M:TG – Khans art is great… when it remembers that women exist [LONG]

Recently, I got a chance to attend a local pre-release tournament event for the latest Magic: The Gathering expansion – the Khans of Tarkir. And it was… an interesting experience. One I definitely felt was worth blogging about, in light of the fact that I do know people who are trying to get more women into playing M:TG. But also, I felt like it was time to revisit the art in this newest set and see how it breaks down, since it was my feeling that the art for Khans was “better” than art I’ve seen on previous sets.

First: my experience of the pre-release event

I’ve only attended one other pre-release event; it was for Theros last year. That event was in a game store, which was, frankly, terrible. There were 30 people crammed into the back of the store, which was insanely cramped and dimly lit. There was one other woman there, but she was on the opposite end of the room. And of the guys who were there, it was obvious that a large percentage of them were of the awkward persuasion[1].

Ugh.

But this time, we were both able to go to an event at a local university. Brightly lit classrooms, very spacious, absolutely not confining. Much better right?

Well… it was better in that I didn’t feel any of the low-level threat that I did at my first pre-release. But it was still decidedly uncomfortable walking into the room to realize that the only reason there would be another woman participating is because we came together. Said woman was a friend who has many, many more years experience playing Magic than me, but still – I would have been all alone if we hadn’t picked up the phone and been like, “hey, want to come to a pre-release with us”? And that’s really not a cool feeling.

So combine that with the fact that I was obviously there as a female S.O. to my male husband, and I felt a lot of pressure to do well, which unfortunately didn’t happen. I got very unlucky in that I didn’t have great cards to work with (the good stuff I got wasn’t in the colors I’d registered for), plus I’ll cop to making some mistakes. (It was my second ever tournament, and I’ve only been playing for a year.)

Now factor that in with the fact that I’m a very competitive person who really doesn’t enjoy losing. So my overall poor performance sucked from that standpoint, but also because by not doing well I became That Woman who only does geek things because her husband is doing them and generally sucks. (Stereotype threat is real, and it is zero fun.) And to add insult to injury, the very art on the cards reminded me that this game that I was spending money to play wasn’t for me. So overall, the experience left a bad taste in my mouth.

Which makes it too bad that there aren’t any chapters of the Lady Planeswalker Society anywhere close to where I live, because until the demographics of typical M:TG events change, I doubt I would go to another singles tournament. (I haven’t ruled out the idea of doing 2-headed Giant with my husband.) And yes, I’m fully aware that not going to Magic tournaments because there are no women is a self-reinforcing problem. I get that! But folks, Magic is an expensive hobby, and you can’t force people to spend a lot of time and money on something they don’t even enjoy “because inclusion”. I wish I had ideas on how to fix the gender imbalance, but for now all I have is a big fat shrug. (And the planeswalker my husband pulled in that tournament. Lucky bastard.)

On to the numbers

Veterans of my blog will be familiar with how I do these posts. New readers, the tl;dr is that I look at an entire set of artwork for a given game product and count figures with discernable gender as well as look at a list of set criteria: actively posed versus neutral, fully-clothed figures, and suggestively attired figures. (If you want definitions of these criteria, you can see the original article that I wrote for See Page XX that was the genesis of this blog, examining sexist trends in official game art across all areas of gaming.)

Before breaking down the numbers, my sense of the artwork from Khans of Tarkir was that it did much better than previous sets with the portrayals of women that it did have, it did worse at actually including female characters at all. (Depressingly, those impressions are pretty much borne out if you compare the numbers that I got with the numbers I gathered when I did a breakdown of the M11 core set.)

discernable gender

Only 18% of the figures for which I could discern gender were female! Yikes!

Now things do look a little more encouraging once you actually look at the number breakdown:

Detailed breakdown

Given that women comprise 18% of all figures counted, they’re actually slightly overperforming with regard to active poses. Similarly, they are overperforming when it comes to fully clothed figures, as compared to their male counterparts. And holy cats, suddenly it’s the men who are all sexay instead of the women?

Well… no. Not so much.

Bring in the caveats!

So before we get any further, it’s worth mentioning that out of all of the artwork in Khans, only THREE CHARACTERS are depicted as being both non-human and female. THREE: a female djinn depicted on Riverwheel Aerialists (remember her, because we’re coming back to her in a bit) , the naga Sidisi the Brood Tyrant, and the naga shown on Kheru Spellsnatcher (we’ll revisit her as well).

This becomes significant, because this set featured a much higher percentage of non-human sentient characters, owing to the fact that there are goblins, orcs, djinn, efreet, bird people, dog people, and nagas in addition to vanilla humans in the set’s artwork. The orcs are pretty clearly depicted as male – that one is easy. But the djinn and the efreet are much more ambiguous. I would have been totally willing to believe in them as androgynous races were it not for the lone female djinn – which makes me think that the artists were handed specs that only specified race and not gender and simply defaulted to male, because male is always the default.

As for the bird people and the dog people, an argument could be made that they should be counted as ungendered, since they’re clearly non-humanoid characters. And in general I would agree, except that M:TG artists have had no problem ridiculously gendering inappropriate things in the past by putting tits on things that should not have tits like lions or trees. (And those aren’t even the worst examples I’ve seen – just the worst examples I can remember card names for.)

Furthermore, a depressingly large number of the small number of female figures that were included were depicted as the Smurfettes in a group of otherwise all-male characters:

Smurfettes

Jeskai Ascendency

The Ascendancies (each of the five clans had an Ascendancy card) were particularly bad for this, as they each had large groups of figures, with ooooone woman and the rest dudes. It’s like someone on the art team was giving art revision notes that said “needs women” and the artists changed one figure in each drawing. Which only serves to emphasize even more what an afterthought the inclusion of women is.

Depressing.

Also important to consider is the issue of the seeming saturation of suggestively attired male figures. As I’ve blogged about before, the phenomenon of pantsless/shirtless male figures in fantasy art is something that consistently throws off the results I get when doing these counts. Very often, “primitive”, “savage”, or “bestial” characters will be drawn as either shirtless or pantsless as a shorthand for conveying either non-human or non-civilized status.

So here is an example of some of the male figures that were counted as suggestively attired:

sexy not sexy

So sure the first is a beefy guy showing a lot of pecs punching a bear(!)[2]. But we also have flying bird man with leg-wraps-instead-of-pants, and goblins with no pants, because seriously when do goblins ever wear pants[3]?

