Lords of Draenor: Where are the girls at?

I am a female who plays world of warcraft. There are lots of other females who play world of warcraft. Being a gamer and escaping into fantasy worlds is part of how I try to escape the everyday sexism of the world, or how I otherwise get away from things I can’t control in the real world. This everyday sexism includes the fact that three females had roofies slipped into their drinks at a party they were attending the weekend of Blizzcon. One of them fortunately didn’t drink the shot they were given, and the three were otherwise not harmed because they were able to stay together. However, when I talk about the importance of female representation in WOW, I want this to be something people remember. I didn’t attend Blizzcon this year, but when I went last time, it was obvious that women were the minority – even in the fact that they converted the women’s bathroom in the main panel hall into a men’s bathroom to accomodate the greater number of male gamers – even if that meant I had to leave that hall and go search in other halls for bathrooms.

The nice thing about playing a female character in WOW is that I’m just as strong and powerful as a male character in WOW. I don’t take a strength penalty for playing a female character. If Boys can do it, so can I! Your character’s gender shouldn’t really matter all that much in a world where everyone can be a hero. In World of Warcraft, I almost always felt included in previous expansions. While I faced harassment from other players, especially in Vanilla WOW (including someone who stalked me in-game for a day or two even after I put them on ignore), the game design its self still made me feel included in the storyline’s narrative as a female. In Vanilla, I could still look up to strong female character leads, including Tyrande as a night elf druid (though she has felt a lot more like a secondary character after Malfurion’s return). Other storylines have included female dragon aspects, Jaina chasing the horde out of Dalaran in MOP, Sylvanas as part of the WotLK storyline, and helping Aggra save Thrall in Cataclysm. These strong female leads are characters I look up to and feel that if they can do it, so can I. Strong female lead characters provide support and motivation for female players, and ignoring female-driven storylines in WOW is problematic for many reasons, including the fact that the video game industry at large has a history of excluding women.

In the marketing of WarLORDS of Draenor, I did not feel included.

The introduction to the new expansion presented at Blizzcon and on the related marketing website makes me feel like an outsider who isn’t welcome to pass thru the portal to Draenor because I’m female, regardless of all the history of the last 9 years. While this isn’t necessarily Blizzard’s intent, this is exactly what they are saying when they joke about the Boy’s Club of Draenor not being a big deal. The problem is that if the marketing material excludes a large portion of the player base, and says that females aren’t included in their target audience, it will be hard to make up for those slights later on. Sexist marketing materials prime us to expect to feel excluded, even if the quests end up not directly being exclusionary in the game.

Dudes_of_Draenor

What do we currently know about the inclusion or exclusion of women in Draenor?

Other bloggers have pointed out that leaving Aggra at home in Azeroth to take care of Thrall’s baby is a mistake: It is a mistake because Thrall’s own mother refused to be left at home. It is also a mistake because Draenor is Aggra’s home planet that she remembers, and a place that we think she would want to return. As Aggra has proven in WOW’s storyline to be more than just a girlfriend/wife/mother, forgetting this and leaving her behind does a huge disservice to the game’s storyline – and only benefits sexist beliefs that women should stay home and be caregivers.

In tweets discussing the Draenei female who works under Valen, I have heard her referred to as the “Joan of Arc”. However, this is not particularly reassuring as what most people remember about Joan of Arc is how she died (and not how she lived), and the fact she was a martyr killed for heresy. This sets Yrel aside and presents the feeling of being a helpless martyr, rather than a strong female lead. Given the fact that she doesn’t appear in the listing of important figures above, I’m more inclined to believe that she’s going to be a secondary character that won’t provide the same type of strong female lead that we found in Aggra or Jaina.  If they did include her in the promotional materials listed on the website, it’s possible I wouldn’t feel the same. However, just passively mentioning her with zero character development presented doesn’t inspire me want to run out and buy the expansion.

There are very few women at all in Blizzard’s marketing materials. Only a couple female characters appear in the whole entire trailer for the expansion, with at least a 10:1 Male:Female ratio even in the supporting characters. There are almost no female characters on the Warlords of Draenor website at all. While subtle sexism always existed, it felt more present and problematic in going back to Draenor, land of the dudes only club, where we’ll spend more time focusing on the Orc storyline that I’m actually already tired of hearing about. The dude’s only club tainted my excitement for the expansion. Blizzard says there will be females in the expansion, but they aren’t in Blizzard’s marketing materials – so, then the disconnect is that their marketing materials failed.

For as much as I am happy about changes being made to the game by the class, UI, and other system-related things, I don’t really have a motivation to care about going back to Draenor because I wasn’t made to feel included. I know this feeling wasn’t intentional on Blizzard’s part. Covert sexism can, however, still hurt just as much as overt sexism. This feeling really needs to change before I have to decide if I want to spend my female money on what Saxsy Mage called “World of Dudecraft”. The cinematic team needs to work harder at getting more female representation in their cinematics, otherwise the girls will go find games that care about women as part of their target audience (if any non-sexist video games even exist in the first place, though I will admit that part of the problem is also the larger cultural context of sexism in which video games are made makes people forget that they should care about how female gamers feel in the first place).

Given the larger cultural problem of sexism in video games, and in American culture more generally, Blizzard should be asking themselves several important questions:

  1. Who is the target audience? Does this include both males and females? (edit: other potential minority groups should also be considered, too).
  2. Does our marketing materials for the game appeal to our whole target audience, or are we excluding some of our target audience? Do we both strong male and strong female characters in our marketing materials? (Edit: Are other minority groups represented?)
  3. Does our game appeal to our whole target audience, or are we excluding some of our target audience? Do we have strong male and strong female characters in our game’s story lines and progression? (Edit: Are other minority groups represented?)

If the answer to question 1 is “both men and women”, I believe that they failed at #2 for Warlords of Draenor. Time will tell if they failed at #3, but given that their marketing at Blizzcon excluded women, they have a lot to make up for missing a large chunk of what I hope they believe is their target audience. While we’ve been reassured by Blizzard that there will be female characters in their Draenor story lines, they missed a huge opportunity at Blizzcon to show that they understand what the demographics of their target audience looks like. We shouldn’t ever leave a Blizzcon event asking ourselves “where are the female characters at?” Once they’ve missed their opportunity with releasing biased marketing materials, they have already lost the chance to connect with the part of their audience that didn’t think the marketing materials appealed to them.

We can’t see the story lines if we are turned off enough to not want to invest money in the company. I make game purchasing decisions based on whether or not I think I am included in the target audience for a game. Other females do this, too, and so by not appealing to half of the world’s population, many gaming companies miss out on our money. I don’t buy a lot of console games because I don’t feel like the target audience for those games. I’d rather not spend the money on something where I’m not included.

