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 and not all of its various gaming subdomains. As such, I revised my search to and this substantially affected the results. Now 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 “” through Google, I was using “site:”. 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.


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

>Sexist depictions of women in gaming: links with numbers

>Okay, folks. It’s been pointed out to me that having links to my various posts with actual numbers might be helpful for people looking to linkspam people saying stupid things on the internet about games not being sexist. So I’m putting up this post just to collect the most useful stuff in one place. For the most part, what you’ll find here is numbers based on surveys of game artwork.

My original article about sexist depictions of women in gaming can be found here. In it, I surveyed art from MMOs, console games, CCGs, and tabletop RPGs and came up with detailed numbers of sexist depictions in various sources.

There is also a followup survey done of the relaunched galleries on the official WoW site after the release of the Cataclysm expansion. The survey is the first part in a series that also includes posts on why the numbers are misleading, unbalanced class depictions, and comparisons of good and bad character design.

It’s very probably that any of these links will be responded to with comments along the line of “but gaming is sexist against men too!”. You may want to link them to this post about why idealized figures are not the same as sexualized figures. (Do note that since I was pretty angry when I wrote that post, it’s likely that they will respond that I’m biased.)

Feel free to link to any of these posts if you feel like it. This post will be edited to add new links whenever I do something that includes actual numbers.

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

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

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

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

Why the numbers aren’t as positive as they seem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not all suggestive depictions are created equal

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

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

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

and this:

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

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

What’s next

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

[Edit: Part 3 is now up!]


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