Saturday, March 29, 2008

Woman in WoW - are you discriminated?

I don't know why, but in spite of the fact that I've wanted to write a blog post about gender perspectives of World of Warcraft for quite a long time now, at the same time, I've hesitated about it for some reason. Maybe it's because of fear to be misunderstood, or to rather strengthen than work against the stereotypes and prejudices that are around, simply by raising the issue.

But now the time has come, I'm ready to have a look at the question about female and male things in WoW and ask myself: do I ever get treated differently because I'm a woman?

One thing that is quite obvious is that the graphic sometimes is rather full of clichés. You just have to watch the log in screen in Stormwind to see the female ideals. The design of the clothes is a bit odd sometimes, like last Christmas, when female characters were expected to run around half naked with small bikinis, while the male ones had real Santa Claus costumes to put on themselves. Some female models swing their bottom so much when they run that it looks quite stupid. And it seems to be mandatory to go through breast enlarging operations in Azeroth.

But all of these are things that I can be patient with, there's no difference to any kind of popular culture, that's the way things are even in comics and movies. The main issue for me is that the stats are the same, that the gear doesn't divert when it comes to function. As long as a female warrior hits as hard and can take as many hits as a male one I'm happy.

What about the players behind the characters then? Are they as full of clichés as the game? No, generally not, I would say. Or rather: I don't think that I being a girl is treated worse or differently if I compare it to how I'm treated in society. Of course there are a few ignorant bastards that think that the natural place for a woman is the kitchen, and that doubt the existence of serious female gamers. But such idiots exists everywhere, you can find them at your work as well. In the game it's even easier to avoid them, you're free to put them on Ignore and problem is solved.

An example of gender prejudices that I do meet now and then is that other players seem to take it for granted that my other half plays WoW. He certainly doesn't, on the contrary he hates it, my playing is a constant subject for conflicts as in so many other homes of gamers. But there seems to exist an idea that if a girl is playing WoW it's because of her boy friend, not out of her own passion for it. When you think about it it's kind of funny that I so often get that question, if he plays WoW. I don't think that people in the same taken-for-granted way will ask male players if their girl friends play as well.

After all I don't really mind it so much, it doesn't upset me. And I don't care if the speech on the vent sometimes becomes a bit... well... male. After all, it's a team play, you have to take things easily sometimes, be forgiving. Else it just won't work.

On one occasion I went really mad. It was when an ex guildie went over every line and uttered a to say the least stupid commentary about girls being worse players than guys, since they weren't as goal oriented, competitive and motivated. Girls, according to him, would by default never reach the same levels as the guys. This made me furious, expecially since he himself was a perfect example of the opposite. Recently he had endured huge problems performing the task he was assigned on one of the bosses I Karazhan, being the cause for number of unnecessary wipes for the raid. A task that I knew that a female friend of mine would be able to do with her eyes shut. And now he of all people had the guts to generalize about the shortcomings of female players! Smack! I gave him a verbal box on the ears on TS. Probably he didn't change views, but at least from now on he was wise enough to keep his thoughts to himself.

What about sexual harassment, does that exist? Well, I've heard about girls that suffer from sloppy suggestions from pimpled teenage boys dreaming about cyber sex. But in reality I've never encountered it myself. And I haven't noticed the opposite either, that you could use your gender and flirt in order to get favours that male players wouldn't get. Or, to be honest, I haven't consciously acted that way myself. But what don I know, it's possible that I've been treated better sometimes without striving for it or even noticing. And if that is the case I guess I should be forgiven for it.

Gender is anyway for most of the time a non existing issue, even in the normally notorious pugs. One explanation could be the uncertainty of how things are: just because someone has a female char it doesn't necessary mean that there's a girl behind the keyboard. If you thoughtlessly start to flirt with her you could end up like a fool, it could as well be a guy making fun of you, taking screenshots that he wants to spread out over the world.

I've never done anything to hide my gender. For some reason I prefer to play female chars, it would feel odd for me to run around in a beard, since I somehow identify with my chars. If someone asks I never lie, but simply tell them that I'm a girl and what age I am. The last piece of information sometimes makes young boys gasp, especially if the question comes up after running an instance together. But we don't stick to the subject for long. As long as I do my job as a mage, show that I'm a competent player, I may be female, man or hermaphrodite, it just doesn't matter.

