Blizzard tries to “do women better”, completely misses the point

(I didn’t mean to go nearly two weeks without a paid post! However, the PhotoShopping for the last part of this post took significantly longer than I thought it would, and I lost a lot of evenings this past week to rehearsals for the play I’m in. Alas!)

Quite a while ago, this drifted across my tumblr dash (courtesy of Bikini Armor Battle Damage – which is a great tumblr that I love), and I facepalmed:


It’s almost like… Blizzard has a complete lack of awareness of how and why their games were failing at women in the first place. No, wait, scratch that. It’s exactly like that. Because that’s what it is. That’s exactly what it is.

Curious to see what the other characters were like, because I hate myself and like being angry, I went digging for a character roster and found this:


Now, looking at it, I’ll admit that this does do better than WoW and Hearthstone, in that 5 out of 12 characters are gendered as female. However, given that Blizzard’s modus operandi is to clearly delineate female gendered characters with BOOBS, I think it’s a safe assumption that the four characters without immediately discernable gender (Robot Monk (front), Giant-ass Robot, Heavy-Armor Gorilla, and Mech-with-the-Bird[1]) are going to be gendered as male.

Especially when you consider that Blizzard character designers operate under the assumption that characters are either interesting or female, but never both.

Granted, 5 out of 12 characters is 41% female representation – which is much better than Hearthstone’s batting average of around 22%. But still! You’d think that if a game company is going to trumpet that they’re trying to “do women characters better” (and really, I hope that was Kotaku’s phrasing and not Blizzard’s, because that’s a really unfortunate choice of phrasing), this is the low hanging fruit.

It’s not hard! TWELVE IS AN EVEN NUMBER. Half of twelve is six. If you want to NOT FAIL AT WOMEN CHARACTERS, you should maybe, I dunno, HAVE HALF OF THEM BE WOMEN. (At least.)[3]

Even then – even then – I might have been happy with this as a sign of progress if the character designs weren’t so uniform, or if they didn’t fall into all the same design pitfalls as their other games. Looking at the above image, the male-gendered characters cover every body type imaginable, while the women are all slim (some impossibly so – I call bullshit on the angel’s ribcage), all present as femme, and all fit standard definitions of pretty. And then of course, things get uglier when you start looking at the character designs more closely:

overwatch women
TOP, L TO R: Widowmaker, Tracer, Pharah BOTTOM: Mercy, Symmetra

Widowmaker (top left) is bullshit, for obvious reasons. Why the fuck would you wear that to a gunfight? Her boobs are about to pop out any second, not to mention the massive ass cleavage in the first screenshot. (Seriously, her suit looks like it must be lodged in her colon. WTF.) Tracer (top middle) is… yeah, okay, I guess she’s okay. I mean she’s skinny as fuck, but maybe that’s part of the tomboy vibe? We’ll come back to her.

Symmetra (bottom left) is yet another instance of Blizzard’s obsession with designing characters that wear dresses with thigh slits that go above the hips, no pants, and stripper boots. But at least she fares better than Mercy (the angel, bottom left), who not only doesn’t get pants but also has some of the most ridiculous fucking boob armor I’ve ever seen. You want to “do women characters”, Blizzard? How about you don’t put them in fucking boobplate?

Lastly, there’s Pharah. Initially I was pleased with her design, even if I was miffed that she didn’t get to be big and bulky like the male heavies. I actually like the contrast of her femme presentation (especially the eye makeup) with the heavy armor. And then I spotted THE BATTLE THONG.

Seriously, look at the male armored characters. None of them have ridiculous armor cod-pieces, so what gives? It’s like someone tried to give her a strong design without sexualizing her, until some studio head came in and said “yeah, yeah, that’s great, can we put her in a thong?”[2].

And all of this is just the obvious issues with the individual character designs! None of which are helped by shit like this piece of promo art here:

(I didn’t realize until I started writing this post that there’s a 5th male character squeezed in between the cowboy and the angel, which properly makes the ratio 2 out of 7.)

