Why do we fight? On social justice in video games

Spoiler warning: This post contains direct spoilers related to plots and storylines in Warlords of Draenor.

Be_The_change

The closing cinematic to Mists of Pandaria (after defeating Garosh and returning to the Vale) asks us why we fight. This scene says “To fight out of fear or anger is to fight a war that never ends. Face your fears. Calm your hatreds. Find peace within yourself, so that you may share it with the world around you.” I also think this reflects within me when thinking about Gandhi’s statement that you should “be the change you wish to see in the world”.

This Saturday, I was a guest on the Justice Points podcast, talking a little bit about social justice in World of Warcraft. The podcast episode is live here.

In the game, as well as in real life, I fight for equality and justice in the world around me. I fight so that others can have health and happiness. I strive to teach others and give them the tools they need to succeed. That is why I write guides to help others. That’s also why I have to speak up about social issues that I feel crosses a line. I know that everyone doesn’t agree with me, and while I am leaving this comment section open, I will remove any posts that are disrespectful. In all cases, the examples used in this post are examples that other people posted about first, but I felt the need to use my voice to make sure they aren’t forgotten.

I believe that Mists of Pandaria overall was a success in terms of social justice for gender issues in the game – in terms of not making gender such a big issue, and making me feel welcome to the game as a female. Mists of Pandaria did a great job of featuring strong and powerful women, doing important things. This included Jaina, who even appeared on the front of the Tides of War book! For video games, having a female on the cover of something is actually quite an accomplishment in terms of promoting acceptance of women in games. It was a subtle gesture, but it felt appropriate and natural. In the past Blizzard had been getting better about having awesome female characters.

This sentiment, however, gets easily forgotten as we go back 10 to 20 years in time to revisit our past in Warlords of Draenor. We are led to believe that we should forget these warnings of the Pandaren as we ramp up for Warlords of Draenor. Instead, the word “savage” starts to feel as though Blizzard is using it as a synonym for “manly,” especially with regards to the “boys trip” Blizzcon comments and leaving Aggra at home to take care of Thrall’s baby. Instead of listening to people who wanted more women, and better representation of women, they dug in their heels – and this lack of sensitivity has infected how women are represented when they are present in the game at all in what little we’ve seen of WOD thus far.

This is such a stark contrast from the more equal feeling in Pandaria that the Warlords of Draenor opening cinematic and website made me fell unwanted in the community for the first time ever – because suddenly out of nowhere, it felt like my gender mattered in ways that wasn’t comfortable. I could fight individual men telling me that I wasn’t worthy because of my gender over the years because I had tools to squelch them (e.g., ignore lists, deleting blog comments, reporting on the forums, etc). A bigger problem, however, is caused by Blizzard endorsing all those things that the community had said about me as a female player, and undoing all of the headway we had made towards increased respect.  This was an issue that I brought up around the time of Blizzcon.

Unfortunately, these gender issues have only gotten worse, instead of better, in the last several months. In fact, we’ve had several people in the WOW community decide that maybe WOD isn’t for them in recent weeks due to the way that WOD is being marketed. Even people you think would like TV shows about motorcycles (e.g., the new Azerothian Choppers WOW tie-in show) haven’t had glowing reviews of the current marketing.

I believe that part of this problem is in forgetting that they need to actually care about the fact women play their game. In trying to revisit their past, Blizzard is remembering a history when they did actually exclude women players from their games, and there is a collective group-think at Blizzard that has promoted this forgetting of women gamers. That’s why there are so few women we know are going to be in Draenor, and that’s why the overall really poor representation of the few women in Draenor is a problem. Going back to a time before women were invited to play video games is just not acceptable today.

