Friday, August 27, 2010

Sexism and computer games and... WOW WTF?

I have been pretty sick recently, and in that time it seems the geek blog world has exploded with commentary on males, females, games, internetz culturez and everyone has put in their 2.2c with (that includes the aussie GST on the service, you see).  So, I have been slowly catching up and getting up to speed on the topic. I have read some fantastic posts and some terrible ones, some that miss the point and some that get the point so hard that there is blood splatter for miles around, 300 Style.  There have also been some very interesting conversations in the comments (as well as some trolling and tangents, but that is to be expected).

But on the whole, I am impressed with the level of loquacity, understanding and knowledge sharing of differing opinions without coming to raging arguments that there has been out there in blogland.  As a third (I think I am third) wave feminist, I am really quite ecstatic to see feminism taken to the next level, not just women yelling into the darkness that they exist in a man's world (vote gaining, bra burning etc, the "militant" type), not just women having being heard coming to grips with and embracing their own femininity yet not having that compromise their cause (mothers with a career, enjoying "feminine" hobbies and jobs etc which is where most people are right now) but understanding how men are marginalised in the same way women are, but for different reasons, of course and how feminism (as an idea and a process of identifying endemic sexism) can be applied to help men as well!

Now, I am no expert in the field;  I have done a lot of reading and I have an opinion (which I would like to think is broadly informed, but not deep). 

So how does this relate to WoW, NER?
Like this: I do not believe that it is Blizzard's responsibility to comply with gender/feminist issues, I do, however, think it is in their best interestes to try to create the best story they possibly can.  They are here for 1 reason - to make money.  The mechanism they use to make money generates more money.  Their mechanism is a game, it is someones dream, it is an ideal, a stereotype it is generated from the mind of one, processed by a group then made pixel.  It is going to be flawed.  It is going to be racist, sexist, wrong as much as it is fair, equal and right. 

It is also consciously cartoony and not real.  I remember seeing a blue post talking about this exact topic.  I see people falling into the trap of wanting their toon (which is, ironically, short for cartoon) to look like them.  Blizz have even created a Disney-eque world, with Disney style men and women in it (if you have completly missed this link, that would be the blood elves).  Disney drew like that and they are paying homage to a person/company that had a great influence on drawing style over the ages.  If you have problem with gender issues, holy crap is Disney a can of worms of analysis.  But again, it comes back to the idea and prejudices of a single person.

I understand that people believe that this is no excuse, and it is not.  But until the game is completely creatively controlled by someone(s) who can legitimately say that they are not unconsciouly biased by the influences of their past, I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt.  As long as they are striving to give people a fair go, as long as there are male and female toons to choose from who are simply cosmetic to the game (no one has mentioned ADnD first ed where *gasp* women could only get to 18(50) str and men 18(00)!!!) to me, that is a great step forward in feminist thinking right there!

Sure, it is no Dragon Age:Origins or Warehouse 13[1] for story or porteyal of gender (which is currently the game and Sci-Fi series to which I compare other games and TV shows to for gender issues), but it is out there, it is doing it's thing and it isn't as bad as everyone is perhaps accidentally making it out to be.

Keep talking, keep asking for more, everyone.  I firmly believe that Blizzard listen, and that the Lore will reflect what we want, if we all ask often enough, reasonably enough and loudly enough.  If we don't talk about these things, nothing changes.  The internetz, to me, feels like it is still back in the 1970's in terms of feminist and racist issues.  We are working on it people, but it is a slooooooooow process.

[1] Warehouse 13 (wiki, imdb, Syfy *shudder at name change*), if you have not watched it is wonderful for showing women in positions of power.  The main group of characters is women heavy in the first place.  Most of the guest stars are female, there are women in positions of power and it is actually irrelevant that they are female.  There is a relationship between the main 2 characters that is (at this stage) not based on sexual tension between them, if anything it seems to currently be the opposite.  Yes, it still does things wrong, of course nothing is perfect, but it is also getting a lot of things right.