>Re-launched WoW Galleries: Analysis, Part 2 (Numbers lie. Sort of.)

>In my last post, I examined the re-launched galleries on the official WoW site according to the criteria of my original survey. The first post was just a look at the numbers as they were counted. From here on out, we’ll be looking at some of the actual images pulled from the galleries on the official WoW site.

(As such, I’ll note that all of the images used here are official Blizzard artwork; the fanart gallery was not counted, and nor do I use any images from the fanart gallery in these posts. While Blizzard is choosing which fanart submissions to post on their site, they themselves did not commission the artwork, nor did they pay for it – so I decided to err on the side of caution.)

In the last post, the significant trends that were observed was the increase in female figures, the increase in actively posed female figures, and the increase in suggestive depictions of men. Those seem like positive things, right? Even if the changes were small, they were all changes in the right direction. Well…

Why the numbers aren’t as positive as they seem

In the original survey, my criteria for what qualifies as suggestive is intended to be slightly ridiculous in that it is very easy for a male figure to be classified as suggestive while being comparatively hard for female figures to be classified as suggestive.

All of these were counted as suggestive male figures. The left-most figure is classified as suggestive male figure because he has a discernable gender (male) and isn’t wearing a shirt. Now, we can argue about whether or not it’s reasonable for some people to find giant bipedal cows sexy, but I feel a little more confident in saying that it’s definitely ridiculous for someone to find an insect sexy. (But who knows, perhaps that’s just my arachnophobia talking.)

The middle figure is also a pretty silly inclusion. This cartoonish goblin is in no way presented as a “sexy” figure, but his lack of pants automatically included him in the suggestive category. The orc on the right is the only figure with even a semi-legitimate claim to actual sexiness. A case could be made for him being a sexualized figure. But I could also put together a pretty good case for him not being sexualized, so I’ll settle for calling the running orc an edge case.

Now when it came to female figures, any female figure that was wearing a leg-covering garment and whose costume did not expose anything suggestive (cleavage, midriff, portions of thighs, butt, etc) were automatically counted as not suggestively attired, even if their outfit was clearly spray-painted on and left nothing to the imagination. Here are some of the women counted as not suggestive:

The blood elf paladin seems to be wearing spandex instead of the impossibly huge plate armor that male paladin characters usually get to wear. Furthermore, her costume has two conveniently placed straps that call attention to her breasts, since they hang right where her nipples would be.

The rogue fares a bit better in terms of costume in that it looks like actual armor and not just spandex. However, it’s every bit as tight as the blood elf paladin’s outfit, and she has the ridiculously sexualized pose to boot! Her pose has her arching her back while simultaneously thrusting out both her breasts and her ass. It’s pretty clear that she’s on display for the male viewer.

As for the two undead… During my counts, I didn’t count any undead as suggestive since they’re – you know – dead. But when you look at these undead women, they reflect what you see when you look at almost all art of female undead. Both women are pretty seriously rotten, and yet somehow their faces show no trace of rot.

Furthermore, neither do their breasts – which are still large and improbably perky given the state of the rest of them. Are women in Azeroth too poor to afford a full embalming, so they just get their face and tits done? “Well, I might be dead, but at least I’ll still have a great rack!”. Give me a break. These women are dead, and yet they’re still being designed to appeal to male viewers.

As for the last two, calling the warlock not suggestively attired is pretty ridiculous since I can discern anatomical features not normally visible through clothing. (If I can see individual ribs, she might as well not be wearing clothing at all.) The priest’s robes are pretty tight too, though not as tight as the warlock. However, there’s clearly visible underboob through the robe, and the cross is pretty clearly only there to call attention to her breasts.

Not all suggestive depictions are created equal

Second, we have to consider that there is absolutely a difference between the majority of male figures that were counted as suggestive and female figures that were counted as suggestive. For instance, look at this concept art of male and female Draenei:

Both of these characters were counted as suggestive – the male because he’s not wearing pants and the female because she’s not wearing much of anything at all. Is the male Draenei suggestive? Maybe. Is he as sexualized as the female Draenei? Absolutely not.

I’m not going to try to figure out whether the suggestive monstrous figures that were counted were meant to appeal to women. But I am going to say that there is a world of difference between this:

and this:

These women are being presented as sexual objects in a way that just isn’t true for the majority, if not all, of the suggestive male figures. Every single of one of these women is drawn to be nothing more than a collection of sexy parts, presented for maximum titillation. I mean, I think this image says it all:

By the numbers, the new gallery shows an improvement in all measureable sexist trends except for depictions of class archetypes. But looking at the images tells a different story. Even if Blizzard were to start counting the numbers of male and female figures in their illustrations and making a conscious effort to have men and women equally represented, it wouldn’t change the underlying attitude that women in Azeroth exist to be sexually pleasing to men.