Am I likely to still play Warlords of Draenor? Yes, but now I’ll be hunting for female characters in the beta instead of enjoying the questing storyline. Breaking the immersion effect by making people feel excluded can have really long-term negative consequences in the player base. By largely downplaying this point in their post-Blizzcon posting about the lack of female characters at Blizzcon not being a big deal, it doesn’t allow that wound to heal. Given that sexism in video games comes up time and time again, it is unacceptable to forget that women want to feel included in the game’s promotional materials, and from this point on, some people are going to count the number of males and females in any Blizzard trailer they release, instead of actually enjoying the trailer – and if they don’t find the gender balance to be acceptable, they may just not bother buying the game. Others may not be quite as forgiving as me, though it is unlikely that I’ll ever forget.

Other posts to read related to sexism in Blizzard’s Blizzcon announcements:

Twitter Update:

Yesterday, we heard from several people from Blizzard about this topic, and out of fairness, I’m going to copy some of what they wrote here:

Helen Cheng:

“Don’t worry, there will be cool characters, both male and female, in Warlords.”

Netharea had a series of related tweets, and while I can’t post the whole discussion, the highlights are roughly:

But I hear Garona will be showing too….  And a Draenei paladin named Yrel that I can’t wait to meet… Just to keep perspective, there are a lot of characters that will be in play both male and female. The story will be there either way…

In addition, Zarhym agreed to pass along the comments made by the community about this topic.

However, the knowledge that there will be women in Draenor (which we always basically knew because it’s a giant planet) does nothing to change the fact that Blizzcon and the website clearly marketed the next expansion as “men doing manly things”, and displayed a lack of sensitivity to acknowledging that I want more than just “men doing manly things” to be important enough to discuss at Blizzcon and on the related marketing website. Some people think my complaints are about the story. However, I can’t comment on the complete story of WOD because we haven’t seen the whole story, and so I don’t know what part of the story would need to change anyway. My complaints are really about how the game was marketed to us through Blizzcon and the related website release – which I have presented tangible examples of places where their marketing didn’t get me excited about the game, but instead had the complete opposite effect. In particular, stringing up 10 dudes next to each other on the website with no mention of females being important to the story anywhere on the website is something problematic to me, that makes the website distracting more than helpful to their marketing campaign. A website, however, can be fixed without changing the story, by making sure that marketing materials give enough references to things other than “men doing manly things” that are likely already present in the game. Future marketing materials, cinematics, and Blizzcon presentations can be designed to feel more inclusive of their whole audience.

Edit: Also relevant, linked by @miamat : Social Justice League “how to be a fan of problematic things“.

47 Comments

  1. Aizro
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t it just a matter of storytelling? For example, there isn’t a single female in the LoTR Fellowship.

    I don’t think there is anything sexist about it, merely expression of artistic vision.

    • Tiriel
      Posted November 14, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      But it was sexist. It was a reflection of Tolkien’s own personal beliefs – he did not believe that women should be anywhere NEAR war. That’s why he wrote the story of Eowyn the way he did, and that’s why there were basically no women involved in the Fellowship. War was a terrible, awful thing, and women (as precious, beautiful creatures) should never, ever be allowed near it.

    • Kay
      Posted November 14, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      “The Fellowship of the Ring” was published in 1954, not 2014.

    • Lissanna
      Posted November 14, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      When they made the LOTR storyline into a movie, Peter Jackson still put a great deal of effort into making sure that strong female leads were inserted prominently into the storyline, so that women viewers would still feel represented (and just because having more than one gender allows for better storytelling in the first place). He has been featuring a female elf in the promotional materials for the most recent Hobbit film. Just because storytelling in the past involved sexism in character selection and development, it doesn’t mean we have to accept it blindly now or in the future. I didn’t write posts suggesting that Peter Jackson should make one of the Fellowship into a female character because he was required to stay true to the source material in some ways. I can forgive Tolkien’s sexism because of the time and place he came from. However, Blizzard gets to write their own lore, and they don’t have to make the same mistakes as those who came before them. I want to believe that the world and our culture has come to view women as more than just people capable of raising babies.

      • Aizro
        Posted November 14, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

        Couldn’t Blizzard do the same thing Peter Jackson did? We don’t know yet. There could be very strong female leads in the WoD story, however the fact is none of the orc clan chiefs were female in the way the story was originally written.

        I respect your opinion, but I simply can’t view it as a “mistake” when they are just telling a story, which as I said is a form of artistic expression.

        • Tiriel
          Posted November 14, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

          I’m pretty sure it IS a mistake. Because it turns off a good 50% of their playerbase. If that isn’t the definition of mistake, I don’t know what is.

          • Aizro
            Posted November 14, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

            I’m pretty sure 50% of the female WoW players aren’t upset at Blizzard for this specific reason. This may be an issue, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near “all” females.

          • Lissanna
            Posted November 14, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

            Sexism doesn’t have to be on purpose to be hurtful. There is also no way for Blizzard to know they hurt people if no one tells them. Creating a storyline about going back in time to a time when women weren’t included at all in the demographic of who should be playing video games doesn’t mean they can be sexist in all their marketing materials today. It doesn’t mean that it is okay to have one of the few strong female lead characters (who should return to Draenor) retire from battle to stay home to take care of her baby while her strong husband protects her.

            If Blizzard acts as though they forgot that women are part of their target audience and I don’t take the time to remind them that I want to feel included as part of the target audience, then I am allowing myself to be passively involved in accepting video game sexism. The picture posted above isn’t just the 7 warlords, but also includes 3 more dudes. They just as easily could have included female characters in that preview. They chose not to include prominent female characters in any of their marketing materials and Blizzcon presentations in any meaningful way in 2013, and hurt my ability to enjoy the promotional materials for the expansion because the sexism was so blatantly obvious to me, and that’s not excusable. My problem isn’t that the orcs are male, but that there aren’t ANY females to be found anywhere, and that we were told that the female character we were expecting to see is better off staying home to take care of babies.

            The last thing I want to do is write about sexism in WOW. I waited an entire week to see if I would feel differently a week later, but I still don’t. I still have no feeling of connection to the new storyline, and I still feel hurt. I don’t want to feel hurt, but there is a history of people like me being excluded from video games that is still very much present in the video game industry, and that means that people like me can still be offended by practices that make me feel excluded. Sexism is still very much present in WOW, in the video game industry, in other industries, and in the world. Pretending it doesn’t exist does not make it go away.

        • Lissanna
          Posted November 14, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

          Blizzard missed their opportunity to do what Peter Jackson did when they didn’t take the 2 seconds that Peter Jackson did to say: “The past history of the world had some sexism problems. Lets see what we can do to make sure our promotional marketing materials still allow women to feel like an important part of my target audience today, even when we revisit old sexist material”. That is reason alone not to give Blizzard a free pass to be sexist when they revisit old stories. Also, in the story with Thrall’s mom, they actually weren’t sexist in the same way that leaving Thrall’s wife at home is.

          It is never excusable to forget half your potential target audience, but the video game industry and other industries do it every single day.