The sexual harassment of Draka

One of the bigger problems is an Alpha leak that included Draka (Thrall’s mother) being sexually harassed by another character. The dialogue is something like: “Draka … come join me in the Iron Horde. Lose that armor and settle down with a REAL MAN!“. This dialogue is unnecessary and offensive. This dialogue doesn’t increase their sales. It doesn’t add anything to the game. It tells women they don’t belong in Draenor, because that’s how some of their players are interpreting these words. It is also not something they would do to their male heroes in the game. It becomes a huge problem when it directly encourages the male players of their game to say this to female players of their game because it endorses the sexism pervasive in gamer culture. It tells male gamers that it is okay to sexually harass female gamers, because that’s somehow normal. Blizzard gets to define what is normal in gamer culture, and influence real life outside the game. Instead of being a force for good, they have chosen to slide backwards 20 years in terms of what is acceptable in video games and in our cultural media. Even if the dialogue is said by a villain, it is still inappropriate.

Rape jokes are even endorsed in hearthstone’s card set:

Charge_Inappropriate_Joke_Hearthstone

Having the flavor text of “Guys! Guys! Slow down!” tied to a picture of a scantily clad female with their rear-end sticking out towards an aggressor becomes a problem, because the text and the picture together make it a reference to sexual assault (and not something potentially more gender-neutral). How did no one recognize the fact that this card probably wasn’t appropriate? With the fact that sexual assault references are so common in video games, people actually just don’t recognize what it is anymore. Sexual violence against women (but never against men!) becomes the new normal. You could ignore the sexual assault reference and interpret it (incorrectly) as being more neutral, but why does sexual assault need to feel normal in the first place? Changing either the art or the flavor text would make the card a little bit better (changing the flavor text would be easiest, though). It worries me if there is a lack of caring about how portions of their audience might perceive this card, and no editing of thoughts and behaviors internally at Blizzard to recognize subtle messages that become part of a bigger and more pervasive culture of demeaning women. Either way, it means they likely didn’t think about how the products they develop may be perceived by a wider audience. Things like this make it feel like the company didn’t think about their cultural impact in the world. If this card was the only instance of sexism in Hearthstone, it would probably not be so bad – but it is just one of many examples. The same problems pop up in Heroes of the Storm. The same problems pop up in almost all popular video games – and its so frequent that it feels normal.

I think there has to be a better way for Blizzard to connect with their audience in a way that doesn’t actively endorse gender stereotypes and endorse jokes about sexual violence that becomes part of the cultural narrative of what is accepted in video games and real life. As a cultural leader in the world, Blizzard needs to take their responsibility more seriously. While this is “just a game”, it is actually true that games influence cultural beliefs about sexism. Real life beliefs about sexism mirrors what is portrayed in the media and in video games. Sexual harassment in video games increases endorsements of real-life sexual harassment. At some point, we stop seeing sexual harassment as being sexual harassment because it just becomes a normal part of life that women are expected to put up with. It turns out that women really don’t like being honked at just for walking down the street in real-life. It turns out that women don’t really enjoy being harassed in the context of their games that should allow for feelings of safety.

As a leader in the gaming industry, at what point does Blizzard decide to stand up and fight for respect among their gamers? At what point does the “boys trip” end and respect for their women fans begin? We see that the introduction of Yrel and the story she is involved in for WOW that she is treated with the same disrespect in her own character dialogue that other female characters are facing in today’s Blizzard games based on what we can see thus far.

What if gender roles were reversed for in-game dialogue?

With leaked dialogue between Yrel and Maraad, there is now a new flurry of posts about how women get the short end of the stick when it comes to character development Warlords of Draenor. In the podcast, I talk about how the dialogue written for Yrel is sexist because they wouldn’t do the same thing to Thrall. Thrall never has to worry about being sexually assaulted by other characters in the game (which is what the word “defiled” actually means). If the male orcs in draenor wouldn’t sexually assault the other men they capture, there is no reason why rape references are necessary in Yrel’s story, especially with a male character telling the female character that she’s been “defiled” and “broken”. In this case, “broken” is not is not coming across as a reference to the people who were corrupted with fel magic, but in a more more sexually aggressive nature because of the way that Maraad tells us that his “angel” has been “defiled”. It doesn’t make sense for a male character to need to be motivated by the rape of a female character, and I’m not even sure that was Blizzard’s actual intention – but that’s how the dialogue reads when it’s directed against a female character. It actually hurts the character development of male characters when they are also limited by the way that sexist dialogue is written. Changing sexist pieces of dialogue, however, could make the story better.