The other important thing to mention is that the consistency with which I applied this standard led to some ludicrous results. For example, all of this art was counted as containing suggestively attired male figures:

zombies

The criteria was clear – they have clearly discernable gender (or at least secondary sex characteristics consistent with gender in cis people; I’m not going to try to determine the cis-ness of zombies because that way lies madness). Plus none of them are wearing shirts or pants. So despite the fact that none of them are depicted in any way close to even resembling attractiveness, they are counted as suggestively attired. For that matter, the zombie figure on Dutiful Return is counted as suggestive, despite being called out on the card as being furniture. (I only counted it once.)

In fact, here is the only male figure I saw that I would call actually suggestive, because yum:

Jeskai Student

He’s muscular without being a ridiculous power fantasy or engaging in ridiculously cartoonish violence (ie punching a bear in the face), and his shirtlessness isn’t being used to comment on a “savage”, “bestial”, or “uncivilized” nature. He’s just a super pretty dude practicing some awesome kung fu and being super hawt.

But even then – even then – there is a clear difference in how Shirtless Kung Fu Guy is portrayed from this female naga:

Kheru-Spellsnatcher-Khans-of-Tarkir-Spoiler

I totally eyerolled when I first saw this card, because this is textbook boobs-and-butt… applied to a snake. I had to look pretty closely to verify that she does not, in fact, have boobs[4], but the artist still managed to suggest them with the angle of the straps on her chest. Also, she’s got serious snakespine, so it’s a good thing she is in fact a snake, because that’s pretty much the only way that degree of spine bend would be possible. Lastly, check out how she doesn’t have legs but the line of her belly scales, or whatever you’d call them, still implies a thigh and crotch.

[sigh]

Issues of ridiculous objectification of snake-women aside, there’s also the problem that the Kheru Spellsnatcher isn’t actually doing anything. Shirtless Kung Fu Guy is practicing some awesome kung fu, while Kheru Spellsnatcher is just like OH HAI ISN’T THIS A PRETTY LIGHT HOW U DOIN’.

Thankfully, the Kheru Spellsnatcher is the only piece of art that I whole-heartedly disapprove of. And there is art that I really, really like in this set! Certainly, this set has done a lot to address my previous complaint that fully-clothed women don’t get to be awesome, because here are a bunch of fully-clothed ladies being completely awesome.

awesome ladies

The first two images are of Narset, whom I might add is one of the mythic rares in the set and either totally rules or totally sucks depending on if it was you that pulled her or the other guy. (I’ve seen her in action and she’s just wrong, folks.) But generally, this set was great for pictures of awesome ladies doing awesome martial arts, of which I am always a fan. Particularly I am always a fan of ass-kicking-grandmothers and think this set could have used 2000% more characters like the Jeskai Elder, because ass-kicking grandmothers make anything better. The end.

There were also women getting to do ridiculously gonzo fantasy awesome things, which has definitely not been the case in previous sets:

moar awesome ladies

Check out the Tuskguard Captain being all HOW DO YOU LIKE MY SWEET-ASS RIDE BTW IT IS A MASTODON. Or the Abzan Guide being all DO NOT MESS WITH ME I CAN RIDE A GIRAFFE. And sure, the Chief of the Edge isn’t so much gonzo, but she sure looks like she’s about 2 seconds from ending a dude.

So it’s great to see art like this, because it shows that Wizards has made strides in how they portray women in the last few years. But looking at other products, like D&D – which is also produced by Wizards – it’s also clear that they could do so much better.

[1] Seriously I can’t emphasize how much I hate most game stores. They are not welcoming for many women, and often when I enter one I have dudes literally stop and stare at me.

[2] This, incidentally, is my new favorite card ever and will henceforth be referred to as “Bear Punch”

[3] The answer is never

[4] Thank god! Wizards is finally cracking down on putting breasts on reptiles!

New posts on Gaming as Women

As mentioned in my previous post, I’ve started blogging about gaming again. Some of the posts are going to be things that focus on sexism in gaming, and some will be more general posts about my experiences with gaming. For the sexism-related stuff, I’ll link here when something relevant goes up on Gaming As Women, though I’ll be disabling comments on such posts since I want discussion to happen over there and not here. (A note for people looking to comment on this stuff – the commenting rules at GaW are pretty much the same as here, so behave yourselves.) For certain posts, I might even start linking them into my reference posts, if I feel they fit gaps that I’d still like to see covered.

As it happens, I have the first such link to a GaW post about gaming and sexism! You can check the post out here: Dear Wizards: Why Failing Less at Gender in 5E Would Be Good For Your Bottom Line

(Obviously, it’s a post focusing on why there are some very good business reasons why Wizards of the Coast should endeavor to fail a little less at gender in their New Edition of Dungeons and Dragons.)

Happy Birthday! Looking back at a year of GMMaS.

Well, folks. It’s hard to believe, but Go Make Me a Sandwich is officially a year old today.  When I first started writing this blog, I never imagined that I would acquire the kind of audience I now have. I honestly thought that I would be doing the internet equivalent of ranting crazily in the wildnerness, so I was pleased and astonished and even a little scared when this thing took off the way it did.

I started this blog as someone new to feminism and social justice issues and wound up trying to educate myself in a hurry when the popularity of this blog took off. (Sometimes I still feel like I’m faking it.) I’m very proud of some of the stuff that I’ve written, but at the same time I’ve said some pretty ignorant and problematic stuff too. (Though I’ve repented of some of my earlier positions and I’d like to think that I’ve gotten better as time went by.) So I thought this would be a good opportunity to look back at my experiences of writing this blog and some of the things that I’ve learned. This will probably wind up being two or three posts, depending on how much rambling I wind up doing.

First up: Traffic stats

Today’s post makes post #130, which means in the last year I have averaged one post every 3 days or so. I realize my posting frequency has fallen off in the last month, and that average is being spoiled by the frequency with which I posted while I was unemployed earlier in the year. But as I did do my best not to post filler, I’d say about 95% of the posts were actual content. Considered in that light, It’s pretty amazing to consider how many words I’ve put to virtual paper on this subject. (I did try to get a total word count on this blog that didn’t include comments, but I haven’t found a great way to do that yet. If anyone has suggestions, I’m all ears.)

Now recently, I’ve been freaking out quietly over social networks that I recently passed 300,000 views on my WordPress blog – an astonishing feat when you consider that I switched from Blogger to WordPress less than six months ago. What I neglected to remember is that there was still a substantial amount of traffic to the old Blogger iteration of GMMaS in those first few months after the switch. Even now, the old links out there mean that the Blogger site still gets a decent amount of traffic. So when I put the traffic numbers for Blogger together with the numbers for WordPress, the result was even more shocking than I’d thought it was:

Don't forget that this October is only 2/3 over. It'll probably be a drop-off from August and September, but not by as much as it looks like now.