          • Phaedra
            Posted November 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

            I saw another comment from a CM about “historically, there haven’t been Orcish female leaders” or something to that extent.

            And all I could think was, “Historically?? People are MAKING THIS UP! There’s nothing “historical” about it!!”.

  2. Aizro
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t it just a matter of storytelling? For example, there isn’t a single female in the LoTR Fellowship.

    I don’t think it’s sexism, just a matter of artistic expression in storytelling.

    (Sorry if this got posted twice!)

  3. Tiriel
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I think what makes me amused the most is…I’m currently playing WoW and Final Fantasy XIV at the same time. And you would think that, given history, WoW would be the better of the two in terms of how it treats women. But in WoW, I can count on one hand the number of “strong women” I have to look up to in Lore. In FF? Well…

    There’s Kan-E-Senna, the leader of Gridania (one of the three city states). There’s the Sultana of Ul’dah, Nanamo Ul Namo (who is the nominal leader, and is portrayed as a thinking, wise individual, though she is not in complete control over her own city). There’s Admiral Merlwyb Bloefhiswyn, the leader of Limsa Lominsa and a woman who don’t take no shit. The leader of the Maelstrom (the Grand Company that defends Limsa) is a woman. Of the main characters you interact with in the story, half are women (Minfilia, Yda, Y’shtola, Alisaie). And while Minfilia is presented mostly as eye candy (I have a personal dislike of the character because she never -does- anything), Yda is a Pugilist who beats the crap out of things with her fist, and Y’shtola and Alisaie are scholars of great power. The bulk of the armor is legit, serious armor, and the extremely flamboyant Bard armor is just as flamboyant on men as it is on women (men in tights, no joke).

    Are there sexist portrayals in the game? Yup. There’s prostitution, a plethora of dancing catgirls, etc. Of course, there is also ridiculously revealing MALE clothing (you should see the swimsuits!), and the Cult of the Subligar is alive and well.

    I guess that, after all of these years, I expected Blizzard to have pushed more interesting, active female leaders, but I haven’t seen it. Kinda bugs me to see more strong female characters in a Final Fantasy game than in World of Warcraft. I’d like to see that change.

    • Posted November 14, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      What server are you on Tiriel? I play on Behemoth with The Older Gamers and also home realm to XIVNation Podcast and guild.

      • Tiriel
        Posted November 14, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        I’m over on Balmung, actually. :) I wanted to give the “Unofficial RP Server” a try for once, since I don’t plan on raiding seriously in the game.

  4. Posted November 14, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    YES, come join me in the darkside that is FFXIV:ARR, actually all 3 faction leaders are female, now that I think about it.

  5. Phaedra
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    It’s so striking to see the announcement for WoD and be following David Gaider (lead DragonAge writer at Bioware) on twitter/tumblr.

    It makes me wonder if there’s any female doing lore/quest writing at Blizzard. David made a fantastic post about how in the writers’ pit, this scenario was written that all the guys thought was fine. The ladies, however, pointed out it was very uncomfortable towards females – and the guys simply never noticed/thought about it in that way. David points out that if there hadn’t been females comfortable with speaking out, that scenario would have made it into the game the way it was written.

    • Lissanna
      Posted November 14, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      There are females that work in Blizzard. A lot of them aren’t super public, but Helen Cheng at Blizzard recently started a twitter account you can follow at: https://twitter.com/BlizzardKismet

  6. Lance
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    I’d hate to see what would happen if you ever logged into EVE Online. You might spontaneously combust.

    • Posted November 14, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Well I did get her to log into EVE at one point. Do a search for EVE and you should find a post about her experience.

      http://www.restokin.com/2010/04/why-i-dont-play-eve-online/

      • Lance
        Posted November 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        She forgot to mention one thing: To enjoy EVE as a female, turn off all public communications channels and never – EVER – log into voice comms.

        • Lissanna
          Posted November 14, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

          I didn’t make it to the point where I would have communication channels. ;)

  7. Posted November 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    I still enjoy the game but don’t have a great deal of faith in the developers ability to write female characters. In some cases when Blizz does focus on a female character the result is dreadful – see Teranda. Is this really how the developers think an experienced 10,000+ leader would behave?

    The current boys-club-lineup is the least appealing marking I’ve seen (for Blizzard) but marketing was not what initially pulled me into the game. The draw was other people who played, descriptions, etc. Also I’m on an rp server where most people work out their own back-stories and motivations.

    Lastly, regarding artistic expression in storytelling. Yes, this is a valid argument but as a reader I don’t enjoy novels, stories, etc where I’m unable to enjoy the journey (or identify with the characters).

  8. Posted November 14, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Hey, thanks for the links. My sense now that everyone is aware of the issue that there really ought to be some sort of comment from Blizzard about it, something far more official than a Game Master. Their subscription numbers are falling and it seems that, at least on a story level, they seem hell bent on chasing a mythical post-teen male hard core gamer crowd rather than the demographic that actually plays WoW (average age: 30). This is not new; I’m sure you remember the musical act two years ago.

    You made a joke about an expansion called “Warqueens of Azshara”. My bet is that more people would be interested in such a thing than the current expansion. I know I would. Azshara is a fascinating character and one can only imagine the story lines that would go with her assault on the rest of Azeroth with her army of naga.

    Alas, it’s orcs again, with their bulging muscles and large “axes” and rampant homoeroticism. (Not that there’s anything wrong with homoeroticism in doses, but there’s no better way to get under the skin of someone like Metzen than to point it out.)

    • Posted November 24, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      This. This would be infinitely more interesting than WoD even though I’m pretty exicted about the upcoming expansion (I adore the lore, but a Warqueens expansion would see me reactivating all 3 of my accounts instead of just 1). But of course that’s personal taste. Still, I think the potential for something old with something totally new is far greater with this idea, and that’s why I think it would be far more interesting than WoD.

  9. Thromean
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    I usually don’t post a lot on blogs, but thought this was an interesting discussion.

    I agree that the material available is very male oriented, but in previous marketing material for the previous expansions, was it any different?

    There was a random Night Elf lady on the Vanilla box. I don’t recall Sylvanas, Jaina or Aggra being main selling points at the outset of the expansions, with the exception of Jaina and the Tides of War book. And even that was mostly a “Hey! Look how bad Garrosh is behaving, he even angered the calm one!”

    If they are writing in a “Joan of Arc” what’s to say she will end badly? It’s sad, but there aren’t a lot of female holy warrior archetypes that the general public will recognize and there had to be some type of description. Amazon brings a whole different connotation. Viking/Valkyr already done and dont fit into the Draenei lore anyway.

    Anyway, I hope you see your way to let the writers tell the story and don’t get too insulted by them at this point. We’ve seen the equivalent of the dust cover on a hard back book. I trust them to do the right thing or at least try to anyway.

