>Galleries on official WoW site relaunched: Analysis (numbers)

>The Impetus (or: why torture myself again?)

While looking for game art featuring female characters more obviously sexualized than Vanille, I visited the official WoW website and discovered that the website had been re-launched along with the Cataclysm expansion. There had been a significant re-design and re-organization, and that included the galleries.

The old website galleries had been subdivided (if memory serves) into galleries for the various expansions with another gallery for general concept art. The new galleries still have expansion-specific sub-galleries, but the generic concept art gallery is gone in favor of a “Races” gallery and a “Classes” gallery. Overall, there was a lot of new art in the galleries that I hadn’t seen before. Furthermore, the wallpapers gallery has been split into 10 or 12 sub-galleries – although there’s not as much new there.

I got curious as to how numbers from the new site would stack up against numbers from the old site that I had compiled while working on my Depictions of Women article. So I decided to go through the revamped WoW galleries according to the same criteria as the original survey to see what I’d come up with.

Criteria and caveats

Again, the criteria I was examining: number of figures with discernible gender, active versus neutral poses, fully clothed figures, suggestively attired figures, and class archetypes (fighter, thief, mage). (For specific details on how I defined these criteria, follow the link above to the original article.)

Interestingly, because of the large amount of new art, I found myself having to add a few caveats to the criteria simply due to things that I hadn’t come across the first time around. Firstly, undead figures showing any signs of rot at all were never marked as suggestive no matter how much skin was showing. (Because, you know, eew.) Silvanas was still counted as suggestive since her “undeath” just turned her grey and spooky. Children, for obvious reasons, were never considered as suggestive. Lastly, there were some cityscape images (mostly from Burning Crusade) of Darnassus and Silvermoon where I didn’t count any figures at all because the figures were very small and elves can be pretty ambiguous.

Numbers and counting

Coming up with an accurate count was a bit of a daunting task because there are so many more sub-galleries than the old site had and a small number of images were duplicated across two or more galleries. (For instance, a particular image showed up in the Burning Crusade, Races, and Classes galleries.) So when counting images, I did not count duplicates of that exact image reposted in another gallery. If an image was in both Races and Classes, I only counted it once.

There were some images that I did count multiples of; there are several iconic race/class characters that are used in a lot of promotional art and slapped onto custom backgrounds. Each iteration of the iconic characters with a distinct background was counted. I modified that rule slightly for the Arthases (Arthasi?) that I counted, since there were so many of them. Because Arthas was in the cover art for the Wrath of the Lich King, I didn’t want my numbers to be overly skewed by just one character, so I counted each distinct Arthas pose only once.

And here are the results! You’ll probably want to click for the large version, unfortunately these don’t shrink down very well:


CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE

So looking at this, the new galleries undeniably display sexist trends. Women comprise only one third of all figures with discernible gender. Only one third of figures that are fully clothed are women while making up slightly more than two thirds of all suggestively clad figures. And women are twice as likely to be depicted as magic users rather than thieves/rogues or fighters.

So what happens when you stack the new numbers against the old numbers? (You’ll definitely want to click through for this one)


CLICK FOR LARGER VIEW
Okay, I know this looks really crowded, but I really wanted to make it as easy as possible to compare the two sets of numbers. Old numbers are represented in pastels, new numbers are represented in brights.

Now, when you look at the numbers here, it looks as if there have been some marginal improvements. Certainly the ratio of female figures to male figures has increased from one in four to one in three. Also, the percentage of active figures slightly increased which puts women aaaaaalmost at 50% of all active figures (from around 45%). Similarly, class archetypes haven’t changed much. There were slightly more fighters depicted as women, but half of all female figures are still mages – which doesn’t represent a real change from the old numbers.

The biggest obvious difference is the large increase in suggestively attired male figures. This is pretty much directly attributable to the new Cataclysm expansion which introduced werewolves (Worgen) as a playable race. As everyone knows, werewolves are ALWAYS bare-chested men.


I know it’s true because Stephenie Meyer says so!

Snark aside, I find it significant that 55 out of the 68 suggestive male figures were monstrous – either being orc, tauren, troll, goblin, worgen, or demon. (Illidan I counts as demon in my books, btw. I suppose if you felt like it you could ignore the giant bat wings and call him a night elf.) Out of the 13 non-monstrous suggestive male figures – 12 humans and a gnome (sounds like the punchline of a joke) – 5 were Vry’Kul, an enemy NPC faction. This leaves only 7 out of 68 suggestive male figures that are not monstrous and actually heroes.

In most of the images with suggestive monstrous male figures, it seems like the intent of the artist was to convey the savage nature of their race by dressing them in more “primitive” attire. As such, it seems to me like these figures should fall into a different category than the suggestive female figures. The suggestive female figures are suggestively attired because they are highly sexualized. The suggestive monstrous male figures seem to be suggestively attired as a way of defining something about that character.

