Blizzard doesn’t care if I think Hearthstone is fun

I’ve been playing Hearthstone lately and rather enjoying it. It gives me a quick casual gaming fix, I don’t really feel compelled to play even when I don’t have time, and given that I’ve been getting into playing more Magic lately, I just really like the gameplay. So like many, many other people, when the new single-player Naxxramas expansion was released yesterday, I downloaded it and took it for a spin.

I only had an hour to play, so I didn’t manage to get through all the new content, but I enjoyed what I did unlock, for the most part. It was challenging and fun getting a look at some new and very different deck types. But I had a moment early on in my playthrough of the new stuff that made me stop, sigh, shake my head, and say “yup, this game wasn’t meant for me all right”. It happened right after I defeated Normal Boss #1 and started a match with Normal Boss #2, Grand Widow Faerlina:

Oh, Blizzard. Why you gotta be like that?

Now, sphere boobs aside, her anatomy isn’t actually that bad. The only (hah) problem is her… armor? …dress?

Honestly, I don’t know what the hell to call it. Given the level of detail we can see on her boobs, collarbone, abs, and belly button, she’s wearing vacuum-sealed spandex at best and at worst is wearing body paint and nipple pasties. (Since I don’t, thankfully, see any visibly erect nipples. Thank god for small mercies, I guess.)

Even more ridiculous is the fact that she is wearing gigantic shoulder plates and bulky gauntlets and… no other substantive armor – I’m not counting the decorative armor plates on her skirt. But while we’re on the subject of her skirt, what the hell is up with the visible panty lines?? Or her knees, which somehow got the skirt vacuum-sealed around them sufficient to define the anatomy of her kneecaps, while the rest of the skirt is simultaneously flowing free?

Honestly, this is the most extreme case of “draw naked, add clothes with extreme reluctance” that I’ve seen in a piece of WoW art in quite a while. And since we’re talking about Blizzard, that’s saying… a lot. And it really, really bugged me.

I play Hearthstone because it’s fun and it’s free, and I like free. When I play, I just want to kill some time and have fun with a game that gives me strategic gameplay in bite-sized increments. What I don’t want is to continually have my fun disrupted with visual reminders of how very few fucks Blizzard gives about female gamers like me. (Hint: the answer is none.) Some days, getting past the bullshit and having fun is harder than other days.

Of course, it took me a while to get into playing Hearthstone, despite the positive reviews of friends and the free. (Did I mention that I love free?) Mainly because all of their promotional material that I saw used this artwork:

The interesting/pretty binary strikes again. Notice how it’s two dudes playing and the only women (three in a scene of 13) are just watching admiringly. And sure, there are men who are just spectators as well, but an awful lot of the banner ads I saw were cropped down to just Muscles McDudeOrc and Cheerleader McLadyOrc, which distills the awful in this picture down to its purest form. (Also, is Cheerleader McLadyOrc even wearing clothes? I’m not convinced that she is.)

Sadly, even with a meager 3 out of 13 figures being women, the above promo image is actually more inclusive of women than the actual hero selection (albeit by a mere 1%), where only 2 out of 9 hero characters are women:

Now because it’s not immediately apparent how awful the art is from these partially cropped icons, here are the images that these icons are taken from:

Great. So we have Valeera in her ridiculous cleavage swimsuit with spikey armored shoulders and boots, and Jaina, who… who… I don’t even know what is going on. It looks like she’s casting a boob-enlargement spell, only it’s backfired and they’re about to explode out of her top. Literally.

The really weird part is how Jaina has a (admittedly incredibly useful) spell called Mirror Image that summons supposed duplicate images of her. Only her duplicate images look like this:

So her mirror images are actually not nearly as crappy as her hero avatar, which is… strange. We’ve still got broken spin, chest TARDIS, and vacuum-sealed sphere boobs. But, you know, at least her boobs aren’t about to explode? Yay?

The funny thing is that in the initial mental outline I had for this post, I was going to make a point about “ugh why couldn’t they just use not-shitty art of Jaina”? Until I realized… there isn’t any better art. Mirror Image Jaina is about as good as it gets, for awful values of good. Seriously, these two were the “best” images of Jaina I could find (not counting WoW screen caps):

So that sucks. Especially given that my best deck right now is a mage deck, which means I spend an awful lot of time staring at Jaina’s stupid exploding boob cleavage.