What’s next

· Comparisons of male class illustrations and female class illustrations.
· Comparisons of positive female depictions and problematic female depictions
· Another gender-swap! Now with 200% more ridiculousness!

[Edit: Part 3 is now up!]

18 thoughts on “>Re-launched WoW Galleries: Analysis, Part 2 (Numbers lie. Sort of.)

  1. >There's a Forsaken female /silly emote that goes, 'Of course they're real. They're not mine, but they're real!' That clearly explains where… er, well, no, it doesn't, but I just wanted to drop the reference.The first undead picture made me ask, 'Wait, where the hell are her internal organs?' Then I realized, 'wait. Undead.' and further realized that I really didn't want to think about it any more.Personally, I keep coming back to the middle frame of notsexy2.jpg and asking, 'Has anyone ever intentionally struck and -held- a pose like that?'

  2. >When I saw the images you labeled non-suggestive, I was thinking: 'Hm, these aren't too bad even with the details she pointed out.' And then I scroll down and see the figures that you did count as suggestive. And wow. Yeah, you really have no reason to give them the benefit of the doubt here, because all of those are absolutely ridiculous–and this coming from someone who generally likes cheesecake fantasy art. These women are–you put it very well–collections of sexy parts. I don't get the impression that there was ANY thought put into the designs besides how best to emphasize the T&A. In fact, I don't think you can even reasonably call them characters. They have no discernable charisma or personality; they're just armored wank material.

  3. >Blizzard seems hardly apologetic about it either. Look at the two strongest female characters in the lore: Alextrasza and Ysera. Both with strong stories and both strong females, but when you see them in the game, they're barely clothed in chain mail bikinis. Even Tyrande gets a form-fitting dress. It's frustrating to say the least.

  4. >What really amazes me about seeing these images laid out like this is how much availability is valued over legitimately-attractive appearance in female characters.Honestly, the only female depiction in this entire post whose appearance doesn't suggest her artist needs a class in remedial anatomy is the Draenei (which I actually kind of like, in spite of the revealing clothing — I'm not sure I would have a problem with her if the male Draenei was restricted to approximately the same level of coverage). It's really no wonder that the characters come off as "collections of body parts" when the artist is more concerned with using those parts to demonstrate availability than creating a coherent whole.The male characters seem to be decent in terms of anatomy, so it's not like the artists don't know how to draw humans/humanoids. It's just apparently more important to offer the female characters as toys to the audience than to make them aesthetically pleasing.

  5. >Thank you so much for writing this study and its follow ups. It helps so much to point people who use the classic argument "but gaming is sexist against men too!". This particular post should really be linked to the original study as your "bias" is immediately brought up to dismiss your study.

  6. >I don't think Blizard sees any reason to be apologetic, since millions of people are clearly willing to tolerate it, if not outright enjoy it–obviously some women are included among this number, given how often you see cosplayers as night elves in skimpy outfits. As far as Blizard is concerned, it's good business.On the other hand, it creates a climate where it is not only acceptable but common for users to declare 'tits or GTFO'.

  7. >Ikkin: I'll definitely admit that the female Draenai is the least objectionable woman in this whole post. She seems to be the rare exception to most women in Blizzard art in that she seems like she might be capable of wielding that giant sword (I mean, look at those guns!). But generally Blizzard seems to approach character design with the same philosophy as character design found in comic books. Male characters get anatomy+ – the musculature and proportions are exaggerated to make them appear strong and powerful. Female characters get anatomy-, many of them actually have portions of their anatomy removed (ribs, organs) in order to make them more sexually appealing.Chaltab: It's the problem of safe marketing versus good marketing. Blizzard's marketing strategy is safe marketing. They don't care about alienating women because they have a player base of 16 million people. However, it seems to me like they should care. I mean, come on – 48 MILLION women play FarmVille. Given how rote and repetitive FarmVille is, I have to think that the treadmill style of play would be appealing to at least some of them.

  8. >DB0: Hey, thanks for the comment! (Sorry it initially got flagged as spam. *sigh*) You make a good point – I think I'll create one post that links to everything so that I can update it with whatever I do in the future and tell people to just link to that one post.And yeah, I did read the comment thread over on reddit (since I got so many referrals from that thread) and did an awful lot of eyerolling. Thankfully trolling HERE has been kept to a minimum, which I'm grateful for given the spike in traffic I've gotten from reddit in the last day.