However, since part of the point of my methods is to be intentionally ridiculous in counting male figures as suggestive, I counted them all anyway. (I’m even counting the tauren, remember, who are basically just bipedal cows.) I simply think it’s a thing worth noting.

What’s next

I plan on examining in detail why these numbers aren’t as positive (ha!) as they seem. Also, I plan on looking at the inequality of class depictions between male and female figures. But that will have to wait for another day.

[EDIT: Part 2 can be found here.]

About wundergeek
In addition to being a cranky feminist blogger, I am an artist, photographer, and somewhat half-assed writer living in the wilds of Canada with a wonderful spouse and two slightly broken cats.

16 Responses to >Galleries on official WoW site relaunched: Analysis (numbers)

  1. Shinobi says:

    >Interestingly, Re: the undead there is some weird sexual deviance, even among this decidedly non sexual race. When creating a character, the female characters have one mouth, period end of story. The male characters however have several mouths, hanging open, or completely missing.It seems to me that the only reason male and female undead jaws would be different is that the male undead are still supposed to be "pretty." Or maybe I am just dumb and female jaws rot at a slower rate than males? who knows.

  2. trollsmyth says:

    >Re: monstrous males. Right now, the flavor of sexy male de jour is scary (see SM's books, etc.). Beauty and the Beast is definitely in vogue. Sexy guys loom, crouch, scowl and generally all act like they wanna be Spike from Buffy. Which all only highlights how sexualizing a male is a completely different process from sexualizing females.

  3. EBwiz says:

    >"The suggestive female figures are suggestively attired because they are highly sexualized. The suggestive monstrous male figures seem to be suggestively attired as a way of defining something about that character."I'm with you on this post up until here, because I don't feel as though the monstrous male figures are as much about "defining that character". Males are thought of as the "hunter/gathers" in our society as well as expected and stereotyped by their temper and voracious appetites. This is why you're so quick to see males and masculine figures are so quick to be anthropomorphic as raging beasts.Keep in mind, I AM NOT saying this makes it worse/the same as essentially prostituting out your female characters to a male audience for a buck. I am saying there are deeper cultural reasons for that kind of depiction. But to say that it is about "defining something about that character" anymore than sexualizing the female characters seems disingenuous.

  4. wundergeek says:

    >EBwiz: Honestly that's just me taking a stab at it, but I'm totally willing to be wrong! I just feel like there's a difference between the suggestive females and the monstrous suggestive males that I can't pin down.

  5. LilithXIV says:

    >Are the monstrous suggestive males supposed to be appealing to women? I'm pretty sure that's the big divide here. The sexual exploitation of women is aimed to please men. What are these men aimed at? They're.. monsters (Seriously, Orcs? Ugh), not bombshells. I don't see how they can be attractive. Jacob isn't monstrous when he's on-screen most of the time, so is scary really sexy? And don't tell me /Edward/ is scary, not physically, he sparkles in the sunlight, he's a bishounen more or less.

  6. LilithXIV says:

    >My reply was mostly directed toward Trollsmyth and EBwiz btw. I really liked the article, Wundergeek. I can see why you were so busy if you were working on it, it must have taken a long while to gather all the data.

  7. wundergeek says:

    >Lilith: Yes. It involves a lot of staring at artwork until I go cross-eyed, generally. Even with just one source it took me most of a week to pull together.

  8. trollsmyth says:

    >Yes, seriously, orcs (NSFW).And the "I don't think this is sexy" isn't very convincing. I don't find any guy sexy, but apparently lots of people do. Some people even find bipedal cows sexy. The covers of romance novels also don't do anything for me but I'm clearly not the target audience there, either. Most of us don't find the art that wundergeek skewers very sexy at all, but apparently it sells stuff. This is very much a zone where different folks want different strokes.Now, are monstrous males attractive for the majority of women who play WoW? Couldn't tell you. Maybe it's more about male fantasies of sexual allure? Maybe it's what gay men want, which some folks clearly think is synonymous with what hetero women want. >.<

  9. LilithXIV says:

    >I stand corrected on the 'orcs can't be attractive' thing, though I'll note that orc is not looming, crouching, or scowling or looking scary/mean at all =P He's not being savage or fierce, which more portrays strength and stuff like that. He's actually being presented as suggestive, one particular sexual aspect is emphasized on instead of being mysteriously missing as it usually is.That picture just doesn't seem like at all what you were saying in your last post, which sounded like it focused on them being more threatening or physically intimidating. I just don't agree that male sexualization would be 'a completely different process', and that picture.And I'm still not buying the 'sex sells' thing. It still comes across as really hollow to me and more like a convenient excuse (largely to keep objectifying women and never have to think of changing anything) than a huge deciding factor.

