One of the predictions I made for Blizzcon 2013 was that, yet again, Blizz would do or say something stupid that would offend women, the LGBT community, or some combination thereof.
Unfortunately, they didn’t disappoint.
It was quickly noted by many that Warlords of Draenor appeared to be quite the sausage-fest. There were one or two obviously female characters depicted in the trailer, but overall it was all about the bros, big hairy-chested man-orcs swinging axes and riding warg.
Given this presentation, it was easy for many in the audience to feel left out.
For sake of Consistency
This is a little difficult to unwind due to the nature of the expansion.
The story is that Garrosh steals Doc Brown’s DeLorean and goes back to Draenor to the point in time before Grommosh Hellscream drinks Fel blood, and somehow prevents that from happening. Rather than fall into servitude to the Legion, the Horde becomes united as the Iron Horde. They’re still gonna attack Azeroth, but now it’s at maximum strength.
Given the physical modeling of characters in WoW, it’s already established that male or female, Gnome or Orc, if there is a class that interests you, then sky’s the limit. A female Warrior dual-wielding two giant chunks of iron on sticks – no problem. And thus, there is no physical reason for any of the major characters to be one gender over another.
Except the big "reason".
See, every one of these Orc clan leaders is a figure of Lore. They already ARE. It’s obvious that Blizz wants to revisit these lore characters, and so "they must exist as they did in lore". And, unfortunately, these characters were created in less progressive times, when the testosterone-fueled character design studio was fixated on the Noble Savage trope1, so we got a big sausage-fest.
And "we’re stuck with them."
Give me a break
Actually, that’s a bit of a cop-out. "We already haaaad them, so we’re stuuuuck with them, we can’t chaaaange it, it would be inconsiiiiiistent!", "they" bleat. That’s the easy, cop-out answer. Technically correct, for sure, but it also ignores one whopper of an important factor.
Namely, history has already been changed. Garrosh effectively undid everything from the First War era onward. And since they are no longer besotted by Fel blood, he has also changed the history of Orcs on Draenor. With that in mind, it is therefore possible that one or more of the Draenic Clans is under new management. If you accept the "Klingon model" for Orc culture2, then this becomes even more likely. Easy to imagine that one of the clan leaders LUCKED OUT with the fel blood thing being the ONLY thing that stopped him being murdered in his sleep by a slightly less macho, but infinitely sneakier, female clan-leader-to-be.
Given all the variables we DO know, it’s laughably easy to come up with viable scenarios for any of the clan leaders to be supplanted to a woman within or outside of his clan.
So … nope, not buying it.
They’re doing this because those are the characters they want to revisit. Too bad they can’t own up to it.
The U Factor
All of this is in spite of what we do NOT know about the story of the expansion. We have heard plaintive cries from Blizz HQ that they are indeed cooking up totally awesome female characters that will blow our nipples clean off, from fifty yards even.
And that’s great, but we’ve been promised many things in the last nine years, and not all of them have come to pass, or were even (apparently) worked on in good faith. Faith doesn’t always require deeds, but it can be broken by (mis)deeds or lack of deeds where they are required. We’ve been told "have faith" multiple times and seen that faith not fulfilled almost as often. Not because anyone is being malevolent – I don’t really think so. But because nobody in a position to make a difference actually *cares* enough to enact positive action to make women or other groups – such as the LGBT community – feel like they’re being included or at least not being belittled – as part of the culture of this game.
As one small example. There was a big blow-up at one Blizzcon over the hateful words of a particular death metal "artist". We were told that Mistakes Were Made and that We Will Make This Up To You. And yet, in Northrend, you can still find Gorge the Corpsegrinder, a clear tribute to this man. Years after the event, they have done nothing to remove this tribute. Is it because they just don’t care, or because they feel we’ll overlook this eventually if they just lay low and not make a fuss.
So on one hand we have the Grand Unknown. A promise, implicit and explicit, that things to come will make things better. On the other hand, we have a track record of failure to meet those promises with deeds.
It’s lonely Out There
There is nothing worse from a social aspect than being among a group of people that have a strong bond that you don’t share. All the little -isms that pull cliques together also tend to push us apart. And seeing an activity, show, book, story, or game that has nobody that you can relate to only enforces that feeling.
A game that focuses on alien creatures already removes a potential relation that you might have with them based on species alone. At that point, all we have are the most ambiguous cues – tetrapod construction, bipedal locomotion, two eyes, two ears a face, and gender. And for 50% of the world’s population, they see one less thing to relate to in the WoD reveal.
Mistakes were made
Unlike the Corpsegrinder incident, we don’t even get a mea culpa out of this one. Why is that? Do they feel that they’ve already paid that pound of flesh and shouldn’t have to all over again? Do they feel that the pro-female3 WoW audience just won’t be happy with anything and have given up? Do they feel that siccing one of their female CMs on to the Twitter community will diffuse the situation without having to actually provide substance? Or are they just so tone-deaf to the point that they should be banned from ever having band instruments?
I’m rather fond of that theory myself. It beggars belief, but I really do think they haven’t ever gone out of their way to do a good PR review of what they’re about to say at a public gathering. I have strong doubts that anyone at Blizz has ever pursued training in this area. I have strong doubts that they really think they might even need to consider looking into it.
And our fandom feeds any potential arrogance they might have to the point that they don’t see that they NEED that kind of internal support, so they keep doing it over and over again and then sobbing nobody understands us! when the inevitable backlash comes.
So here’s the thing. They can make press releases after the fact saying that they made mistakes and will try harder to not do it gain, but that’s an empty promise with no measurable goals, so job’s not done until they say it’s done. They like that level of control.
But until they believe it internally and take real, measurable action to correct what I believe are massive internal cultural flaws at Blizzard, they will continue to talk first, think later, and try to ignore the problem.
I’ve reached a crossroad
I love this game, and I love the people I get to play alongside. I love the dialogs that get opened, I love the characters I meet (NPC and PC), I love the community4, I kinda like the lore, and I like the potential that the game, ever after nine years, offers.
What I do not like is being lied to. I do not like being treated like an idiot that will keep on giving out my money just "Because We’re Activision Fucking Blizzard, that’s who." I do not like people saying "we will do a thing" and then pretending they didn’t.
At the end of the day you can piss and moan about lack of Flight until 6.1 and I’m just going to make faces. But if you choose to short-shrift an entire segment of population based on gender, lie about it, and then barely do just enough to shut "them" up until the next time, time and time again, eventually I’ll run out of patience. I don’t care if you’re Activision Fucking Blizzard.
So I am here at the end of PandaLand-point-four watching to see what they do next. If what they have coming up looks half-assed, begrudging, or an otherwise insincere delivery on the promise they made in Blizzcon’s wake, it will be too much for me to bear anymore.
And, yes, by Mammon, that is a completely unfair and arbitrary standard that I choose. But here’s the deal, Blizz. You had the chance to set those standards, to provide measurable milestones to show good faith in this, and you blew it. You have hidden behind a pile of bullshit, and have dared us to tell you it smells like bullshit.
So, this is me. Drawing the lines and setting the standards by which I will judge. This is my story to tell. And I will choose the setting in which to tell it.
- Or, "bullshit", if you’re as fed up with it as I am. [↩]
- And there certainly are already plenty of cues there. [↩]
- Since I don’t meet someone’s "standards" on this, I won’t claim to be "pro-feminist" anymore. [↩]
- Implying a consensual collective as opposed to a blanket thrown an unwilling population sample. MR BEAR. [↩]