Thursday, March 19, 2015

About sexism in video games

I was playing WOW today, wandering about the woods gathering lumber.  I encountered a gigantic fallen log and when I clicked on it to turn it into a big stack of lumber I got a little scene instead.  Someone was trapped under the log asking for help, and a lumberjack informed me that he would get the log off of the little girl trapped under it.  When the log was moved it turns out the person trapped underneath it was not in fact a young girl but was a wealthy white man.

So embarassing, right?  To be a man, a powerful one at that, and to be thought female?  What a laugh!

I get that Blizzard is having a good time poking fun at rich people.  All fine and well.  What bothers me though is that they really do think that the best way to make fun of a man is to suggest that he can be mistaken for a woman.  That particular bit wasn't necessary to the joke at all as they could have just said that a small child was trapped under the log and had the same 'laugh at the rich dude' schtick without the random sexism.

WOW isn't the worst MMO out there for sexism, not by a long shot.  They actually do try to make the game inclusive and make sure that there are women out there in positions of power, doing big things, as well as women filling the small roles.  However, they still have these issues where random characters default to being male.  Although my garrison guards are roughly half women the mine only has men in it.  Lumberjacks are all men.  While in the real world lumberjacking is a job that is pretty heavy on the raw physical strength requirements and thus generally going to have more men in it, we are talking about a world of fireball hurling, death defying heroes.  The male models may have bigger biceps but that does not affect the efficiency of my mine, nor the ability of a lumberjack to wield a chainsaw in each hand.  Which they do, for some reason.

There is no need for people in the game world to default to male.  There is no call for random jokes that make it clear that the designers feel that being female is embarrassing.  Blizzard can, and should, do better than this.

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