…holy shit, people. At the time of writing this post, Go Make Me A Sandwich has gotten 564,834 views. That’s… astounding. Especially when you look at the average number of views per day:

Again, numbers for October 2011 are as yet incomplete.

Now all of this is averaging out the traffic spikes that tended to happen when I would talk about something particularly controversial. If I were a more cynical person who only cared about page views, I would have devoted this blog to talking only about gaming conventions, D&D, Paizo, Wizards of the Coast, and BioWare. The two largest traffic spikes I saw were in response to my series of posts about Mass Effect and my later series of posts about GenCon, with the largest single day number of views (6,347) happening right in the middle of my series of posts about Mass Effect. From the comments left here and following track-back links, it was pretty easy to establish that the really big traffic spikes tended to be mostly trolls. I came to dread any traffic spike that happened because of Reddit and very quickly learned to never follow trackback links to Reddit.

Seriously. It’s just a bad idea.

Most viewed posts and most-commented posts, some interesting differences

When you look at the numbers for posts with the most views, the subject matter is pretty diverse and wide-ranging:

Female characters done right: FemShep (Spoilers, of course)
9466
A belated look at gamer Valentines: the good, the questionable, the pathetic
8536
Industry artist fail: Hyung Tae Kim (so VERY VERY nsfw!)
7233
In his words: why Jim Sterling is, in fact, very sexist
7103
Porn as advertising (really NSFW)
5999
League of Legends: SO MUCH character design fail
5488
Industy artist fail: Wayne Reynolds (at least he’s not as bad as HTK)
4930
Paizo: Thanks for not being full of race fail, but…
4784
Et tu Nintendo?
4031
TERA: competing with Bayonetta for the sluttiest women still wearing clothes?
3822

I wasn’t particularly surprised to see one of my BioWare posts came out on top. What I was surprised to see was that half of these were about non-video-game-related fail, considering this blog does skew pretty heavily toward video games. I am particularly encouraged to see that my first post about Jim Sterling comes in at number 4. I’m very proud of the fact that that post is the number five Google result for “Jim Sterling”, and while I doubt it will ever affect his career I can at least take comfort in the fact that he’ll have a hard time explaining that to people outside the gaming community who ever feel like Googling him.

Also, I’ll note that number 10 there probably made it into the top 10 because there was quite a flap here and over other blogs about my use of the word slut. Yes I know it’s terrible. I’ve since repented its use and have stopped using it, as well as others of its ilk. I have mixed feelings about that post, because as problematic as the title was, I really was proud of the post itself (not the least of which because I got to make the nerdiest pun ever). Still, I’m leaving the title as is because I feel like changing it would just be dishonest.

Now interestingly, the list of most-commented posts doesn’t really have a lot of overlap with the list of most-viewed:

Some gaming news WTF: Eternal Light trailer; Duke Nukem Forever not sexist?
275
Female characters done right: FemShep (Spoilers, of course)
166
Industry artist fail: Hyung Tae Kim (so VERY VERY nsfw!)
143
New comment policy is coming
137
Blade and Soul: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG
131
Why I don’t want Shelly Mazzanoble to represent female D&D players
131
Bayonetta and the Male Gaze
122
Photos from GenCon 2011: Part 1 of 2
119
League of Legends: SO MUCH character design fail
107
On the word slut: a rambling response long overdue
107

Given the previously-mentioned flap about my use of the word slut, again not too surprised about #10 there. What is surprising is that there’s a group of people more vocal than BioWare fans: Hyung Tae Kim fans. Despite the fact that I say pretty much the same stuff in my post on Blade and Soul as I do in the original post about HTK, the post still got dog-piled with comments. So that was pretty surprising.

Also surprising is the fact that the #4 most commented post was a post on how I wasn’t going to tolerate trolls anymore and was going to start moderating comments. I mean, honestly I don’t think that saying I don’t want to put up with people calling me fat/ugly/crazy/fascist/all of the above is controversial. Nor do I see the controversy in saying I don’t want to put up with people telling me that I should kill myself. But apparently, this being the internet, it was controversial to want to feel like my own blog is a safe space. So, go figure.

What I am not at all surprised at, though, is the fact that my post about DNF blows all of the others out of the water for comment volume. The comment thread for that post was pretty much a microcosm of all internet discussion of sexism ever, with some sane and rational discussion being drowned out by angry trolls, defensiveness, and flailing at strawmen. Which leads us to…

Trolls: a frightening reality of blogging while female

But instead of trying to cram that in, I’ll make that a post of its own, along with lessons learned and where to go from here.

Dragon Magazine in 2010. Also, Caesary sinks to new depths.

Hey, folks. Things have been quiet the last several days because I’ve been working on another three-parter. (What can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment.) I’ve been picking on video games a lot lately and was feeling an itch to go back to pen and paper RPGs. In the past, I’ve looked at the D&D 4E core books as well as the D&D press kit so I thought I’d take a look at a year’s worth of Dragon Magazines and see how they stack up against the sources I’ve already looked at. (Get it? Stack up? Magazines? …oh never mind.)

Numbers

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the art for Dragon Magazine Issues 383-394 displays clear sexist trends:

CLICK FOR LARGE (MORE READABLE) VIEW

Yep. Women are underrepresented, more likely to be found in neutral poses, comprise the minority of fully-clothed characters, and are far more likely to be suggestively attired. And of course, their chances of being depicted as a fighter are pretty slim when compared to their male counterparts. Again, nothing new or suprising here. I’ll grant, as always, that at least D&D does better in terms of numbers of female depictions when compared to other gaming sources. But women are still consistently under-represented.

What’s interesting is when you take a look at how these numbers compare to the numbers for the 4E core books:

CLICK FOR LARGE VIEW (Again, this one is large.)

The interesting thing is that while the numbers are pretty much the same, the numbers for Dragon Magazine are just slightly worse across most categories – suggestive depictions being a notable exception. There are slightly fewer active women, and slightly fewer women overall. They are a little less fully clothed, a little less likely to be fighters and a little more likely to be thieves.

The suggestive depictions pose an interesting wrinkle. About 70% of all suggestive figures are women, down from 80% of all suggestive figures in the core books. However, a little less than one half of women in the core books are depicted as suggestive while almost three quarters of women in Dragon Magazine are depicted as suggestively attired. So while the number of suggestive male figures has increased, it doesn’t seem to have kept pace with the increase in suggestive female figures.

