No fat women in games; a look at 10 of the most popular MMOs

Recently, I got back into playing Star Wars: The Old Republic when a friend of mine dragged me back into it. I’d played when it was first released as a subscription-only game, and again briefly when it went free-to-play, but I aside from occasional experiments with games like SW:TOR and Final Fantasy XIV, I haven’t seriously played an MMO for at least five years.

And it’s been fun! I’ve missed having a game to play with friends, and being the giant nerd that I am, I actually really enjoy MMO crafting and auctioneering. I’m also enjoying that SW:TOR gets story-based RPG all up in my MMO peanut butter – being able to group while playing story quests is quite a lot of fun, especially when grouping with people of different alignments.

One thing I have NOT enjoyed, however, is the bullshit gendered double-standards for body types. Because while ordinarily I would be happy that I can actually play a character who actually looks like me in terms of body shape, my character is actually at the top end of the body-size slider. Additionally, the bottom end of the female body size slider is anorexic-verging-on-impossible, and even the middle of that range is improbably skinny. Worst of all, however, is the fact that if you play a male character, you can be slim, average, muscular, or actually fat. (Which, you know, sucks. A lot. Because in effect, BioWare IS CALLING ME FAT. Bastards.)

It got me thinking, because honestly, my character in SW:TOR is actually the “fattest” female character I’ve ever played in an MMO, and I’ve played a fair number of MMOs. (Dark Age of Camelot, Warharmmer Online, World of Warcraft – several times, City of Heroes, Final Fantasy XIV, Star Wars: The Old Republic, plus maybe one or two others that I’m missing.) And I’m not super familiar with the current MMO landscape, but I was fairly certain that my SW:TOR character would be at the top end of body sizes available for female characters in most MMOs.

So I decided to put it to the test, by taking 10 of the most popular MMOs and examining what the “fattest” female character in each one looked like.

Methodology: Determining Sources and Finding Screenshots

One of the difficulties in deciding which ten games to look at is that there are a good number of MMOs that don’t publish hard numbers on the numbers of subscribers. World of Warcraft publishes fairly comprehensive quarterly data regarding subscriber numbers, but others like RIFT and EVE Online do not. Additionally, figuring out a total number of players can get tricky when you look at the fact that a lot of MMOs have a mix of paying subscribers and free-to-play players; frex, Star Wars: The Old Republic, RIFT, and World of Warcraft are all games that provide a mix of free and paid content.

So it’s important to note that these games might not be THE top ten in terms of player numbers. But the games presented here are actually taken from this list, compiled by Justin Olivetti at MassivelyOP, which examines a wide variety of sources like Reddit, Twitch, Steam, and others. (Although with one tweak, I substituted RIFT for RuneScape, because I’m not quite sure that RuneScape deserves a top ten spot.)

Once I had my list of games, I then dug up character creation videos on YouTube to scope out the character creation process before searching around for the best screenshots that would highlight the “fattest” female characters possible from each games. And the results were… well… predictably depressing.

The Results! (From thinnest to “fattest”)

[Note: these results are pretty subjective. The range of body types is pretty goddamn narrow, so it gets hard to compare.]

One of the things that disturbed me about EVE Online’s character creation is the fact that the body model is actually incredibly customizeable. You can shorten or lengthen the torso, or otherwise distort the figure in a number of ways. However, this is what the female model looks like with both the muscularity and weight sliders at maximum. On the thin end of healthy and not particularly muscular at all:

Eve online

I am reminded of Ford’s infamous slogan about the Model T: “any customer can have a car painted any color he wants so long as it’s black”. You can customize your female character’s body in any way you like so long as she’s supermodel-thin.

However, the next few games’ “fattest” options were the same size as in EVE Online, only without any sort of body-size slider. Rather, all female characters are created exactly the same, as if some sort of eugenics program happened that left only women with impossibly thin physiques and large, incredibly firm breasts:

Archeage-GW2-WoW

Truly, I’m really not sure which is worse – a complete lack of diversity of body shapes or a range of body types where the “fattest” bodies are the default shape in other games that are otherwise equally sexist. Because having a world where women are all stamped from the same horrifically sexist mold is obviously problematic, but having a world where body diversity exists only for the sake of the aesthetic of the cishet male gaze is also problematic. Deciding which is worse is like trying to decide which I hate more: brussel sprouts or Rush Limbaugh.

