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 08:04 pm (UTC)
Actually, I was thinking of the female orc at the Crossroads who gets hostile to you if you're male (emphasizing how in Thrall's Horde, women are supposed to be equal now, so you can't order her around, and SHE'S ON TO YOU) but if you're female, she'll welcome you as a fellow woman of the Horde.

It's possible I haven't noticed many of them because I haven't done most of the questlines on two toons, one male and one female, to compare.

Edit: Note that I actually like that abovementioned female orc, because she's one of the few NPCs in the game that actually emphasizes the point of how non-player females have been treated among the different races, and how Thrall's equalizing gender roles in the Horde was supposed to be a good thing.

Edited at 2012-04-04 08:06 pm (UTC)
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