Oh hey, look. Two out of seven characters are women, and neither of them are in any way focal. So that’s good. Nice to know that Blizzard is still committed to women not being important to anything ever at all.

And remember Tracer? The one “yeah, I guess she’s pretty okay” character? Well don’t worry, because Blizzard made sure to sexualize her as well. So far there is only one Overwatch statue available and it’s this one:overwatch-tracer

Ridiculous boobs and butt pose? Check. Ass cleavage (seriously, who is it on the design team that is so obsessed with ass cleavage? That’s just weird), check. Distorted anatomy? Check. Phew! For a second there I almost thought Blizzard was going to manage to not screw that one up!

Oh, but I can’t forget to mention that the game’s role assignments are also horrendously stereotypical:


That’s right. Two out of three healers are female, two out of four high-DPS/rogue-equivalent characters are female, one out of three defensive characters are female (the least-clothed female character to boot), and there are zero female tanks. Because women are just too dainty and fragile and shit. Or something. REASONS.

So basically, if Blizzard really was trying to make an effort to “do women characters” better, then they failed miserably. Yeah, okay, they didn’t fail quite as hard as they do in all of their other games! But touting this as some kind of achievement is like bragging that you only slap women a little sometimes instead of full on punching them in the face. You don’t get feminist cookies for not failing slightly less than you used to.

How could this be better? Re-examining design choices

If I’d followed my usual posting format, I could have rambled on for another 1,000 words easily about individual characters and problematic design decisions as well as problematic meta-patterns. But instead, I decided to do something a little different – I decided that I would PhotoShop the full-cast poster to actually show how easy it would be to have a character lineup that isn’t fucking terrible.

It turns out that this was a bit more a time investment, PhotoShop-wise, than I anticipated, mostly because the figures all overlap. However! The fact remains that more than half of the changes I made were purely cosmetic! Check this out:


So first, the easiest fix – the gender imbalance. Make one of the characters without obvious gender voiced by a female voice actor, and suddenly the problem is solved. I went with the gorilla, since that’s a character design that recalls other male archetypical characters (like Beast and others). Also, that way there would be a female tank, so win.

Next, looking at the design of the humanoid female characters overall, I was pretty pleased by the overall racial balance. Two brown ladies, a purple lady, and two white ladies? Rock on! Except. Mercy is an angel character with blonde hair. Which. NO. We’ve been over this. Always having angels be blond is some creepy white supremacy bullshit, okay? And sure, I could have shifted her skin tone as a fix, but part of the point of this exercise was to show HOW LITTLE WORK it is to fix this shit. (While I was at it, I also de-boob-plated Mercy’s armor and widened her waist enough to give her a fucking ribcage.)

Symmetra and Pharah were also changes that required almost no effort. I widened Symmetra’s thighs a bit because her torso is not totally skinny like Tracer’s. If she’s carrying more weight on top, then her legs should be more than just pipe cleaners, okay? I also gave her some fucking pants, because FUCKITY FUCK SHE SHOULD BE WEARING PANTS. As for Pharah, I resized her by about 50% to make her the same height as Really Huge Robot Guy, because at least one of the women needed to be a giant, with that degree of character size variance. (I also half-assedly got rid of the battle thong, although it was totally lazy and I can do better.) As for Widowmaker? I let her keep her bullshit costume, but I made her fat so that she’s fat, badass, and sexy. Now at least she reads as someone doing sexy for herself and not because she’s some game dev’s fetish/fantasy.

Lastly, looking at the humanoid male characters (Cowboy Guy, Dwarf Guy, Big Bruiser Guy, and Samurai Guy[4]), there was a serious imbalance in representation with only samurai guy arguably counting as Asian and the others all definitely coded as white. So since Mexican, Native, and Black cowboys are largely erased in anything that portrays cowboys ever, boom. Cowboy Guy is now Latin@.