An interesting additional complicating factor here is the fact that both Guild Wars 2 and World of Warcraft have female character types that are definitely large and muscular. In both instances, however, they are also monstrous:

Monstrous-women

So, you know, the fact that the only way to see a female body type that actually looks powerful is for that body to be actually monstrous is pretty fucking awful. Having impossibly slender, not-at-all muscular characters as the default body type for women in MMOs is bad enough without ALSO defacto saying that women who actually have larger bodies are fucking monsters.

That said, I will at least give Guild Wars 2 credit for almost getting it right with regards to their nonhuman female model. It’s always bugged me that the cow people in World of Warcraft have breasts. If you’re going to have bipedal cow-people with actual cow legs, then the lady-cow-people (Tauren) should have udders, not breasts. GW2’s Charr don’t have humanoid mammaries, so I can at least pretend that there are, like, 6 nipples under all that fur. Although they screwed it up by giving her that stupid top, because that implies humanoid breasts all over again, which. Arg. If you’re going to have a monstrous race, then let the women be actually fucking monstrous. (I’m looking at you, WoW zombies!)

Then you had the interesting middle ground of RIFT, in which there are no body size sliders, and all of the female models are the same damn size, except for the female dwarf:

riftrogue

Bullshit armor design aside, I actually like the muscularity of the dwarf model, at least compared to any of these other models so far. Unfortunately, the fact that she only has something resembling “normal” proportions because she’s not “human” is problematic, especially when you consider that the dwarves have the proportions of some actual real human people with dwarfism.

…[facepalm]

Near the top end of the scale (and let’s pause for just a moment to think about how fucking depressing that these next two games classify as being “near the top”) are two games where the largest female body types are actually models that I quite like. Body Type 4 in Star Wars: The Old Republic is actually quite a good model, in that she is muscular without being unbelievably slender. Similarly, the Roegadyn in Final Fantasy XIV are pleasingly sturdy and muscular. Where things get problematic is their contrast to their male counterparts:

dimorphism

The Roegadyn are bad enough, because it’s yet another example of the male power fantasy/male sexual fantasy theory of sexual dimorphism as applied to games. It’s problematic, sure, but it also doesn’t represent anything at all new in games. SW:TOR, however, is more upsetting because of the fact that they do have something new and unique – the ability to play a character that is both FAT AND HEROIC. …but only for men. Because while men can be both fat and heroic, women can only be heroic so long as they are also fuckable.

…please excuse me for a moment while I set the whole goddamn world on fire.

Which brings us to the two last entrants, which are the only games that offer the ability to play characters even slightly larger than myself – Neverwinter and Elder Scrolls Online:

Fat-ladies

Oh man. So many mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I definitely appreciate that the Neverwinter model is presented as beautiful. And I also like the fact that the Elder Scrolls Online model is the only one that I’ve ever seen that looks like I could play a badass mama barbarian who wears her newborn baby in a sling around as she kills shit and smites evil. (Seriously, the first person that makes me a game where I can do that that isn’t terrible or sexist, I will throw money at you SO GODDAMN FAST.)

However, while both models are technically “fat”, it’s also true that their bodies fit a certain narrow range of socially acceptable fatness. Their breasts, hips, and butts are large, but the extra weight around their middle is not carried on the stomach and their stomachs are still quite toned, which still falls into the trap of idealizing the hourglass figure, which a lot of women just don’t have.

Not to mention that it’s a bit hard to miss the fact that the names that Neverwinter offers for it’s body types are “toned” (positive connotations), “slim” (positive connotations), and “heavy” (mild negative connotations). So even when it’s being presented as an option, it’s being presented as one that is inherently inferior. Which is something that Star Wars: The Old Republic at least did get right by choosing to label its body types with numbers and not descriptors.

