Girl of Warcraft: Why does WoW presume I'm a guy?
Female people. We can grow humans in our abdomen, dismantle the welfare state and cause the downfall of all humanity by eating an apple/opening a box/marrying a Beatle.
We can also play games. This, in my circle of friends, is a non-issue. It’s barely even interesting. My best friend got me into World of Warcraft specifically, but I was given my first console at the age of six and I’ve been killing/maiming pixelated life forms pretty solidly, albeit with varying degrees of dedication, ever since.
Girls* play games. They also eat toast, get on buses and wear shoes. Apparently this mindset is still a bit unusual outside of my group of friends.
I had never considered the role of women in games and the gaming community at all until I got to university and was asked to consider it. Most people never get asked this, so I’m not especially surprised that outside of online forums I’ve never heard it discussed. I’ve never even talked about it with my friends. When it is brought up though, some frustrating issues come to the fore. I’ll focus on World of Warcraft for now because it is so massive in terms of players and content (11 million+ accounts) and has been going long enough for there to be lots to talk about.
There are no solid figures for how many girls play WoW. The reason for this will be discussed a little later but the best I could find put them at about one in five. Now, 20 per cent is a fair whack. If you’re in a five man PUG (pick up group) of random players, for example, odds are at least one player is female. If you’re in a 10 man raid, two players will have Y chromosomes. 25 man: five and… well, you can all do basic maths. My point is that if this is the case, why does the majority of WoW’s content appear to assume that the person playing is a straight male?
I draw your attention firstly, to the phenomena of ‘porno-plate’ and the succubus.
Porno Plate, as it is often known, is the difference between how a piece of armour looks on a male character and how it looks on a female character. Observe if you would, this nice goat-woman, or Dranei as they are known in WoW.
See those sort of red chaps she’s wearing? The shiny red bikini with thigh attachments? Those are supposed to protect her from the likes of this guy:
Tagar Spinebreaker. He'll break your spine, as you might expect
This would be all well and good if that’s how the armour came from the catalogue. You get your order, it’s not quite what you expected, but you have to jet to Hellfire Peninsula pretty damn sharpish or all the good orcs will be dead. However, if the nice goat lady were oh, I don’t know…male, her armour would look more like this:
Unsurprisingly most of the images of this armour were the female character model
If you pop over to the comments section on online resource WoWHead the phrase 'porno pants' crops up fairly early on in the discussion. And over at WoWWiki, they feel it’s necessary to display armour on both male and female character models, making the comparison all the more stark. There is language to deal with this phenomena. This is something many people find strange enough to at least talk about. Why else would anybody choose the indignity of saying, 'porno-plate'?
WoW is not the only fantasy role-playing game to have come to the illogical conclusion that 'skimpy' and 'armour' are two concepts that simply must meet, but that doesn’t make it less stupid. There is an amazing break-down of this strangeness, along with more pictures, here.
Speaking of women ill-equipped for battle, there is the Succubus. A companion warlocks in the game are able to summon to help them kill stuff. The Succubi look like this:
Succubus: sexing us to death since 2004
Yes, she is a succubus. By her very nature she’s sexualised to the nines. Her job as a warlock’s companion is to be sexy at people and whip them until they die. She’s pretty useful in PvP and since Warlocks are so squishy it’s nice to have somebody who makes such an effort with their appearance as a helper. I have no problem with her powers of ‘death-by-sexy’ in themselves. It’s more that they are directly aimed at teenage boys (as this little fella learned to his cost). There is, however, no male equivalent. According to a post on the official forums they’re working on it, kinda sorta. If you’re going to make something for all players to oggle, Blizzard, you can leave the noises out, if you want.
In Part 2 I’ll talk about the strange and unusual phenomena of 'Women on the internet! (omg)' and why that may be skewing our perceptions of how many girls play World of Warcraft.
*I say girls because generally in techy circles there are fan boys and fan girls. Boy gamers tend not to be described as such because apparently the noun gamer doesn’t need to be modified to let you know the person has a penis. “Girl Gamer” is a term used generally to describe women and girls who game, I’m not taking issue with that term right now because of the fangirl/fanboy thing. It’s just how it’s done. Nerds are children. That’s fine.
Mellanie Moore (@MissBox) is an MA Journalism student at the University of Sunderland. This article orginally appeared on her excellent blog.
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