Monday, 23 August 2010

So let’s talk about the men in World of Warcraft

Pewter has posed an interesting question over at The 'mental shaman:
"So how do my male readers feel hurt (if at all) by the sexism and prejudice they encounter in WoW, and how the game depicts men, both on the small ‘quest’ level and the overall narrative? What issues do you think the game (or gaming) gets wrong, what could it do better?"

It seems to me that there are two main aspects to this: the way the game treats male characters and the way the other players respond to men.

In most cases, the game treats male and female players just the same. There's a brief hint of difference in the way Sergra Darkthorn treats male and female characters, where she is supportive of female ones and warns male ones not to underestimate her, but that doesn't seem to me to be a bad thing - it's realistic. She operates in a very macho environment and she's fighting fire with fire. Conqueror Krenna in Conquest Hold goes a little further with her two pretty male belf pets bodyguards, but again I see this more as a result of trying to out-macho her male counterparts, rather than being insulting to men in general.

The game provides us with an abundance of male role-models, from the rampant egomania of Varian Wrynn and Garrosh Hellscream to the near-perfection of Thrall. I say near-perfection in Thrall's case, because (as anyone who's followed him around Undercity in the Wrathgate series knows) he does have a fat arse; it's hard to think of any other flaws, though. To me it's that breadth of role-models that prevents the game from seeming prejudiced. There are some loathsome male characters, but there are equally many strong and wise ones.

I think I'd say that the game itself treats men pretty fairly. There are good and bad ones, mostly with plausible reasons for acting the way they do.

My experiences of the player-base have perhaps been coloured by the fact that I've mostly played on English language EU RP realms. They're mostly filled with fairly sociable people from northern european countries, where sexism is relatively low compared to the world as a whole. Almost all the RP guilds I've been involved with have been run by women and I've never once felt left out or marginalised because I was male. I'm perhaps less plugged-in to the server wide social networks than they were, but that's more about my own lack of interest in these things than any anti-male prejudice. I've known plenty of men who were part of that circle. I've never once felt that I was either excluded or included in an event because of my gender.

I can think of one case where a female player was what I would call excessively flirty and wouldn't take hints of lack of interest, but that pales into insignificance compared to the horror stories of stalking I've heard from female friends.

Overall, I'd say my answer to Pewter's original question has to be no. I've had a great time playing WOW and never once felt disadvantaged by my gender. I've seen instances of sexism towards women, homophobia and racism that were far worse than anything I've experienced.


  1. I can't tell you how many characters I've taken through the Barrens and never noticed that Sergra had different responses. Of course, I have only one male character, and he's a BE, so he never had any cause to go get quests from Sergra. I may send him her way tonight!

  2. Good post, and thank you for sharing! I do find it interesting that you talk about homophobia and racism as separate from gender related issues. For me, personally, I feel that these different spheres intersect, especially when we talk about gender. It might be worth thinking about how homophobia and expectations of men to be 'manly' (or macho, as you put it) might be problematic.

  3. @Pewter

    I'd agree that they overlap, but being similar doesn't make them the same, so I think they deserve to be distinguished.

  4. It's funnt, I don't have a single male character. I've never thought about it until Pewter posed the question, but I have to say I've never experienced sexism either way. Maybe it's too easy to play the sex that you aren't; there's no point in insulting a honkin' big orc brute when he very well might be played by a 20-something coed.