In conclusion: I’ll stick with the devil I know

So for now, given that the Star Wars mythos is one that appeals to me, the gameplay suits my play style, and I can play with friends, I’ll be sticking with Star Wars. There are still things that piss me off, like the preponderance of too-thin female NPCs and the fact that there are fat dudes but no fat ladies. But all of the female NPCs I’ve encountered have been fully clothed, with one notable exception. And I have as yet only found one piece of chest armor that didn’t fully cover my torso, and have not yet encountered leg armor that wasn’t fully covering as well.

And as much as that sounds like damned by faint praise, that’s honestly about as good as I’m ever going to get.

New WoW models: Men get character, women get vapid beauty [MANY IMAGES]

A brief note before I start:

It’s been almost two weeks since my last post, and I apologize for not even putting up a freebie. However, despite my best efforts to stay the hell out of a recent blowup in the TRPG blogosphere, a certain person decided that he wanted to try to incite his followers to harass me. Again[1].

Thankfully, his followers don’t seem to dislike me as much as he wants them to. Either that or he just doesn’t have as many true followers as some other folks, because the referral traffic I got from his blog was pretty minimal. Still, it made for a very stressful and emotional week since I had to deal at first with the anxiety of seeing that he’d made a post about me, then with getting dragged into the whole shitstorm surrounding his post, not to mention the fun of having people calling me a liar on a social network that I frequent. (Mostly people that I’d already blocked, at least. Yay?)

Anyway, tl;dr. I spent much of the last week and a half working on not-blog things because it was easier to manage the fallout of a bunch of internet bullshit not of my making if I kept myself busy with other projects. So thanks for your forbearance, and thanks also to those of you who sent me messages of support.

 


On to business…

I’d been hearing people in my gaming circles talk about new character models in WoW for the last little while. And it’s about damn time, considering that I quit WoW more than four years ago and the graphics looked dated even then. But it wasn’t until last week that I happened to come across a detailed look at one of the new models – the new human male:

All in all, it looks like a decent improvement. And actual facial animations? Looks pretty cool. Curious, I went looking for the human female.

…and promptly wished I hadn’t:

Ugh. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Leaving aside the fact that all of the human preview models I’ve seen have been white (because white is the “default” setting for humans, of course), let’s just talk about the bullshit sexism here. Notice how the male human gets to have actual facial expressions that convey emotions? While the female character renders all have the same vapid expression but with different hairstyles. Because men get to DO THINGS and EXPRESS THEMSELVES but women get to BE PRETTY.

/headdesk.

But of course, it’s not like I should be surprised. It was this kind of bullshit that led me to quit WoW in the first place. The interesting/pretty binary pervades pretty much every facet of WoW. From my Ret Paladin’s inability to find high level pants that were actually fucking pants, to necro-tits, to the absolutely abysmal representation of women in the lore.

Oh yes, the lore. Where the few women who show up are completely useless (Jaina) or important only for their connection to a man (Tyrande). And all of the big important events that shape the world are set into motion by the BIG MANLY MANZ.

Because I hate myself, I decided to go looking for more of the new models. I’m not going to go through every race, because that would be tedious. I’ll just cover the examples that stuck out the most to me.

MOAR STUPID

When I located a preview of the female orc model, I was disappointed to see that her renders also suffer from vapid-sameface-with-different-hairstyles, although not to quite the same extent:

Now I’ll at least give Blizzard some credit in that the female orc’s physique isn’t grossly distorted. She’s rocking some serious superhero muscles there, not to mention that her breasts are actually affected by gravity and her torso has space for all of her internal organs. Hooray!

But this comment by senior Blizzard art director Chris Robinson bugged me:

Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft female orc redesign will help highlight the gender’s “‘warrior’ side a little more,” senior art director Chris Robinson wrote on Battle.net.

“That means moving away from the more doe-eyed version we know now toward a character you would expect to see fighting on the front lines alongside any of her Horde brothers and sisters,” Robinson wrote.

According to lead animator Steve Aguilar, the team wants to fix the female orc’s “blank stare,” which does little to convey her personality.

