How you know a random heroic is going to go well: The tank asks the warlock to fear a mob, the warlock stands in place, casts Howl of Terror, then proceeds to type out a near-endless string of question marks.
I Sapped the mob instead.
With Bioware seemingly not prepared to allow gay companionship in SW:TOR and the lack of gay couples in WoW lore, is this homophobia, will Blizzard ever introduce different sexualities into the game, or in this universe is it simply something that doesn't occur?
Oh dear, I'm opening a real can o' worms answering this one, but here it goes.
SWTOR's case is very interesting because BioWare has generally been very accepting of alternative sexualities. Mass Effect has included homosexual relationships, and Mass Effect 3 is opening up even more possibilities in that vein including rumored male/male relationships. In Dragon Age 2, gender wasn't even a consideration. No matter what your gender, you could romance anybody at all, and the series is going to continue to go that way. In an industry that is homophobic at worst and indifferent at best, BioWare's inclusion of same-sex relationships is a really big deal.
So why doesn't SWTOR include them? That's a good question, and I can't answer it. Was it a BioWare decision? An EA decision? A LucasArts/George Lucas decision? We don't know. We have heard that homosexuality "doesn't exist" in the Star Wars universe, which complicates the issue even further. I won't get into that here, though.
In World of Warcraft's case, I don't think the game is homophobic. Instead, I think the developers are simply the sort of people who wouldn't think about it. They probably sit down, jam out their characters, and the sexuality of those characters never even registers. Orientation might not even matter in the vast majority of cases. How many quest givers in World of Warcraft display any sort of sexual orientation at all? A very small percentage of them. When it does matter ... if you're a person who isn't exposed to those ideas regularly, it just doesn't register.
I have quite a few gay friends, male and female. When I sit down to design something, the idea of including those elements in the world is in my mind right alongside any other sexual configuration, right on the same level as heterosexual relationships. If you aren't exposed to that community regularly, if it isn't a part of your personal experience, it's very possible you simply don't think of it. The default setting is heterosexual. It isn't a hate of homosexuality. It's a lack of exposure and experience.
Is that a problem in itself? Personally, I think so. It's a lesser problem than homophobia but still a problem. In a creative capacity, I think it's very important to recognize when you've locked yourself in a box built out of your first-hand experiences. Go beyond that. Look at what you don't know and try to understand it. Since I'm kind of a pretentious dweeb, I have Post-it notes with quotes I like plastered on my office door. One of them is a quote from Edward R. Murrow: Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices -- just recognize them.
Everyone should be aware that the world they see on a daily basis is not the foundation of the entire world. There are other types of people out there: race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, the whole spread. It doesn't matter whether you like them or not. They're there and you should recognize them and represent them in a way that is fair and, as a writer and designer, compelling. Even something you don't personally like should be treated with a level of respect all people (and things) deserve. Think outside of your personal experience. There is no shame in admitting you have a blind spot when it comes to these things. My personal admission here is that I grew up in a very white bread neighborhood. For a very long time, as a white guy, my mind always defaulted to Caucasians when writing/designing something. I still do it sometimes. You need to recognize that blind spot and work to get over it.
All of that being said, I'm not a Blizzard employee and have no true insight into their workflow, so I don't actually know what goes through their minds when they work on this world. Maybe they do have a policy in one direction or the other -- I don't know -- but I'm certainly not going to label someone homophobic without some really damn good proof that it's true. It's a harsh accusation to make.
It might also be worth noting that World of Warcraft has a handful of popular same-sex friends that players generally accept to be gay couples. Examples: Quae/Kinelory, Tholo/Anren, Jadaar/Asric, Koltira/Thassarian. Blizzard doesn't make it clear, however, so it might simply be wishful thinking.
Is it safe to assume that 4.3 will coincide with a week that the Darkmoon Faire is happening? Since so many changes are happening with the DMF?
I'm not sure it's safe to assume that at all. Personally, I doubt it's even a consideration in the release schedule. Releasing the patch on a week that the Darkmoon Faire isn't active might even serve better, because it stretches out the amount of time it takes players to consume the patch's content. It would also allow Blizzard to focus on any Darkmoon Faire-related hotfixes independent of say ... dungeon or raid hotfixes. Who knows?
Will we ever see retribution articles again?
Yes. In about ... three hours, assuming our schedule doesn't get tinkered with after I've written this.
What do our CHARACTERS do during server maintenance? Do they go for a pedicure? Get drunk at the Orgrimmar inn? Have a picnic in Elwynn Forest?
Killing fire elementals is hard work. I figure my paladin gets to take her armor off for the first time in God knows how long, climbs into a hot bath, scrubs the ashes off of her skin and takes a little quiet R&R for herself. Spends some time wearing something light and airy while she has the chance. Maybe gets a nice, warm meal at an inn.
If you guys love me, someone will draw that. Because then I'll love you (and might make it the header of my next Queue.)
Have questions about the World of Warcraft? The WoW Insider crew is here with The Queue, our daily Q&A column. Leave your questions in the comments, and we'll do our best to answer 'em!