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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Female of the Species


Top song, /handwaggle at video ^^

As a rule, I like to pick my battles. Getting involved in many discussions when it comes to the topic of 'women in gaming' make me, I have to say, a little nervous. My outlook is simple: if you can't treat me as an equal to begin with, then I doubt convincing you of anything will either begin or end well. Therefore, a lot of the time, it's simply easier not to get involved. However, there is one topic which consistently annoys and dismays me, and a lot of that is wrapped up with having an eight year old daughter. I've lost count of the number of times she's turned to me when playing a web game or watching her brother playing on the PC or console and asked 'why are their no girls to play?' Undoubtedly her favourite games (Minecraft included) are where she can be a female avatar and 'dress' herself in the way she wants. No, this isn't reinforcing gender stereotypes when the only one you're consistently presented with is male. It's a perfectly natural choice she should be able to make without consequence, and without the need for a flame war or massive amount of recrimination. The problem is, female representation in games is ultimately fecked, and Warcraft is a perfect example.

Where ON AZEROTH are all the women?

Races in game are, of course, adequately represented, but after that... things get a bit murky. I saw a leak yesterday of 'supposed' expansion art for 6.0 (which was news to me but has apparently been around for ages) which suggested female 'forms' for three new races, one of which were the Ogres. This has always fascinated me back since I first ran into Ogres in Vanilla: where were the women? Were they subjugated and made to live in caves? Were they sensible and simply took no part in fighting? How did Ogres reproduce as a result? See, there's a part of me (the rational science bit that comes out when people start questioning Evolution, which is an argument for an ENTIRELY different place) that needs to have both a male and a female of the species present in any environment to make the process work successfully. The only reason we can have Panda cubs running around, telling me with enthusiasm they're learning to grow beards, is because I can see Male and Female pandas exist, and I can do the maths in my head. It's a 12 game, I don't need to have anything else, it's okay. On that point, why don't any girls of any race speak in game either?

I'm distracting myself from the point here: Murloc babies. How do I know what's a female to begin with? I just assume (in this case) that because babies exist there must be both mum and dad present in the process. Just because the females aren't OBVIOUSLY female (and you know where I'm going with this) doesn't mean they don't exist, so logically one could assume that female ogres have existed all along, you just don't know what they look like. The fact they both sound and act like the men is as maybe. This, I suspect, would be how 'lazy' developers would react if asked a direct question. The truth, I would also think, is that every model takes forever to actually make, and if the game was populated with biologically correct versions of every species the game would have failed in Vanilla because it just took too long to code. Cutting a corner for expediency is a sensible move: its only eight years down the line when the game is more popular than anyone else's when these kinds of 'aesthetic' issues come into play.


It's always about the norks :(

Ultimately, the way women are portrayed in games has less to do with what women actually look like (and by that I mean all the beautiful body shapes that exist and not the narrow band certain sectors of the media decide are desirable) and more to do with the notion of what some men THINK women look like. There's a science to this too, basic biology, all wrapped up in the desire to reproduce and continue the species. I get this. I also get the thing about breasts, and skin, and scantily clad. I mean, these two lasses up here are an absolutely PERFECT example of what happens, and as a result what is just not how it should work. PUT THE BREASTS AWAY. Be creative, go read some Encyclopaedias and come up with female models that don't look as if they fell out of this month's copy of a Goblin's Gentleman's Magazine. If you're going to spend hours of time designing this stuff, don't tell me it makes it easier to do if you've got something attractive to stare at, because I'M NOT BUYING IT.  Beautiful does not mean stereotype, it means diversity. The only way things will ever change in an industry that is predominantly male-populated is if these outdated views are finally discarded forever.

If you want a far more intelligent and passionate take on these two, by the way, I'd strongly suggest you go read Apple Cider Mage's take on the introduction of these girls in 5.3. There are two parts, make sure you read both.

