When Victoria’s Secret Female asked Blizzard about female characters not looking like they stepped out of a lingerie catalog at Blizzcon 2010, she was met with mockery and an all-too typical male obliviousness to the sexualization of female representation in video games. To be clear, World of Warcraft did not invent sexualized content in fantasy. Sex has been an element of fantasy from Greek Mythology, through the Arthurian Legend, Robert E. Howard’s Conan series, to present day media. The difference now is Blizzard Entertainment apparently allowed their fantasy-fueled fascinations to spill into the real world, soiling their reputation and inspiring many creators and players to abandon the company and Azeroth.
Blizzard’s recent developer update outlined their new review and modification of World of Warcraft’s many assets to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment. I noted their damage control attempt in another article and while I welcome improving the player environment, I recommend they stop focusing on in-game painting cleavage, and return to the question from 2010 and update female character designs to make them equivalent to males.
Here are two ways Blizzard can move forward.
The Underwear Disparity
The underwear disparity is simple to explain and easy to rectify. Male characters all wear boxer briefs, the most comfortable of undergarments.
Female characters on the other hand all sport high leg French Cut panties.
What is the reasoning for showing digital ass cheeks? Give female characters comfy boxer briefs too and level the underwear playing field. Male and female gamers should not join WoW only to learn the developer’s baseline view of female champions is as pole dancers.
One Appearance For All Genders, Please
I was surprised to learn the gender gear difference was still active. For some reason, I thought Blizzard removed this a while ago. This coding encapsulates the problem with Blizzard’s treatment of female characters. Basically, armor pieces which look imposing and protective on male characters are transformed to minimalist lingerie on female characters.
Here is my blood elf paladin in a purple themed transmog I created.
The difference occurs when I visit a Barber Shop and change genders. This particular chest plate maintains the exposed mid-riff, however, now I am wearing full coverage plate pants.
The only reasoning I can fathom for this coding is Blizzard felt some armor pieces which looked sexy on female characters looked silly or effeminate on males. In a truly inclusive game, the developer’s personal viewpoint does not matter. Either leg gear are pants for both genders or shorts for both.
While I would like to see both of these issues included in 9.1.5, this statement from Blizzard’s article does not raise my hopes:
We also want players to be able to express themselves through their characters, so we don’t intend to change existing player looks or cosmetics. Instead, we want to ensure that we’re offering a wide range of options for players to represent themselves.
Blizzard is not allowing players to express themselves or providing a wide range of options if female characters continue to be based on teenage boy fantasies. The design philosophy of empowering male characters while sexualizing female characters is at the heart of 2010’s Blizzcon question and today’s controversies. Whether Blizzard recognizes this and makes meaningful changes to enrich the World of Warcraft for all players remains to be seen.