>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:


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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)


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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.]

>A bit of visual WTF to tide you over

>Hey, folks. Thanks to a concerted campaign of vitamin C and lots of sleep, I’m getting my brain power back. It’s still going to be a few days before I post anything substantial, but that’s because I’m working on a series of posts about World of Warcraft that will probably be posted in three chunks. It’s substantial enough that it’s going to take me a non-trivial amount of time to put together, and since I’m busy all weekend I thought I’d put up some things for your, er, amusement in the mean time:

Hey look! Perfect world wants to get in on the act too! Lesbians!
GOD DAMMIT SONY. Just. Just. ARG.
To be fair, I don’t believe that this is official art – I’m pretty sure it’s fanart. But still. What the f*ck? Did Perfect World’s Random Upskirt Tiger start some kind of “sex with tigers” trend?
This, too, I’m pretty sure is fanart. What makes me sad is that the artist who drew this has a pretty good grasp of anatomy. They’re just choosing to ignore it.

d00d, what is it with sci-fi games and ass cleavage? Mass Effect 2 has Miranda and her ridiculously cavernous ass cleavage. Was Blizzard jealous? Srsly. Come on. Spandex just doesn’t work that way, peeps.

Thanks for being patient, folks. I promise the new posts will be worth the wait.

>I cannot brain, I have the sick.

>Hi, folks. Just a heads up. I managed to catch some sort of plague from a friend’s kids over the weekend. It’s kicking my ass and giving me a serious case of the stupid, so I’m going to be a little quiet for the next few days until I feel better. (Try to behave yourself in the comment threads, folks. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t… oh wait…)

Mayhaps I will finish the 2nd of my gender-swapped drawings whilst I am sick – coloring is about all the intellectual activity I can handle right now.

In the mean time, I didn’t want to leave you empty-handed, so check out these links:

In the new DC Online MMO, you can play any type of female hero you want. As long as they have ENORMOUS KNOCKERS.

An LJ post in which a female comic fan rants about why she shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable in comic stores. Substitute “game” for comic and you’d pretty much have a treatise on how I feel in game stores.

Why do women prefer anime and manga to other parts of geekdom? Hint: Because they’re the parts that don’t tell us to GTFO.

>Gender-swapping female characters: Vanille

>Some of the arguments here about the sexualized design of female video game characters got me to thinking about how I could illustrate this more clearly, since some people just seem to understand that idealization of male characters JUST ISN’T THE SAME as the sexualization of female characters. I got to thinking about a post I saw several years ago on LiveJournal in which a female blogger photoshopped hypothetical comic covers with extreme male fanservice.

I wanted to do something along those lines, only with game art and perhaps a bit less extreme. When discussing sexualized character design, people seem to focus on the body parts – perhaps just because distorted anatomy is very easy for us to recognize. But posing plays just as big a part – even when it’s not the subtle-as-a-brick “take me now” posing that all of us are pretty used to seeing. So I decided that I’m going to start doing a series of gender-swapped female game characters, starting with Vanille from Final Fantasy XIII – mostly just because that’s the game I’m playing right now.

So here’s female Vanille:

And here’s my genderswapped “Van”:


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I did contemplate leaving Vanille’s ridiculous bikini top and mini skirt combo intact, but I decided that instead I would swap the clothing for their nearest gender equivalents – which is why Van is in a wife-beater and shortish shorts. Van here comes off as pretty gender-inappropriate by conventional standards, and not just because I kept the pink shirt. According to what we’re conditioned to expect, everything about the pose is incredibly inappropriate on a male figure.

Vanille’s spine is arched in such a way that her breasts are thrust forward. Her legs and clothing are arranged in such a way that your eyes are drawn to her ladybits that are just barely covered by the arrangement of her limbs. And despite this being a somewhat action-y pose, the posing of her arms doesn’t suggest strength or action – they suggest softness and femininity. Everything about Vanille’s pose is designed to be inviting and appealing to the male viewer. And yet a lot of that gets lost in the gender-swap. Van isn’t that much more covered than Vanille, but you don’t get the “collection of parts” impression looking at him that you do looking at Vanille.

So all in all, I consider this a pretty successful experiment, and one that I’ll definitely repeat. My only regret in that trying to go less extreme than the photoshopped comic covers, I think I went a little too far. Next time I’ll pick a character and pose that are a little more obviously sexual and see what happens. (Suggestions?)

Lastly, as recommended reading I’ll suggest you check out this great LJ post here with lots of scans from a book on how to draw comic characters that highlights a lot of what I’m talking about. Especially check out the first three scanned pages which highlight pretty much what I’m talking about here.