“We wanted to give her more of an edge so she would project a confident ‘Don’t mess with me!’ attitude,” Aguilar said. “… She now looks and feels more like you’d expect an Orc to.

(Emphasis Mine)

Uh-huh. Her “fierce” expression is much more supermodel than warrior as far as I’m concerned. Certainly not as fierce as…

…this guy here. Which brings me to my other complaint.

When it comes to Warcraft’s monstrous races, men get to be monstrous and women get to be pretty. Look at our male orc friend here. He’s got a bit of a hunch and frigging tusks. But lady orc? Lady orc has impeccably straight posture and her “tusks” are just a texture. Dude Orc’s tusks gets freaking polygons, Lady Orc’s tusks just gets some pixels. Weak sauce.

This is even more exaggerated when you look at the trolls:

This time the difference is even more exaggerated. While the male orc has a slight hunch, the male troll has a full-on stoop. Screw having 4-inch tusks, the male trolls have 12+ inch tusks. The new male troll renders also have mottled skin and what looks to be scarification on their biceps. These are some seriously monstrous-looking characters.

All of which makes the female troll model ridiculous by contrast. Her skin is smooth, with little visible texture, and her posture perfectly erect, with no difference in stance from her orc and human counterparts. Like the female orc, her tusks are only textures without any actual polygons. In fact, it wouldn’t take much to turn this female troll into a female orc. Shorten the ears, turn her green, and give her four fingers instead of two, and voila! Instant orc.

WHICH. IS. STUPID.

Blizzard has gone to the effort of designing these fantasy races (human, orc, and troll) with three very different physiologies that only apply to men. Because all of those differences go out the window once boobz[2] get tossed into the equation. So if you play a male character, you get the chance to play as several different flavors of monstrous, but if you play a female character you get generic pretty where the only difference between races is skin color and other largely cosmetic details. Great.

But at least none of that is as dumb as necro-tits.

/sigh. Where do I even start?

How about with the fact that the preview of male undead faces is to show off the different types of facial rot while the preview of female undead faces is to show off… hair styles. Coming back, once again, to the interesting/pretty dynamic. At least you can say that Blizzard is always consistent.

In some ways, the new models are actually worse than the old ones. Sure the old female undead models all wore lipstick, but at least they had the creepy black eyes. Now they have… closed eyes? With eyeshadow? (I desperately hope that this is just one model.) And while the hair on the old models looked appropriately scraggly, the new hair looks sleek and styled, even the crazy Bride-of-Frankenstein hair. And of course we can’t forget the necro-tits.

The artists did make one concession to gross deadness by desiccating the skin of her upper chest and highlighting her sternum and collarbone as well as the connective tissue. But despite rot that has caused this desiccation, as well as caused her shoulder blades to penetrate the skin, her tits are still plump and perky, not to mention weirdly devoid of nipples or areolae. Because when you die, that shit just falls right off. TRUEFAX.

Here is the bright spot (you only get one)

This is the only female model preview I was able to find that sported actual facial expressions. I’m… not at all sure what the hell is going on with her underwear. (How is it constructed? And why?) But, you know, facial expressions!

It’s small, but at least it’s something.


[1] Not naming names so don’t even ask.

[2] Note that I’m not saying that breasts = woman. Just that breasts seem to be the body part WoW devs are most fixated on.

 

Anatomy: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG (WoW)

I’m actually working on a post that’s not about video games, but unfortunately it’s going to take more time than I have today to do the research. So instead I’m doing a quickie anatomy lesson picking on World of Warcraft. I was tempted to pick on Crapping Frost Mage again, but considering that I used it for a gender swap already I decided that would probably be cheating. (Also, it would be like shooting fish in a barrel.) So I went with this wallpaper instead, which features one of the oldest pieces of promo art still in use from the first game:

Oh man. Where to begin…

So first of all, note how small her head is. Now because her feet are cut off, it’s a little hard to tell exactly how tall the figure is, but the average human is 7 heads tall and she is definitely way taller than that. There is some variance to be had, some people don’t conform to 7 heads exactly. But the difference is also never that large. Also, she’s got a serious case of gravity-defying sphere-boob as well as some missing organs:

If you stack the heads up and make an estimated guess of where the feet would be, it looks like she’d be around 8-8.5 heads tall, which is just kind of freakish. I know that those proportions are commonly used by comic artists in order to make the female figure more “statuesque”, but that sort of thing is ridiculous in my books. I want my women to look like actual women, not statues.

