Monday, October 25, 2010

Do female characters come from underwear catalogues? Musings over Blizzcon

I think we can agree on that there wasn't much at Blizzcon 2010 that stuck out. Here's my quick summary out of my memory:

  • Arthas has been killed 489 000 times. Is the content accessible for everyone these days? I'd dare say so. And I'm not miffed. The fact that I see Kingslayer titles everywhere doesn't take away the fact that it was a fun fight and that I was insanely happy as we beat it the first time back in the spring.
  • Cataclysm will be available for downloading on beforehand for those who buy the digital online version. Count me in! Sweden at midnight in the beginning of December is freaking cold.
  • Chances are that I've gotten lost in Sunken Temple for the last time. They're not only finally offering maps for the old instances, but also rebuilding the ones who suck most badly. Yay!
  • They're adding information about the abilities of the bosses to the maps, giving us less reasons to tab out and look at out-of-game resources for hints. I've got mixed feelings about this. A little voice inside me reminds me of how fun we had during our blind raids when we refrained from looking at the strategy videos in advance. Once again they're taking away a bit of the mystery and challenge in the game, assuming that players don't want to find out things for themselves. But then the more pragmatic part of me says: so what, don't lie to yourself - everyone checks out the resources anyway. Thy're just making us a good service as they integrate it into the game.
  • The new login screen is pretty. Some players apparently don't like the sound of Deathwing, following the debate at MMO-Champion. I bother more about his underbite.
  • Mike Morhaime isn't as charismatic as we'd like him to be.
  • Another pet that looks like a miniature druid will be on sale soon. There's something compelling about having a miniture version of your own character. WTB mini gnome! With pink pigtails!
  • Some poor guy managed to break his own leg as he was participating in the dance competition. That's what I'd call dedication! I hope he got a special prize.
  • And talking about dances, they're still working on that dance studio. At least they claim they do. But no promises about when we'll see it. I don't think they'll make that mistake twice. I wonder though how outdated the dances will be once they're launched. They're often based on some popular music video. Will anyone remember the original?

Bringing in the trolls
I might come back those topics and a few other tidbits from Blizzcon in the following weeks, but the fact remains that the overall competition for our attention is underwhelming. This means that even the slightest slip of the tongue from someone could render a mentioning in a Blizzcon commentary blog post. There's so little else to talk about. Bare this in mind as I'm approaching the next part of this post of this post. I'm going to ponder a bit over a very small thing, and I know already as I'm writing this that it might annoy a couple of readers.

This is as good as to ask for trolls. Any post that touches the slightest on the gender topic will lure them out from their caves. Actually I could as well give the word to them right away, they'll speak up eventually anyway. I think I'll go for a lovely piece of work that turned up on another recent post:

"You rage because you don't like how pixels of a female model look in a computer game?? You're either intolerant/discriminatory or it's just subconscious envy, which is even worse. You make smart women, naturally born with big boobs, feel bad. Then, I guess you're one of those persons who wear tight turtle-necks in RL don't take this literally). May I suggest that you go outside, walk in the park or talk to real people more? Blogs written out of rage are always failures. Always."

It's good, isn't it? No, don't thank me. All credits to "Derrek" for this one!

Q&A
So now, that we've established that I've probably got a turtle neck and carry a subconscious envy of big breasted girls and need a walk, I'd like to talk about a statement from Blizzard that rubbed me a little the wrong way. I'm thinking about how they chose to answer one of the questions that came up in the open Q&A panel:

Question:
"I love what you guys have done with WoW, I love that there's a lot of strong female chars, though I wonder if we can have some that didnt look like they came out of a Victoria's Secrets catalogue? "

Answer:
"Which catalogue would you like them step out of then? We feel ya, we want to vary our female chars more in the future. So yeah we'll pick different catalogues. "

So. What kind of an answer is this? I'm not sure what they're trying to do here. I suppose it's intended to be somehow funny, but I don't think it is. Actually I don't think it would have been that hard to give a proper answer. There's no reason for Blizzard to fall flat on the floor, unconditionally apologizing for the stereotyped female bodies. Even if we bash them sometimes for their shortcomings in this area, they're actually far better in this aspect than many other games I've seen.

What they could have said
Rather than answering in a snotty, dismissing manner, they could have discussed the question properly. Let's say I would have been a Blizzard employee, sitting in that panel, how would I have replied?

I think I first would have talked enthusiastically about how important the strong presence of women is in the game, maybe mentioning that a large part of the player base is female, and what a great change this is to how it used to be back in time. I would have said something about how Blizzard takes those questions seriously and how they listen carefully to the input they get from players - women as well as men. Then I would probably have questioned the claim that all female characters look as if they came from an underwear catalogue. Some do it, no doubt, but far from all. I would have highlighted the huge variety there is, and said that there are many options that are pretty far from the traditional photo model.

You can make your female warrior into a mighty tauren, you can create a badass dwarf chick who looks like most women do, with broader hips than they have in any catalogue, or you can make an wrinkled gnome lady with a face that is grim rather than cute. Unfortunately very few players do. For some reason the "pretty" female models are way more popular. Regardless of this, I would have said, Blizzard will keep creating a variety of looks, keeping them available. But in the end it's up to the player to choose.

But they didn't say any of this. Instead they said that they'll add some more catalogues apart from Victoria's Secret. I don't think it was even remotely funny. It's possible that it was honest, but most of all it was lazy. I would have expected Blizzard employees to be a little bit more polished and PR minded. They're big business now, not a basement company and they should have the resources to get some proper training.