    Keep raising the point. Awareness is never a bad thing. But please don’t pillory the people who have been making such great games when we don’t have all the information yet.

    • Lissanna
      Posted November 14, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

      The thing is that my main comments are about what the team did who was making the promotional materials. I can’t say anything about the actual gameplay or how the game’s storyline will evolve. All I can talk about is how they failed at Blizzcon to make the game feel relevant to me, and failed to make me feel wanted. That’s not a comment that I want them to delete male warlords and replace them with females, as that would be a pointless suggestion.

      However, in future Blizzcons or promotion related to WOW (and other games), they could be less sexist in how they promote new content. The back of the book is the only way you can judge whether or not you want to invest your hard earned money in the book. If the back of the book screams “not relevant to you”, then you have no reason to pick up the book and investigate further, and instead you are going to read other books that do market themselves as relevant to you. Based on the book metaphor, saying that the cover art of the book is terrible is not a comment on the book’s content, but that the jacket maker did the book a huge disservice to the book in how they promoted it.

      The idea that in other expansions, they were also exclusionary of women isn’t entirely true. In other expansions, they didn’t make a huge promotional art on the website with 10 dudes all lined up next to each other and say that one of the very few potentially relevant female leads (because they didn’t tell us about other females) has to stay home and take care of her baby again for the second expansion.

  10. Posted November 15, 2013 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    During Blizzcon, I made a comment in Twitterland about the lack of women on the panels. That was just an observation made as the comments about the lack of females in the cinematic were starting to heat up, but it’s probably a contributing factor as to why there are few, if any, female leads in the marketing materials. And as I type this, I’m wondering about the gender ratio in their marketing department.

    In any case, I hope they listen to those of us who are feeling a bit disaffected — there is still time for Blizz to try and rectify the situation.

  11. Donna
    Posted November 15, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    When I was watching Blizzcon on the livestream, I thought the same things ‘where are all the women’. To be honest, I’m usually not one to complain about lack of representation in video games. I’m old school like so many of us, where women just don’t get any time as heroes in games because it’s a boys world. But honestly, we don’t live in the same time I grew up in. We are the ones that create the changes today that we want to live in tomorrow. So I was upset at Blizzcon. I was upset because there was one female heroine that they focused on that they said ‘we can’t wait till you meet her, she’s a strong leader’ and that’s about it. While everything else was about the boys club. The website has all male heroes of old on it. I am really disappointed. But I don’t hold any high hopes for Blizzard giving strong, female characters much time. Tyrande had a chance to be amazingly strong and huge in Cataclysm and she ended up just being the lesser half of Malfurion and his awesomeness. Even the ‘leaders of warcraft’ story series had her AND Malfurion instead of just her-even though up until Cataclysm she had been leading the Night Elves in WoW ALONE and her story deserved to be her own, not a combined one, let that be HIS story.

    To be honest, I was actually happy that they put a female orc in the trailer! That tickled me happy. But it wasn’t enough. Also what isn’t enough is that twitter conversation I have seen regarding this topic. Blizzard employees keep saying ‘trust us, there will be strong women’. Yeah? Well make a strong woman be THE big leader of the expansion like a THRALL is, or make her be THE big baddie of an expansion like a Hellscream can be. And make her have as deep of a story and as many dimensions as you have with all the men that have held those jobs before. They won’t do it.

    Blizzard talking to you on twitter seemed really dismissive of what you (and what I was also during Blizzcon) complaining about-who cares what ‘will be’, we want to see representation NOW. We want to see things we can relate to as women now, not just promises of ‘it will be cool’ give us tidbits and stories to hook us like you have about the WARLORDS that are all historically male-like most of warcraft history.

    I am not a great writer like you are. I am not an activist at all. I am just someone who has played the warcraft franchise for so many years and I just want to feel like I am thought of as important to Blizzard for once instead of an afterthought of ‘oh, we need to fit some girls in there too, somewhere, let’s make some stories to go with that’. Jaina was a good start-but in order to make her interesting, they had to change her totally from the Jaina we know and rip everything she loved away from her…which kinda was sad that they had to do that to make her interesting in the first place, she had so much more potential just as she was.

    So no, I don’t trust Blizzard to make really good powerful female characters a central part of their marketing-they have never done that and they seem to stick with what they know more than branching out. I don’t trust Blizzard to really care what any of us are saying other than to say ‘yeah, there will be chicks in the new expansion, trust us’. /sigh

  12. R
    Posted November 15, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I’ll admit I literally cringed when I read the “boy’s club” comment made in the presentation at Blizzcon, although compared to some of the events at previous Blizzcons, that being the lightning rod is a significant improvement.

    I sympathize greatly with the female perspective on this one, especially the one that primarily identifies with female protagonists in-game as what makes it an enjoyable game for them personally. I’m not sure all women fall into that category but there seem to be a significant number that do, especially among female bloggers, so this definitely exists.

    There’s a bit of paradigm creep happening here, though, that also makes me a bit uncomfortable. For example:

    “The problem is that if the marketing material excludes a large portion of the player base, and says that females aren’t included in their target audience, it will be hard to make up for those slights later on.”

    The marketing material, the actual in-game content and the intended targets are 3 different (but related) things and it looks like they’re being lumped together here.

    Where your comment would be fair is if we were discussing Evony banner ads. Those are … blatantly not promoting the game to women as a group.

    The marketing materials at something like Blizzcon can only really promote the main storylines coming and aren’t designed to target a particular demographic, I certainly never had a “hey, they’re speaking my language” reaction in ANY way… I’m confident that “what would dudes want to see here?” wasn’t part of any planning discussion… so the marketing mats, yes, are significantly male-heavy since that’s the nature of the lore of that time period. It WAS men (er, male Orcs… mOrcs) being mOrcs. Trying to retcon women into positions of power and influence would be, I think, more clunky and obvious than even most women would be comfortable with or get any satisfaction from. Think of the reaction to Aggra when she spawned out of nowhere and largely took over parts of the Cataclysm story as Thrall’s right-hand lieutenant while the rest of the major lore figures largely sat on their hands. I thought she was very badly introduced and explained and integrated into the story of Cataclysm and while I understand the reaction of someone like Anne over at WI about her going forward (my one lasting memory of Aggra is something along the “grrrrr… I’m coming too” lines, so it makes sense), I don’t think Aggra being somehow integral to WoD would feel much less fake and jarring, nothing’s changed the fact that she was injected into the story with very little finesse and has been missing since Cataclysm ended. Anne acknowledged a similar reaction when Aggra was introduced, too.