  9. >What really amazes me about seeing these images laid out like this is how much availability is valued over legitimately-attractive appearance in female characters.And it really, really shouldn't surprise you at all. The aim here clearly isn't to create "attractive" (as that word is commonly used) women, or even, I suspect, "toys" for male gratification, as it is to go for the lowest-hanging-fruit Pavlovian response of the male visually inspired dopamine-drip reflex. I'd be shocked if there was much more to it than that, because, as Wundergeek points out, that's "safe" marketing.

  10. >To me, the T&A images aren't even sexy because they're trying so hard to be. From the perspective of a male who likes hot women, there is nothing hot about most of those designs. 'Sexy' requires character and personality, and they don't even have that. So even on a Pavlovian level, it fails for me. When I see horrible proportions and outfits designed, seemingly, to circumvent comfort and practicality, I respond with scorn and feel like they're trying to yank me around by my… hormones.I mean there's a reason that Evony is a punchline even on the most transparently male-oriented gaming sites.

  11. >Wundergeek: "Anatomy+" and "Anatomy-" really is a good way to put it. It just seems a bit bizarre to me that Anatomy-, with all its freakish distortion, would be considered more sexually appealing than the human equivalent of that Draenei.Trollsmyth: I guess my problem is, I don't see why men would even have that Pavlovian reaction to something so obviously unhealthy-looking. I've been around enough female-dominated fandoms to know that we're pretty susceptible to visuals, too — but I've never really seen the same kind of reaction to out-of-context parts that you're suggesting these depictions depend on. I suppose there's a possibility that could be an inherently-male trait, but that doesn't seem necessary when the "sexually-available = appealing" correlation seems to be universal across gender.

  12. >Ikkin: I guess my problem is, I don't see why men would even have that Pavlovian reaction to something so obviously unhealthy-looking.You'll have to take that up with Mother Nature, I'm afraid. I can't find the study now, but I remember reading that the brain reacts chemically not to a whole person, or even to context, so much as parts. Hence the "collection of parts" phenomenon that Wundergeek is pointing out in these posts.Keep in mind that the advertisers are not trying to get you to date these women. They only want to stand out from the mass of banner and side-bar ads, box-cover art, and stuff like that which we have all learned to ignore. The Evony ads are effective (and, considering the evidence, we have to sadly assume they are) only because they grab a guy's lizard-brain and jerk hard, making their ads stand out from the otherwise ignorable mass of advertising you manage not to see every day on the 'net. Does this sort of advertising and marketing make guys buy? Clearly not. But it doesn't have to. It merely needs to get enough guys to stand still long enough to deliver the real pitch for the product. Apparently, the fact that Evony doesn't actually include bikini-clad lesbian make-out sessions hasn't caused the game to shut its doors, and that other games are following suit implies that enough guys are willing to put up with the bait-and-switch.

  13. >I'm not a guy so I'm not even going to comment on how the male lizardbrain may or may not affect people. I just want to point out that, at least IMO, you guys aren't the lowest common denominator that Blizzard is aiming at. If you go to the galleries and read the comments, sure some of them are "this is ridiculous". But there's just as many saying "OMG HAWT".

  14. >I guess the thing I'm having trouble believing is that the least common denominator that they're aiming at actually prefers the broken-backed, organ-lacking Anatomy- art over equally-sexualized artwork that displays a basic command of the human form.Would they really lose that much interest from these people if Ladybit Assassin Rogue up there had her parts in the right place that it'd outweigh the part of their audience who considers messed-up anatomy to be really bad art? That's what I find hard to believe.

  15. So the picture you choose as the epitome of your criticism is a warlock molesting his succubus. Maybe I’m from an alternate universe but I could’ve sworn that’s how succubi were supposed to work.

  16. Invalid argument right here. These are fan art drawings which a single person – most likely a loner guy sat in his basement – have drawn, therefore what do you expect these images to look like? The implying of a succubus being offensive content is ridiculous (succubus – A female demon believed to have sexual intercourse with sleeping men.) Don’t be so childish if these things seriously offend people then these people have clearly not seen the television that they are showing to their kids. Mainly in the pop music culture (Ever heard of Lady gaga? what a disgrace).

  17. Another thing I’d like to point out from reading in more detail about this subject is that it appears the main issue is women (Most likely overweight) complaining about the fact that guys are drawing skinny/fit (healthy not sexually attractive) women. I’m pretty sure that if that Draenei was chubby there wouldn’t be a problem.

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