So I canceled my WoW accounts this week.
WoW is a thing I do as a hobby. I play other games, but WoW is the one I could play all day. And I did.
I love playing WoW. As you can tell, by the things I generally rant on here about, WoW is my favorite game and the one I am most critical of.
I left the game over the sexism. It all started with one little thing that pisses me off. Rating a woman based on how she looks. Then calling her by that number. So I started writing about it, but the more I thought about it, the more instances of sexism I saw. It was like when you wipe that one spot on your tv and suddenly realize the entire entertainment center is completely covered in a thick layer of dust.
There were 3 reactions to my defection:
1. Good for you! Get away from that addictive game.
First off, this reaction really bothers me. Yes, WoW can be addictive. But addiction implies that something leads to harmful consequences. Does WoW lead to harmful consequences for me? I have never lost a job, failed a class, lost a pet/child, become ill, or not been able to live my life because of WoW.
Second, I generally play less WoW in a day than other people watch tv. Or look at the internet. Or read. WoW as a hobby, is an entertainment thing just like other games, tv shows, movies, or books. In fact, for me, it can be considered career supporting since it often makes me consider design topics and challenges.
2. This makes me sad.
I was very surprised by this reaction. Several people said it, and when I asked for clarification this is what was said: “It makes me sad, because it’s something you clearly enjoy so much. It sucks when people can’t do the thing they enjoy because of sexist bullshit.”
:'( I love these people. They don’t play WoW. They don’t like WoW. All they know is that it makes me happy and for that reason they want it to be better. For me. <3
3. You shouldn’t quit. You need to stay, so *someone* will be here to call them on their bullshit.
To be fair, this came from 3 people in game and 2 people out of game. This surprised me. Mostly because I was expecting everyone to support my decision fully.
This argument gave me pause. Was there a way for me to play WoW, while still not accepting their bullshit? From my point of view, the only way to make them listen is to hit them where it hurts, their subscriber numbers. Withholding money does nothing at this point because they are so monolithic they wouldn’t even feel my $30 a month. But -2 subs, after the last two years of bleeding over 4 million subs? That would hurt more.
I thought about it all weekend. While desperately wanting to boot up WoW and play, I found myself out of sorts and cranky. Because I wasn’t playing WoW. I played some Skyrim. And Minecraft. And Pokemon. But each of them wasn’t enough to distract me from knowing I wasn’t going to be playing WoW that night. I cleaned, organized, and watched some Big Bang Theory.
And then… an episode aired on Big Bang Theory. It was the one where the girls didn’t go to Vegas and instead stayed and played Dungeons and Dragons with the guys.
I like Big Bang Theory, and I have talked about it several times. It does tend to craft it’s gags from stereotypical nerd culture. And I can honestly say, in the 25 YEARS I have played D&D, I have never played with another woman.
The jokes they made through the whole thing were not funny, and more than a little sexist. As I sat there, already hurting because of the loss of something I loved due to sexist bullshit, I wanted to turn it off. But then I had that moment. Where you hear something you don’t really want to hear, but it makes total sense. I could hear this minister from my youth, standing up there advocating that everyone in our church stop watching TV because it wasn’t Christian and Godly. I actually remember laughing out loud, then getting a ton of nasty stares. Even then I thought, There’s no way I would do that. I was a part of the world, and so was Buffy. And even if Buffy wasn’t very Christian, there was no way in hell I wasn’t going to watch it. And I laughed because I remember thinking there was no one at that church who would be willing to give up TV.
I watch Big Bang Theory, and though I can see the reasons people might dislike it, from my lens it doesn’t strike those same chords. Is WoW the same way? It stuck the chord, but how does that look through other people’s lenses? We can love something while still being concerned and critical over the problematic aspects of it. Thank you Anita.
I think the devs made the correct choice, both on hotfixing it out so quickly and on ignoring it otherwise. Why is ignoring it a good idea? Calling it out, even as being fixed, would just draw the slavering masses of horrid sha who follow these things and attack us “Crazy censoring over reacting feminists”. Even more, they *have* made the correct choice on some occasions – female druids, transmogrification to fix the sexy armor issue, etc.
Here’s the center of this problem : the people making this game (and a large chunk of players) do not care about how these things make us feel, because it doesn’t make them feel that way. This is privilege. They don’t care what someone says about a woman on the street, because no one would do that to them. They aren’t boiled down to a number. They aren’t measured purely on their looks.
Blizzard still needs to hire a feminist (preferably a woman) to their writing team. Her job needs to be to review everything before it goes into the game. To champion strong female lore characters. To champion strong female villains, until we approach 50% female characters. Her job is to prevent things like these orcs and the quests that occasionally go to far. Her job would including speaking up and saying, “Hey guys, include a female in the cinematic.” Even better, hire a woman of color and she can do double duty and make sure they aren’t pissing minorities off either!
The answer is not necessarily removing the offending material either. For example, our orc friends – I think it may have even been better to have a quest where the player has to go tell them off. Then put in a random chance – every so often they would attack instead of slinking off. What an eye opener. How interesting that would be. Even allowing me, as an orc player, to kill them would have been nice, fulfilling the power fantasy and all. (Revenge porn – for street harassed women!)
Blizzard needs to fix their problem. But what about me? How do I fix my problem? Do I cut and move on? Do I stay and call them on their shit? I feel like going back now would make me seem weak and unable to stand my ground. But I do also think now, leaving, and taking my voice away, is the wrong choice. They need my voice. They need me bitching as loudly as I can over it. Because I will. Not every woman who is bothered by it will. But I will. I am not afraid of attacks over my feminist sensibilities. I am not afraid of speaking up. My courage has always served me well, and maybe this is the place to apply it.