This is a very angry post. It is not a rant, because rant implies that you are angry about nothing. I am angry about something very important.
For this history behind this take a look at the WoW Insider article. I’m going to start assuming you’ve read it or the original complaint thread.
My own reaction
I played a panda through the section in question on the beta realms. I’m just going to document my reaction here. Very simply I thought: OMG what a creep, never rolling a Horde panda ever.
Now that was my reaction as a long term WoW player. I immediately decided not to play any part of the game that would bring me into contact with Ji Firepaw. Imagine if I was a new player? I would have stopped playing right there and then. No, thats not an exaggeration.
Why games should not reflect real life
Back when I was at University I used to go to this club (this was while I was studying in the US and hence it was NOT a reflection on the University itself at all). The club had what I called the ‘creepy guys’. There was one guy who would sidle up behind women, grab them from behind, and start dancing with them. For some reason I can never fathom, most of those women didn’t respond with an elbow to the stomach. I sure as hell responded that way. Despite that, he came back and tried again later! I wasn’t targeted due to any stunning good looks – I was targeted because I was seemingly unattached. I went to the club with friends, and not a partner. Ji Firepaw went straight into the category with the creepy guys.
Now in real life I had two choices. I could stop going to the club, stop having fun with friends. It was the only club in town. Or I could deal with the creepy guys as and when needed. They eventually got the message. But WoW is not real life. I could never ‘deal with’ Ji Firepaw. A sexist NPC is always a sexist NPC. I can’t do the in game equivalent of chasing him off. I am forced to be a passive recipient of his sexism if I want to play the game.
Other reasons the line needed to go
There are a dozen other reasons for this change quite aside from those I’ve already discussed:
- That kind of comment is against Blizzard’s own Terms and Conditions. If a player made that comment to another player and a complaint was raised, it would be dealt with as a harassment complaint. And Ji is making this comment to EVERY SINGLE FEMALE TOON HE ENCOUNTERS. It makes it very hard for Blizzard to police its playerbase if its doing something it tries to police in the game itself.
- Discrimination against women is illegal in many countries. No matter how small the chance, one lawsuit would do irreparable damage to Blizzard’s reputation and would be seized on by the kind of right wing anti-gaming facists who would ban Harry Potter and the Teletubbies. Unfortunately, that faction is well represented in US politics (which is where it would hit Blizzard hardest).
- The line was particularly ill thought out because it comes from a faction leader in the first few minutes of playing. New players may well see this as part of their very first encounter with WoW. It doesn’t really make a great impression.
What this ‘debate’ has taught me
Another argument against the change is that this is making ‘a mountain out of a mole-hill’. However, if its so insignificant why do players feel the need to argue so strongly against the change? The feminists who asked for the change do NOT feel its insignificant. But the defenders will claim it is insignificant in one breath, before writing an epic about why it NEEDS to stay the same. The only reason I can think of for this is that somehow having Blizzard’s NPCs espouse their own ideals gave them some feeling of validation. Some game developers, instead of attempting to be inclusive, actively rejected female gamers for a very long time. In a capitalist society you would think that attempts would have been made earlier to tap the market that female gamers represented – it wasn’t. So gaming remained a place where sexism could thrive. Now Blizzard has rejected sexism and that means it is rejecting these people.
Eight years ago I wrote my MA thesis about sexism and gaming. The fact that this line even made it as far as the beta just goes to show very little has changed. I was extremely disappointed in Blizzard when they wrote that. They should be having a serious think about how that line was ever allowed to appear.
And the biggest reason of all why feminism is still relevant and why gaming is a battleground
Just as this ‘debate’ was calming down I read this post detailing the double standards for women who post controversial material on the internet. And as I read it I got mad. Because I don’t want my daughter to grow up in this world. She is going to grow up in a time when the internet is a part of her everyday life. Why should she have to be exposed to this kind of rubbish?
If you don’t think the Ji Firepaw line should have been changed, I don’t give a damn what you think. Because you are the problem. Because every little bit of sexist crap should be stamped out. It doesn’t enhance the game by making it more immersive. It only serves to validate your own vile attitudes and they is why you are defending it. Think carefully about your daughters or your sisters. Would you want some random stranger to say that to them? Someone who might be in a position of power over them? Would you like guys to sleaze over them and have no recourse to defend themselves? If you think thats fine, then you are the problem. If you don’t then why do you think thats okay in a computer game?