Sexism and Rape Culture in Pandaria

Mina Mudclaw dances for a Springtail Ogler.

TW: Some minor discussion of rape and rape culture.

And like a familiar tide, I find myself being pulled back out to the blogging sea, adrift on my annoyance and frustration.

I had planned to write a full summation of  Mists of Pandaria thus far, but I’ve been having too much fun actually playing it to sit down and blog. It’s been really intense to like an expansion so much that I rarely have time for other things, but there you have it. However, as you may have guessed, the new content is not without its problems. The specter of something sinister was already there waiting to greet me as I hit the shores of this new continent.

That something is sexism and rape culture.

It sucks, let me tell you. I’m really having fun and enjoying myself for the first time in a while and I hate myself for seeing this stuff. However, I hate it more for being there. It shouldn’t be. I shouldn’t have to be reminded of the real world, of the grotesque behavior of people, when I want to escape to the bright world of Pandaren and farming and oooh shiny. But unfortunately game developers are still dudes. They still add stuff like this without realizing that this hurts people or how it might come off. Much like Ji Firepaw, I suspect this is a decision to include things that developers see as “normal” — this only enforces my opinion that this stuff exists for many people as something humorous or positive. Maybe I’m giving them too much credit to say that this is unintentional. Maybe it is just a lie I want to believe more than the alternative.

When I was questing to 90 on my main, one of the first zones I really got into was Valley of the Four Winds. The serene music, the lightly falling rains on a verdant farmland looked like it was ripped straight out of a Miyazaki film. But one of the quests early on set the alarm bells a-ringing – The Farmer’s Daughter. Cuppy over at Borderhouse Blog went over this quest’s problematic elements in great detail, which is one of the reasons I felt like writing my own post. Mina having to dance with her furry feet while virmen pelted her with carrots may seem really lighthearted, but much like some of the other things I found later on in the game, it is floated really heavily on an entire set of stories and cultural touchstones that bother me. The idea of a farmer’s daughter (which was mentioned as being a common joke/trope) being kidnapped by sentient rabbit creatures (the mobs are called oglers, for fuck’s sake) to amuse them is weird. It obviously distressed Mina and so I find myself distressed as well. But I brushed it aside because I’m used to doing that. The first thing that anyone tells you when you speak up about something being sexist or part of rape culture is that “you are seeing things that aren’t there.” So I kept on questing (but not without taking a screenshot, incidentally.)

I got into farming at Halfhill in a really bad way. One of the dailies that you do at level 90 for Gina Mudclaw (a relative of Mina, incidentally) is called “Money Matters.” It is pretty obvious to anyone who spends any amount of time in the Heartland that the Mudclaws are a family that run the entire place. They have powerful positions on the Tillers in terms of voting (Gina and Haohan respectively comprise two of the five votes you need to enter your farm) and Gina herself runs the market as both the quartermaster and coinkeeper. She has a lot of prestige and money. This money gets loaned out (without the vig, even!) to various townspeople, and gets collected by you, the hired muscle. The quest has a circulating batch of responses from all of the debtors – some days they pay up, some days they do not. On the days they do not, you are given the option to either pay their debts for them (usually 1G) or beat them up. The first couple of times I did the quest, I paid for people because I felt sympathetic. I wasn’t really reading many of the responses people give, which are sometimes downright obnoxious about Gina. However, it is Spicemaster Jin Jao that takes the grossness cake.

“Gina? That girl down in the marketplace? Hah!

Tell that pretty little thing to come collect the money personally. I’m sure she and I can come to some sort of… agreement.”

His attitude and his desire to rectify his debts with sexual favors made my skin crawl. Despite the fact he owes her money, he still treats her like a frivolous child, but a woman he’s still attracted to and feels that he can “pay back” with sex because he desires her. Her money nor her power or agency are not even a concern here. It’s weird as hell. This one little thing really rubbed me the wrong way. Needless to say the only recourse I had for this was threatening him with violence.

However, that shouldn’t even be in the game in my opinion. Sexist crap shouldn’t be a short-hand (as someone people have argued with me) for “bad character.” You can show evilness or flaws without falling back on gross attitudes that women have to deal with in real life. Someone like Garrosh comes to mind in this instance — they are already priming him for loot pinata status by making him a fascist dictator but his part in Tides of War as sexist scumbag was so fucking awful. When he backhanded only Kelantir Bloodblade (the only major female Horde presence in the book, I might add) or referred to Jaina as “that Proudmoore bitch,” I winced. It isn’t sexism to make a point, it is sexism because that’s what you know as a writer or a designer to indicate certain things about someone. Very often, it isn’t even to indicate bad things. It just exists there because it is normal and natural for you. Garrosh might be getting painted as a super-bad character (because sexism is that last great bastion of evilness, apparently) but people like Spicemaster Jin Jao? Oh, that’s part of a natural stack of responses to a woman asking you for her money back.

My question is why it has to be there at all? Why do we have to use things that make us as woman players feel uncomfortable and reminded of real life in order to strew character development here and there? Why do characters in a video game have to participate in the same shit some of us deal with every day?

One of the final things (so far) that really bothered me was brought up to me by a guildmate. She was doing Golden Lotus dailies and got to the single-time quest that you do when you get to Honored. The quest called “The Secrets of Guo-Lai” and has you entering the Guo-Lai halls with He Softfoot (the worst rogue in the world) in order to find out what the Mogu are planning in Vale. He inevitably gets caught by Zhao-Jin the Bloodletter, who starts crushing the life out of him by a Jade Statue proxy. The quest has you futilely trying to save your friend but you end up both caught.

Zhao-Jin the Bloodletter says: How noble, rescuing your friend from certain death…
Zhao-Jin the Bloodletter yells: …and all for nothing. Take them!
The adventurer and He are both trapped in nets.
Zhao-Jin the Bloodletter says: Your struggle is pointless.
Zhao-Jin the Bloodletter says: You are ignorant to the powerful secrets contained within this vale. I will take them, and then I will destroy all of your kind.
Zhao-Jin the Bloodletter says: Throw these prisoners in the cages. Let the men have their way with them.

source, last emphasis in red is mine

I feel like Fox Mulder when I say that “I want to believe.” I want to believe that the quest designers forgot that the most common insinuation with “have your way with someone” is rape. Granted, it gets prettier terms like “ravaging” or “ravishing” but let’s get down to brass tacks, it means rape. It is never consensual. I want to believe that meant that the Mogu were just going to beat you and He up or feed you to a pack of quillen or something. However, as a woman, this quest chilled me a lot. It bothered quite a few women in my guild and for good reason. It’s a pretty accurate portrayal of stuff that’s happened to women in both our fictional worlds and even real worlds. Get taken prisoner, get put in a cage, be left to get raped by your captors. This stuff isn’t the fancy of someone’s imagination, it is stuff that’s happened to real people. This is why it bothers me so much to have it turn up in my video game. Yes, I get that it is a war game. Warcraft is chock-full of rape if you look close enough at the dragonflights, at Draenei/orc relations. But to have it be a part of the player’s own peril just brings it a step too close for me.

The fact that it came up in an interview with Dave Kosak goes to show that Blizzard feels that this is a part of their storytelling, their quest design. And the fact that I keep finding it turn up in unexpected places goes to show that sexism and rape culture is alive and well even in this new continent of Pandaria. It bothers me wholeheartedly that I have to put up with this in my video games, even in one that has been making strides including more varied and strong women in their quests. So I’ll keep being bothered and talking about it. I hope that Blizzard, like with Ji Firepaw, realizes how much it affects their player-base and moves away from it. I don’t want to deal with it anymore.