In the following example (one of MANY examples I could have chosen) Yrel’s name is replaced with Thrall and Maraad’s name is replaced with Aggra, it doesn’t necessarily come across quite so aggressive (because males in video games are never sexually assaulted in the first place), but it still proves my point. You could interpret the “defiled” as being more neutral, but why do female characters have to be referred to as “defiled” (with defiled actually being used in a way that makes it invoke the feeling of reference to rape), when we’d never use that term to describe male characters? Why evoke those images and feelings in your player base, and make those images and feelings feel normal and accepted?

Real game dialogue where Yrel’s name is replaced with Thrall, and Maraad’s name is replaced with Aggra. This is to show how when the genders are reversed, this dialogue suddenly becomes something that would never be in the game, it should make people equally uncomfortable in its original form.

  • Thrall: What is our plan, Aggra?
  • Aggra: We will slay as many of the vile things as we can. We will burn their homes and show them fear.
  • Aggra:I will make them feel the pain I felt when I lost you, Thrall.
  • Thrall: Aggra… I am honored…
  • Thrall: …but perhaps you are taking your vengeance too far. Have you forgotten what the Prophet taught us?
  • Aggra: The prophet is DEAD, Thrall. Look what his teachings did for him.
  • Thaelin: Ye’ve gone too far, Aggra.
  • Thaelin: The Light’s left ye. Even I can see that.
  • Ovuun: I carry no particular love for the Light, but I agree. You need to remember what you stand for, Vindicator.
  • Aggra: Are any of you more holy than me? I am the LEADER of this expedition, and I will not be questioned any further!
  • Aggra: The Light has not left me, Thaelin. No… the Light has finally shown me its true form.
  • Aggra: Vengeance.
  • Aggra: I saw the naaru’s vengeance in the Purge of Grommar. I was there as K’ara herself unleashed holy death upon the filthy hordes.
  • Aggra: And now that these hordes have taken, broken, and defiled my angel Thrall, I intend to unleash my own…
  • Thrall: Aggra, my love. That’s enough.
  • Aggra: Thrall…
  • Thrall: You have been through too much, Aggra. Your thirst for vengeance will only lead to our death.
  • Thrall: Yes, I was taken, but I am not defiled, and I am not broken.
  • Thrall: Rest now. I will lead our attack on the Naval Base.
  • Thaelin: I’m with you, Thrall.
  • Ovuun: I, too, will follow you.
  • Hansel: And I.
  • Aggra: Very well.
  • Aggra: Thank you, Thrall. I don’t know what’s coming over me.

There has to be a better way than to introduce Yrel as a sexual assault victim who needs to motivate vengeance of a male character. Blizzard’s games could be much more enjoyable if they took the time to recognize how women may perceive their marketing and aspects of their game. They need someone to tell them where the line of acceptable is, and when they have crossed it. Is reference to sexual harassment and rape of female characters something that should be acceptable? You could easily still have compelling dialogue without having to rely on sexism to convey messages. Thrall would never actually have to reassure someone that he wasn’t “defiled” or “broken”.

They even frame the rescue in ways that doesn’t evoke the traditional fel magic association with the word “broken”, but instead is consistent with the sexual assault interpretation of Maraad’s later dialogue after they rescue Yrel. In this case, they are evoking the traditional “damsel in distress” themes.

  • Maraad: Everybody in the Tank. Yrel is being held as a slave in the Stonemaul ogres’ slave camp.
  • Maraad: Yrel might already be free if it weren’t for the actions of one deceitful rangari.
  • Ovuun: I did what I thought was right, Vindicator. The missing girl seems to be distracting you from our mission.
  • Thaelin: Yeah, what’s so special about this girl anyway?
  • Maraad: I lost her once. I will not lose her again.
  • Hansel: Now THAT’S somethin’ I can get behind.
  • Hansel: Besides, the ogres’re sellin’ slaves to the Iron Horde. Stoppin’ ta beat ‘em up fer a bit is well within the scope o’ our mission.

