plate bikini thing. Because I play a paladin/warrior/death knight and all their gear is pretty much bulky and covered.

But oh boy, how do I hate whenever I start saying something in vent and the guys are like OMG A GIRL, SHOW ME YOUR BEWBS. Like come on, I want to play just like you and kill this boss JUST LIKE YOU.
astridmyrna 5th-Apr-2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
I have a starting level draenei paladin, and her midriff is showing. :/ Hopefully later levels it won't be so bad. My orc huntress has a shirt on at all time because, even at level 85, you will see some cleavage and I'm not cool with that.

And this is why I don't go on vent for pugs, but only for my guild, which is super-special-awesome because our raid leader is a 72-year-old woman who knows everything about everything and we have a couple of other girls too, as well as mature men who don't make sex jokes. However, our conversations usually end up talking about medications and comparing surgeries. XD
This page was loaded Oct 31st 2014, 9:09 am GMT.