I’m still working on the other stuff

As mentioned, this will be a three-parter. Next time I’ll do an images post picking out some points of interest. I’ll also be doing an entire post about Shelly Mazzanoble, who will take up too much space to cram into this post.

Since I realize that today’s post is a bit light on content, here for your amusement…

Caesary sinks to new depths

Caesary is a browser-based game owned by the same folks who publish Evony, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they use the same tactics in their advertising. Still, this is pretty ridiculous, even for them:

(You can go here to see the page it came from, complete with nifty animations.) I mean, wow. “Real Men”? They do know that the game has absolutely nothing to do with actual women, right?

Magic the Gathering: Part 1.5 – male versus female mages

Preamble: This is a bit of a tangent, but not really

All right. It’s been too long in coming, but after the debate that erupted in the comments after my first post about M:TG my husband suggested comparing male mages and female mages so that I could compare apples to apples and see if mages really are more passive and to see if there was a difference between gender depictions just among mages. There was just one problem: I had to go through and count all over again.

See, when I initially did the counts I only tallied totals. What he suggested, while a great idea, required going back and recording variables for each figure individually – a much bigger task! While I was at it, I also added a variable called “no class” for figures with no discernable hero archetype; FIgures without a class comprised a large percentage of all figures and I wanted to see if there were any interesting trends to be observed by looking at classless figures. All of this has been a lot of work, what with the re-counting and the fiddling with Excel formulas and the interpretation. Add to this the previously-mentioned decrease in time I have in which to work on research for this blog and that is the result of the radio silence. I apologize folks, but the posts that involve math always take the longest. (Hey, I majored in Fine Arts.)

The numbers I’m looking at today only involve cards from my husband’s collection of cards from the mid-90’s, which is why this is Part 1.5, since this is not quite a tangent but also doesn’t compare the old with the new. As long as it took to put these numbers together, the thought of going back and counting the new M11 set all over again makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a spork. So I’m not going to.

Results:

[note: the charts didn’t compress too well, so if the numbers are hard to read on your screen, click through to the larger version that will be much easier to read.]

As with looking at the set as a whole, the comparison of male and female figures who are mages displays clear sexist trends:

Women comprise only slightly more than 30% of all mages in the set. Interestingly, female mages are very slightly more active than their male counterparts by a small margin (4%). However, male mages are still more likely to be fully covered. And, unsurprisingly, the majority of suggestive depictions are female – 43% of female mages in this set are depicted as suggestive, accounting for a little more than 60% of suggestive mages overall. (Although, it still deserves mention that this is far better than other areas of gaming where around 80-95% of suggestive depictions are female.)

What is interesting is when the numbers for figures depicted as mages are compared with averages for the entire set regardless of class:

In the overall set, women actually account for a smaller percentage of figures than with the mages. Also, in the overall set the average woman is slightly less active than female mages and slightly more passive (or neutral), which would seem to disprove my hypothesis that female mages would be more passive than other non-mage females in the set.

Now there was something else I hadn’t thought to examine in the old set initially – figures with no discernible class archetype, which account for a large portion of all counted figures:

The proportion of female figures is roughly the same as with mages – again women make up a bit more than 30% of all figures with no class. However, while male and female mages displayed very similar rates of active and neutral poses, female figures with no class are significantly less active than their male counterparts, with less than 30% of all active figures with no class being female. Female classless figures are also less covered than the males with less that 40% of all fully covered classless figures. (Though, interestingly, female classless figures are very slightly less suggestive than female mages.)

What is most striking though when you look at the class archetype (or lack thereof) as a percentage of total representation by gender. The mage archetype accounts for a larger percentage of females than males, though the difference is pretty small with 23% of all male figurs counting as mages as compared to 29% of females. That’s not terribly exciting, I know. But consider the difference in depictions of figures with no class. Not only are female figures with no class less active and less covered than their male counterparts, they also comprise a much larger percentage of all figures; male classless figures accounted for only 31% of all male figures while female classless figures weighed in at a whopping 44% of all female figures! That’s almost half of all female figures!

This is important, because in the majority of instances, hero characters in M:TG and in fantasy art in general will fall into a discernible class archetype. The have such a large number of female figures, who are already vastly in the minority, be depicted as peasants, victims, seductresses, townsfolk, or other non-heroic roles sends a very clear message about the unimportance of women.

Something else I found bothersome is what happens when you look at figures with no class and mages together. These two categories combined account for only 54% of all male figues. Considering that the thief archetype represents a tiny proportion of figures for both genders, the lion’s share of the remaining 46% will be fighters. Contrast this will female figures where the two categories combined make up 73% of all female figures, leaving a little less than 27% of all female figures to be fighters once you take out the handful of female thieves.

And here’s where I reach the end of my ability to point at numbers and venture out into Opinion Land. To me, that difference feels significant, and I really, really don’t buy the argument that the difference in numbers of representations of male and female fighters is due to “historical” or “biological” accuracy. In a universe where dragons, elementals, gods, angels, and magicians exist, the “accuracy” argument doesn’t hold much water.

Also, women don’t have to be kitted out in full plate male to be fighters (though I always do love good images of non-boobular female plate mail.) The fact that women are not as strong as men doesn’t make them any less in their potential to be fighters; there is no law that says in order to be proficient in fighting that one has to be heavily armored and rely on brute strength. And, frankly, in a fantasy universe it’s easy to wave your hands and say ‘well in THIS universe there is no social stigma against women pursuing a career as a fighter’. It seems ridiculous to rely on the “accuracy” argument to back up the under-representation of women in any kind of fantasy art when fantasy as a genre is based on being not realistic.

Anyhow. That’s my rant for today. Since I’ve had my fill of graphs and numbers for quite a while, I’ll be going back to looking at actual images from both sets as originally planned, which should take much less time to finish since it won’t involve numbers.

Magic the Gathering: Looking at sexist trends over time (Part One)

[Brief note: Hi, folks. This was a bit longer in coming than I’d like, but I’ll address that shortly in a separate post.]

So the project that got this blog started in the first place was an article that I wrote for See Page XX, a webzine published by Pelgrane Press, examining sexist trends in official game art across all areas of gaming. In the original article, I analyzed a set of images taken from the official Wizards of the Coast promo kit available for download on the official M:TG site because I didn’t know of a good way at the time to obtain a representative sample of the vast library of M:TG cards, since distribution is randomized. Since then, with help, I’ve worked out what I think is a pretty decent way of comparing current Magic cards to Magic cards of the past, which I’ll go more in to after the methods section.