Unfortunately, things don’t get much better when you look at the actual cards themselves. (I really should do a numbers breakdown of all of the current Hearthstone cards by gender and other factors, but that’s a bit more involved than I have time for at the moment.) There aren’t very many women featured in the card art, but most of the women who do appear are pretty fucking terrible. Here are some of my least favorite examples, most of which are taken from common or basic cards. (The Scarlet Inquisitor and Ice Block are rare)


I don’t think I need to go into why these fail, do I? Although I will note that I was surprised at how much worse the art for Whirlwind is at full size, as compared to the tiny cropped version on the cards you see on the screen. Also, wrt the art for the Argent Squire, can fantasy artists please stop using porn as a facial reference? I’m getting really fucking tired of random o-face on my female fantasy warriors. kthx.

I was going to end this post with art of female characters that I actually liked

But then I couldn’t find more than one piece. I mean, I guess the Novice Engineer and Reckless Rocketeer are okay. But they both still have stupid cleavage. Really the only piece of art of any woman that I’ve seen and said “cool” and didn’t feel compelled to eyeroll about was the Violet Teacher:

So at least one artist at Blizzard doesn’t have their head entirely up their ass when it comes to drawing women. I guess.

22 thoughts on “Blizzard doesn’t care if I think Hearthstone is fun

  1. Regarding the female orc cheerleader maybe not even being dressed: is the male orc who is playing the game any more likely to be wearing clothes other than his glove? I might sport a grin like that if I got away with playing a game pantsless.

    I keep hoping that a big game company will finally get the point and make a game that we approve of 95%, then all the gaming-feminist blogs would promote the crap out of it and they’d make a ton of money.

  2. It is fantasy. It is unrealistic to present all women as sexy skimpily clad minxes. But it is also unrealistic to present all men as masculine hulking muscled behemoths. In fantasy, characters are often portrayed as someone would imagine them in their own personal “fantasy”. Men as well as women.

  3. i dont realy see the problem in any of this …
    so what if the artwork of fearlina isnt in your taste , you only see it 3 times if you dont replay the fights with her after you got the cards and its only a fraction of the immage

    the pressed on looks could result of air current or whatever the fuck and i dont even know why im justifying this , its just artistic choice

    Also Faerlina is a magus in class (combination of fighter and mage) therefore shes wearing a combination of robes and armor + the gigantic pauldrons are extremely common in WoW

    do you realy have to ask why its pressed against her legs?

    the character choice is an even dumber point you bring up , so you complain that of the 9 classes only 2 are female … ok then tell me which Female warcraft warrior would you have picked to represent the class?
    which Shaman would you have picked? honestly the only other female character i would consider is Tyrande as a hunter

    but hey you didnt even consider that these are actually characters in a story right?

    The only one of the card images that you showed that displayed anything weird was the whirlwind (top right) but the chain bikini is a fucking fantasy rpg trope already and honestly , as long as there are thirteen year olds it will never go away , but yes in this case your right its does look retarded.

    the other cards look pretty normal to me and are an acurate representation of the ingame counterparts , especialy the scralet inquisitor , shes completely covered (no cleavage or anything) her pose isnt unrealistic and she doesnt even break her fucking back to show us her ass so looks pretty good to me

    artworks you might have liked include : Kirin Tor mage (yes thats a female , i doulbel checked) shadowstep , imp master , sunwalker (its a fuckin cow but at least its not sexist right) , alxstrasza and ysera (they could have used their human form and her human form looks like a red skinned stripper with horns)

    and to bring this to an end :

    this all has nothing to do with the actual game so if the clothes are realy whats important for you in your games , you should go play dressup like the cliche of a woman you are

    if you on the other hand do realize that this doesnt have an impact on the game at all i must ask the following : why do you complain about it?

    • the pressed on looks could result of air current or whatever the fuck and i dont even know why im justifying this , its just artistic choice

      Whatever artistic choice was being made, it was a stupid one. Here is an example of what billowing skirts look like. As you can see, the only one where you can actually discern anatomy of the knee is the bottom middle where the skirt is actually translucent. But the skirt Faerlina is wearing appears to be opaque, which means that the artist is playing fast and loose with how clothes actually work just because he wants to draw her sexay legs.

      but hey you didnt even consider that these are actually characters in a story right?

      Characters in a story WRITTEN BY PEOPLE. They didn’t just spring fully-formed from a magical thought vacuum. This was a story written by REAL PEOPLE who bring their REAL AND VERY OBVIOUS BIASES to their writing. And that shit is the shit I’m calling out.

      the other cards look pretty normal to me and are an acurate representation of the ingame counterparts

      Again, shit like that is why I quit WoW in the first place.

      if you on the other hand do realize that this doesnt have an impact on the game at all i must ask the following : why do you complain about it?

      BECAUSE IT IMPACTS MY FUN. You know, fun? That thing that’s supposed to happen when you play a game? Otherwise known as the reason people play games at all? Shitty sexism makes games less fun for me personally. But, you know, it’s not like my fun matters or anything. I’m just a woman, so who gives a shit about my fun when the game wasn’t made for me in the first place.

