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Posts Tagged ‘women’

I’ve been having a great time playing Starcraft 2′s campaign this week – I was really bummed to only get one mission done last night but I had some trouble with it and had to restart. Sure, I’m playing easy mode but I still feel like I’m playing the game.

Anyway as we’re getting flashbacks and cinematics explaining who Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades, is, and what’s she’s up to, little “this seems familiar” bells are going off. Powerful female warrior, risks everything in defense of her cause, then defeated, left to die – but no, it’s worse, instead she is transformed into what she most hates and becomes the embodiment and leader of it? Hmmm. Sylvanas, is that you?

Now some Forsaken loyalists may accuse me of being unfair with my further characterizations here but bear with me.

I’m a writer. I work on novels sometimes (like in November; plug for http://www.nanowrimo.org, National Novel Writing Month). I’m totally into characters and characterization, and I’m loving Starcraft for the amount of character interaction they put into each little cut scene. Each character is recognizable and different and the way Raynor interacts with everyone on his ship is great – each interaction is slightly different. He doesn’t talk to his old friend the way he talks to a new ally. It’s awesome.

So why, oh why, are the very few female roles so – well – weak? I’m not talking about how apparently women are medics or fly med transports (or, yes, the Banshees. Yeah.) Or the way the medics speak – dripping with innuendo even in innocent lines. Whatever. The Thor sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger; they’re not going for realism.

So far in Starcraft, I’ve encountered three females: one mercenary who I had a mission to pay off (she was creepy as hell and hasn’t been seen since), the aforementioned Queen of undead Blades, and a scientist chick who I had along for a while. Now, when it came time for her to leave, I had a choice of missions and I picked the one that lead to her [spoiler!] getting turned in a zerg and killed. So that doesn’t help my perception of the game so far.

Then look at World of Warcraft. I can think of precisely two female leader-hero type characters: Sylvanas and Jaina. Jaina may not be a victim-villain-bitch, but she’s not much to recommend her sex either. We’re talking about a character whose defining characteristic is “I used to date Arthas and I abandoned him at Stratholme and feel guilty as hell about it”. Realistic character? Maybe so; I think feeling guilty is reasonable and I liked Jaina just fine up until the Halls of Reflection, where she went all angsty -”No, I must know if he can be redeemed!” Since then, I’ve seen her once, showing up after we kill Saurfang and being Varian’s cheerleader-slash-mommy, simultaneously patronizing the leader of the Alliance and demeaning herself.

Where are the women with stories as complicated and interesting as Thrall, as Tirion Fordring, heck, even as compelling as Thassarian or Varian Wrynn?

My guess is it just doesn’t occur to the writers that there’s anything missing. Kerrigan, Sylvanas and Jaina are all powerful women. They lead factions or movements, wield power, stand toe-to-toe with male counterparts, yes – but as characters, they are ridiculous caricatures. And they don’t have to be. Blizzard does an awesome job creating stories in a medium that doesn’t lend itself to real character development. You’ll never confuse Thrall with Garrosh, Tirion Fordring with Darion Mograine – so could they take just a little of that ability, maybe talk to a woman or two, and create a woman who isn’t a victim?

Or am I just being overly critical?

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WoW and Stereotypes

I’ve read a couple posts over the past few days that brought this to my mind:  Klepsacovic’s I Started Blogging To Meet Women and Would You Pay to Play With a Girl over at Pugnacious Priest, Pink Pigtail Inn’s Musing Over Boobs and a new one I discovered linked from that, Girls Don’t Exist on the Intertubes at a blog called Digital Incorrectness.

What’s sort of funny is how the assumptions being analyzed in these blogs are a bit contradictory. One blog is about guys paying for girls to play with them, another is countering the idea that girls suck at WoW. I assume the girls who are being paid must have some modicum of skill at the game, or it would just be frustrating, and I assume the guys who are paying for their company expect them to be at least competent. Maybe that’s a bad assumption.

Then the contrast between Klep’s post and Larissa’s, where Larissa muses that blogs are about a meeting of minds and therefor she doesn’t notice the sex of the blogger (as much) while Klep wonders if there’s a reason why there’s a disproportionate number of female bloggers.  Klep also brings up the stereotype of “women as healers” and I myself have noticed that all the Resto Druid bloggers I read are women. All of them. All the trees I currently know in game are women; the first one I remember, the one that made me say “Wow, druid healers are COOL” was a guy. A gay guy. (Stereotype affirming or breaking?)

But they’re all dancing around that same issue; men and women are different and those differences carry over into our playstyles. There’s a reason stereotypes exist; they are a distorted exaggeration of a truth. It might not be a truth that is universally applicable but somewhere some collection of observations supported the idea.

Stereotype 1: Women are bad at WoW.

Truth: not everyone who plays WoW is any good at it. People can be stupid and therefore play badly. People can have other reasons for playing besides being good (social reasons). This second group is less likely to give up when they know they are bad at the game because being good at the game is a secondary goal. My parents have played WoW; my dad liked it although he’s gone back to EverQuest, my mom followed him around with her priest, clicked the “heal” buttons when he said to, and picked flowers. She didn’t like the game but she played to spend time with my dad. I got into the game because a few months after we got married my husband wanted to get back to playing WoW and wanted me to come with him. I sucked at first, but I eventually liked the game and got better. If you’d seen my hunter the first month I played you would have classified me as one of those “Women who suck at WoW” players and you would have been right.

The solution is to find a way to convert this type of woman player into an active fan of the game. Once she is motivated she’ll become a better player. Blizzard does a better job of this than anyone else out there, hence their huge female market share. Trolls in trade or party chat calling these women out and saying “lol u suck girls cant play wow” will never improve things. This doesn’t inspire most women to get better. It’s more likely to get them to quit.

Stereotype 2:  Women who can play Wow, play healers

Hard to counter this. I have an arcane mage and a prot pally and I’m good with either one, but Analogue the resto druid is my main. She’s who I raid on, and I feel most in control of the situation with her.

Women tend to be more nurturing than men. Guys tend to be more protective/aggressive than girls. Women tend to work toward the success of the group; men strive for personal achievement. Both sexes are drawn to both goals, of course, but the dominant leanings tend to be as I’ve stated. Avoiding any discussion of whether this is good or bad, these tendencies would explain why there tend to be more female healers out there.

Everyone can think of counter examples; awesome female warlocks or warriors, terrific male resto shaman. But nobody is surprised when the tree starts talking in vent with a girl’s voice.

This is a good thing! Remember how I said about that for a player to be good at WoW, she needs to actually want to get better? Well, if she discovers that healing a party appeals to her, now she has motivation to improve! Healing isn’t easy, and the skills to do it well translate over into general Wow uber-ness. I am a much better mage since I’ve leveled up my druid. (And a better healer after I leveled my tank but that’s another matter)

So yes, I’m suggesting that we counter one stereotype with another. No, I’m not suggesting that you tell the fail hunter girl to go roll a priest. But be supportive of her if she wants to do it. Guys, if your girlfriend who tentatively follows you around in WoW expresses a desire to heal, don’t laugh at her because you know she’ll wipe you. Let her do it. If  you wipe, let her figure out why without yelling at her. You’ll have a lot more fun if you let her convert herself to a WoW fan than if you convince her to never play with you again.

One final note: the blogs I read I think are probably close to 70% female, because I read a lot of resto druid blogs and “Wow Social” blogs like Pugging Pally or Stories of Wow.

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