In the end, what we see in a game matters almost as much as the game itself, or else all those adverts on websites for 'the fantasy game all your friends are playing' wouldn't exist. Gender stereotyping may be becoming less and less acceptable with each passing day, but it still remains a problem if the people who it is targeted at simply sit back and say 'no matter, someone else can change that.' It's up to us, folks, we have the power, especially in this Community where we KNOW the people who make the game sit up and take notice at criticism. I'd even argue that I'd settle for more bio-diversity in game without having to make this a right-out Feminist issue to begin with. The fact remains, you don't need a label to fight a cause, and you shouldn't get criticised when you feel that images are either misrepresented or simply forgotten for the sale of expedience. There really should be more female models in game: I know I'm not the first person to say this either, what concerns me more is that I might be the last. The only way things change is by constant and respectful pressure. Let me add my voice to this cause, and let me say I will keep poking at every model that Blizzard produce in the future that relies less on the real world for it's inspiration and more on hackneyed stereotype.

I don't think that's too much to ask.

13 comments:

Shannon said...

You're darn right about this. I myself don't fit the standard image our society perpetuates about what is beautiful in women. Throw in there that I'm a lesbian and there are even fewer female images in culture that match me. Hear, hear, I say, and let's get louder about this.

dobablo said...

Although the twins aren't the only female Mogu (although the only ones using that model), I do have to wonder what Blizzard were thinking when they decided that the ruler of an assexual race needs a couple of female hangers on to look sexy.

If they really had to introduce dimorphic female mogu then they should of been much more monsterous and a lot less sexualised. Blizzard have a fantastic little world with wonderful oportunities to break the stereotype. There should be more male/female splits when the difference is identified by plumage or horns and the non-dimorphic races need something extra to show they aren't all single-sex (female voiced Ethereals please).

Jonathan said...

Can't disagree with any of this post. The Pandaren are a step in the right direction, as they aren't all skinny as rakes, but it's just a small step. Needs more diversity!

Mike Moore said...

It's an interesting discussion. From a lore point of view, didn't Lei Shen create these Mogu women? (I assume using the Engine that churns out the rest of the Mogu). I don't think I saw any Mogu children around.
I'm not sure for definite on that point, but if it was the case, surely he would create them in a way that he perceived as beautiful. Given at least one of his references is the Titans/Keepers, Freya could be a decent source model.
Had he been created and lived around Therazane/Theradras maybe what he would perceive as beautiful would have been very different...
In reality, every person is different, so trying to create one model/skeleton that represents a whole gender of a race is going to be very difficult and probably lean towards something that is pleasing to look at. That is never going to please everyone.

Altaholic said...

Very well spoken. if we remain silent assuming someone else will say something then the powers that be will believe all is right with the world. Look at the Xbone. We CAN make a difference.

Glyneth said...

Unfortunately, and I'm sure you know this, the problem of playing as a female character has been around for a long time. This post actually made me remember something from back in my early gaming days, when the creators of The Bard's Tale came onto Compuserve's Gamers forum for a Q&A. I recall asking then (and if their libraries still existed, I could find the transcript) why couldn't I, as a (much younger) woman, play as a female character? They didn't really have an answer for me, as I recall. I didn't play the sequel much, so I have no recollection of if I could play as me in it. This was back in *cough* 1985.

It IS getting better, but we still have a long way to go.

Altaholic said...

Heck has everyone forgotten how they said thay had to have Lara raped/nearly raped to make a male player care for her? Something is seriously broken!

Dahakha said...

Northrend was the high water mark iirc. Female wolvar, murloc babies, female vrykul, and of course naga. Oracles may have had some female npcs too? Some of the names seemed feminine to me...

Matty said...

Now dammit Godmother and Erinys -- you've both made me want to write, too! I can, and will, never stop thinking about this topic.

Navimie said...

This topic is difficult to reply - all the things you want to say don't fit into thislittle reply box. But a good post Godmother.

The Godmother said...

@Matty: there needs to be more discussion about these issues in the Community. Sadly, I sense the drop-off in discussion is the first real indicator that Blizzard is losing the fight to keep subs in the game... :(

obscurefox said...

I always felt ogres budded and split off like some asexual creatures , the two headed ones are in process but not very far and when the get further they hide away for a bit.

River said...

But I'm in love with Naga Women, something about a snake tail...rawr