Also of note, her waist is actually narrower than her already too-small head, which kind of freaks me out. There’s no way she’s wearing a corset, because that would require her midriff to actually be covered. Unless she’s using magic to create a magical corset forcefield, which just seems like a waste of energy. I mean, aren’t adventurers in WoW supposed to be out to conquer evil? Corset spells seem like they’d just be too big a drain on mana.

Now, interestingly, even the artist seemed to be wrestling with the results of the too-small torso, because he attempted to make the shoulders wide enough to support the head and overcompensated. The result is that if you follow the curve of her back and ribcage, her shoulder isn’t actually connected to her ribs. Her arm is apparently just floating in space, which I’ll admit is a pretty neat trick. I imagine it comes in handy for getting things off of high shelves if you can pop off your arm and send it floating around.

And, of course, she has sphere-boobs that practically have their own anti-gravity fields, but that goes without saying at this point, I suppose.

So with all of these things in mind, I sketched my corrections on top of the image:

Now I’ll admit that I think I may have made her a bit on the unhealthy side if she’s anywhere past about 18. If she’s still got a teenage metabolism, then this is fine and healthy, but if she’s older then not so much. But we’ll presume that summoning arcane forces burns calories and call this close enough. Even with a potentially problematic waistline, you can see the vast difference between this figure and the original. Her waist is not quite double the size, and her boobs are actually affected by gravity now.

And just to make that a bit easier to see:

Yikes. That shoulder thing is just weirding me out. If you’re going to continue making ridiculous cheesecake art, Blizzard, can you at least make sure that their joints all connect correctly?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t use porn as a reference.

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

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

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

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

Second: Advanced lessons and some examples

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


Please excuse me. I have to take a dump.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Okay. Back on track…

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

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

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

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

>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)

>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!]

>Galleries on official WoW site relaunched: Analysis (numbers)

>The Impetus (or: why torture myself again?)

While looking for game art featuring female characters more obviously sexualized than Vanille, I visited the official WoW website and discovered that the website had been re-launched along with the Cataclysm expansion. There had been a significant re-design and re-organization, and that included the galleries.

The old website galleries had been subdivided (if memory serves) into galleries for the various expansions with another gallery for general concept art. The new galleries still have expansion-specific sub-galleries, but the generic concept art gallery is gone in favor of a “Races” gallery and a “Classes” gallery. Overall, there was a lot of new art in the galleries that I hadn’t seen before. Furthermore, the wallpapers gallery has been split into 10 or 12 sub-galleries – although there’s not as much new there.

I got curious as to how numbers from the new site would stack up against numbers from the old site that I had compiled while working on my Depictions of Women article. So I decided to go through the revamped WoW galleries according to the same criteria as the original survey to see what I’d come up with.

Criteria and caveats

Again, the criteria I was examining: number of figures with discernible gender, active versus neutral poses, fully clothed figures, suggestively attired figures, and class archetypes (fighter, thief, mage). (For specific details on how I defined these criteria, follow the link above to the original article.)

Interestingly, because of the large amount of new art, I found myself having to add a few caveats to the criteria simply due to things that I hadn’t come across the first time around. Firstly, undead figures showing any signs of rot at all were never marked as suggestive no matter how much skin was showing. (Because, you know, eew.) Silvanas was still counted as suggestive since her “undeath” just turned her grey and spooky. Children, for obvious reasons, were never considered as suggestive. Lastly, there were some cityscape images (mostly from Burning Crusade) of Darnassus and Silvermoon where I didn’t count any figures at all because the figures were very small and elves can be pretty ambiguous.