It's not as if I'm raging. I'm not overly upset and it's not the end of the world; it's just a minor detail that popped up in the Blizzcon flood of pseudo news. But after all those years in the spotlight, Blizzard should know how to answer a standard question such as this one in a proper manner.

50 comments:

Leah said...

I don't know what motivates others, but personally, no matter which character I chose, I always chose a pretty model for every race. To me, it stems from playing a fantasy game. I don't want to play realistic character, I want to play a fantasy and fantasies are usually glamorized (is that a word?)

You might have an unattractive minor character, but heroines and heroes are almost universally attractive and even those that are not conventionally attractive, are still appealing in some visual apparent way.

Maybe its a closed circle and we like attractive because that's what we grew up on, and because that's what we like, we refuse to chose the unattractive, furthering the circle of "ugly heroes need not apply"?

But I cannot say that it bothers me, to be honest. I like seeing pretty characters. Plus I believe that all of us have it in us to look our best, some people just chose not to. Its their choice. Me, I'm too vain to make that choice :P

Keeva said...

I dare say they thought it was an amusing quip.

I winced.

As a friend of mine said, "WRONG ANSWER."

Anexxia said...

For me it was the laughing at the woman who asked the Q that was the really infuriating part. She looked crushed iir. The answer was flippant enough without the ridicule.

Anonymous said...

I still haven't set foot in ICC. I couldn't find a guild, and if you missed pugging it the week it came out, no one will take you with them.

--G! said...

Actually what really bothered me was how everyone (Tank Spot I'm looking at you) who lived blogged the Victoria's Secret question really paraphrased and glossed over the response. Like the answer was perfectly OK.

Greg said...

I really feel they handled that opportunity poorly. Answering that question in a female-positive manner could have really helped them gain a stronger relationship with the female gamers.

The odd thing is that many of the character models don't look anything like Victoria's Secret models, which is why I don't really understand their need to be flippant. (Dwarves/Tauren/Gnomes/Trolls/Undead/Orcs... Not really going to be modeling underwear anytime soon!)

I also think that its a very difficult problem from a design perspective to create female avatars that are more realistic than idealized. (Blizzard has skirted this issue heavily by having massive race differences in general bodytpe.) In addition, the male character models are also heavily idealized vs. realistic.

I definitely think Blizz could do a better job enfranchising female gamers and addressing many of their concerns. Doing so would help them solidify a big part of their subscriber base. (Having no "feminine" druid forms when there was a massive overhaul, and having an overly masculine tree form for resto druids are good examples.)

Sure it's "Just pixels", but these characters are the vehicles of our adventure. Why not take it as an opportunity to be pro-female gamer and make it a positive than let it linger and appear to not care?

It's just bad PR and unprofessional.

-Greg

Anonymous said...

Actually the response the dev gave was exactly the same response he had been giving the entire time. Flippant, didn't really answer anything. Sometimes after that response if Metzen poked him with a stick he'd give a more thorough answer, but really it was same old same old.

Not that it was the right answer to give, but because it was about this issue it's viewed as worse than the exact same type of answers he gave to other questions.

I don't know what kidn of answer she expected, "we'll put in ugly heroes." If she had asked about the armor, maybe, but later armor isn't revealing anymore as far as I know.

Anonymous said...

I do think that you're blowing this answer out of proportion.

In the first place, the developers weren't there to have a completely serious, completely professional Q&A. If you read the general paraphrased transcripts (and I'm sure you have), you'll notice them joking around and making quips all over the place.

In addition, I think the question itself was an absolutely terrible question. I mean, what other response could they give? "No, we are never going to have a female that doesn't look like she's in lingerie from Victoria's Secret"? "Yes, we're going to go back and have some of our females show less skin?"

Incidentally, here's how Allison Roberts from Wow Insider took down the Q&A:

1:34 pm "I love what you've done with Warcraft and strong female characters. If we could have anyone who HASN'T stepped out of a Victoria's Secret catalog?"
Cheers from women, boos from men, very mixed reaction!

A: Which catalogue do you want them from?
A: we want to vary them so ... we'll pick different cataclogues.

Q: Which catalogue is that tauren female coming from?
A: Not one you want to read.
A: Some sort of agricultural ... (laughs)


...

I just realized that the thrust of this post was about the female form in WoW, but for me, a Victoria's Secret catalog suggests lingerie and skimpy clothing, not anything about the female body. It might just be because I'm male, but I wonder if that has anything to do with how they responded to the question.

Shintar said...

I share your mixed feelings about the additional boss info and maps. 3D models and detailed loot lists? Really? There's another tiny bit of immersion going out the window. What's wrong with being surprised on occasion? But then it's like you said, we do end up looking this stuff up on Wowhead way too often anyway.

As for the main subject of your post, I can only say that I agree. I thought that the response to this question sounded just... really awkward, as if the guy was really surprised and didn't know what to do with it. The thought that the devs don't even think about this stuff is somehow even more saddening than the idea that they simply can't be bothered.

Dyre42 said...

"Anonymous said...
I still haven't set foot in ICC. I couldn't find a guild, and if you missed pugging it the week it came out, no one will take you with them."

You kinda missed the larger point there. However if it makes you feel any better my guild pugged a couple dozen people for ICC and never once asked for gear score or an achievement link.

Sol said...

The problem for me isn't female players but female NPCs. Sylvanas and Alexstrasza come to mind. Dangerous, powerful, impressive female characters .. who also happen to have supermodel bodies and wear lingerie in lieu of actual clothing. The existence of characters like that doesn't bother me in and of itself, but the fact that there's no alternative is irritating.