Since writing the original article, I’ve done a few posts using the same methodology. However, I’ve gotten a lot of new readers since then, so I’ll start off this blog with a brief explanation of just what it was that I’ve been doing, including a description of my methodology and criteria. Those of you familiar with this part can skip on to the following section.

Methods and Criteria

In each set of images I examine, I look at four sets of variables: numbers of male and female figures, active versus neutral poses, fully clothed and suggestively attired figures, and class archetype:

Ratio of male to female figures: In each set of images I examined, I recorded the number of male figures and the number of female figures. Since I wasn’t sure how to easily differentiate between focal and non-focal figures in a way that wasn’t entirely subjective, I simply counted each figure that had an easily discernable gender and did not count those figures where gender was ambiguous.

Active poses versus neutral poses: All poses are classified either as neutral, static poses that lack movement, or active, poses that are dynamic and convey action. For an example of these criteria, you can see this image here.

Fully clothed and suggestively attired: Fully-clothed and suggestively attired are not opposite ends on a spectrum. Some figures that were not fully clothed were not counted as suggestively attired while some figures that were fully clothed were also counted as suggestively attired. (For examples, please see the original article.)

Class Archetype: It was not always applicable, but when possible I looked at what class archetype a figure was depicted as: fighter, rogue, or mage. I counted all archers as rogues, as well as thieves. I counted anyone casting a spell as a mage, even if they had a sword. Fighters were any characters wielding only melee weapons and not casting spells.

Selection of Sources

In looking at current Magic cards, I was able to find pages that list all of the cards in the current 2011 core set (often referred to as M11) along with thumbnails of each card. Since these core cards are expected to form the base of most decks, rather than examine every card that is still legal in tournament play – a list that is exhaustive and constantly changing – I confined my examination to the M11 set which contains a mere 248 cards (including lands and artifacts.)

I also have access to a source of older cards in that my husband was (in the mid-90’s) an avid Magic collector and player. I didn’t count the number of cards total, but he possesses 348 unique Magic cards (not including lands) of all colors. The actual total is much higher since there are multiple copies of the commons and such, but because the collection was amassed over a few years and is taken from all colors, I felt that it comprised an adequately randomized sample of mid-90’s magic cards.

I applied the same criteria to both the M11 set and to my husband’s collection, and here’s what I came up with:

Results: M11 Core Set

Looking at the numbers, it’s pretty clear that the M11 core set of cards displays clear sexist trends across all variables. Women are consistently under-represented, with only 20% of all figures being female. Surprisingly, this is lower than the figures that were tabulated for the Magic press kit by a substantial margin, as the figures found in the Magic press kit were roughly 37% female – a difference of 17%! Furthermore, this under-representation is by far the lowest of all sources examined in the original article, with the exception of Warhammer Online. The D&D 4th Edition core books contain roughly 40% female figures. When looking at the top five North American MMOs, the official artwork found on all of their sites averages out to around 32% female figures. And even Xbox 360, the console with the lowest representation of females on its game covers examined in this period, had roughly 25% female figures.

Looking at other variables, women are more likely than men to be depicted as neutral. They are also significantly more likely to be depicted as mages and significantly less likely to be depicted as fighters; a clear example of the classic female = mage = not involved in direct combat stereotype that female characters in game art are often shoehorned into.

The only variables that are demonstrably superior to other areas of gaming are fully clothed figures and suggestively attired figures. Women are significantly more likely to be depicted as suggestively attired than men, with 60% of all suggestive figures being female. They are also less likely to be fully covered, comprising only 40% of all fully covered figures. However, while these numbers display clear sexist trends, they stand out in stark contrast to the numbers from other areas of gaming, especially MMOs. The top five MMOs averaged had almost 85% of all suggestively attired figures as female. Guild Wars in particular had 95% of all suggestively attired figures as female. So while suggestive depictions are still unequal, they are markedly less sexist than some other gaming sources.

Comparing M11 Core Set with Older Randomized Sample

Okay, I know this looks cluttered, but I wanted to be able to clearly show the changes in these trends over time. Pale columns represent old figures, saturated columns represent new figures.

What is interesting from looking at this comparison is noting which trends haven’t changed. Most variable sets have remained roughly the same over time. Active and neutral poses, suggestively attired figures, and class archetypes have all remained largely unchanged between the two sets of images. (The thief variable I was reluctant to include; the numbers for each are so small as to be very easily skewed.) The trends that have changed significantly are the ratio of male to female figures and the percentage of fully-clothed figures.

Women are actually less represented in the M11 core set of cards than they are in the randomized sample of mid-90’s cards, making up only a fifth of all figures where they accounted for a quarter of all figures in the older sample. Also of note is the fact that in the older set, women accounted for a majority of all fully-covered figures at 60%. In the new M11 set, however, they now account for only a 40% minority. So while the percentage of suggestive depictions is mostly unchanged, women are less represented in the new set and are wearing less clothing overall. This is an interesting result when one considers that D&D – a product also owned by Wizards – has been been growing less sexist in its game art over time. (Though the 4E art still displays noticeable sexist trends.)

What’s next

As with my look at the re-launched WoW art galleries, I intend to look at comparisons of images that were counted as suggestive for both male and female figures, but that will have to wait until I can finish pulling images together.

Google Results: a little context

Okay, now that I’ve finally got things set up properly, time to get back to business.

So last time I expanded my list by one to include “fag”. I realize good arguments can be made for other words, but it’s a pain in the ass searching these words across multiple sites and I’m drawing the line at 8 search terms just to preserve my sanity. Also, for this post I’m only looking at the first page of search results for each site. Partly because reading all the quotes to find what I wanted to use is time-consuming, and partly because reading the results that came up gets a little soul-destroying when you get to the third day.

The interesting thing that happens when you start reading the excerpt text for these terms is that you realize they fall into two groups: terms used exclusively as slurs for the purpose of shaming and/or silencing and terms with alternative usages. So let’s look at the two groups separately.