I also wanted to make one of the other male characters Black, since I wasn’t positive that Symmetra read as Black. I wasn’t thrilled about my choices, but opted to make Dwarf Guy black by shifting the skin tone and desaturating his blond beard into a grey beard, operating on the “grandparents as PCs make anything better” principle[5]. Sure he’s an Angry Black Guy now, but in my head he’s a badass grandfather who’s just angry because people are trying to fuck with his teammates, and when they have downtime he tells awesome stories and makes pie or whatever.

And there you have it! I won’t make any claims that this lineup is 100% free of problems, but if one person can fix most of the problems with a game’s lineup with 4 hours and PhotoShop, then we’re not talking about things that would require a vast investment of resources to correct! Unfortunately, while Blizzard cares enough to give lip-service to the idea of “doing women better”, it’s obvious that they don’t care enough to actually put their money where their mouth is. So I’m not going to hold my breath for any actual substantive changes in their design directives any time soon.

[1] I could take time to look up their names, but honestly I don’t really give a shit. I’m not likely to ever play this game.

[2] I hate everything. Seriously, everything.


[4] Again, I literally do not give enough shits about ever playing this game to Google their names. Just more proof that I’m either NOT A REAL GAMER or OUT TO DESTROY GAMING, I guess. Take your pick.

[5] Grandmothers always trump grandfathers. ALWAYS.

Valve licenses IP to Korean developer Nexon to make sexist game

[I had this 80% finished last week, but then I got sick[1] and was too tired to brain well. Sorry, folks!]

Recently, I happened to stumble across this while doing research for another piece:

I was intrigued. I don’t pay much attention to MMOs anymore (partly out of self-defense – I get too addicted[1]), but I wasn’t aware that Valve was releasing a Counter-Strike MMO. Curious, I googled the game to see what else turned up.

And found this.

I’m pretty sure that skirt isn’t regulation.


…I was a little baffled. I mean Valve has made games with some pretty great female characters, like Alyx Vance in Half Life 2 and Portal’s Chell. So what was the deal? I wouldn’t think this was out of character for a publisher like Ubisoft, but this was kind of hard to understand.

But things started to make sense once I did a little more digging. The actual developer behind the game is Nexon, a South Korean game studio. The weapons, maps, characters, and graphics engine were all modified from content used in the original Counter Strike game published by Valve – which apparently has licensed the brand as well as the development assets to Nexon.

In developing Counter Strike Online, Nexon tweaked maps and guns and improved models. They also added a bunch of game modes, some which were downright wacky like Bazooka Battle and Soccer. Now (with the exception of Mass Effect), I don’t play shooters, but I have to say it looks like they put together a good collection of different gameplay offerings.

Too bad the other thing Nexon felt that Counter Strike needed more of was boobs. Lots of boobs. SO. MANY. BOOBS.


These are NOT practical outfits for running around and shooting people. I know that personally, I would have a hell of a time lugging around a bunch of guns and trying not to get shot if I was also having to worry about potential nip slips.

But then again, I really shouldn’t be surprised that this is yet another MMO being developed by a Korean studio that treats women like pieces of meat. TERA and Blade and Soul are just two of the most egregious examples to come out of South Korea in the past few years, but they’re hardly unique. Treating women like shit is pretty much a hallmark of kMMOs. (Unfortunately.)

Still, the inclusion of ZOMGBOOBZ in Counter Strike Online is pretty ludicrous. I mean, if I played a match where this happened I would have trouble taking anything about the game seriously:

Soooo. Dude shows up in sensible clothing with lots of pockets and holsters while the woman shows up in… a maid outfit? With no visible pockets or holsters? And immaculate hair and makeup? And is that machine gun just kind of floating on her back? Riiiiiight.

What makes this even more ridiculous is the fact that Counter Strike is set in a modern or near-modern setting, which eliminates most of the usual excuses/justifications for sexist bullshit like this. ZOMG IT’S FANTASY STFU? Well. No. Nothing too fantastical about Counter Strike. SHE’S NOT HUMAN SO IT DOESN’T COUNT? Nope. That doesn’t apply either. The developers really just wanted to include sexualized wimmenz and didn’t really care how well the ZOMGBOOBZ meshed with the source material. [sigh] At least they were up front about it?