    I’d love to see more female-oriented stories show up in WoW, I really would, I just don’t think that forcing Aggra on us again or introducing yet another “hey look, a female we haven’t seen before who’s important!” character is the answer, they need to start planting some serious seeds in the lore that can bloom in the near and distant future in an organic way. Zaela is the one example I can point to where this was done but unfortunately it sounds like they chose not to leverage her for WoD, she did end up on the wrong side in MoP but that’s something they could have avoided if they’d planned far enough ahead. The method they used to introduce her was great, though. I don’t think just adding fully-formed female characters to placate the female playerbase really does anyone or the game storylines any real service, they need to start introducing more characters like Zaela in somewhat minor roles and have them grow into major lore figures, it’s just a matter of DOING IT. The sooner the better, I’d love to have those characters ready to go for the inevitable showdown with Sylvanas one of these years, if not even sooner. Hell, they can leverage the incoming pre-expansion content to introduce some female blood into the situation and have them become more important as the expansion progresses. There’s time, it just needs to start happening!

  13. Posted November 15, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    My husband and I watched the stream on battle.net. I spent the whole WoW part thinking, “Where are the women?” I glimpsed a couple of women on the trailer and actually let myself hope that we’d see more women in positions of prominence. Then I saw the WoD wallpaper and realized what I thought was one female orc in the lineup was a dude. Seven dudes! Then I saw the 10-man lineup on the site and…ten dudes!

    I’ve never felt so…I don’t even know how to put it into words. Like I don’t count as a player, like I’m not welcome or wanted or needed within the story or the gameplay experience, like my subscription fee doesn’t mean anything in comparison to the dudes who want to see dudes doing dude things. Like I, as a customer, don’t matter enough to be marketed to. That women, once again, aren’t needed. That we’re just an afterthought, if that. And the game itself shows repeatedly that the boys are in charge, women are just there to be partners when the men need them. I play all female characters because the game itself won’t give me awesome female characters to see myself in, and when I logged in and looked at my list I just felt sad.

    I didn’t even have to say anything about it – my husband just turned to me that night as we were getting ready for bed and said, “There were no female characters shown, were there?” And I just sadly said, “No. There weren’t. And that’s why all my characters are female.”

    I’m not sure Aggra is the answer to the problem. Yes, I’d love to see her go to Draenor and mean something, to be something else in addition to wife and mother. And I’m not saying those roles aren’t important – I’m a wife and a new mom, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything – but women in the real world who are wives and mothers aren’t JUST wives and mothers. They’re wives and mothers and crafters and employees and stay-at-home and athletes and…they’re wives AND mothers AND people. I wish Blizzard could manage to write wife/mom characters who don’t vanish or get shunted aside once they get attached to a family. I really, really wish that. And after that announcement I found myself saying, “Well, even if it turns out that I don’t enjoy the story, I can at least enjoy the gameplay,” because I don’t think Blizzard will ever understand that female characters can and should be portrayed as fully realized people outside, or even in addition to, this one particular trope. Until they introduce a wider female cast AND flesh those characters out in the same way they do their male heroes, it’s going to stay just like this, and that’s depressing. Men have a huge variety in how they’re portrayed; so should women!

    Also, I think the whole “Don’t worry, there’ll be cool female characters too” was pretty dismissive. If they really wanted us to see women in leading roles, they’d have shown them to us in the trailer, or on the website, or on the wallpaper, or on the art.

    I love this game and I always will – I wouldn’t have met my husband without it, that soft spot will always be there – but if the female representation continues to be this poor (and sometimes it feels like it’s getting worse and worse over time), I’ll have to close the account I’ve had since 2006, just because I don’t have the spoons to deal with it anymore.

  14. Posted November 15, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Of the points that you tried to make in this post, the most compelling argument that you presented was that there are a number of interesting and engaging stories out there in the WoW universe that involve women protagonists/characters. I absolutely agree, and I do think that a number of them could be easily woven into the existing narrative.

    However, I am incredibly disappointed to see you resurrect the tried-and-true “How many females?” checklist that is utilized every time the topic of sexism in WoW comes up (see: victory statue discussions, quest lines that involve courtship, portrayal of female leaders, etc.) After seven years of seeing this same tired commentary trotted out on blogs, is that still how we’re choosing to rate the quality of characters and stories? Why aren’t we talking about identifiable characters in general? Or maybe about how women seem more drawn to characters that are like them presently whereas men tend to be drawn to characters that they aspire to be? (HEY, there’s an interesting perspective–maybe it’s not sexism, but a conflict in the roots of fantasies! That might be worthy of some bit of investigation, don’t you think?)

    As a female gamer, I didn’t walk out of Blizzcon wondering “where the heck are the women?”. I walked out thinking “HOLY SHIT, THIS IS GONNA BE AWESOME!!1!” (Also “Buff Shaman plox!”) Maybe it’s because I see characters and not literal representations of the world I live in. Maybe it’s because my qualifications for a good story don’t involve quotas. Or maybe it’s because I see that women are moving into this industry, that the women’s bathrooms were A LOT more crowded this year, and that the Hilton was as full of geeky guys as it was full of geeky girls.

    Where you see exclusion in WoD, I see a chance to geek the fuck out with my fellow gamers over a blood-and-guts story. Where you see a sexist correlation between a gaming convention and roofies, I see an unsubstantiated twitter accusation and two events linked based on a single commonality. And where you see the doors closed to women and their stories, I see the doors open to the opportunity to write them.

    • Lissanna
      Posted November 15, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      My feedback and criticisms really come from a place of genuine respect for what Blizzard has done thus far. I really wish that the WOD announcement left me being able to geek out. I wish it left me happy and excited. I can cognitively know that there will be women characters in Draenor while still feeling left out. In upcoming posts, I’m going to write more about the systems and class-related things where I like spending my time. I really don’t like having to write these posts. I also don’t ever want to have to write this post again. I want to be able to write stories about how the women in Draenor were awesome and fun in the upcoming months/years. I just want to make sure that the people who WERE accidentally hurt by this all have a chance to be heard. I started this post after finding multiple incidents of people who said they were hurt, but didn’t have a platform to be heard. Now that I know we’ve been heard, I can move back to doing the things I really love doing, like slaying internet dragons.

      Also, if the themes of sexism in gaming keep resurrecting themselves, it’s a fault that Western culture in general tends to forget that women can do awesome and cool things. In the obituary of a famous women scientist, the New York Times talked about what a good cook she was and how much she loved her children, and didn’t mention science at all until the end of her post (See: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/n-y-times-sexist-obit-female-scientist-article-1.1304372 for review). If strong women are forgotten, and no one takes the time to remind the world that strong women are important, then women will continue to be forgotten. If the only thing that matters in the world is how good of a cook a famous woman scientist is, then the world is broken and a recurring theme of trying to be represented in the world of “cool people worth talking about” is absolutely necessary. The world could tell great stories about female protagonists, but most of the time, the world forgets and doesn’t. There isn’t a lot of room to have faith that women matter if the world consistently tells women they don’t matter. Even unintentional sexism like the rocket scientist’s biggest accomplishment being Beef Stroganoff is still hurtful to people like me who do need women role models to look up to, so that I’m not just plagued by insecurities about spending my time doing things that I’m stereotypically being told constantly that only teenage boys should be doing.

