Though Blizzard doesn't always treat female characters with as much respect as I'd like, where big game companies are concerned they usually do okay -- heck, the fact that you can play a female character at all puts them ahead of a lot of the gaming industry. But Blizzard doesn't have a particularly spotless record, with sexist NPCs, more sexist NPCs, sexual dimorphism, the lack of women in game lore, and the fact that Aggra won't be heading to Draenor in Warlords -- not to mention the fact that Chris Metzen described the journey as "more of a boy's trip" at BlizzCon. The fact that Blizzard does all of this and I still think of them as doing okay speaks to the exceedingly low standards women have where it comes to inclusion in video games.
And in today's April Fool's gag, the joke's on us with the new female draenei models. Today's draenei are the most sexually dimorphic of the lot, with male models that are extremely muscled and female models that are slender -- but still heavy on the cleavage (seriously, they must have so many back problems). Releasing this so-called ugly draenei model as a joke -- though it might have been intended to poke fun at the gamers who insist on sexualized game characters -- just says outright that any women who aren't the height of perfect beauty are a joke.
Fans have railed against the models, but soon enough they're sure to be placated when Blizzard releases real models, which will no doubt carry on the draenei's cleavage-heavy look. Blizzard will give the loudest voices in the audience exactly what they want and perhaps justify their continued sexism by saying they're only doing what the crowds asked for -- just look at these forum threads! In the meanwhile, the women who play the game and don't want to be oversexualized will be left, as usual, out in the cold. Or, more likely, decried as unfeeling feminists who just don't understand a good joke -- because jokes where you're the punchline are just so funny.
As someone who's played World of Warcraft nearly since launch, and Warcraft and StarCraft and Diablo before it, I'm just left wondering why Blizzard feels the need to make jokes at my expense -- and the expense of so many other female gamers. Women get told often enough through television, movies, music, magazine covers, and in stores that their bodies aren't good enough. We really didn't need to get the message in our video games (even though we do, constantly), but it's clear that you're not only happy to continue the same tired gender tropes but you think they're a funny joke, too. That's just not okay for women who have to deal with this garbage all the time in real life.
Though it may come as a surprise to some, we live in a world where nearly half of gamers are women. And, Blizzard, if you can't come to terms with that fact, maybe you could at least stop actively insulting women -- it would be a step in the right direction.
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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion