New Pandaren Female Teaser: Critique on Video Game Women Bouncily Abounds

Pandaren Female

Very early this morning (3 AM or so my time) Blizzard decided to drop a teaser image on us of what is presumably the female pandaren model for Mists of Pandaria. The full reveal will be on the 19th of March. Considering how we’ve already seen not only  how the males of the race move and look, this was arguably one of the most hotly speculated things about the expansion that wasn’t revealed at Blizzcon last year. The full image is posted up at World of Warcraft’s Facebook, here.

A couple of things really leap out at me and my especially trained lady-figure eye (so sue me): first off, it’s not as heavy as I would have liked, perhaps. There’s obviously curves there, but as Pewter from Decoding Dragons commented, “[it] is still  hourglass shaped.” It gives off feelings of dwarf women, which is fine, but I felt that maybe Blizzard could have gone to a different body form this time around. Slightly more rotund or bottom-heavy triangle would have made sense given how the males are shaped. The arms and their length definitely feel more “animal” than humanoid given that they sit slightly more bulky and longer than where they’d fall on humanoids. They are very goblin-ish in that regards. She has a confident gait, which means she’s not going to be slumping or stooped. The shape coming off her legs and midsection suggests a swinging tassel or tabard. It’s unspeakably Asian-influenced too, with the hair sticks. There’s still a lot of things that trouble me with regards to the Pandaren and Pan-Asian influences, especially where the women are concerned. All in all though, this doesn’t look like a terrible model. The real test though will be to see the face; given what a botch job female worgen were, I am cautiously hopeful that this lady won’t have bedroom eyes or a side-wise snarl.

What really interests me about this is not Mists of Pandaria but what criticism of said female video game race models says about our feelings on women’s bodies, even if they are “fictional.” If you take a gander at WoW Insider’s or MMO Champion’s comments, you are going to get an eyeful of criticism of various body types, sexualized language, and a lot of snark about these “panda women.” (Usual rules and warnings about reading comments apply here, guys. Approach with caution.) Not only criticism but a ton of wolf calls and value judgements like “normal” and “real” which is always exceptionally pernicious when it comes to discussions such as these. A lot of intriguing language that persists in our own discussions about larger women’s bodies pervades with an uneasy metaphor: being “thick” or “having meat on their bones.” It says that we still have a lot of weird concepts with regards to seeing women as edible, consumable or outright sold off the docks to restaurants, if you want to be perversely literal with this metaphor.  All this ever does, aside from whatever homophobia and fat-shaming goes on, is serve to reduce how us actual non-fictional women feel about our own bodies. Sure, Pandaren exist only in Azeroth, but we are the ones who play alongside the gamers saying things like what kind of badonkadonk they have, how big the boobs are, or how ugly and fat they are. A lot of us want to see ourselves in the video games we play (to a degree) and despite eagerly accepting fantasy, there’s ties between our own looks and how these races look (even for men.) As much as men feel the slights of a male power fantasy by not having a 6-pack, women tend to feel bowled over by the sexually-charged, often sexist approaches that video game companies take when representing their fantasy women. It’s still about how we are not part of the audience who is looking at this, and this audience often speaks up quite loudly without thinking about the ramifications of what they are saying.

Do I think Blizzard is failing in this regard? Not as much as some other games, no. Blizzard, while still adhering to a mostly popular waist-hip ratio, still mixes it up with heights, body girth and bone structure (especially with regards to Forsaken, naturally.) It does so more than some other games that have a wide variety of races in their worlds. I’ve heard a lot of women who are happy with the fact that they can play a race that looks like them or makes them feel good about themselves. While the Pandaren criticism is going to be coming fast and hard, I urge you to make your own judgements, whether they be positive or negative, but let’s leave the shaming, the creepiness and the grossness behind. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with these new brewing-and-cooking women (which is fascinating to me, since women dominated a lot of the world’s brewing pre-Industrial Revolution) who can stomp butts all over. Mists, here we come.

34 Responses

  1. I’m sitting here trying to come up with a thoughtful comment that could add to the discussion and I’m just coming up with nothing.

    I’ll just say that the model (so far) is better than I feared but not what I had hoped for. I wonder how the pre-existing female armors would have looked on a non-hourglass figure and if that impacted their decision.

  2. I’m having a hard time seeing the non-fat female/fat male Pandaren as anything but sexist double-standards. The implication is that women aren’t allowed to be fat, but men are.

    The worst part is that Pandaren were probably Blizzard’s last real opportunity to create fat female PCs, unless Ogre’s are still on the table.

  3. Is a good analysis – enjoyed readifyin’ it. The sillhoo…. siollette….. shioull…. bigger it. The SHAPE looks about what I was hopin’ fer (givin’ Blizz’ dimorphism issues), but as you said, the face will be the critical challenge.

    I still sez what Blizz needs ta design the females of the next player race first, and then male-ify them. Would be most interestin’ ta see how that could play out, an’ mebbe would help they’s art department (an’, in a perfect world, customer base) grow up a bit more.

  4. To be honest, I was relieved to see that they still have a hourglass figure (yes, relieved).

    To clarify: I am a woman, I am not a model and I’m not even especially fit. I like mean as well as women (i.e. I’m bisexual).
    I do NOT judge anyone based on what they look like.

    When I look at women in reality, though, I still see that most of them do have a more or less “hourglass” figure, altough not necessarily, nor especially often, a slim one; just like men don’t often have a very muscular physique.
    Additionally, where fat is preserved in human bodies is generally specifically different in each sex: women tend to store in on their bellies, bottoms and chests, while men tend to store it along their waistlines. This is dictated by genetics as well as by sexual hormones.

    Looking at World of Warcraft, I honestly feel they do a very good job at representing a good variety of body types for both males and females (both “realistic” and less so) without anyone looking too skinny or too overweight – that is, if compared to humans how they are in the real world of course.

    Just my two cents. :)

  5. Other than agreeing wholeheartedly with the good shagger’o'rats (ehmm), that Blizz really needs to design the next race female first, and then male.

    Other than that, I am having a hard time seeing how this differs to what the male models face. I know my male dwarfs get a lot more “lolfattyshutit” than my female dwarfs do. And in regards to living up to a fantasy version of humanoids (boobs-waits ratio that would break a normal persons back, compared to the dd-chests and 6 packs that all male models have), I think both genders have it equally bad. Or good, depending on how you see it.
    Personally I do not buy the “wanting to look like ourselves in games”. If that was something that would sell games, a lot more “scan-your-portrait” options would be available. equally I’ve never heard anyone not play a game, because the characters are not able to be designed to look more like them – whereas “everyone looks boring human” is a phrase i’ve heard a lot *cough swtor*.
    But neither my wife, nor any of our friends ever talked about the womenfolk looking ridiculous.

    …but maybe im just as bad as the industry?

    And yes, rambling text is rambling. Sorry.

    OR MAYBE, it *is* about gender. And that boys are better to take an overblown musclebound unrealistic carichature and go “hell yeas I look frikking awesome”, whereas girls are more likely to look at the barbie-dolled propotioned night elf and go “sigh, I don’t look like that”.
    And maybe all boys play with guns, and all girls love pink.

    • And that boys are better to take an overblown musclebound unrealistic carichature and go “hell yeas I look frikking awesome”, —–

      Clearly you dont know guys. :)

      “HELZZ YA!” I CANT WAIT TO COVER THIS ENTIRE TOON WITH KICKASS ARMOUR!

      Btw…most guys give 2 craps about the avatars. Even yours. I dont assume you look a busty thin elf babe in a thong or a short chubby gnome with freakish ears. Most guys dont equate your toon with you.
      Or anyone.
      Too many female characters have turned out to be rp’ing fat balding 40 year old twinkie slamming sweathogs.
      I know more females that play male chars than guys do.
      Its strange to me that people even protest unrealistic avatars. Its a fantasy game. Its not Sims. Assuming that those geeky love starved guys are going to make a sultry eyed asian looking panda-female-thing that you would object to as a feminist is the same as someone offended by an army of bipedal red demonoids complete with pointy tail and horns is satanic and should be banned. File your protest. Send in some illustrated ideas for races. Thats great!
      Just remember its a cartoon game in a virtual world.
      Its not a mirror. And would you want it to be?

  6. I’m with Henry on the ‘keeping it fairly like the female dwarf’ so that they don’t have to spend a ton of time re-doing all those armour pieces.

    As for the hour-glass shape, it’s kinda hard to tell from the image how busty the model actually is, so it may well end up more of a triangle. I’m still holding out on the ‘wait and see’ and hoping the face is great :)

  7. I looked at the female panda silhouette and wasn’t really thrilled about it. Blizzard always adheres to populist feminine shape ideals. Always. I disagree with you, Apple, that they try.

    One can take a look at all the females of all the races they’ve made across their franchises — WoW, Starcraft, Diablo — and see the *same* feminine shapes. Always. No variation. That they add fur, hooves, tentacles, and whatever other features isn’t an effort in my opinion. Effort would show an appreciate for the fact that women have more than one shape, just as all the males do in their huge variety across the very same franchises.

    They don’t deserve a pass on this :) All females crafted by Blizzard that I’m aware of are the same commercial shapes on the TVs and magazines. They show no breadth or variety. Blizzard femmes come in one shape only: curvy.

  8. I left a comment over at Pewter’s in more detail, but basically I wonder if this “sort of fat, but not *really* fat” was simply a compromise meant to appeal to as many people as possible, without displeasing either side. And while I think many of us bloggers want or know people who want fat female Pandaren, I think there’s just as many who simply aren’t interested in playing such a character. For legitimate reasons, too – there’s nothing wrong with players (of either gender) simply preferring to play thin characters, for whatever personal reasons.

    So, I look at this curvy-but-not-FAT silhouette and think that it’s actually quite appropriately (business-wise) balanced. Players who wanted a fat Pandaren wish the model was plumper, but the general consensus seems to be cautiously optimistic, while I think the players who did NOT want a fat Pandaren will be like “hmm that’s not bad, I might try one” instead of outright refusal. And it’s CERTAINLY a better male/female mix than the Draenei were.

    Of course, the universal fear for the face remains, for both sides. After the Female Worgen, I think we are ALL wary.

    • Well, even if they weren’t more plump per se, they could have gone with a more `round` look, I think. A body shape can be slim but still have parallels to the male version, which is quite fat or at least stout by most yardsticks. So how come they took a chance with that (and it looks fine and appropriate) but not with the women? It still says that they are catering to a certain audience.

      • They are indeed taking a chance with the fat male Pandaren, and look at the response – TONS of negative reactions about playing a “silly fat Panda”, and I bet there are quite a few players who will refuse to try one because they find the idea of a fat male character/adventurer ridiculous. Hell, there’s been a bunch of players who took one look at a fat hero and immediately swore that they wouldn’t be playing Mists. That kind of instant backlash might weigh heavy on designer heads when they sat down to figure out what the Females looked like.

        Although, feedback notwithstanding, and real-life implications notwithstanding, I do think they should have gone the same route with both Pandaren – either both fat, or both slender, or both “somewhere inbetween”.

    • But those who DON’T want a “fat” female character already have plenty of options. They aren’t entitled to a new female model or two to every expansion. While those who DO want it can, at best, have only an approximation.

  9. So far I am ‘ok’ with the outline for the female panda. At least it doesn’t look like a stick with two melons attached to it. I just hope that her face won’t be overly sexy with bedroom eyes :/

  10. I’m with Ratshag; it would be amazing for them to approach a new race by designing the female model first, then building an accompanying male model. Although I would be apprehensive of the type of race – if they are starting with the fem model it’s likely because it’s a very sexualized or amazonian race which necessitates designing the sexy female model first.

    Anyway. As much as I had hoped they would go for more variance in their body types (so far we have run the unimpressive gamut of skinny hourglass > plump hourglass) I am still pleased with silhouette so far.

    When it comes to discussions like these, I’m always wary of the type of language used to talk about bodies. I hate descending into “*real* women look like this,” because unless we are talking about the outrageous postures or poses, real women have all sorts of shapes!

  11. I was sorta hoping they would be a little less hourglass figure more round like the males. My second hope is that they would have a body type choice option, say instead of earrings or something (I know too much work to program , and on female characters no less).
    I can still see why some women even wouldn’t want to play a “fat” character since I was in a group that recently had some vicious attacks on a female dwarf who dared to be happy to get some skimpy armour. I had to take break from the game and haven’t done a PuG since. I also had someone rather outraged at me for playing a dwarf when I could have made something “sexy” . so not conforming to the male view can have it’s problems. Not that I don’t still play my Dwarves and Orcs.
    Still another option then the usual would be nice.

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  13. Having thought about this a bit more I’ve started to wonder how much this is actually a ‘lack of customisation’ problem. Because each of the races sexes only have one body model blizzard always have to go with a compromise or risk a race / sex not being played.

    No matter how you spin it humans are by nature focused on the attractive norm, making something that’s outside the norm may appeal to a small niche but would ultimately have limited appeal.

    Now if WoW had more extensive customisation (body sliders and what not) the developers would be able to get the best of both worlds and create a niche and average model.

    At the end of the day WoW has always been a game about “keeping the majority happy” and that means appealing to the majority, variation would be nice though :)

    • Body sliders would be an amazing addition to WoW because I think we’d finally feel like we had “control” over how realistic or fantastic our toons looked.

    • While I think you have a point about the body sliders customization, you went a bit off the deep end with “by nature humans ….”. There’s no such thing, this has been demonstrated repeatedly. Humans like what they like uniquely and there’s no “natural” norm and is certainly not an excuse to ditch variety. That people gravitate toward “social norms” has more to do with human alienation of each other; stigmatizing certain things while promoting others.

      I wish Blizz was interested in things like body customization, but they have a stylistic approach that they’ve never even hinted they want players to touch. Maybe their next game will be less rigid in that area. That would open up the fun :)

  14. I can’t say I’m surprised, but oversexualization of the female body is pretty rampant across gaming in general. I’ve never really understood the trend, but when I look it’s not something specific to gaming, though they are perhaps one of the worst offenders, all visual media seems to lean towards the more ‘ideal’ womanly figure while being lax about the male one. Finding more realistic women in tv and movies is a pretty long journey while someone like Jack Black can get in easier.

    Magazines are probably close to the same level on gaming on what they’re willing to show, at least in most ‘popular’ magazines. The sad fact seems to be that an attractive woman draws more than it pushes away, or at least that’s the only logical reason I could find. It’s probably due to stats I don’t have access to but ones similar to the radio one where a woman’s voice advertising a show/product is far more effective to radio ratings than a males.

    Who knows, but I certainly subscribe to the ‘if I’m going to be staring at the character for hours on end, I want to enjoy looking at it’ camp =^-^=

    That and putting myself in the games is rarely something I want, it tends to make me feel inferior (darn you skyrim, -I- want to shoot lightning from my hands T.T)

  15. Ok maybe not worded as precisely as you’d like, wasn’t trying to offend in anyway.

    All I was implying (with the natural norm thing) is that Blizzard are aiming to appeal to as many people as they can. No matter how you spin it; they want to make their characters to be attractive to as many people as they can.

    As for the “deep end” with the “by nature bit” I stand by it, people are naturally drawn to what they feel is attractive. Bunch all those objective views together and take the average and you get the attractive norm.

    If you don’t like the word norm just replace with standard or average.

    • I think you’re right in what they’re aiming for. What I think they don’t know is how players will react to *not* making all shapes the same. I think they’d find this to be a far more popular idea than not. I think they’d find, if they dared to do it, that making all female shapes the same have either no impact on a player’s choice of them or a very positive reception by the player that overwhelms expectation.

      One could cite dwarven females, tauren, and even orcs as their trials at it (I’m sure we all knew players who chose these avatars despite popular belief). I think what doesn’t get acknowledged about the reception of these avatars is that they feel less interesting than the more popular ones. Consider the most popular races, and this list is completely from my own experiences unsupported by blizz analytics: humans, orcs, and undead (male and female all). Look at their animations. Look at how they feel to play. Does that experience compare to the female dwarf? Unrelated, but I love female orcs. Completely. Again, these are my own opinions and observations.

      Any differing perceptions on this?

  16. I think you’re right in what they’re aiming for. What I think they don’t know is how players will react to *not* making all shapes the same. I think they’d find this to be a far more popular idea than not. I think they’d find, if they dared to do it, that making all female shapes the same have either no impact on a player’s choice of them or a very positive reception by the player that overwhelms expectation.

    One could cite dwarven females, tauren, and even orcs as their trials at it (I’m sure we all knew players who chose these avatars despite popular belief). I think what doesn’t get acknowledged about the reception of these avatars is that they feel less interesting than the more popular ones. Consider the most popular races, and this list is completely from my own experiences unsupported by blizz analytics: humans, orcs, and undead (male and female all). Look at their animations. Look at how they feel to play. Does that experience compare to the female dwarf? Unrelated, but I love female orcs. Completely. Again, these are my own opinions and observations.

    Contrary to what Blizzard may think, I believe female dwarfs in particular failed to capture a solid demographic *because* they were too shapely. The adherence to this feminine shape more likely hurt the avatar than helped it become something popular.

    Any differing perceptions on this?

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  18. I’m glad that she’s a thicker lady, but I was hoping for a bit bigger, too. Honestly, if she’s similar to the female Dwarf, that will make me happy.

    I’ve been seeing a lot of really terrible commentary from people as well but I remain vocal about the fact that I am a fat chick and I want to see more women like me in video games. I do appreciate that Blizzard at least attempts to make a variety of models, though – not as much as they COULD, but something’s better than nothing.

  19. She isn’t super skinny, which is good. But she still isn’t as big as I’d hoped for either.

    I do wish Blizzard would just learn from various other MMO’s and make body customization instead. So we can freely decide whether we want to be skinny, big, muscled, lanky, tall, short etc. etc.

    Yeah yeah armour scaling and a lot of other “problems” would be at hand, but it would be so worth it and make A LOT of people happy!

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