      While Blizzard normally does a good job of making me feel like I matter, the minute Blizzard stops making me feel wanted is exactly the right moment for me to bring this conversation back into the narrative. Who is going to tell our stories if we let people forget we matter? Sure, Blizzard could write plenty of great stories about women. However, at Blizzcon, they chose not to. It was their choice to not tell great stories about great women, and to push Aggra into the realm of forgotten secondary characters. If we let them have a free pass to just present and advertise stories about great men and we stay silent, then who is going to write those stories? If we wait until 6 months after WOD was released and then realized there were no stories about women, it would be too late to fix it. If we speak up now, we have a chance to make sure our voices are heard and don’t remain silent.

      We still live in a world where most women are secondary characters who stand behind the greatness of men, and it’s a pressure that I feel as a woman in science trying to get a tenure track job in a world where most women don’t get to be great scientists every day. While most of the time I remain silent about how alone I feel in a world telling me I don’t matter, there are times when it is not appropriate for me to silently keep my hurt feelings inside. In a world where discrimination and harassment of women still exists, it’s not okay to always patiently be silent. Usually, Blizzard does a great job of representing women in their games, and their company, compared to other gaming companies. It is still my responsibility to not be silent when they accidentally do something that I find hurtful.

      However, I know that all the injustices in the world also aren’t Blizzard’s fault. I have no real feelings of anger. I’m just disappointed and sad, and need to express my disappointment and sadness in an effort to not disappear in the background. I am perfectly happy to say my piece and then let it go. I won’t be posting about this every day for the next year because honestly pointing out every injustice in the world would be too exhausting. I really just want to enjoy WOW and the fantasy world where I shouldn’t have to worry about gender issues, I should just be able to have fun slaying internet dragons. It is fine that this particular event didn’t bother some people. But, for others, it did bother them, and I’m glad they had an opportunity to matter and be heard. I thank Blizzard for being open to everyone’s thoughts and opinions.

    • Posted November 20, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Holy shit, think what you want about representation of women in gaming but the comments about “unsubstantiated reports” and roofies are really, really uncalled for. Miss me with the whole “Oh
      it is just ‘allegations’” shit when someone talks openly about how their friends were drugged.

  15. Posted November 15, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m still reeling from everything I’m reading on WarCrack Misogyny lately.

    I’m not blind to it when I see it, I just don’t see it very often in-game. Mostly because my guild is made up of married couples and we tend to step out into the world in groups. When I see it, I make it a point to rally the other players to dump the arse-hat on the curb (preferably on their heads).

    However, I wasn’t prepared for some of the “un-bunch your panties” things I’ve read else where on this subject. One of which I know you’ve seen (as you’ve commented there as well). While it’s still too early in my information feed to start questioning Blizz’s stance on the sexes (I tend to ponder too long), I will say that you make some VERY VALID points. I am actually quite pleased to have been able to read this. Keep speaking your mind, regardless of who tries to put their big fuzzy bums in your way.

  16. Arcadia
    Posted November 16, 2013 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    When Blizzard doesn’t write stories featuring complex, well-rounded female characters, it tells me and others that I am not capable of being a well-rounded character.

    When Blizzard doesn’t write stories featuring female leaders, it tells me and others that I am not capable of being a leader.

    When Blizzard doesn’t write stories featuring mothers in roles beyond nurturer and care-giver, it tells me and others that motherhood is the end of a woman’s story.

    When Blizzard doesn’t write stories featuring female characters at all, it tells me and others that I am not worthy of stories.

    If I am not worthy of stories, then I am not human.

  17. Whitepaw
    Posted November 18, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    “If I am not worthy of stories, then I am not human.” – Arcadia

    Holy Batman! And you describe yourself as female, I take it – based on your post?

    Well, based on me being Night Elf – where am I in all this? QQ, this is an Orc/Draenei story! Also, we haven’t got new models, Blizzard is abandoning us to the point of abusiveness!

    And, I’m Danish! Why isn’t Blizzard supporting my language and culture? There is no leverpostej in WoW – ergo I am not human!

    Btw, have you girls and guys noticed something interesting about the mug shot of these 10 dudes? Yep, they do look like wanted-posters, don’t they? Who’s to say that those guys (at least some of them) aren’t antagonists? Evil-doers, deserving our blades in their necks? And if so, would that be man-hating?

    Mind you, I would love to have Tyrande back in her old WC3-like ass-kicking mode. I mean, we are talking about the hero who came in and told Malfurion to put on his big-boy pants (just like a certain high-ranking Alliance human female does in the start of MoP), after his long nab on the couch was interrupted by a clear and present danger to nelf-dom. But going from there to “My gender is under-represented – I am not human!” is quite a stretch. I mean, the next part of this hyperbole would be to argue that having Tyrande wake up Malfurion was actually a chauvenist move, ’cause she should have been able to handle the emergency without a man coming to her rescue!

    Some of you react out of proportion, in my opinion. But if the gist is “Ohai Blizzard, giev more female hero/badass screentime, ’cause that would make the story better and richer”, you can count me in.

    PS: I have loved women for 39 years. I try to be a good son (to my mother), a loving boyfriend (to my girlfriend) and a caring stepfather (to my stepdaughter). I have played with lots of girls and women in WoW since 2005 – the best guild leader I ever had was a woman (Cherlindra, Turalyon EU – /salute) and right now I’m trying to convince a woman to apply to my guild, because she’s awesome and would add social value and gaming skill/dedication to our guild (where we have several female officers, btw). So just because I’m trying to get some perspective and rightful proportions back into this discussion doesn’t mean I’m a misogynist – don’t pull that card.

    • Lissanna
      Posted November 18, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      The representation of “Danish” in Azeroth or “night elf” in Azeroth isn’t nearly the same issue as the representation of “women” in video gaming culture. I play a night elf character and a pandaren character, but I didn’t make a post about representation of Azerothian races in the storyline because as a human being, I’m not actually an elf or a panda. I just play one in the game. My gender, however, is a non-flexible part of my being human, and my gender is something that causes me to face frequent discrimination as a human being who plays video games. Being reminded in the video game’s marketing that I don’t matter as a female video game player hurts me on a really deep and personal level, and it’s not a large leap between the current marketing that Blizzard did, the very blatant sexism that happens every year in E3, and the (mis)portrayal of women as helpless sex objects in the gaming media more generally. If there was not already such a deep-seeded history of gender discrimination in video game media portrayals more broadly, we wouldn’t have these discussions at all.