There aren't any female analogues of, say, Tirion Fordring or Cairne Bloodhoof - Old, grizzled, and war-weary. Nor are there female NPCs comparable to Garrosh Hellscream or Varian Wrynn - bold, aggressive, bloodthirsty.

A little more variety would be nice :)

redcow said...

It`s a disappointingly flippant answer to a question that took some courage to ask - as you point out, voicing dissatisfaction with the portrayal of ladies in wow is typically met with dismissal. I can`t say I`m surprised, though, as Blizz has definitely become more unwilling to address said issues recently (I`m thinking of RealID, Ysera`s model, the Innkeeper`s Daughter, and new Tree of Life issues in particular).

I`m looking forward to the day when they give me the option of full-coverage plate, or at least midriff-baring man-plate. Hellooooo, troll fellas.

Rhii said...

I didn't think they handled the female druid form question very well either. It would be difficult to implement? How? Is it difficult to implement regular male and female models? I can't see how it would be any harder than tying the purple kitty form to a certain hairstyle and the grey kitty form to a different hairstyle. Just tie a man-tree to a man druid, and a lady-tree to a lady druid...

Also, both of those questions seemed like a surprise to the panels. Do they live in a box? How can they not realize there are women out there playing this game, when many of them are standing right there in the audience? Are common female concerns really that hard to identify?

Magma said...

@Greg
"The odd thing is that many of the character models don't look anything like Victoria's Secret models, which is why I don't really understand their need to be flippant."

I'd say that justifies being flippant. She clearly ignored the non victoria secret models to try to elicit a response from them. And if she in actual honesty didn't notice the other non victoria models, she clearly did no research so why should they bother with a real answer?

I'm not saying this is the best answer they could have given, but honestly, the way she and many other males asked some of the questions just seemed to be to get a rise out of the panel members. I got that vibe from this question.

Magma said...

Something else I forgot to add, Why do females feel the need to constantly differentiate themselves as far as forms are concerned? Trees don't even have genders, and if they did, how do you know they wouldn't just look the way they do?

The same applies to the other animals, How do you know the males don't look the same as females? Why does it even bother anyone enough that their "female" form doesn't have boobs or some feminine color?

Redbeard said...

There's something compelling about having a miniture version of your own character. WTB mini gnome!

"...I shall call him... Mini-Me!"

"Which catalogue would you like them step out of then? We feel ya, we want to vary our female chars more in the future. So yeah we'll pick different catalogues. "

Holy crap. This person shouldn't be allowed to interact with the public. I thought I was bad, but I'm a paragon of diplomacy compared to this.

What I'd like to see are male toons that look less like Arnold on so many steroids that he's a balloon and more like, well, actual soldiers. I'll take normal people, but soldiers will do.

In a very real fashion, I love the female Blood Elf, not for her looks, but for the "oh please, not THIS again" snarky attitude. If anything says "I'm tired of having people wolf whistle at me", that attitude does.

On the flip side, I can't stand some of the things like the female NE chest bounce. I mean, come on. If that wasn't designed by a guy, I don't know what was. Do you honestly think a female NE would do that, much less Tyrande?

Greg said...

@ Sol; There are a few examples of noteworthy female characters who are “Old and Grizzled”, and “Aggressive and Bloodthirsty”. Immediately Magatha Grimtotem and Garona come to mind. (Magatha is playing a pretty critical role in the Cata lore, and Garona (the Orc Assasin) hasn’t really been seen in game, although she played a critical part in lore.

The Fantasy Genre as a whole doesn’t typically have many female characters who deviate too much from the cookie cutter mold. (There are a few notable exceptions like Robert Jordan’s work which prominently feature women in positions of authority who aren’t all stereotypical.)

Since much of the Fantasy Genre is based upon prior works and drawing inspiration from varied sources I imagine it’s difficult for the writers to “break the mold”, without actively thinking about it.

@ Magma; Being flippant in public while discussing a “loaded” question is simply impolite and inadvisable really. They could have used this question (Which if I had been speaking I would have prepared for since it’s pretty commonly brought up on forums, the “blogosphere” etc…) to enfranchise rather than alienate. A mature answer to an obviously “loaded” question like the woman asked could have worked wonders here. It definitely could have become a bright spot and a point of positive discussion. Saying something like “We try to incorporate a diverse range of both male and female body types throughout the various races and avoid having all the character models look the same.” Would have demonstrated maturity and could have segued into the developers asking her to clarify her question. (Which could have gone further towards them pointing out the fact that not all of the models in fact look like Victoria’s Secret Models.) Instead they fumbled it, and in so doing missed what could have been a positive moment and potentially alienated customers. Not great.

In addition, some trees do in fact have genders. Here is a link to a page which you can snag a 30 page pdf that goes over many of the different variations;

http://www.urbanforestrysouth.org/resources/library/tree-sex-gender-reproductive-strategies

Finally, with regards to the “new” tree model, it has a “soul patch”, is large/blocky/bulky and uses the male orc animation skeleton. It looks pretty decidedly un-feminine.

With regards to the other Druid forms, there is a wide array of sexual dimorphism present in both bears and lions/jaguars. Your suggestion about tacking on breasts and coloring them some stereotypically feminine color is both crude and remarkably uninformed.