Terms with alternative usages: whore, cunt, and rape

Now before I go any further, I want to just say for the record that just because I’m making a distinction in usage does not mean that I support the use of these words in any way in a gaming context. As I said previously, I think the fact that there are 150,000-odd instances of the word rape on Destructoid alone is horrendous. However, as it has been pointed out by many, looking at numbers alone doesn’t provide a clear enough picture. So…

“Whore” is interesting, since it’s commonly used to denote someone who obsessively collects or goes after certain things, often self-directed. For example – on the first page of results for “whore” on Joystiq, I come up with the following phrases: two instances of “loot whore”, one instance of “gamer score whore”, two instances of “achievement whore”, and three instances of “graphics whore”. That leaves only two out of the first ten results being an actual traditional usage of “whore”:

“I thought she was a whore with a heart of gold and instead she turned out to be a whore with a regular old whore heart.” [comment]

“Production company ready to whore out Castlevania” [feature headline]

Of course, usage varies by site. Certainly other gaming sites aren’t as “moderate” with their use of the word whore. Some of the lowlights include:

If you’ve ever had your dick sucked then you’ve paid a whore to suck it. You might not have given her cash directly but she still got paid [IGN]

When i was reading Hasley’s journal i suspected that….she must have been a whore [IGN]

YTMND Thursday: Kerrigan is a whore, edition [Destructoid]

Were supposed to be talking about whores here [Destructoid]

all i know is it is about a whore who is your mom [Team Liquid]

TeamLiquid: Where all the women are attention whores, all the men are trolls [Team Liquid]

and #1 sure as shit aint moping around ‘awwwwwww shucks, everyone knows i slept with a whore‘. [Team Liquid]

I know I keep going on and on about how Kasumi is a giant whore, but I can’t help it, because she’s a giant whore. The latest proof? [Kotaku]

And of course, it bears mentioning that a few usages of the word “whore” were in reference to characters in games who are actual prostitutes. (I’ll save the rant about game companies’ obsessions with putting brothels in their games for another day…)

Moving on, the usages of “cunt” and “rape” aren’t nearly as complex. “Rape” has, unfortunately, become popular as a term describing a shameful loss by a huge margin. This is especially true in StarCraft II, where it’s not uncommon for a major victory is described as a “rape” of the loser, and where there are actual tactics with “rape” in the name like: “sugarbear’s Thor Rape technique” and “ZvP Protoss, Ramp Block, Turtle and rape”.

More than half of the instances of “rape” that come up on the first page for Destructoid, TL, Kotaku, Joystiq, and IGN are actually discussions of current events, like the the horrific coverage of that poor girl in Texas, or about the perpetual controversy surrounding rape games like RapeLay. And you can find thoughtful pieces about the use of the word “rape” in the gaming community, like here on Team Liquid and here on WoW Insider (hosted on Joystiq). Only two out of fifty results, but they’re there!

But sometimes, as Freud said, a cigar is just a cigar. Destructoid, and Jim Sterling especially, has a bad habit of making rape jokes about, ya know, actual rape. Like using “Games cause rape psychologist’s book gets raped” as the title of a feature, or saying that Kirby told him to go rape a bunch of vaginas. So when it comes to making tasteless jokes about “rape rape”, Jim Sterling gets a gold star. (Or something.)

The least complex word is “cunt”. It gets several hits as being a shooter by the creator of Super Meat Boy, but other than that it’s used pretty exclusively as an insult. However, the reason I put it in the first category is because it seems to be directed as men just as much as women. See:

George Steinbrenner, devoted father, owner, and beloved cunt. [IGN]

Although Az is being a complete cunt like normal he does bring up a good point [IGN]

You know who one of the biggest cunts on the site is? Some guy named Jack of All trades. [Destructoid]

Fuck off destructoid. I refuse to pay you any respect or visit your site until you get rid of that cunt Jim Sterling [Destructoid]

Seriously, that guy is a cunt. [Joystiq]

Oh, gamers. Now I remember why I’m often ashamed to admit that I’m one of you to my non-gaming peers.

100% awful: slut, fat slut/whore, feminazi, feminist/feminazi bitch, fag

(Okay, I’m going to be a bit more abbreviated here because this post is getting long, and I’m getting depressed. The fact that “fat slut/whore” and “feminist/feminazi bitch” are 100% awful should surprise no one, so I’m going to skip those. I invite you to Google gaming sites for these terms and cry if you feel like doing extra credit.)

Slut only ever means one thing, and – depressingly – gamers have no problem slinging around “slut” like it’s going out of style:

[IGN] lol this slut on okcupid … [IGN] Cassandra was a slut … [IGN] Holy ****, Alison Brie was a slut in college … [Destructoid] Kaidan is such a slut. … [Destructoid] the developers decided to increase her slut factor by ten … [Team Liquid] is it ok to like a slut? … [Team Liquid] being a stud is good but being a slut is bad … [Kotaku] without having to be a virtual slut … [Joystiq] I’m pretty sure Suzu is the guild slut … [Joystiq] if she wants to slut it out it’s really her problem … [Joystiq] Unlike that Hannah Montana slut …

…you get the picture, I’m sure.

Feminazi is a bit more mixed. There is at least some discussion of the term – especially considering the recent twitter dustup involving Jim Sterling. However, the vast majority of uses are either to tar feminism or to slam any woman who dares to stand up for herself:

[IGN] If a woman decides to be a man-hating-femi-Nazi … [IGN] Whichever Femi-nazi wrote that needs to go back to grade school … [IGN] What a feminazi thing to say … [Team Liquid] /me waits for some feminazi to make a retort … [Team Liquid] Your feminazi ways are clearly evident … [Team Liquid] That’s probably why you came off as feminazi or something … [Kotaku] God I hate feminazi’s … [Kotaku] I’m not a misogynist but these feminazi double standards are ridiculous … [Joystiq] I’m willing to bet some femi-nazi mother who didn’t do her research … [Joystiq] Thats something you Feminazi’s fail to understand … [Joystiq] Also, most of the feminazi’s I’ve seen are usually tiny prissy little things. They’re like the yippy rat dogs of the human world …

While “feminazi” doesn’t get hurled around as often as “slut”, in every instance the intent is clear: “tits or gtfo, bitches”. (Because clearly, any woman who objects to SHOW ME UR TITS BITCH is an ugly feminazi who hates men. /eyeroll)

Lastly, fag is interesting because it seems to be the most… well… immature in it’s usage. A good half of the results boil down to [Person] IS A FAG LOL or UR A FAG LOL. Often this devolves into a fight of NO UR THE FAG NO YOU NO YOOOOOUUUUU… which reminds me why I don’t encounter “fag” often in my gaming life since I avoid any place on the internet where illiteracy is predominant.

In closing

So what can we conclude from this collection of filth? Well, as I said with my previous post – ultimately not a whole lot. However, I think the fact that only a bare handful of the hits for these search terms were critiques of the terms themselves says something about how acceptable it is for gamers to use hate speech, especially misogynist hate speech without real fear of contradiction or reprisal from the gaming community as a whole. Even the alternate usages of words like “whore” and “cunt” are still awful because they support the stereotype that comes with those words.