Thus, they aren’t talking about rescuing her from fel magic and becoming a “broken” race, but rescuing her from ogres that are selling slaves to the iron horde, and then framing the dialogue in ways that evokes subtle references to sexual assault in ways that weren’t necessary to evoke. It would be really easy to fix the dialogue, however, and make it much more clear in the possible interpretations. There isn’t any need to leave the dialogue open for an interpretation that references sexual violence, but instead Maraad’s motivations could be made to be less focused on rescuing a damsel in distress as his primary motivation in the game.

How could you change game dialogue?

For the especially problematic text from the first quote (now with the correct name attributions), the red cross-outs are what could be removed. Green text is new insertions to allow the character to still be angry and motivated.

  • Maraad: We will slay as many of the vile things as we can. We will burn their homes and show them fear.
  • Maraad: I will make them feel the pain I felt when I lost you, Yrel. they have wrecked upon our people!
  • Yrel: Maraad… I am honored…
  • Yrel: I too wish to stop them …but perhaps you are taking your vengeance too far.
  • …. (skipping a couple lines)
  • Maraad: I saw the naaru’s vengeance in the Purge of Grommar. I was there as K’ara herself unleashed holy death upon the filthy hordes.
  • Maraad: And now that these hordes have taken, broken, and defiled my angel Yrel, been allowed to roam free and hurt those I care about. I intend to unleash my own…
  • Yrel: Maraad,, my love. Tthat’s enough.
  • Maraad: Yrel…
  • Yrel: You have been through too much, Maraad. Your thirst for vengeance will only lead to our death.
  • Yrel: Yes, I was taken, but I am not defiled, and I am not broken. I am here now, and I am stronger than ever.
  • Yrel: Rest now. I will lead our attack on the Naval Base.

See? Maraad doesn’t need to be defending Yrel’s honor like she’s a broken princess. He can still be defending his people without needing Yrel’s purpose for living as only as a motivator for Maraad. By making it less sexist in the presentation, it can allow everyone who isn’t motivated by saving princesses anymore to feel included, too. It doesn’t make the story better to marginalize Yrel. There is lots of other problematic dialogue in the mmo-champion’s leaked post, but for the purpose of this thread, I won’t go line-by-line through all of the expansion dialogue. I know that Blizzard can do better. They HAVE done better. It adds nothing to the game to introduce Yrel as someone whose love-interest thinks she has been “defiled” (in this case, the potentially more gender-neutral references for defiled or broken isn’t the impression that Blizzard gives across the whole set of dialogue, not all of which I’ve included here). We have rescued plenty of people from captivity (including Thrall himself). Just because Yrel is female doesn’t mean her rescue should be about saving a helpless princess – Yrel can still be as awesome as any male character if she’s given a chance. She can still assert her strength without having to fall victim to the typical tropes, and without having to make some of the players of their games uncomfortable. For the few female characters that will actually be in WOD, they need to be treated with the same respect that is afforded their male characters.

In the end, it is the little details within a game that makes it feel like a welcome space for everyone, where everyone can feel comfortable and at home. Women characters in Blizzard’s games should be treated with the same respect they afford to their male characters, and even their male characters will benefit from that. In the attempt to bring a “savage” expansion, lets not forget to make sure that the whole audience feels included on this journey. There have been times when Blizzard got things right. They did a lot of good in the Mists of Pandaria framing. So, we know they can do better, because they HAVE done better in the past. It’s not so much to ask for everyone to feel included, and it’s certainly not too late for Blizzard to make a pass at their dialogue and content across all their games and think about how they represent (or often don’t represent) women.

19 Comments

  1. Muphrid
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Is the text in that card part of some common rape joke? I have sincerely never heard it (though the image is in itself rather troubling on close examination).

    • Lissanna
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      In this case, it’s the text combined with the card picture. I edited the post to explain the connection. If the text had been with a warrior crashing into a wall, that wouldn’t have had the same impact. However, it’s a picture of a dude charging at the extended rear-end of an obviously female character, posted in a very suggestive way – combined with the flavor text.