Personally, I don’t feel comfortable playing female characters. I can imagine that there are women out there who don’t feel comfortable playing male characters. When a core ability of your character turns you into what appears to be the other gender I would find it rather jarring and odd. Recognizing the fact that increasing numbers of women are playing these games it seems prudent and considerate to address their concerns. Why you would ignore their feedback and alienate them with juvenile remarks is beyond me.

Leah said...

I think this might possibly degenerate into a gender debate :/ I think I'm also starting to really understand why I relate better to men then to women - I found his answer hilarious and not at all inappropriate :/

P.S. As far as our female leaders and their outfits, I have this feeling that blizzard's concept artits grew up on Frank Frazetta's art and others like him. So have I, which I guess is the reason why they look perfectly badass and not at all objectionable to me.

Anonymous said...

The 'Victorias secret' question was baiting. No matter what answer the devs would give someone would find fault in it. Even Larisa's answer can be called deflecting the question because she is trying to downplay the issue. The only 'right answer' for some people is to grovel and claim that the devs are sexist pigs.

The male models all look like steroid users but thats fine. Its only women that need protection from mean Bliz artists right? The only way to win this game is to not play.

thenoisyrogue said...

I love women in turtlenecks. How could that be an insult? Weird.

Dwism said...

I think it spoke volumes, that every single blizzard panel (i've watched em all... at least those that are working) had the following:
3-7 overweight, white, balding (some to a lesser degree) men.
No wonder that any ethnicity feels pushed out when playing their games.
There is an old Dark Legacy Comic describing just this problem.
And they do not seem to care all that much.
Look at the bands they hire:offspring, ozzy and the D. Great bands, but there sure is a trend here.

I guess I should be happy, it is a place made with me in mind.

Copra said...

"Is the content accessible for everyone these days? I'd dare say so."

Well... out of 12 million players about a half a million has killed LK. That's about 4% of the WoW population. Does that really seem accessible to you?

Sadly I have to agree with Anonymous up there, who stated that "...if you missed pugging it the week it came out, no one will take you with them."

As long as the PUG option involves with requirements for achievement/gearscore and so on, the accessibility is a bit of a hazy thing. I'd say that heroics have the accessibility for all level required, and that the ICC buff should have put it as a raid to the same level, but it hasn't. Still the PUG calls are for complete achievements and obscene gear scores, and the guilds regularily raiding the Citadel require you to be raid equipped to be able to enter the raid, with no pointers or guidance (or help, for heaven's sake!) to get there.

So for someone coming to lv80 now - or around summer, tbh - downing LK is just a wet dream that will stay off limits.

Just like Illidan for me. And LK because I just cannot commit to having a flip book fps while in a 25 man raid and the guild doesn't do 10mans anymore.

C out

Jen said...

I mostly agree with Magma on the question issue. I'm sorry for the harsh term, but you have to be thick to image that ALL WoW women come from Victoria's Secret catalogs.

[I wish they did, then I would be able to roll something that isn't a night elf or a draenei! I play Ally only and I like my girls to be the traditional "pretty" models... and guess what, I don't have a dwarf body type IRL, I'm actually pretty close to night elves females, without the muscles.]

So that woman was obviously trying to get a rise out of the guy. She was either ignoring more than 50% of the races or was talking about armor... which is ridiculous in Vanilla, but covers up bodies very well in Cataclysm, so I can't see that as an issue either. What kind of answer was she expecting? The panelist could have definitely phrased it better, but whatever he said, people would be all over him. From my POV, dumb question leads to dumb answer.

Also @Magma, about the tree form: the old one was gender neutral and everyone (or at least most people) were happy. The new form is very *masculine* and I dislike that a lot - I don't want a female tree, I just wish they kept it more gender-neutral.
(I have no problem with the other forms, they all look neutral to me and my girl druid doesn't lose her 'identity' when shifting into them.)

Tam said...

I can't muster to do the anything more than facepalm right now.

Shy said...

I think my reply would've been to ask the person who asked the question for the Victoria Secret model that looked like a tauren or a gnome.

It was a dumb, not well thought out question, and well...the answer was of a similar kind. *shrug*

I think it's far more important to ask when we're going to finally get some properly handsome male characters in the game!

Magma said...

@Greg

Some trees have genders. That's nice but isn't relevant at all. They don't try to differentiate themselves from other trees and they don't look different. At all. Why does it need to be different in a game?

This is a fantasy game, just because things are a certain way in real life, doesn't mean they translate to the game. Hell, How do you know in game some trees don't like like males even if they are females?

"Why you would ignore their feedback and alienate them with juvenile remarks is beyond me." You say that like everyone who ever speaks up should be listened to. They shouldn't.
If I start saying all the models in game should be replaced with draenei, would that be an idea worth listening to? No, It wouldn't. I am in no way implying females never have an actual case, but in this case, they don't have one.

Nils said...

I agree that BlizzCon wasn't very interesting for those not taking part.

For me myself it was even disappointing. A lot of very stupid questions, a lot of very stupid answers. No serious discussion at all.

About the female models thing: I really, really, really couldn't care less. Sorry :)

Larísa said...

@Leah: I tend to make my char’s quite pretty as well, even though a gnome isn’t traditionally “hot”. I’m starting to question myself about it though. It’s a bit silly not to make use of the opportunities in game to play something a bit more imaginative than a copy from a underwear catalogue.

@Keeva: It’s great to hear I’m not the only one.

@Anexxia: I didn’t see the clip, but from the descriptions it sounds as if they’ve got a different view on what this kind of session should be about. I would like to see it as an opportunity to have an open, reasoning, intelligent discussion with the playerbase. But they seem to think it’s more like some kind of stand-up-comedy performance, where any outcry coming from the audience is considered as some kind of attack that should be countered.