Numbers and counting

Coming up with an accurate count was a bit of a daunting task because there are so many more sub-galleries than the old site had and a small number of images were duplicated across two or more galleries. (For instance, a particular image showed up in the Burning Crusade, Races, and Classes galleries.) So when counting images, I did not count duplicates of that exact image reposted in another gallery. If an image was in both Races and Classes, I only counted it once.

There were some images that I did count multiples of; there are several iconic race/class characters that are used in a lot of promotional art and slapped onto custom backgrounds. Each iteration of the iconic characters with a distinct background was counted. I modified that rule slightly for the Arthases (Arthasi?) that I counted, since there were so many of them. Because Arthas was in the cover art for the Wrath of the Lich King, I didn’t want my numbers to be overly skewed by just one character, so I counted each distinct Arthas pose only once.

And here are the results! You’ll probably want to click for the large version, unfortunately these don’t shrink down very well:


CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE
So looking at this, the new galleries undeniably display sexist trends. Women comprise only one third of all figures with discernible gender. Only one third of figures that are fully clothed are women while making up slightly more than two thirds of all suggestively clad figures. And women are twice as likely to be depicted as magic users rather than thieves/rogues or fighters.So what happens when you stack the new numbers against the old numbers? (You’ll definitely want to click through for this one)


CLICK FOR LARGER VIEW

Okay, I know this looks really crowded, but I really wanted to make it as easy as possible to compare the two sets of numbers. Old numbers are represented in pastels, new numbers are represented in brights.

Now, when you look at the numbers here, it looks as if there have been some marginal improvements. Certainly the ratio of female figures to male figures has increased from one in four to one in three. Also, the percentage of active figures slightly increased which puts women aaaaaalmost at 50% of all active figures (from around 45%). Similarly, class archetypes haven’t changed much. There were slightly more fighters depicted as women, but half of all female figures are still mages – which doesn’t represent a real change from the old numbers.

The biggest obvious difference is the large increase in suggestively attired male figures. This is pretty much directly attributable to the new Cataclysm expansion which introduced werewolves (Worgen) as a playable race. As everyone knows, werewolves are ALWAYS bare-chested men.


I know it’s true because Stephenie Meyer says so!

Snark aside, I find it significant that 55 out of the 68 suggestive male figures were monstrous – either being orc, tauren, troll, goblin, worgen, or demon. (Illidan I counts as demon in my books, btw. I suppose if you felt like it you could ignore the giant bat wings and call him a night elf.) Out of the 13 non-monstrous suggestive male figures – 12 humans and a gnome (sounds like the punchline of a joke) – 5 were Vry’Kul, an enemy NPC faction. This leaves only 7 out of 68 suggestive male figures that are not monstrous and actually heroes.In most of the images with suggestive monstrous male figures, it seems like the intent of the artist was to convey the savage nature of their race by dressing them in more “primitive” attire. As such, it seems to me like these figures should fall into a different category than the suggestive female figures. The suggestive female figures are suggestively attired because they are highly sexualized. The suggestive monstrous male figures seem to be suggestively attired as a way of defining something about that character.

However, since part of the point of my methods is to be intentionally ridiculous in counting male figures as suggestive, I counted them all anyway. (I’m even counting the tauren, remember, who are basically just bipedal cows.) I simply think it’s a thing worth noting.

What’s next

I plan on examining in detail why these numbers aren’t as positive (ha!) as they seem. Also, I plan on looking at the inequality of class depictions between male and female figures. But that will have to wait for another day.

[EDIT: Part 2 can be found here.]

>A bit of visual WTF to tide you over

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

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

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

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

>WoW novels – only female heroes need apply

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

>It’s not just the game companies

>I’ve been lampooning game developers here, but please don’t think that it’s just the developers that are guilty of sexism and that gamers themselves are totally innocent. No, gamers are just as guilty as the publishers. While you can find sexist gamers in just about any portion of the hobby, it’s usually true that the most horrific behavior comes out on Xbox Live servers or in StarCraft II ventrillo servers.