  10. LilithXIV says:

    >Okay maybe I'm tired or something, not sure why I left that sentence incomplete. It was supposed to be: I just don't agree that male sexualization would be 'a completely different process', and that picture kind of proves my point since that orc lapdancer looks more close to just a buff human than really a monster.*I was mostly getting at Wundergeek's point, the whole thing about men being monstrous. Can you both be sexually suggestive and monstrous? I mean, The Beast from the disney Beauty and The Beast is not a sex icon here. Neither is (using Vito_Excalibur's examples) The Hulk or The Thing. Men get to be /actual/ monsters, with terrifying and intimidating features. Women are usually presented as human-like 'monsters' with purple skin or pointy teeth being their like.. only monster-like characteristic. They're sexy monsters (like the lapdancer). I'm not sure if I'm just being more confusing or not but iunno, I kinda thought that was what Wundergeek was getting at. Though I may be completely wrong.

  11. wundergeek says:

    >Okay, so we're arguing about something that's not well defined. Trollsmyth has some good points (clearly SOME people think bipedal cows are sexy). So does Lilith – I pretty much agree that this doesn't read as sexualized male figures to me. If that was the intent, then it definitely failed wrt to how I viewed it.The thing is that the vast majority of suggestively clad women were not monstrous – only a handful of tauren, orcs, trolls, and succubi – NO worgen. And the vast majority of the suggestively clad men ARE monstrous. So it seems like something is going on there. I don't really have a good idea of what that something is, but it seems to be significant.

  12. Ikkin says:

    >Wundergeek: I think you were on the right track before, actually. I'm not sure any of the criticisms really damage your hypothesis, when looked at closer.Re: monstrous men being the "in thing" right now, that might be — but the monstrous men that are in style are very, very different from the "savage and brutish" category that you've created. It's kind of like pointing to a succubi or a female vampire and saying, "see, monstrous women are in style" — well, sure, that type might be, but it really doesn't say anything about whether orc and troll women are also in style.Re: "men are expected to be hunters," that might also be true — but it's not nearly as pervasive a requirement as "women are expected to look appealing to men," so it still says something about the character and isn't just background noise.I think there's definitely something to the idea that scantily-clad male figures in WoW are meant to look savage, uncivilized and inhuman, and that exaggeratedly savage, uncivilized and inhuman is not particularly appealing to women even if they find the "tame" equivalent (eg. Jacob Black) sexy. And I suspect that the reason why there are relatively few such female characters is because men don't find it attractive either, and the female characters have to be attractive.

  13. zhu bajiee says:

    >I like the comparison between the old and new sites – a useful and insightful piece of work. Statistically the chart is showing progress towards equality across the genders, although it's not a very dramatic shift.Coming from another point of view – that is when people get depictions of fantasy females 'right' I thought you might be interested in this post I made:http://realmofzhu.blogspot.com/2010/12/female-armour.htmlOh, and people interested in monstrous sensuality should go read Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber.Hey, keep up the good work!

  14. wundergeek says:

    >Zhu: Thanks for the link. Those female armor pics are great. I'll definitely use that for reference in the future next time I need to draw female armor!

  15. ichizon says:

    >I might be a bit late to the party, but I hope you read comments on your older posts as well. Sorry for commenting on several posts at once here, but I'm more comfortable with that than posting to each of the (now old) posts.What irked me a bit about this article was that you mainly single out the sheer number of suggestive poses in said art. Now, I haven't done any research on the following, but I am under the impression that most of the art is submitted by males. I'm not going to argue that they aren't sexist in their depictions of women, but I think it's because they are men drawing women it's like this. They are inspired to draw a sexy female or a cool looking male because it's their fantasy. Had there been more female contributions, I am sure there would be more suggestive looking men in the pot as well.And so, a bit on part 4 in the same go. While I fully understand your rightful concerns about skimpy clothing showing off midriffs and pretty skirts, I feel you come across as a bit too strict on certain points. I got the impression that breasts are bad and need to be hidden at all costs. Note that this is mostly directed at the dwarf-tauren-orc image, where I personally didn't see it the same way as you did. It would seem more unnatural to hide them than just 'having them there' in my opinion. Slightly off tone, I think the 'midriff' on the tauren is actually her polished breastplate.[...]

  16. ichizon says:

    >I'd also like to make a short comment about the Final Fantasy XIII post. Specifically the pants-issue. While Square-Enix are not exactly known for their realistically clothed characters, wearing a skirt of that type is akin to wearing a trouser skirt or a pair of sturdy hot pants in my opinion. While it is definitely there for appeal of some sort, it's not exactly impractical for an 'adventurer' type character. I thought that you made an issue out of nothing. It's not like pantyhose (which male adventurers not too rarely wear) would make a big difference.Regarding the Ubisoft games, just don't buy them. Most girl gamers my age play the games you refer to in the last part, seemingly as 'games for men,' which is just silly to say. I just wanted to make that point, as I understand fully well the offence you take from the 'girl games.' They also imply that a boy can't wear make-up or tend horses.I respect your points and views regardless, even though I disagree with quite a few of them.

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