Anyhow. It seems like Counter Strike Online was a success because why wouldn’t it be? It’s unfortunate, but despite the Asian gaming market being saturated with these fap-worthy kMMOs, there certainly doesn’t seem to be any tapering in demand.

Certainly it was enough of a success that Nexon is currently developing a sequel! Counter Strike Online 2! It has new features like new game modes:

  • Pig: Shoot at the enemies to increase your health points. When it reaches 3000, you will turn into a pig that has a very high speed and damage.


And. You know. “The characters are revamped nicely.”

[grinds teeth in anger]

Okay, the woman on the left? That kind of cleavage isn’t remotely possible with what she’s wearing. Breasts hang down and slightly away from each other. It doesn’t matter how large they are – they’re not magnetically attracted to each other. That kind of cleavage requires some serious structured garmenting that just isn’t being provided by that ridiculous vest. Also, screw nip slips. She’s about 30 seconds of running from full frontal, considering that she’s wearing unzipped low-riders with no belt.

And the woman on the right? That latex bodysuit she’s wearing over(??) those leather pants is lodged so far up her colon that I don’t know if she’ll ever be able to take it off. And asses are not that round or that shiny – you certainly wouldn’t get a perfectly round highlight off of one. Even Kim Kardashian does not have spherical ass cheeks.

And of course that’s not even touching on the awful art cliches this art falls victim to. Like the boobs and butt pose, random O-face, and sameface. (Seriously, they both have the same face.)

But as awful as Risking-Full-Frontal-Woman and Latex-Bodysuit-Stuck-In-Colon-Woman are, this is what really made me flip my shit:

OKAY. Latex-Bodysuit-Stuck-in-Colon-Woman? FINE. Sexy Librarian here? WHATEVER. But sexy school girl on the left? Or blue-haired girl in the smaller CSO banner? What the fuck is wrong with you?

Those girls do not look like adults. Not to mention that the schoolgirl fetish is creepy in general since schoolgirls are, you know, children. Sexualizing adult female bodies is one thing. Sexualizing those bodies and then giving them the faces of children? That’s just fucking gross.

So who cares? What’s the big deal?

I mean, it’s another kMMO that treats women like crap. Big deal. It’s not like this is exactly news. Hell, there are plenty of MMOs that manage to be even more awful than CSO seems to be!

Well here’s the part where I get tripped up: Valve.

Here’s the thing. Valve is no Ubisoft[3] – they manage to publish games with decent female characters on a pretty regular basis. Until now, I had always thought of them as one of the more progressive publishers out there that at least puts some thought into not failing at decent female characters 100% of the time. But now that’s starting to look a lot less like actually progressive leanings and more like cynical market analysis.

They won’t release such a blatantly sexist game in North America. But they’re more than happy to license their IP to a South Korean studio to make a blatantly sexist game for them, because money.

No one under 30 got this reference.

Well I call bullshit. Even if it’s not Valve developers injecting the tits and ass into their game, Valve is still profiting from other people boob-i-fying their IP. This is just another awful, cynical cash-grab, and Valve should be ashamed of themselves.

[1] [While saying our goodbyes this morning]

Spouse: [Daughter], can I have a kiss?

[Daughter darts forward to give me a kiss instead, interrupts herself to cough into my mouth, then slobber on my face kiss me.]

…and that’s why I catch every damn cold she brings home from daycare.

[2] Case in point – I’m kind of addicted to Hearthstone right now, which is a bit embarrassing because it’s not even a “real” MMO.

[3] Despite the fact that female character models can only be obtained through a mine deep in the earth guarded by a ferocious dragon. It’s quite progressive of them, really, to have female characters in spite of those obstacles.

>Re-launched WoW Galleries: Let’s end with a gender-swap

>As promised, I have another gender-swap to finish out this series of WoW posts. My first attempt at a gender-swap was reasonably successful, but I discovered that a lot of the sexualization gets lost in translation since the “collection of bits” phenomenon has to be unbelievably exaggerated in order to come across on a male figure.

Thankfully, the new WoW galleries provided plenty of ammunition!