@Anonymous: I’m sad to hear this, but at least on my server I think LK kills are done regularly in pugs. And compared to TBC it’s a huge difference, where most guilds never set their foot in Sunwell.

@--G!: I slacked a bit on following the live blogs to be honest, but that surprises me a little. Maybe most of those are a little “fanboyish”, not prone to say anything that could be taken as criticism against Blizzard?

@Greg: Exactly. They let a good opportunity get out of their hands. Completely unnecessary.

@Anonymous 2: That’s true. There were more answers like this and I don’t get the idea. Don’t they think gamers can listen to any message longer than a one-liner? A pro will use een a half harsed question as a platform for launching your own ideas.

@Anonymous3: I think it’s a waste that they’re just fooling around rather than answering the questions properly. There were only ever so few panels and ever so little content at the convention. Why not use the time available to run real discussions?

@Shintar: I suppose I can choose not to use those tools if I want to, but I don’t see it happen. Once it’s there you’ll use it. Like the new way of pointing out where the mobs are when you’re questing… I haven’t heard of anyone turning off that feature.

@Sol: I agree wholeheartedly. It was a pity that the player who put that question was so badly informed and articulated. It could have been put in a more interesting way, like the aspect you’re mentioning.

@Redcow: Thinking about how they have their eyes on them, it’s surprising that they not at least TRY to make a more polished appearance.

@Rhii: Exactly my point. The lack of training and preparations is stunning. Or maybe they’re living in some kind of box, is this the first time they hear this?

@Magma: If you’re a panelist you can expect to get questions that aren’t ideal or well polished. But do you know what? As a company representative you should do your best to answer even those questions as properly as you can. It’s a part of the job and it’s an opportunity of good PR that they let slip out of their hands.

Larísa said...

@Redbeard: Yeah, there are some examples in the game of female body types that are mot of all designed as eye candy for young man. If you’re honest. But there are other alternatives as well and they could EASILY have discussed this in an intelligent manner. Something’s lacking though. I don’t know if it’s intelligence, interest, maturity, insight, but yeah… it was a bad answer.

@Anonymous4: I don’t think the question was well put and I definitely don’t think that you should only give “politically correct” replies. But I think they easily could have avoided to make themselves look like pricks. I disagree that men don’t care about the stereotypes in game. We’ve recently had a huge discussion about it in the blogosphere.

@thenoisyrogue: Turtlenecks make me choke. I’ve never used one, will never do.

@Dwism: Yeah. Once again we miss some strong, wellspoken female representative of Blizzard. It would make miracles for their image.

@Copra: You don’t really believe that 12 million figure, do you? It includes people who’ve just bought the game and have a free-to-play-month. And mind you, 70 percent leaves before hitting level 10…. I would believe that to be realistic the true number of continuously, long-time, active players is probably not more than 4-5 million. Far from all of those are interested at all in raiding. Some just play PvP, AH, role play or other things. But let’s say half of them, about 2 million, raid regularly. In that case I’d dare say that the kill frequency is pretty high! Compare this to TBC where there even wasn’t any 10 player version of the instances... to get into Sunwell you had to be in a pretty hardcore guild. LK can be pugged. If this isn’t availability I don’t know what is. Honestly.

@Jen: Once again: as a professional panellist you should be able to give a proper answer, making the question better and more meaningful than it originally was.

@Tam: You’re excused. You’ve done your share of this kind of debates in the past….

@Nils: No, the discussion I’ve seen referred so far looks more like tweets than as discussion. Clearly underwhelming. I don’t know what it would take to raise the level to something looking more like an SF convention.

Reversion said...

Yeah I really winced when I heard that answer.

Between that one and the one where the woman asked about tree form Bliz did not even make an attempt at coming across as if they understood woman players or even wanted to understand them.

Now I am not one of those 'in-touch with his femine side limpwristed guys'. But come on bliz! Make an effort. Chicks pay the subs too. The question was not asking for frumpier chick armor or anything. She just asked for a female leader that was not dessed as a prostitute. You can have hotties without putting them in thigh-high boots and a thong.

pewpewlazerz said...

I seem to recall a similar question being asked at last years Blizzcon and being met with an identical flippant, dismissive answer that contrived to belittle the questioner and ridicule the question. And here we are year later, the question still needs to be asked, it's still being dismissed and the interviewee is still inviting the audience to laugh at the questioner. Saddest of all, the audience *are* still laughing.

Then again, since the majority of the paying customers apparently agree that it's such a laughable question (judging from the laugh the response elicited) who's to say Blizzard didn't have the correct answer?

Sad but true.

Ratshag said...

If I ever replied ta a serious question from a paying customer with such a lame, flippant joke, me boss would ream me with Garfrost's Two-Ton Hammer. Sideways.

Ya can disagree. Ya can give a long answer what don't really address the question. Ya can even get away with a self-deprecating joke as long as it be kinda funny. But a dismissive one-liner? Totally unprofessional.

Wimmenz outfits done come a long way from the plate armor bikinis and black mageweave leggings we saw in vanilla. But that just makes the remaining areas that much more obvious. If they get it, well, then, why don't they get it?

Selyndia said...

Three things:

First, in reference to boss abilities being listed. Just having a list of what abilities a boss has doesn’t really mean too much. As an example, go over Professor Putricide, or Rotface, or even Lady Deathwhisper’s boss abilities in a list. Now, without knowing the fight, or seeing it, all you are seeing is a list of abilities with no context, no information on phases, etc. You can make some reasonable assumptions based on the ability list; however, without actually seeing the encounter, you won’t know when an ability is used, just what it does. The biggest benefit is it saves you the trouble of trying to scramble for the tool tip as you are dieing to the ability, and allows you to make a few reasonable steps before hand.

Second, and this might get a bit long, was in reference to the Blizzard response for female characters. They gave a snarky tongue in cheek response in a quick Q & A Session to a question criticizing their art team’s decisions on a hot button topic. Was it really reasonable to expect a full discussion in the Q & A session on the impact of the image of female characters in a fictitious setting? If you are going to get upset over this response, you should be as equally upset over the other snarky, tongue in cheek sarcastic responses given to other questions (Notice the Turaylion and Alleria questions, etc) in which they took reasonable questions about important lore characters and gave a quick one line nonsensical response that ends up making the asker feeling relatively stupid for asking a question they felt was important.

I think the problem isn’t that they answered this particular question like that; it’s that they answered any questions like that, which comes down to a tone that the company sets in general. While giving off the cuff responses like that makes those speaking seem closer to the community, it also has a way of aggravating those of which have a vested interest in the questions. I, personally, would prefer a simple brief, though professional response to all of the questions, a bit more similar to what Blue Posts generally provide on their forum; and while they occasionally mix sarcasm or banter in those, they at least clarify their intentions.

Finally, in reference to ‘inaccessibility of content’ someone stated that only about 4% of people have actively killed Lich King of those playing. This isn’t really an accurate assessment though. It ignores all of those that have no intention of actually raiding or participating in that form of PVE content. A better view would be from the armory crawling statistics that someplace like Wowprogress generates. It has recorded that nearly 44% of guilds that participate in raiding have downed Lich King on 10 man. And while that only takes into account North American and European servers, that still is an absolutely staggering number. Compared to how many people actually even saw or participated in Naxx 60 or Sunwell, let alone completed it, ICC is substantially more accessible.

Anonymous said...

Actually I had originally thought that the questioner was talking about women in underwear, which I mean I could understand, seeing the complaints about Sylvanas, Alexstrasza and Ysera, which is about where the list of notable female NPCs wearing chainmail bikinis begins and ends, to my knowledge.

But then she evidently references the tauren female, which suggests that Larisa was right and she was talking about the female body. But then why would she mention the tauren female body, of all things? Isn't the tauren female body one of those you wouldn't find in a Victoria's Secret catalog? I'm more confused than I ever was about the question.

Tesh said...

It's a perfect illustration of the game industry, nothing more, nothing less. It's still mostly a boys' playground. Remember, these are also the guys who have their own band and can't seem to speak off the cuff without profanity. They have grown old without growing up. Some might argue that keeping in touch with the inner child is vital, but I say that "childlike" and "childish" are two very different things... and the industry is far more of the latter.

Oh, and I'll second Shintar:
"The thought that the devs don't even think about this stuff is somehow even more saddening than the idea that they simply can't be bothered."

Sthenno said...

I also assumed that the question was more in reference to what the female characters are wearing rather than what their body type, so I was a little confused by the body type discussion. After all, Victoria's secret is known for what the women are wearing, not for their body type, which really isn't very different than the body type of the majority of women who appear in any advertisement.

The big offenders here are obviously Sylvanis and the dragon queens. Bare midriffs are not really ideal if people are trying to kill you, so, to quote the Kids in the Hall, "I'm sorry ladies, you are scantily clad and have nothing to do with the narrative, therefore this is sexist and I'm going to have to ask you to leave... man, that hurt."

That Q&A overall was really poorly done, and a lot of the questions were really badly answered, even straight forward questions about lore (as opposed to the many questions that had nothing to do with the actual discussion topic). While I think that question put them in a tough spot (legitimately, since it really is an issue with the game), it's pretty clear that they people doing the answers just didn't have much skill at fielding questions on the fly like that.

Talarian said...

I think you hit the nail on the head when you stated in a comment, "as a professional panellist you should be able to give a proper answer, making the question better and more meaningful than it originally was."

These aren't professional panelists.

They are the developers, the designers, and the testers. They aren't the public relations people, the Community Managers are different from the devs, and have been trained in different skillsets.

As a developer myself (not at Blizzard), I've written 2 company posted blog posts, and would be terrified to speak in front of a customer group because of the exact situation these devs find themselves in at Blizzcon. I'd say something that sounded perfectly reasonable to me and the people I work with, but probably would not go over well with a public audience.

Ghostcrawler is an exception, and not the rule. Most of the other devs don't talk to the community, outside of Blizzcon itself. And maybe there's a case to be made that they shouldn't, considering the flippant nature of their As to the Qs. I'm not defending their comments, just providing some background into likely why they responded as they did.

Blizzcon so far has been as much for the developers as the fans, but clearly the company is big enough and fan expectations high enough that they need to change what Blizzcon is. Perhaps they need to keep the devs behind the curtain and hire professional speakers and panelists, because otherwise I think we're in for more comments like these next year, too.

Larísa said...

@Reversion: Yeah, when you add other questions they definitely didn't come out well there.

@Pewpewlazers: I'm not sure. It depends on whether they're looking for new markets to expand on.

@Ratshag: Somehow they get away with it I'm afraid. And they're even cheered at for being so "funny" from the sidelines of the community.

