Monday, October 25, 2010

Not MY fantasy

Like approximately 11,999,999 other people on this planet, I play World of Warcraft. At least, I have before, and almost certainly will again, though my account is currently inactive. I've never been a hardcore player... the game wasn't released until after my first child was born, so I've never spent 13 hours straight raiding like I did in my EverQuest days. But I have a max level main and a level 70 alt, plus a couple other fairly high-level characters. I mostly play with my husband, though that's more a matter of convenience than anything else; when a child may have an emergency at any moment, it's good to have someone around to auto-follow.

So we decided to go to Blizzcon this year. Friends were going, and it seemed like a good idea. It may even have been one, but that's not what I'm writing about here. Those who know of Blizzcon, have been before, or follow it at all, may have heard this year's wasn't as good as prior years. I have no idea; this was my first one. I privately refer to it as Glitzcon. It was very shiny, but not particularly useful. I may get sucked into Diablo III. But I digress.

During the WoW open Q&A, a female human asked something very much like: "I really love that the game contains all these strong female characters, and I'm glad that you've included women who are clearly leaders. I was just wondering, is it possible that in Cataclysm [the upcoming expansion], there may be some that don't look like they just stepped out of a Victoria's Secret catalog?"

First crowd reaction: cheers. Those voices were female. Secondary reaction: boos. Much louder, as those were the male voices... which made up roughly 75% of the audience. One guy nearby shouted, "Hey, it's FANTASY!"

Which is the justification: don't take it hard, honey, because this is fantasy. And it is. And frankly, I'm not so bothered by the laws-of-physics-defying bustiers and long belts in place of skirts.

What bothers me is that the guys are all fully dressed.

And this is about something bigger than a game, or even a genre of games. Feminism has long placed undue emphasis on the way women are perceived, represented, and portrayed. But the problem isn't how women are dressed or scripted... it is the difference between how women and men are displayed.

In your next journey through World of Warcraft or a similar game, look around you. See how many glistening biceps and totally cut pecs you see on display. Count the briefs, loincloths, and cut-offs sported by unrealistically beautiful manly men. Inventory the six packs, the open vests, the torn shirts.

You'll only need one hand, I bet.

And why is it like that? Well, here's a guess: it may have something to do with the demographics of the folks making the game. Of the five lead artists, designers, coders, etc. on stage, five were men. And they know what men want: to know that their sexuality is unquestioned. They do NOT want to be confronted with sexy male figures when they're trying to relax! That's gay, or something.

So why is it expected that women should be comfortable with the same thing? Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. (Which apparently means that if we kill you, pluck you, chop off your head and feet, and cook you, no one cares whether you're male or female, just how you taste with gravy.)

Last I heard, nearly half of WoW players are female. As half of people are female, this suggests there may be some untapped market out there. It may be time for the designers to break themselves out of the tautology of [most players are male] ∴ [all eye candy is female] ∴ [most players are male].

And while we're at it, maybe the guys who like to suggest that women are being overly sensitive when they point out these disparities can take a good, hard look at a Google Image Search of construction worker shirtless and see just how comfortable they would be with the shoe on the other foot. I think we've been awfully patient. (Update: or just take a gander at the artwork here.)

/em hopes the Blizzard team doesn't decide to initiate equity with the Goblin race.

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