      As Apple Cider Mage points out in her post, it would have been trivially easy for Blizzard to choose to represent women in their cinematics, art, and Blizzcon marketing. See the beginning of: http://www.applecidermage.com/2013/11/18/warlords-of-draenor-new-glass-ceiling/

      The choice to not represent women in their marketing was a choice, and one that has had real-life consequences for people outside the game. It doesn’t actually matter to me if some people weren’t hurt by the marketing. The fact you weren’t hurt has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that people like me face discrimination in our everyday gaming lives, and that Blizzard’s marketing brought on waves of those repressed feelings of discrimination, rather than bringing on waves of being able to enjoy the new awesome content. It’s not a stretch to associate being underrepresented as being less human when this is what women are still being told (in media representations, or simply in getting honked at as you walk down the street) every day of our lives.

    • Felade
      Posted November 18, 2013 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

      As a male, I think Lissana has every reason to speak up on this. In gamer culture, we’re so used to male-centric content that our perceptions are skewed (ditto in the states for us white males). Wow is honestly pretty bad about this: what few female characters we have are all defined by their relationships with men. A mopey girl on the sidelines does not count as including females.

  18. Felade
    Posted November 18, 2013 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Remember, LotR is 70+ years old, enough that you have to put it in historical context. In Tolkien’s time, women hardly left the house, let alone went on adventures (though Alice or CS Lewis’ Lucy might be contporary exceptions). It is very sexist, but probably something we shouldn’t hold up as an example for modern storytelling.

    • Lissanna
      Posted November 18, 2013 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

      Even if Tolkien was somewhat sexist in his writing about women characters, Peter Jackson and the film crew have gone out of their way to make sure they have women in the Hobbit and LOTR movies. Having strong female characters, even in a male-dominated source material, is 100% possible. The Hobbit trailers and advertising material still have a female elf there on purpose – as to not alienate the female base of movie watchers. It’s done very much on purpose to be inclusive in making the movie.

  19. Whitepaw
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    “The representation of “Danish” in Azeroth or “night elf” in Azeroth isn’t nearly the same issue as the representation of “women” in video gaming culture” – from your point of view.

    The “Danish” part is actually of interest for some of us, both in regard to language and the cultural aspect of WoW. One of the first thoughts that struck me when you dismissed nationality was that my stepchildren can’t understand WoW, unless I translate everything. The language barrier is huge, to the point where a lot of non-speaking English people simply don’t play WoW – they feel excluded. In fact, when you compare gender-related differences to differences in nationality, the latter has historically created far more agony and inhuman behaviour than the former. But, I guess Danes are not seen as a minority group which should be considered.

    In fact, when I read your post, it very much operates in an American context. Like when you write

    “Given the larger cultural problem of sexism in video games, and in American culture more generally, Blizzard should be asking themselves several important questions”

    This is, in fact, the whole premis of your entire post: That there is a larger cultural problem of sexism in both video games and American culture. Have you thought about how that can make you hypebole about the issue, because you overreact when your defences are being triggered (even by an alleged ommission)? And that you might be overreacting on the subject of WoD and sexist marketing?

    To me, it’s quite a stretch that you (and others) argue about covert sexism because you feel excluded by too few females being shown in the marketing material. I could have instinctivily understood objections to sexual assault/harassment, violence against females, unequal opportunities, pornographic materiel, prostitution, discrimination etc – but a video showing upcoming features in a computer game?

    Let me try to demonstrate by going back in time a bit: Do you remember the torture quests in WotLK? There might be others in the game now, but I noticed a few back in , when leveling in Borean Tundra (there were also torture quests in Howling Fjord. There is this one quest line where you have to torture a guy to get some much-needed answers. Did you find this ok?

    Personally, I would have expected that these quests, from actual gameplay (i.e. not a video trailer) would have degraded your humanity and sense of dignity a bit more than the subject of covert sexism. I mean, you do talk about “sensitivity” etc. In these quests, we’re not talking covert anything – nothing is hidden, waiting to be unearthed by counting men-to-women ratios in some promotion vid. No, here we’re forced to commit actions, which would be considered inhuman and criminal in real life – and we’re even taught that these methods are both valid and sucessfull! I thought about that and even though it’s against my values, personal experience and professional training, I decided to go ahead – because it’s a computer game and I can separate real life from a game (and I have done so several times during interrogations).

    And these quests are not even the most morally challenging – helping the Scourge to develop weapons of mass destruction was quite troubling as well.

    So, the whole subject of alleged covert sexism is blown out of proportion in my opinion – especially when based solely on a 2 minute video trailer. But your arguments seem a bit flawed as well. You focus a lot on the 10 “dudes” – I don’t really get that. I’ll show you another list of 10 “dudes”: http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/topten – should we have more females on that to help FBI recruit more? Or maybe to help criminal women in their career? I mean, the Blizzard “dude”-list is clearly not the be-all-end-all list of important NPC’s in WoD – if so, they have forgotten 9 races (of which the majority weren’t even shown in the vid). No, this list of “dudes” shows villains and heroes in Draenor. We meet them there, we ally ourselves with some of them, we kill others.

    Another argument is this:

    “In tweets discussing the Draenei female who works under Valen, I have heard her referred to as the “Joan of Arc”. However, this is not particularly reassuring as what most people remember about Joan of Arc is how she died (and not how she lived), and the fact she was a martyr killed for heresy. This sets Yrel aside and presents the feeling of being a helpless martyr, rather than a strong female lead.”

    So, when you get information that might contradict your view on the subject, you dismiss this, because of how you think other people might remember Jeanne d’Arc? I mean, not even from a modern, popular movie is your prediction of a general perception of Jean supported – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0151137/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1. If you have seen the movie, you would know that Milla Jovovich quite often takes a swing at her enemies with a rather large sword, wearing armour almost constantly. It is also made quite clear how she is betrayed (the heresy charges being made up to provide a reasonable explanation for her trial and conviction), convicted and executed.

    Jeanne was killed as a heretic, recognised as a hero of France, declared a martyr by the Catholic Church and finally canonized in 1920. She is often depicted wearing full armour and weapons. I honestly can’t find any evidence to support your assumption that most people see her solely as a martyr – in fact, most evidence suggests otherwise.

    Blizzard can still fail in Yrel’s storyline – but using the story of Jeanne d’Arc seems quite solid to me.

    My suggestion to you and others, who worry about too few female leading roles in WoD is this: Keep suggesting it to Blizzard. We know that the most interesting and captivating stories are the ones that people can relate to – and a story completely void of female characters would certainly be a failure.

    But right now, you (and several others) are making hypebole on the subject – and worse, you seem to dismiss information that contradicts your own conclusions. Like in most other affairs, you should withhold your judgement until you are able to see the full picture – and that is not represented by a 2 minute trailer and some marketing webpage.

    • Lissanna
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      You are welcome to disagree, but the women have spoken up multiple times on multiple gender-related topics in WOW. This isn’t a new topic. This isn’t the first time we’ve posted about it. This isn’t even the first time I’ve posted about the representation of women in video games (more generally) on this blog. When the Moon Moon pet came out, I made a pretty big stink about discrimination against individuals with disabilities, but I did on twitter and in more detail I submitted feedback privately thru the MVP resources. However, in this case, I needed a public statement on the issue because I didn’t feel I could be complicit in supporting what they did at Blizzcon.

      In the interest of not wasting my time arguing, I’ll just leave a link to the “where are the moms of Azeroth?” post. When being asked to blindly accept that the mere presence of women characters in the game is the same thing as good female character development in the history of Warcraft, I’m not so sure they are the same thing. I think Herding Cats does a better job of describing the bigger issue in WOW’s poor storytelling in relation to female characters. The problem isn’t just about one character. The problem isn’t just about one cinematic – it’s about the problem where female characters just don’t seem to have interesting stories worth telling, especially once a female takes on the role of baby incubator to the next generation of male heroes. So, if they haven’t ever really done a good job of female character development in general, how can I reasonably blindly accept that they will do a good job of female character development in Draenor? While Joan of Arc could be a good character model archetype if done right, I can still fully expect Blizzard to do the same superficial female character development they’ve always done.
      http://www.lioreblog.com/2013/11/18/where-are-the-moms-of-azeroth/#.UougXFqidXI

      I’ve seen the full picture of the last 9 years of World of Warcraft and I’ve seen what lore came from the games, books, and other aspects of lore before. Even during the movie panel, they talked about how hard it was to even find female characters they could put in the movie. There is no reason for us to wait to pass judgement. They have always done female character development wrong, they just haven’t rubbed it in our faces publicly in the last several WOW expansions. Blind faith that this time they’ll finally get it right is never the answer. If you see something wrong and say nothing, then nothing will ever change and get better. They haven’t ever really represented women correctly in the game. When they’re explicitly telling us to our faces that this expansion is a “boy’s trip”, why would we think that girls would be treated correctly this time around?

      In terms of representation of other groups: While they could better represent individual cultures, some of these cultures just don’t have a direct 1:1 mapping between the game and reality (e.g., there is no physical location of France in Azeroth to ask for French characters to have better representation). However, both male and female characters are present in the game already, and there is a direct 1:1 mapping between genders in-game and genders in real-life. Asking for females to be treated equally as heroes when they already exist in the game and in the marketing materials (to some extent) isn’t such a big leap, and doesn’t really impact the overall story that much. From a practical standpoint, and from a stand point of choosing winning battles, the only battle I can choose is a battle for female character development right now because right now is the only viable time for arguing about it. Other under-represented groups have to speak for themselves, I can’t reasonably speak for them. Sexual orientation is actually something people have written about in terms of being underrepresented in video games, but I can’t speak for people in that community, and thus it isn’t my place to fight for them.

  20. Whitepaw
    Posted November 20, 2013 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Sorry to have been longwinded, doctor – I’ll shape up!

    I agree very much on your approach about speaking up – and about Blizzard not meeting their own usually high standards, when they try to develop female characters.

    However, to me this seems to be a sympton of a larger problem regarding story telling in WoW: The Fascination of Orcs and Humans. Most of the Warcraft lore still centers on the conflict that started the whole franchise, and when the story developers are seeking new inspiration to drive the story forward, they usually dive into that well of inspiration again.

    Just look at MoP: It starts with Orcs and Humans doing the usual meet ‘n greet, only this time interrupted by a Panda (and in lieu of this discussion – a female kung-fu master would have been double-win in that cinematic!). Then we have several chapters about this Orc versus Humans (search for Anduin, Isle of Thunder invasion and finally the fight against Garrosh). And if you look back at previous expansions, you get a similar picture when focusing on the overarching storyline.

    If you look at successful and consistent character development in the Warcraft universe, you mostly find male Orcs and Humans (in that order, btw). Even then, a lot of players disagree with the development of Varian Wrynn.

    There are outliers. Blizzard has given considerable screen time to Jaina Proudmore in later expansions (but again, she’s Human). Sylvanas was present in both WotLK and Cata, but seems to have retired somewhat in MoP (and she is very interesting!). Moira took over Ironforge, but that part of the story seems to have been told outside the game.

    Then we have the waylaid heroes, Tyrande being the most prominent in my opinion. After running permanently out of arrows back in patch 4.3, we haven’t really seen her on the scene. That’s quite the decline for a leader, who was instrumental in stopping the demonic invasion of Azeroth and maintaining the coherency of the Night Elf community after losing so much, including immortality. She did help the Worgen to escape Gilneas at the start of Cata, but it’s been downhill from then.

    So, if you should give career advice to an upcoming NPC in WoW, it would be this: Roll an Orc male – Metzen will babysit you! Personally, I am a bit tired of this whole male Orc-storyline.”Me smash” quickly gets stale.

    But there is also good stuff in character development from the last expansions. Look at Garrosh: He was introduced and developed through several expansions. This is actually quite rare – most fully-fledged characters have been present since the RTS or was introduced in Vanilla. Now, if this procedure could be coupled with an upcoming character like Yrel (who is, I believe, a Draenei female), we could have the start of an interesting character.

    • Lissanna
      Posted November 20, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      To that point, yes, most of the storyline still revolves around male orcs vs male humans – with little character development for everyone else more generally. I thought Cataclysm did a better job overall of featuring other races (With the revamps to all the leveling zones, and the Night Elves playing a more prominent role more generally).

      The gender balance within the pandaren race is much more equal in terms of the smaller quests in the world, though the main prominent storylines are still orc dudes vs human dudes (plus the token Jaina female who just looks trivialized by the final cinematic) in pandaria. Maybe if Jaina got her way, we wouldn’t have let Garrosh get lost in the first place. ;)

      The point of commenting this early in the expansion cycle is to tell them that just focusing on male orcs isn’t a deep enough story for us anymore. Blizzard could easily deliver a better storyline than just orc dudes vs human dudes, and we expect to see that in terms of not just the leveling zone story quests, but in how the larger narrative is shaped and marketed to us as a whole.

  21. Posted November 22, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    You rock Lissanna! Thanks for putting this into words.

    I’m really upset by this. My wife and I have no intention on continuing if things don’t change. Will be sad to go after so many years, but if “no girlz allowed” is where Blizzard wants to go, then they can go without us.

  22. Posted November 24, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Great post and I like the angle you chose because it really describes the *actual* issue well: Women are missing from this. They were missing at Blizzcon (the Blizzard presenters) almost entirely. And forget about non-white faces; I mean if we think they’re doing poorly with women, they are positively regressive on matters of race.

    I do want to echo what some have said here on the matter of faith: This will not likely change for Blizzard. It really breaks my heart to say so, but they genuinely do not care for such things. Genuinely. Their responses have always been, and continue to be, that “it’s coming” and “don’t worry it will be awesome” and that’s when they’re not saying “we know”. They are completely unapologetic about what they do and this puts them in a situation where they aren’t really listening. They’re “staying true”, whatever they think that means, which leads to a situation of non-change. I fear this isn’t going to change because they are culturally incapable (their company culture).

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