@Selyndia: I thought I was pretty calm in this post. Do I come out as super upset? I'm not. As a person who works in PR I just think Blizzard does a bad job in this sometimes. Like when they give this sort of dismissive answers.

@Anonymous: I think we can agree on that it was a badly put question anyway. But they could have used it as an opportunity to say something relevant about the topic of female stereotypes and ideals in the game - body types as well as clothing. Maybe there aren't as many stereotypes as they're accused of? Why don't say so then?

@Tesh: Yeah. It's childish and it's very homogenous. I think Dwism got that spot on in his post of today.

@Sthenno: Since it's a hot topic they should be prepared for it, having some standard statements and views in their sleeve.

@Talarian: No, I think the presence of the developers is very valuable in this kind of panels - even though I think they should look a bit wider as they're putting together the program. They need way more content than they have today and if they included more staff catagories - and even non-Blizzard employees - in the panels, they could make more of them and increase the value for all the participants. Spinks came up with a couple of suggestions about other angles. But as it's now, it's all focus on the developers.

Anyway: I work with this kind of things daytime. And I think that while participating in panels isn't their core profession, those developers could easily be better trained. For instance they could give them some feedback on the last year's panels (check the videos together). They could prepare for a couple of common questions - and also the "toughest questions" - what's the worst anyone could ask and what would you answer? And of course also setting up a couple of standards for how to answer. Just a brief talk-through before the panel could help a lot.

Given proper support the developers wouldn't need to be terrified, if that is what they are. The question is: are the open minded enough to listen to it or are they too filled with their own greatness to think that they might have something to learn in this field? I have no idea to be honest. It depends on the culture in the company and how they look at their PR staff.

Oestrus said...

A couple things kind of stood out to me, from reading this entry and the comments from people and also from watching the BlizzCon live telecast with friends.

Let's begin.

Why not take it as an opportunity to be pro-female gamer and make it a positive than let it linger and appear to not care?

I saw many females taking part in the costume contest and the dance contest who were willingly wearing the armor pieces in question that others find to be degrading or not "down with the cause." Not every woman feels that these choices of costumes or these skins on our characters are indicative of a much bigger problem or even that a problem exists at all. In fact, any woman who has the balls (pun intended) to wear something like that, at a venue like that gets a huge kudos from me. I’m a woman and I’m all for it. That takes a lot of gusto and some confidence to put some of those outfits on and I respect the hell out of them for it.

I also get really concerned when people make statements like "Blizzard should be more pro-woman," but to what woman are you referring to? Some women like the color pink and some like green. Some like Jude Law and some like Kevin Spacey. I would feel more patronized and offended if someone tried to create a game for me, for women and yet had no idea what kind of woman I am. I don't want to say "You can't please everyone" but I don't feel you're going to create an experience that could possibly satisfy every type of woman out there. We are numerous and we are different and that's a beautiful thing. I'm sorry if I don't have a way to word that better, but hopefully you catch my drift.

She just asked for a female leader that was not dressed as a prostitute. You can have hotties without putting them in thigh-high boots and a thong.

To me, this sounds extremely primitive and sort of hypocritical. You want women to be "hotties" but we can't be too hot or we're prostitutes and that's bad. How does that work, exactly? Also, why does wearing thigh high boots or a thong make you a prostitute? I would think a prostitute would be more defined by their profession or their innate behaviors and not necessarily by the clothes they’re wearing. I think if you start branding women by the daring clothing choices they choose to make, you’re going down a slippery slope that could come close to the “She asked for it” mentality, which is absolutely not OK. I think we can all agree on that.

And if you really wanna go the extra mile, not all sex workers are prostitutes. Dan Savage writes a litany of really informative and humorous advice columns for the Onion and also hosts the Savage Love podcast, which is an incredible resource for broadening your horizons about sexuality and gender differences, as well.

Oestrus said...

A couple things kind of stood out to me, from reading this entry and the comments from people and also from watching the BlizzCon live telecast with friends.

Let's begin.

Why not take it as an opportunity to be pro-female gamer and make it a positive than let it linger and appear to not care?

I saw many females taking part in the costume contest and the dance contest who were willingly wearing the armor pieces in question that others find to be degrading or not "down with the cause." Not every woman feels that these choices of costumes or these skins on our characters are indicative of a much bigger problem or even that a problem exists at all. In fact, any woman who has the balls (pun intended) to wear something like that, at a venue like that gets a huge kudos from me. I’m a woman and I’m all for it. That takes a lot of gusto and some confidence to put some of those outfits on and I respect the hell out of them for it.

I also get really concerned when people make statements like "Blizzard should be more pro-woman," but to what woman are you referring to? Some women like the color pink and some like green. Some like Jude Law and some like Kevin Spacey. I would feel more patronized and offended if someone tried to create a game for me, for women and yet had no idea what kind of woman I am. I don't want to say "You can't please everyone" but I don't feel you're going to create an experience that could possibly satisfy every type of woman out there. We are numerous and we are different and that's a beautiful thing. I'm sorry if I don't have a way to word that better, but hopefully you catch my drift.

She just asked for a female leader that was not dressed as a prostitute. You can have hotties without putting them in thigh-high boots and a thong.

To me, this sounds extremely primitive and sort of hypocritical. You want women to be "hotties" but we can't be too hot or we're prostitutes and that's bad. How does that work, exactly? Also, why does wearing thigh high boots or a thong make you a prostitute? I would think a prostitute would be more defined by their profession or their innate behaviors and not necessarily by the clothes they’re wearing. I think if you start branding women by the daring clothing choices they choose to make, you’re going down a slippery slope that could come close to the “She asked for it” mentality, which is absolutely not OK. I think we can all agree on that.