Gamers like to get up in arms about how mainstream society judges gaming as a deviant hobby, but it seems to me that if gamers don’t want to be seen as deviants, then maybe they should consider just why it is that the gaming community is so tolerant of hate speech. It certainly doesn’t help any argument that we’re not as socially maladjusted as the stereotype.

>Google Search Results: Revised

>First, a Disclaimer:

As always, not a professional academic or researcher. Also, not a statistician. I’m just a fine art major who happens to really, really like spreadsheets.

Revisions explained

Okay, so I got some helpful feedback yesterday that included improvements to my search methods. So I thought I’d write a quick post updating my data as well as providing some information about traffic and such. I may or may not get to the post about the context of these terms since I went a little crazy making spreadsheets. (Call me a nerd, but I love spreadsheets. They can fix anything.)

I made a major blunder in my original post, I realized. In my searches yesterday, I was only searching http://www.ign.com and not all of its various gaming subdomains. As such, I revised my search to ign.com and this substantially affected the results. Now ign.com has subdomains for tv, movies, and comics that get much less traffic than its gaming subdomains, but I still searched those subdomains and subtracted those results from the overall total. With the numbers for all of the subdomains and forums included, this wound up altering the final outcome.

I also had some requests to add some additional terms – specifically homophobic or male-gendered slurs. I did wind up adding “fag” to my list, but “dyke” did not make the cut because of the fact that “dyke” is also a name. Specifically, Gordon Van Dyke, who is one of the big figures behind the Battlefield series, skewed the results too heavily. I also did contemplate adding “prick” to the list of terms, but I made an entirely subjective judgement that “prick” is not “as bad” as “cunt”. Entirely my opinion, but I’m also trying to keep the list of terms short so I don’t go completely insane running them all through Google. For the same reason, I also did not search for racial slurs, since that would cause the list to balloon beyond the point that I can gather data in an hour or two.

Lastly, my problem with Kotaku was that instead of running “site:kotaku.com” through Google, I was using “site:http://www.kotaku.com”. That’s what I get for not copying and pasting, I suppose.

The Results

So here are the raw results. (No pretty charts today. I like spreadsheets, but charts are a pain in the ass.)

Interestingly, adding Kotaku to the list didn’t have any effect on the final outcome. Adding all of IGN’s subdomains, however, did. In terms of raw results, IGN now comes out on top with 18 points, just barely edging out Destructoid at 17. Team Liquid’s showing isn’t quite as impressive, but is still pretty solid at 11.It’s worth noting that Joystiq only scored 3 points, and that Kotaku actually managed to score 0. Something I found almost as interesting is the fact that there are absolutely no results for “feminist/feminazi bitch” on Kotaku.

Now none of this gives us more than a very sketchy general picture without at least having some information about traffic patterns and context. Context we’ll save for my next post. As for traffic patterns, I was able to find some super-basic traffic information for Destructoid, Kotaku, IGN, Joystiq, and Team Liquid by using Compete’s free traffic search features. (It doesn’t let you search subdomains.) The monthly normalized data for February for the five sites is as follows:

Sadly, data about page views is not available for free, so I can’t provide that data. But unique visitors and monthly visits will still give us a pretty good picture.In an attempt to at least half-assedly normalize the raw results, I decided to divide the unique visitors by the number of search results for each term. It doesn’t really mean much in terms of where the words are coming from – staff writers? Users? Anonymous commenters? But it at least provides some sort of context as to traffic versus usage of each term. It seems counter-intuitive, but lower numbers are “bad” and higher numbers are “good”:

I decided to go through these results and award points again, this time going from lowest to highest. When looking at unique visitors, this time Team Liquid came in first with 20 points, barely edging out Destructoid with 19 points. IGN, by comparison, came in a distant third with a meager 6 points.When you divide monthly visitors by numbers of search results, results change again – but the overall picture stays the same:

By this metric, Destructoid wins with 20 points, Team Liquid places second with 16 points, and IGN once again comes in third with 6 points.What does any of this mean?

Well, not a whole lot really. We can make sort of general statements saying that Destructoid and Team Liquid seem to have a higher per capita usage of these terms than other sites, but it’s not possible to make any definitive statements about just what any of this means. Another important factor that was not possible for me to examine is the source of the comments. With the exception of Team Liquid, all of these sites employ paid writers, but they also host user blogs. As mentioned before, it’s not really possible for me to discern the frequency of use by the writers versus the frequency of use by users or anonymous commenters.

So, overall these numbers aren’t that useful from an academic standpoint. However, they provide a useful illustration of the fact that misogynist (as well as other forms of hate speech) language is pervasive across all major gaming sites, and that some sites are consistently more guilty of using this language than others.

>Google Results – misogynist language used on major gaming sites

>Rather than diving back into things here with something easy, I decided to try something I haven’t done before. While browsing my Google Alerts for Jim Sterling, I had an idea inspired by the awesome troll data analysis done by blogger kirbybits in the wake of the whole dickwolves fiasco. I decided to see how many search results for common misogynist language I could get for major gaming sites. I was curious – is my growing hate for Destructoid simply because of Jim Sterling? Or is it really more misogynist than other major gaming sites?

The first thing I did was draw up a list of sites to search from: Destructoid, Kotaku, Joystiq, Team Liquid, 4chan/v/, Reddit/r/gaming, the official WoW forums, and the official StarCraft II forums. (Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that Kotaku doesn’t allow Google searches. I don’t know if there’s a way around it, but I was feeling too lazy to find out.)

The next thing I did was draw up a list of search terms. I did this mainly using the word maps in kirbybits’ troll data analysis. The searches I ran were: slut, whore, fat slut/whore, feminazi, feminist/feminazi bitch, cunt, and rape. For the two word phrases, I searched for both with “or” (eg: “fat slut” OR fat whore”). I had initially planned on including “bitch” as its own search term, but I discovered that bitch by itself was a problematic term because of it’s varying uses – it wasn’t possible to easily separate the verb from the noun, and so I dropped it from my list.

The results were… well…. not too surprising, but I went to the effort of making them pretty anyway using IBM’s ManyEyes. Unfortunately, while ManyEyes makes things pretty, it doesn’t make them terribly readable at smaller sizes – so I wound up making ugly charts in Excel. (If you’d like, you can click this link to see the visualization itself.)

Just to amuse myself, I’ve decided on a tournament style ranking to determine which gaming site “wins” the prize of using the most misogynist language. The “winner” will get three points for each top result, second gets two, third gets one. The site with the highest total “wins”.