The ladybit assassin (see part 3) was almost my choice, but I was afraid that people have been so desensitized to Conan-type beefcake that it wouldn’t have the impact I was looking for. So instead, I went for my second, uh, favorite:

God. This makes me want to facepalm every time I see it.

And here is my take, what I have dubbed a work of “mancake”:

I got lazy and didn’t bother reproducing the bad PhotoShop filter frost magic effects. Also, I changed the colors and simplified the design of the robes. That was out of copyright concerns, not laziness.
This time, I was every bit as successful as I had hoped. This time, the sheer ridiculousness of the pose and costume wasn’t lost in translation, even after correcting the anatomy to give my gender-swapped mage a rib cage.We have the usual suspects when it comes to sexualized female figures. Her costume has both a cleavage AND a midriff window. Anatomy is similarly distorted in the usual fashion. Ginormous fake boobs? Check. Lack of rib cage? Check. Impossibly flat abs? Check. But honestly, that’s not what I was after.

The most obvious object of ridicule is the pose. Her back is arched with her breasts and ass being thrust out at the same time. I’m really not sure how she’s supposed to cast magic like that; I tried to get into that pose myself and it was all I could do to not fall over or accidentally injure my back. (Give it a try when no one’s looking. It’s pretty hard.)

So I’m pretty pleased that most of that still comes through with my gender-swapped version. I’m not positive that the cleavage window has the same effect, even with him thrusting his chest forward. Without actual cleavage I suspect some of the impact is lost. But the intent still comes through loud and clear, which makes me very happy indeed.

Now to be fair, a fair number of the comments in the WoW gallery revolve around how it looks like she’s about to take a crap. But there’s just as many comments about how “real” this looks – which kind of freaks me out that nobody notices basic shit like WHERE ARE HER ORGANS? And then there’s an even scarier subset of people who, predictably, find Crapping Frost Mage hot:

she definatley… wants it in her anal cavity

she hot she most will be a porn star


Mage porn star.

Oh, internet. I’m finding it harder to be surprised by this stuff anymore.

Anyhow. I’ll definitely do more of these in the future (though perhaps not right away since my time is at a premium for the next few weeks). I had way too much fun doing this one!

>Re-launched WoW Galleries: Analysis, Part 4 (right and wrong)

>Last time, I highlighted the difference between class depictions with male figures and class depictions with female figures. In this post, I’m going to end the series with some comparisons of some positive art and some problematic art.

Some of the response that I get to complaints about over-sexualized women in game art is can be summed up in one of two ways: 1) sex sells tits or gtfo or 2) OMG WUT DO U WIMMINZ WANT ALL UGLY GIRLZ OR SUMTHIN? And then you get the artists themselves who say things like:

When I draw a woman, I want to draw her as sexy as possible, I can’t really help that. That doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t draw a woman more realistically, but that’s the truth.

(Taken from the comment thread on the previous post.) Since not sexualizing women seems to be a challenging concept for a lot of male gamers and artists, so I thought I’d put together a basic primer on ways to create positive depictions of women.

First: The basics (so I don’t wind up repeating myself)

Make an effort to learn how female anatomy works. In particular, educate yourself about how breasts – REAL breasts – work. Life-drawing is best, but there are lots of great resources on the internet and in print. Then put what you learn into practice.

Don’t use porn as a reference.

When composing your image, choose a pose and angle that are suited to telling a story. That isn’t PLEASE COME FUCK ME.

Repeat after me: I will not draw gratuitous cleavage. I will not give female clothing mysterious holes. I will not make breasts larger than heads.

Draw clothing appropriate to the setting. That means no bikinis in the middle of a snowfield. Or on a battlefield.

If your character is toting a five foot long sword, she should probably have some muscles.

Second: Advanced lessons and some examples

All of the examples here listed as “WRONG” violate at least one of the previous rules. Some of them violate several at once. I won’t belabor the point with these examples – the violations should be easy to spot.

Please excuse me. I have to take a dump.