      So thanks for proving that the title I chose is 100% true.

    • Tyrande is a PRIEST, not a hunter, and she is a 10,000 year old faction leader instead of a barely legal prince.

  4. I was invited to Hearthstone’s early beta and as I played, I took note of the NAME of each ARTIST on any given card.

    This didn’t last long because the ratio of male-to-female artists was so abysmal that I became depressed and quickly gave up. (It was easily 100:1.)

    I know nothing about the world of fantasy art, but are there really so few female artists that Blizzard was unable to commission equitable numbers of women for their card art?

    The problem with sexist art might correct itself if game companies like Blizzard made a conscious choice to hire someone other than MALE artists.

    • Agreed! And I’m happy to say that no, there are a ton of *super super great* women doing fantasy art out there. I’ve even gotten a chance to work with a few of them. So, yeah. They’re out there.

  5. good writeup! I just did this Faerlina encounter for the first time two nights ago and my initial reaction to that art was something akin to an audible gasp. I feel like Blizzard is kind of a middle of the road offender when it comes to this type of stuff, but that Faerlina art definitely ratchets them up a few notches. Of everything you cited, the Argent Squire art is the least offensive but that’s a great point about the face. what is she doing exactly? also, it’s bothered me since launch that Valeera is supposed to be a sneaky assassin and she is wearing what amounts to a red swimsuit. and the arathi weaponsmith… those pigtails are actually the worst part of that art.

    anyway, I’m a dude who grew up in and around comic book culture as well as what I’ll generically term “social critical” culture so I’ve always tried to be critical of this kind of stuff while acknowledging that it is ok to politely ask my wife if she would consider wearing a chain mail bikini for me (I was half-joking, but she hasn’t yet said no). I was driven to your blog by the D&D article on Vice and as I read that and this it occurred to me that, unlike D&D or MtG or any other face to face fantasy game, the experience of players in multiplayer online video games largely occur in a vacuum. what I mean is, when somebody acts shitty to a girl at the local Friday Night Magic, there is an opportunity for other players to intervene or for the girl in question to stand up for herself in a manner that, due to the personal nature, might actually have an effect. Counter that with shit like this which simply exists and is accepted and must be confronted via third party criticisms (like this blog) which, unfortunately, may not reach the audience that most needs to self-analyze.

    anyway, sorry if that is incoherent. I enjoyed this post and I’m looking forward to reading the archives of this blog.

    oh, and some other ok mostly ok female art in Hearthstone: Armorsmith, cabal shadow priest, Kirin Tor Mage, and Sunfury Protector.

    • In reply to your second paragraph:

      I know what you mean about not being able to show *any* dissent within the medium in question. I was playing World of Warcraft as a human character, and many many times I seriously didn’t want to do the quests because I saw them as some colonial-extermination hierarchy-worshipping thing, but the game doesn’t allow you to progress if you do that. They only reward you for doing the quests, not for thinking about them, not for talking about them, and absolutely not for questioning WHY the human kingdom feels the need to kill 12 “vermin” kobolds near their town.

      I had to stop playing human in order to continue enjoying the game. I felt the other races weren’t quite so bad, but maybe I just wasn’t projecting as much of what I see in my own culture.

      • Evan & Jean-Francois:

        Wow. Both of your responses are great and personal and super on-point. Thanks for coming by and providing your perspective.

        I feel like I should say more than that, but it’s been a long day and I don’t feel I have much intelligent to add.

  6. I think part of the problem is the reason why it took me a moment to realize how ridiculous the pictures are, and the reason is simple being a man I like to look of a female figure so the first reaction is a subconscious “that’s not so bad”.

    To be honest I almost commented on the arathi weaponsmith and her outfit being possibly utilitarian until I, thankfully, took a second look and noticed how her boob covers covered the nipples while showing maximum area. Ironically the real utilitarian version, i.e. just strapping the boobs from the middle to prevent them getting in the way, might have shown more boob area :b This ofcourse ignores the fact that most smiths use aprons.

    Even as a male gamer I’m getting sick of the prevailing way how women are portrayed, actually scratch that I’m getting sick of the way people are portrayed, because it’s just plain ridiculous. It’s like every character is a damn bodybuilder, newsflash: to get that kind of muscle definition you have to literally starve yourself, it’s just not normal to speak nothing of healthy. Sadly though this is just a symptom of the current unhealthy image of beauty created by the corporate world to sell products to people.

    P.s. I miss classical beauty ideals.

    • If you had actually read some of her blog posts you might have noticed that she’s very consistent in her commenting on the issue at hand and the pervasiveness of this kind of art is one of the major points she’s fighting against.

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