The search terms:

The results: 

Although Destructoid didn’t win every search term, they still managed to completely dominate the competition with a whopping 19 points, winning in five of the seven categories. Team Liquid, though, put in a solid showing as well with a solid 14 points – proving once again that their reputation for sexual harassment has at least some basis in reality. Joystiq managed to come in third with 5 points, just barely edging out Reddit/r/gaming/’s 4 points. And 4chan, a supposed hotbed of anonymous internet fuckwittery, barely even managed to make the list with 1 point. Better luck next time, guys.Now to be fair, I do imagine the terms feminazi and cunt were edged in Destructoid’s favor, given the recent Jim Sterling twitter fiasco in which he called twitter user Daphny a “feminazi cunt” – something for which he received a lot of backlash. But given the huge gulf between Destructoid and its nearest competitors, I feel confident in saying that Destructoid uses the most misogynist language of the group. (Which makes me regret being unable to get search data for Kotaku. Now I really want to know how they compare.)

None of this, of course, considers the context of the usages, so I’ll look at that next time.

>Re-launched WoW Galleries: Analysis, Part 3 (unbalanced class depictions)

>In my last post, I picked out some images from the re-launched galleries to illustrate why numbers can be misleading and why it’s important to consider the content and context of images when you’re looking at them. This time we’re going to look at images that clearly depict characters of a specific class to see how women are often portrayed differently than men as archetypes of a given class.

They say an image is worth a thousand words. To me, this picture speaks volumes:

So, okay, on the surface we don’t have anything that we haven’t seen before. We’ve got fully clad dude mage next to scantily clad lady mage. Of course she’s got big breasts, and of course they’re just about popping out of her top. Whatever. What bothers me most is not how she’s dressed, but how she’s clinging on to this big strong man as he stands there with a cocky expression, ready to cast a spell. Yet another example of the attitude that if you need someone to go on an adventure in Azeroth, you’d better find a man.Now I’ll admit the above picture isn’t from the Classes gallery. It’s actually from the Races gallery. So here are images all pulled from the Classes gallery to help illustrate my point further…

Pretty standard mage, right? Long robes, fully covered, looking dramatic while preparing to cast a spell… Nothing we all haven’t seen many times before. Now compare this with, oh, every picture ever of female mages:

I shit you not, every single picture in the Classes gallery that is tagged as mage and depicts a female has ridiculous cleavage, even when it’s in somewhat questionable taste. These are all of the boobs, I mean, female mages you’ll see in the Classes gallery. The boobs on the top right are undead boobs, which is gross. And the boobs in the bottom middle are gnome boobs, which is even grosser. I mean, seriously – please don’t sexualize gnomes of either sex ever. Yuck.

Warlocks seem to fare a little better in their depictions, even if they wind up contorted into unnatural poses to emphasis their, uh, attributes. But overall, these two women just aren’t as compelling as the male warlock. According to the lore, warlocks are supposed to be mages who’ve gone bad. They make pacts with demons for crying out loud! When I look at the male warlock, he looks dangerous and maybe disturbed. The women, well, they kind of look pretty while waving their hands around.And really, that’s a problem with a lot of the class artwork. So many of the male class images show male figures doing stuff dramatically while the female class images just show figures posing prettily. Like…

So, yay that the female priest is actually covered and doesn’t have ridiculous boob-holes or thigh-slits or body paint masquerading as clothing. But look at these two images next to each other. The priest on the right looks like he is about five seconds from seriously messing up your day. The priest on the left is just posed against a neutral background, almost like she’s part of some weird Azerothian photo shoot.

Again, the usual dichotomy of clothed (men) versus not (woman). And again you have examples of men in dynamic poses while the woman is in a static pose. The male hunters have their bows drawn and are about to actually fire at something. The female hunter is standing in a neutral pose with her hips cocked, which makes the figure softer and less threatening.

Also, while her arrow is on fire, her bow is not drawn and the arrow is pointed at the ground. And like our female priest, she is depicted on a flat grey background. With all of the many and varied landscapes that Azeroth has to offer, the artist couldn’t think of one to put her in? Not one? Hell, plunk her in the Barrens if you’re feeling lazy. Or Tanaris, or the salt flats in Thousand Needles. Something! But no, again our female class depiction is just another model posing for the camera.

Even when both of the figures are in neutral poses, there’s still a marked difference between male and female depictions. It’s impressive how many points of divergence there are when both illustrations clearly started with the same idea. There’s the obvious difference of armor: the male paladin is wearing about fifty pounds of plate mail while female paladin is wearing spandex with armored shoulders and boots. (Why don’t female paladins ever get to be hulking walls of glowy metal, huh?) But again, posing is almost the more important difference.

Everything about the female paladin is designed to be alluring. She stands with her hips cocked and her head tilted. The expression on her face is seductive, with a coy smile and half-lidded eyes that are supposed to be inviting. Her sword is unsheathed, but is not held ready and is positioned so as to further emphasize the exaggerated stance she is in.

The male paladin is everything that we’d expect to see in a paladin. His pose is erect, his shoulders and hips are squared. He looks at the viewer with a solemn expression, and while he does not look as if he about to attack, his weapon is still at the ready. Everything about this character conveys strength and power, while the female figure conveys only softness and sexual invitation.

Of course, even when the female figures are depicted as active, often they are hyper-sexualized as well (see above mage boobs). Sometimes this can be of the mildly bothersome variety (OMG! She’s so cool! If only I couldn’t see her tits!):

Sometimes it only makes me want to facepalm:

And sometimes it makes me want to scream and hit things very hard:

Neither of these women get to be rogues – that privilege remains the bailiwick of our male rogue. These women are just porn stars. The rogue on the left is bad enough – her arched back and outthrust tits and ass just scream “fuckable”. But the rogue on the right? SO. MUCH. RAGE.

So, okay. We have the complete lack of clothing. We have the pose – arched back with outthrust boobs. We have the perspective, which emphasizes the size of the boobs. And we have the angle, which makes her look as if she is thrusting her ladybits right at the viewer. The sum total of all these elements reads something like: I KILL THINGS WITH MY LADYBITS. Or something like that anyway.

All of which brings me back to the point I made at the beginning of this post. Male adventurers in Azeroth get to do important things, while female adventurers just get to stand around and look pretty. But maybe I’m getting bent out of shape over nothing. Trolls, orcs, and night elves don’t exist right? This is all “just fantasy” after all.

/headdesk

(Next up: positive female depictions versus problematic female depictions)

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