Are there any things that differ? Is there something that is typical for female or male players? No, honestly I don't think so. It's not only guys that compete with each other, looking at gear stats, fighting to get higher on the dps lists. Winner skulls you find also among us girls, I would say. But since we after all are in minority you probably won't notice us as much.

Maybe there is one small difference after all. I think it may be a bit more common among girls to have bad confidence, to underestimate their capacity as players. At least that is the only reason I can see why I until this day never have met any female player leading a raid or even marking in a 5 man instance. This fact annoys me a bit. There is some kind of exaggerated humility among some female players (I tend to show that behaviour too), we sort of apologize, "No, but little I shouldn't..." "You guys know that better..." When we should trust ourselves and take what we deserve just like anyone else.

Now it isn't the obvious choice to have a mage marking in an instance, so I guess I can blame that fact (in combination with that I'm relatively new as player) that I myself never have agreed to mark and lead. I guess I'm a bit lazy as well, after all it's more convenient to let another player handle most of the thinking and just obey orders. It takes time and effort to study an instance so well that you can remember the suitable kill order and what cc methods that work best on respective mob.

But at some point in my WoW life, when I've become a little more experienced, I'll push myself over that threshold as well. While I'll keep patting my cute pet rabbit, and by doing so probably confirming every prejudice you could possibly have about female players.

Prejudices are there to be questioned - and to be confirmed whenever you like. Yes, I have chosen to have a cute character with pink pony tails, a chicken in the bag, letting out hugs and kisses and emotes around her, behaving like a happy puppet, especially whenever a boss goes down. "Typically girls" probably some guys think, and it's possible that I lose some respect that way. But at the same time I'm just as interested as anyone else to watch the crits in the combat log, to study the gear and damage of myself and others and above all to challenge myself. I've got a lot of guts in me, I want to push my raiding as far as I can, I don't settle with tranquil flower picking and cooking, if anyone thought so. In short: I REFUSE to be sorted into a box, one way or another.Most of all I'm a human being, or maybe rather a WoW player (I guess we're a different kind). When I play the gender is subordinated. At least in the mind of Larísa.So for me the answer of the question I threw out in the beginning will be: No. I'm not the slightest discriminated and I'll never be. Frost nova, blink, turn around, icy veins, pull an trinket, BAM few godd spells and that idiot is down. Speechless.

Simple, isn't it?


Tufva said...

Well, I'm obviously very late in making a comment on this post - but I only found your blog yesterday when you commented on mine and I'm now making my way backwards through the archives. :-)

What you say about girls not being as confident as guys I think is very true! Myself and my husband do most things together and whenever we decide to do something that neither one of us has done before he reaches the 'confidence stage' much much sooner than I do. Usually we are of the same ability, but while he will be very confident and easily move to the next stage thinking that "I can do this" - I will hesitate and think "Can I really do this?".

Good point there Larisa and well made! :-)

Anonymous said...

It's never too late to comment! And it makes me feel that it was worth all trouble translating this post and moving it to my new spot... I had a few comments on my old blog to this one as well, I probably should move them over as well. (though they're in swedish).

And I STILL havent led an instance... :(

Anonymous said...

It's the floppy forsaken boobs that get me - feel like buying my toon a pushup bra whenever I run somewhere.

Cassini said...

It can be done. It's probably not all that common but my guild leader is a woman and she leads the guild no differently to how I'd expect a male would do it.

I do have a female alt though and I have noticed a difference in attitude when I pug instances. My female alt gets treated a lot nicer than my male ones, even to the extent people have passed up on loot they wanted for me, and I've had random trade boxes opened with free stuff in them. I'm not sure what people expect to happen from it, but who I am to turn down free stuff?! I just thank them and carry on with whatever I was doing.

Does prejudice exist in WoW? Of course it does. The player base is after all a slightly skewed version of our own society and therefore will carry this over into the game, but is the gameplay itself inherently biased to the male characters? I honestly don't think it is. :)

Anonymous said...

@Cassini: it's nice to see that such an old post as this one still can be read and commented on!

It's amazing there still are player who aren't realizing that loads of female chars are played by men.

But I don't blame you for accepting the "gifts". It's their choice to behave like stupid schoolboys after all... :)

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