Remember the basics? This breaks almost every single one of those rules. DON’T DO THAT. If your art looks anything like this, throw it out and start over.

This is going to seem counter-intuitive, since I spent most of my last post bitching about how passively women are depicted in Blizzard’s art. But sometimes when drawing female characters, a neutral pose is better than an active pose. The death knight on the left is active, yes, but look at the bizarre pose she is contorted into that is pretty clearly designed to show off her curves. Contrast that with the death knight on the right, who is standing still, but with her weapon at the ready. The woman on the right is clearly more threatening; the woman on the left just looks like a model in a silly pose.Expression is important too. People are drawn to faces. The image on the left, with the vaccuous and generically inviting expression on her face, doesn’t really convey much of a sense of character. The image on the right is full of it. This woman is not posing for your benefit. Her expression is genuinely menacing. This is a character I want to play! The Draenei? Totally forgettable.

Another example of my point. The druid on the left, while active, is still wrong. Again, the pose serves more to emphasize her, ahem, “feminine wiles” than to give her any real sense of character. Contrast this with the druid on the right, who looks capable of doing things more important than running through the forest in a weird Azerothian version of Baywatch.

Now these are a little less obvious, so I’ve circled the problematic bits. (You might have to click through to see what I’m talking about.) All of these women are fierce, all of them are active, and all of them are in a believable environment. But all three of them are still wrong. Let female characters be awesome without having to show their tits and/or midriff!

The druid on the right is fierce! Like a mitten!

Okay. The druid on the left is an edge case for me – her robes are pretty tight. But she gets a pass because she’s mostly covered up and because she’s COMPLETELY AWESOME. Come on, she’s calling lightning from the sky. What does the druid on the right have going for her? Nothing. (Oh look, it’s a woman in a revealing outfit trying to look vaguely fierce. Yawn.)

Resist the temptation to have your female characters standing around and doing nothing. Draw them doing awesome things!

I won’t waste time discussing why number three is wrong. If you’re having trouble with that, go back and read the basics before taking a second look. However, I will divert matters for one second to talk about prettiness. Not all of your female characters have to be pretty! If you’re drawing a character that is monstrous in nature (like undead) it’s okay to have them be monstrous! Do you have any idea how jealous I was when I discovered that only MALE undead get to have missing jaws in WoW?

Okay. Back on track…

Both number and number two are rotten everywhere except their (pretty) faces and their (perky) boobs – which is a particular pet peeve of mine. Let them be gross! But number one gets a pass where number two doesn’t because of a few factors. First, number one is posed actively, and not just for the sake of showing off her boobs. Her stance and armor are appropriate for the type of fighter she’s supposed to be, and her expression is wonderfully cocky.

Number does have some things going for it: she’s covered, her expression is actually menacing, and the image conveys a real sense of atmosphere. However, once again we have the aforementioned magical rotless breasts and the passive stance. What tips it over into fail for me is the visible nipple. Come on, guys. Don’t put visible nipples on dead things. That’s just yucky.

Lastly, we’ll close with the blood elf rogue. This! This is what I want! She is active and competent looking and actually looks like an adventurer! There is a story in this image. I can totally imagine trying to sneak past that giant. This is an exciting avatar! Do you hear me, Blizzard? Now go and do more of it. Lots more.

[Edit: part 5, the final installment, can be found here.]

>WoW novels – only female heroes need apply

>[A brief side note before I get started: It’s been a month since I started this blog. Fifteen posts and thirty days later, I’ve gotten just over 2500 page views. Holy crap, people! That’s four to five times more traffic of my art blog! So thanks to those of you who keep reading. I’ll do my best to keep things interesting here.]

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that WoW is sexist. I mean, when the prevalence of armor like this…

…makes it hard to find pants that are actually pants for my female characters in WoW, it’s hard to deny the sexism. WoW’s not at all unique in this regard, so I swallow my dislike and play anyway because I enjoy the gameplay.

But there’s also an entirely different kind of sexism at work besides the bimbo-fied armor. Women simply don’t seem to be capable of performing heroic deeds in Azeroth. I mean, sure – they can strap on some, ahem, “armor” and go out adventuring. But when it comes to the real earth-shaking events that change the course of Azeroth’s history, well then you’d better hope that you have some big strong men to deal with the problem.

It’s no secret that the majority of the major lore characters are men. Disappointingly, the women that do appear in the Warcraft lore are depressingly stereotyped.

But, okay, fine. So what if Sylvanas is too pretty to be undead? She’s still the leader of the undead, and pretty freaking creepy. And so what if Jaina Proudmoor spends all of her time whining at the Horde and Alliance leaders to stop fighting each other? And so what if she’s way, way more slutty in the comics than even in the game? She’s still a badass sorceress and leader of an important faction of super-powerful mages. I mean, that’s gotta count for something, right? Surely there have to be some women capable of doing really important stuff, right?

Well, apparently not if you read the novels. Not a single one of them features a female hero important enough to be mentioned in the cover copy on the back. Check this out:

The Shattering (Christie Golden): back cover mentions Thrall, King Varian Wrynn, and Prince Anduin

Warcraft Archive (Christie Golden, Richard A. Knaak, Jeff Grubb, and Chris Metzen): back cover mentions Rhonin, Thrall, Medivh, and Tirion Fordring

Tides of Darkness (Aaron Rosenberg): back cover mentions Ogrim Doomhammer, Anduin Lothar, and King Terenas

Rise of the Horde (Christie Golden): back cover mentions Thrall

War of the Ancients Book 1 – The Well of Eternity (Richard A. Knaak): back cover only mentions “three heroes” (no names), Sargeras and Queen Azshara are mentioned as villains.

War of the Ancients Book 2 (Richard A. Knaak): despite having a boobalicious cover, the the “three heroes” of this trilogy are all men – Krasus, Rhonin, and Broxigar. Queen Azshara is mentioned as a villain, not as a hero.

War of the Ancients Book 3 – The Sundering (Richard A. Knaak): no heroes mentioned on back cover, Neltharion and Archimonde mentioned as villains

Day of the Dragon (Richard A. Knaak): Another cover with cleavage! But whoever that cleavagey night elf is, she’s not important enough to mention on the back cover. Only Rhonin gets a mention.

Night of the Dragon (Richard A. Knaak): The most boobalicious cover yet! And yet the only hero mentioned is Krasus. Dragon Queen Alexstrasza gets a mention as a nod to past events not in the novel, but only because she had her eggs defiled.

So out of nine books, we have three that feature cleavage on the cover and none that mention a female hero in the back cover copy. Two of the books mention the same female villain, and one book has a tangential reference to a mother who’s children were corrupted. So… what’s the deal, Blizzard??? You’re okay with splashing cleavage on the cover, but heaven forbid that the cover mention a female hero! That might threaten the insulated little bubble your target audience lives in! Female villains are okay, because everyone knows that girls are icky. And moms are okay, because even geeks still love them moms, right?

Okay, you know what? I’m going to say something revolutionary. Women like to read fantasy adventure stories too. I know! OMG! But it’s true! And, you know, sometimes we like to see heroes that are women. Not all the time! Male heroes are great! But sometimes it’s nice to see female heroes who don’t need rescuing and aren’t only important for their relationship to male characters. (I’m looking at you Aegwynn, Tyrande, Iridi, Jaina, Maiev, Valeera, Vareesa, Modgud, Onyxia, Soridormi, Moira, Sintharia, Sindragosa, Abbendis, Tyrygosa, and Geyah!)

The problem here is that this type of sexism is just as dangerous as the sexism that paints women as sex objects, because this is the sexism that says that women aren’t important and will never be important. Taken to the extreme, this is the sexism that says women can’t be “real” gamers and thus it is okay to harass them when they get all uppity and try to play games and stuff.

When put that way, sure it sounds insane. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are tons of men out there for whom the response to a woman gamer invading their space is either “go make me a sandwich” or “boobs or gtfo”. I’m not saying that putting female heroes into the WoW novels would suddenly make everything okay for female gamers, but hey. Baby steps.