      • Dan
        Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        I’m not sure the flavor text was meant to be taken in context with the picture at all. The image shows an admittedly scantily clad night elven archer hurrying to re-nock an arrow before the warrior kills her. The text, on the other hand, has the feeling of one character talking to other friendly characters, giving off the distinct impression that warriors are superior because they have Charge, something that allows them to move much faster than their slower friends.

        Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a good deal of implied sexism in Hearthstone, mostly in the art (the Charge card being one of them), but also the lack of female representation in hero selection. I just think that trying to stretch this particular card into a portrayal of rape weakens your argument as a whole, especially when there are much better examples of gender inequality to be had.

        • Lissanna
          Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:47 am | Permalink

          But that flavor text is presented in the context with the picture. The flavor text for the cards go with the pictures. The picture is the context in which they are presented. If you mouse over the card, you see the flavor text and the picture together. In the context of female characters being sexually harassed (or worse) in their games, I think it fits perfectly in line with my points. The point isn’t about how blizzard intends their products to be interpreted, but how people ARE interpreting them, based on their own life perspectives. I included the card because someone else in the community made the connection and was bothered by it, and it’s worth talking about. Blizzard isn’t going to put text on the card that says “The girl was raped by the boy”, but implying it is just as bad. I have talked about the lack of female representation in their games before (in the last post I did around Blizzcon). However, how women are represented within the game when they ARE represented is the focus of today’s post.

          We are taught to just accept poor representation of women in video games because that’s the culture – to treat women in video games in a different way than men in video games are treated. Any example of misrepresentation of women I find, I’m going to have 10 people tell me it’s not so bad, because we’re all being taught that sexism in video games isn’t a big deal (even when it should be). There isn’t any example anyone can find that I could post where someone wouldn’t tell me that I’m just imagining things and over-reacting. This is in part due to the fact that the “damsel in distress” and sexual violence against women is unfortunately quite commonly used (but still inappropriate) video game theme. http://www.feministfrequency.com/2013/05/damsel-in-distress-part-2-tropes-vs-women/

  2. Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I think what annoys me about all of this, especially lately is that… I just RECENTLY read Christie Golden’s “Rise of the Horde”. There is a part in there that VERY CLEARLY states about how men and women are generally treated equally by the orcs. Even after the war with the Draenei had begun. Doing these kinds of things to someone would’ve been seen as disgusting and cowardly. And after they started warring with the Draenei, it would’ve made even LESS sense because they didn’t do anything short of wholesale slaughter. They didn’t take prisoners at the Temple of Karabor (which was BEFORE they drank the demon’s blood), or the siege of Shattrath (which was after the demon blood). They just went and slaughtered indiscriminately.

  3. Zy
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I haven’t really been tracking news about WoD much because of lack of enthusiasm. That dialog. . . Wow. My advanced order for WoD is getting canceled today.

    • Lissanna
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      My point isn’t to have people cancel their subscriptions. My point is that there’s still time to change things and have them be made for the better.

      • Zy
        Posted April 29, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

        I was already on the fence about WoD and this was just the final straw. Almost nothing released so far has gotten my interest and the negatives are piling up way faster than the positives. I don’t think the newest effort to balance healing is going to work. The story looks awful because I’m not interested in orcs, more orcs and savage orcs. The no flying stance is annoying. I’m not going to be able to raid anymore (pregnant with #2) and raiding has always been one of my favorite parts of the game (that is not Blizzard’s fault, just one more reason why WoD isn’t very exciting for me).

        I wanted to give WoD a chance because I’ve loved WoW for so long (continuously subbed for six years this June) but I’m really tired of the way Blizz treats women. This game is supposed to be fun, stuff like this kills fun for me so I’m speaking with my wallet. If they fix this (and a number of other issues) then I can always resub and purchase the xpac later.

        • Lissanna
          Posted April 29, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

          If they fix this (and a number of other issues), I’ll be sure to post and let people know. It’s possible that you might really like the Garrison content, so keep an eye out for that stuff. Garrisons will be pretty casual-friendly overall (you won’t even miss flying if you never leave your home base!).