And if you really wanna go the extra mile, not all sex workers are prostitutes. Dan Savage writes a litany of really informative and humorous advice columns for the Onion and also hosts the Savage Love podcast, which is an incredible resource for broadening your horizons about sexuality and gender differences, as well.

Selyndia said...

I wasn’t intending to sound accusatory about not being calm; what I wanted to point out, and what others did better than I, is that their entire presentation wasn’t done well from a PR standpoint; and that the snarky responses to the hot button question happened to have occurred with the same tone that the other questions came in; however, since it was a hot button issue, it was looked at closer than some of the other things.

I think that had the whole Q&A been handled with a little more tact, the entire situation would have been avoided; and that it was more an issue of Dev’s not talking to the audience appropriately as opposed to a gender inequality thing and pushing the question to the side. I’m also not sure that would have been the best place to raise the question in the first place, especially with some of the previous responses already given, and not expect a similar one.

I think the responses were an act of attempting to be entertainers instead of being representatives/informers; in which they were attempting to get reactions from the crowd, as opposed to actually relaying any form of information.

Anuillae said...

@Sol
'There aren't any female analogues of, say, Tirion Fordring or Cairne Bloodhoof - Old, grizzled, and war-weary. Nor are there female NPCs comparable to Garrosh Hellscream or Varian Wrynn - bold, aggressive, bloodthirsty.'
Hmmm, Sylvanas is fine personality-wise, she's aggressive, and to some degree, bloodthirsty. The problem is, Blizzard still forces a personality like that into a model that doesn't fit her at all.

Sthenno said...

@Larisa: They could very well have had canned answers for certain questions they knew were going to come up. On the other hand, asking a couple of non-PR people to give a canned answer they don't really believe in that tries to skirt the line between agreeing that there is a problem and not leaving everyone wondering "if they agree there's a problem and it's their game, why haven't they fixed the problem" seems like a recipe for a different kind of disaster.

Aaron said...

Nor are there female NPCs comparable to Garrosh Hellscream or Varian Wrynn - bold, aggressive, bloodthirsty.

Sylvanas, while scantily-clad, fits this description perfectly. Rage, revenge and violence rule her world. She has no other drive than to kill Arthas.

Aaron said...

One thing about the whole body type discussion bugs me. I hear people talk about "realistic" bodies in these games, but at the same time we're playing characters who are in peak physical condition. Our characters easily run hundreds of miles completing quests and battle constantly against powerful creatures. Some of them wear plate armor while doing this. Have you lifted a two-handed axe before? Ever swung one dozens of times as hard as you could?

Though, if the issue is more about the "junk in the trunk", that's a different story. Some kind of control over breasts and butts would probably make a lot of people feel a lot better about the role women play in WoW.

And I agree about female NPC models. Every time I turned in a quest to Alexstraza I couldn't help but feel that her model was out of place. Especially in Northrend. I mean, it's freaking cold there, and she's wearing a metal bikini.

Argnor said...

@Cobra — your math is wrong. It's half a million Lich King kills, not half a million players who have killed the Lich King. That means for every one Lich King kill there are either ten or twenty five players involved, quite a significant portion of the userbase.

Frankly, it's so easy to get into a raid and kill LK these days that people who claim endgame content isn't accessible aren't trying hard enough--it's not like you're meant to be able to kill the top boss if you only log in once a fortnight.

WoWFail said...

Seriously? This crap again?

Can you please stop being to damn uptight about the question, it is a freaking game! None wants to play as an ugly, fat avatar, therefore they are making them attractive. Why none ever questions that every male avatar looks like a body builder, huh?!

That aside, their main market are younger males, and they gotta meet the demand.

Larísa said...

@WoWFail: Now I'm going to tell you something that you might come as a shock to you: I don't run this blog to please you. I honestly don't give a damn about if you like or don't like my view on things. I don't bring up topics connected to gender issues here all that often, since it's not one of my main focuses in game or in life, but it happens that it pops up, a couple of times a year. And if you want to be guaranteed not to have to read anything more about it ever, I suggest you just stop following my blog. There are others that I think will be more to your liking. Try The Noisy Rogue for instance. He has a different view on those things than I have. Or A High Latancy Life, where they regularly publish images of barely dressed hot chicks. You're free to go, honestly! I won't hold you here against your will. So farewell and best of luck on your pursuit for a blog of your liking. Cheers!

Azryu said...

I don't think their answer was snotty at all.

I was there at Blizzcon, and I got the jibe that everyone was having a good time and they were just trying to be funny and not turn their otherwise fun-fest into a serious affair. Just imagine if they fumbled on answering that question in a serious manner and turned an otherwise fun-filled night into a headache.

We were all there to have fun, including them. I don't necessarily that's the time or place to ask questions of a deeper and more serious nature.

Sorwen said...

While I agree that Blizzard handled that poorly, I have to ask this. Why do people always complain about every woman being beautiful, yet never complain that in those same games every guy is ripped and muscular?

Yes, I'm your average male I like my males to look cool and my women to look beautiful. No my bits-and-pieces are not moved by pixelated women any more than for a beautiful painting yet I like to look at both. I don't see games as the standard I hold women by when looking for a relationship. It is as simple as some game in both characters and environment so beautiful they are playable art.

Why is the fact a character may look like someones idea of beauty and must be slammed for and the fact I can kill loads of creatures with weapons can be seen as just fiction?