So, first up: “Xbox Girls Get Revenge” (CollegeHumor). (Really, REALLY NSFW)

I found this to be pretty amusing, though I recognize that as far as satire goes it’s still pretty offensive. I wanted to link to this, though, to highlight the kind of abuse that women can be subject to by their fellow gamers. Sadly, it’s a trueism that Normal Person + Internet + Audience = Total Fuckwad, and this phenomenon only exacerbates the abuse that is heaped on female gamers when it comes to venues like blogs and official forums. But hey, don’t take my word for it…

[Note: All spelling and grammar errors left as is. All links are added by me for emphasis.]

Dungeons and Dragons
from Gender violence in gaming (Astrid’s Parlor)

I would love to see a ranger with favored enemy: women just for the lulz. It’d atleast be different. And would ward off those annoying chaotic neutral male playing females I hate so much…

…God-damn I wish there was a FATAL d20. I love that book, but I definitelly don’t feel like attempting to run or play in a game with such draconic mechanics! As far as personal gaming experiences, no. I havn’t had the pleasure of being an overly misogynistic or gay bashing game. And my gaming career has suffered cause of it. That sounds friggin’ awesome.

… when there’s demons attacking your soul and dragons eating entire villages. Smacking a woman around for speaking outside of form just doesn’t have the sortof shock value it would have in a mundane world like ours…

— “JimProfit”, entire post

[In response to a post where a player objected to a campaign setting where misogyny and gender violence was common and the DM changed it as a result of that complaint.

Was the world really the problem or was it your problem and you decided to make it the groups problem?

As a PC you could have had a chance to change things if you could deal with it for a while. If your DM had said “This is the way things are and no one in the world could ever change it” I can see that being upsetting and warranting a discussion. But, hey, it probably made you feel really good forcing change of the whole world with no effort and making everyone else play in the mystical (b)land of “Everyone’s Equal Because I Say So“, which is what’s unacceptable in my book.

–“RubicantX”, entire post

[In response to a post questioning “Misogyny for the lulz”]

Oh ****. I thought the concept of the man-hating feminist was hyperbole. I now see that it is reality. I guess its time all of us men packed our bags and got ready to be put in death camps.

— “MusicOfCre”, entire post

[Editor’s note: Oh! Godwin’d!]

World of Warcraft
from The New Fountain in Dalaran’s Central Square [A complaint that a statue of heroes of the war against the Lich King has ONLY male heroes and not a single female hero]

How unnecessary. You’re complaining about females being unrepresented in a fictional universe that bares little parallel to our own. It would matter if females were slaves of males in this game, it’s not real life.
–“Emmelin”, post #5

Women and their freaking opinions about everything just pisses me off, back to the kitchen I tell you.
–“Xiu”, post #10

from ***ty Costumes at Blizcon

[On – why do women wear skimpy costumes to BlizCon?]

I’m not saying I don’t enjoy the view, I just don’t understand why girls like to do it so much.
— “Maelan”, post #10

StarCraft

from Are You Sexist? (Team Liquid forums)

Do you think women are intellectually equal to men? Do you think they have the same perseverence? Do you think they are as rational? I ask this because my experience stresses this claim so strongly, especially that they are not as perseverent or rational. … they are also more emotionally impulsive about long-term loving and hating (guys will fight you then offer you a beer, a woman will pick at you for years then just come back).
— “-_-“, entire post

No they aren’t equal. They CAN be intellectually equal to men, but only in book smarts. Street smarts? They have none. They are too emotional, too. They don’t think rationally, but base everything on their emotions.
— “SweeTLemonS[TPR]”,entire post

I’ve said it before, ill say it again
ESTROGEN IS THE ANTITHESIS TO REASON.
— “BigBalls”, entire post

obviously it’s wrong to judge an entire group of people based on a single person, but i find it that, in most cases, women are inferior to men intellectually. so i guess i’m sexist.
— “ItchReliever”, entire post

Yes, I am sexist. I do not believe they can are equals of men. They probably don’t want that either.
— “Cambium”, entire post

…okay, here’s where I have to stop for now – it’s just getting too depressing.