          On another note, the newest Final Fantasy MMO actually ranks pretty well on the scale of female-friendly MMO games. There are a number of women you interact with in the storyline quests, at least at the low levels I’ve completed.

          Wildstar’s early beta failed pretty miserably on the sexism scale. There are some things Wildstar is working on fixing, like letting female character models choose to have space for a spine and internal organs in their bodies, but I still think I prefer WOW’s story & character development.

          • Zy
            Posted April 29, 2014 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

            WoW is the only MMO I’ve ever played (altho hardly the only computer game, I almost burned the house down once thanks to Civ 3) and to be honest the original reason I started playing was to spend time with my husband. Obviously it blossomed beyond that because I stayed long after he quit but I’m not really interested in getting involved with another MMO. Life has changed beyond having a second kiddo on the way, husband got out of the military last year and we’ve settled down so I can finally indulge in all the hobbies I’ve been putting off for years (gardening, chickens, fostering rescue dogs, ect).

            I appreciate how much easier the game has gotten to enjoy casually and that’s one of the reasons I was willing to give WoD a shot. The emphasis on exploration (one of my favorite parts of the game) and flexibility does sound very good. My sub doesn’t run out until July and I’ll keep an eye on how things go in case things do improve. In the meantime I’ll be cheering people like you and Apple Cider Mage on from the sidelines :)

  4. Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    The Thrall/Aggra dialogue would look fine to me if:
    1.) The two were draenei (Since the race has a better history of battling between the light and the Burning Legion)
    2.) ‘Defiled’ and ‘Broken’ were given clearer context. Broken draenei are a thing, and a strong case could be made that it’s defilement.
    http://wowpedia.org/Broken_draenei
    “They, like most of the orcs, fell prey to the demons’ sinister influence and were changed by the corruption.”

    Unfortunately I don’t think is what the writer was going for, and if they were going for that angle, they did a poor job at conveying it here.

    I can’t really fault the writer though for including ‘pet names’ for the two since it’s the quickest way to convey that the two are romantically entwined. Unless the objection is that Yrel has a love interest in the storyline.
    ——————————-

    The last thing I disagree with is the take on the word ‘savage.’ It’s a gender neutral term in my opinion.

    sav·age (săv′ĭj)
    adj.
    1. Not domesticated or cultivated; wild: savage beasts of the jungle.
    2. Not civilized; barbaric: a people living in a savage state.
    3. Ferocious; fierce: in a savage temper.
    4. Vicious or merciless; brutal: a savage attack on a political rival. See Synonyms at cruel.
    5. Lacking polish or manners; rude.

    ——————————-

    It’s easier to list the things that I disagree with rather than the things that I do, otherwise this would be a pretty worthless post ;) I do want to add though that the article was well reasoned and written. Most articles I see on the subject seem to imply that stuff like this is done intentionally to offend and I think that this one did a good job of showing that it’s probably not intentional, but rather systemic. It’s important to note that sort of thing as it goes further in changing the actual problem than any other thing could. Well done!

    • Lissanna
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      The word “savage” may be gender-neutral in the dictionary, but the problem is that it’s not being enacted in the game in a gender-neutral way. It’s being enacted in a way that leads to their female characters being sexually harassed, and having the horde suddenly become people who sexually abuse females, instead of treating females with the respect that they had previously. Just like there are gender-neutral ways to use the word “broken”, but it’s not being used in a gender-neutral way in the context of Yrel’s story and the greater context of WOD. The game could be savage with 4 women warlords, but it’s not. The game could be savage with Aggra actually being invited to Draenor, but she’s not. The terms could be used in more gender-neutral ways, but they’re not. We have been asking them to present WOD in more gender-neutral ways, but they haven’t yet corrected the direction of their plots, in-game dialogue, or marketing strategies. This is a fixable problem. If I didn’t think this problem could be fixed, I wouldn’t post about it. I am, however, going back and editing sections of the post where my points aren’t coming across clear. So, I am listening to the feedback of people commenting. ;)

      • Posted April 29, 2014 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        Only one comment on that – How would you have introduced a female warlord if it was your call? Retconning the existing ones, or introducing a new clan? (The later seems the better option to me personally)

        • Lissanna
          Posted April 29, 2014 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

          They have retconned and changed a lot of the lore. Yrel actually died in the original timeline. They have made it clear that it is a new timeline altogether. That means they can change anything they want. Having us go back in time changed everything.They also could have introduced Aggra with Thrall both going back, and had the baby come along, too. They could more prominently feature the alliance and horde female leaders as important characters in their marketing for WOD. They could introduce female characters who aren’t just princesses that need rescuing and need big strong men to save them. At the very least, it’s easy to clean up the dialogue and actually make it more neutral in tone, and allow for better character development for the female characters that DO manage to play any role in the game at all. I’m suggesting that if they wouldn’t have that dialogue exist if the genders were reversed, there’s something wrong (and easily fixable!) about the dialogue. There are a lot of ways to fix the game, and to make it more balanced in terms of who Blizzard treats as their target audience.

          If they took out the cat-call to Draka and changed a couple lines of Yrel’s dialogue, they can keep the same overall flavor and direction, but with less sexism (though there are plenty of other places where sexism in their games needs to be examined and thought more seriously about at their company as a whole – and there are other examples in the dialogue even with Yrel that need to be examined that I didn’t post here). They make choices every step of the way about how they do (or don’t) include women in their games. In the dialogue I suggested changing, it was Maraad’s words that are actually more problematic than what Yrel says, because Maraad keeps treating Yrel like she’s a damsel in distress even after she’s been rescued. Blizzard gets to define what is culturally normal in the world, and with the fact that the expectations and target audience for games is shifting, Blizzard needs to take that cultural responsibility seriously.

          • Posted April 29, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

            Yrel died because we didn’t weren’t there to prevent it. The timeline is concurrent with ours until the point where Garrosh went back, at which point it splits. That means that the warlords/etc are all the same. The way I see it with Yrel, us helping to save her gives her the chance to become the badass she’s supposed to be (And hopefully becomes.)

            I agree with you on everything else, just wanted to know how you’d introduce a female warlord. Retcon is a fine answer, I just think it would be a jarring one for lore junkies.

          • Lissanna
            Posted April 29, 2014 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

            I’m not saying that introducing female warlords is the only way to introduce women to the game, but that not having any female warlords is because the original storyline was created at a point where sexism in video games was more acceptable than it is today. By treating sexism in video games today as normal (at a point when it’s becoming less accepted), that’s a problem from a huge company that gets to set the standard for what is normal video games. By not recognizing their own bias, that’s a problem that has become a culture of accepting sexism. It’s a circular problem. We’re going back in time to a time when the game was more sexist, and that has infected how the NEW storyline treats female characters.

            The team making the movie for WOW actually commented on how difficult it was to find female characters to include in the movie – because Blizzard traditionally doesn’t include female characters. By only having female characters introduced in ways that surround them in stereotypes, it says something unacceptable about the culture of video games. Sexism doesn’t always jump up and smack people in the face. It creeps slowly and silently in the way that it permeates the way people think about the world, and it starts to feel acceptable because it seems natural and normal when it’s always there.

          • Posted April 29, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

            All good stuff :) I bring up the Warlords because I’ve seen it as a complaint in several places since Blizzcon.

            One last criticism is that now it looks like I didn’t read the article before commenting due to all of the great edits, hah.

  5. Posted April 29, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I really hate how savage = manly. I’m a scholar, an academic, a brain. I don’t aim for ripped muscles, I aim for health and sensibility.

    Nothing in media ever really helps my type. Always pigeonholed into things genetics either gives you or doesn’t, and implies that everyone wants. The latter is the biggest social hurdle to get over.

  6. Posted May 2, 2014 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    “This is to show how when the genders are reversed, this dialogue suddenly becomes something that would never be in the game”

    On some level I think this is why men continue to think of rape and sexual assault as a women’s issue: it’s never perpetrated upon men in media. Especially not in games. Sexual assault is not a women’s issue, though. And men generally don’t look at it this way. Even some of those who do, their solution would be to just make the sexual assault even handed — which utterly misses the entire lesson.