41 Responses

  1. I said in Twitter that I thought there was a fellow at Blizz that was in dire need of counselling. On review, I think there are SEVERAL somebodies, and that’s just damned depressing. Not only did the jerk that thought up these quests think they were okay, but his boss, and his boss, and his boss – all approved it. Mentally, I’ve shifted from “what sad son of a bitch thought of this crap” to “how high up does it GO?” I think from the Corpsegrinder debacle, it’s kind of obvious it goes all the way to the top. That, too, is depressing.

    I’m just an old hillbilly that grew up in the farm country of West Virginia during the 60s and 70s, then followed that up with ten years in the armed forces. And yet even I can see your points as obvious. If somebody with my background has no trouble seeing this for what it is, it’s hard to imagine who couldn’t. They have to be pretty dense – or just not give a shit – to let this sort of stuff slide, especially at this point in their history where they’ve been taken very clearly to task for past mis-steps.

    They’ve about used up all their grace points at this juncture. I hope they can correct that.

  2. Excellent post. I haven’t encountered all these things yet, but I ran into the farmer’s daughter, and it bothered me.

    I have trouble really engaging with these things, or even really thinking about them clearly. Partly because privilege of course. Partly because I love the game and I don’t want to see these things that make me think less of it.

    But the thing that really pops up as a roadblock is this: an enormous part of the game is committing senseless wanton mass murder for profit.

    That’s…seriously problematic. IRL, I’m a vegetarian, and in the game I’ve killed probably tens of thousands of animals. Pet battles bother the hell out of me because, well, it’s basically simulating pit fighting dogs, and that is very much not okay. A big part of the reason I don’t PvP is because it’s centered around bloodsports, and the concept is reprehensible.

    Enjoying the game means putting out of your mind the fact that you’re actively emulating the worst human barbarities for entertainment. If we didn’t do that we’d delete the game in disgust and take a week-long shower and still never feel clean again.

    Acknowledging, let alone dealing with, the problem of sexism in the game opens the door to acknowledging all the other reprehensible aspects of this world we’ve chosen to inhabit. Murder. Torture. Cruelty in every shape and form. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. But once people (including myself, and presumably ten million other players) have shrugged off mass murder with the “it’s just a game” excuse, it’s very easy to sweep every other troublesome aspect of the world under the carpet with it.

    Apologies…this was intended to be supportive, and it turned very pessimistic on me.

    • Well, the problem is while I haven’t been a murder victim, I’ve been a sexual assault victim. Not to put too fine a point on it, while I’ve been around death, I suspect I will not ever be a murderer or torturer. I -have- been someone deeply affected by sexism and sexual assault though.

      YMMV.

    • While I don’t disagree with you in spirit, Lhivera, to me there is a distinct difference between referring to sexual assault in a game and the senseless murder that most players undertake as a character. The former is a plot device, whereas the latter is a fundamental game mechanic.

      A game doesn’t need references to sexual assault and sexism to exist, whereas .. well, thus far both players and developers have found it pretty tough to create appealing non-combat games. Heck, even in Zuma I shoot balls at bosses every 10 levels or so! I can count complete non-combat (or ethical combat) games on .. one hand, honestly.

      That’s not to say that non-combat games aren’t possible or that developers shouldn’t be thinking about it, but it’s a much more entrenched problem and much harder to circumvent than just not throwing in sexual assault as a mindless plot device. It is an entirely disposable practice, which to my mind makes it that much more infuriating to encounter.

      On a different topic, I don’t want to divulge my source but a friend worked very closely with Blizzard a few years ago and found that most of the employees were absolutely clueless when it came to women as characters and players. It wasn’t so much malice as just a complete 2005-era “women play games?!?!” disconnect with reality. That doesn’t make this shit any better, but it might help to explain why it keeps happening.

      • Well put and convincing. The same could certainly be said for the torture quests.

        In case it wasn’t clear, I wasn’t arguing for an all-or-nothing approach; I was simply saying that when I think of one of these issues, the others also loom large in my mind, and I find it daunting. Perhaps that’s only me being bad at compartmentalization, though.

        (ACM, I think I typoed my address the first time I posted this; please feel free to delete the other comment!)

  3. (Apologies for self-censoring, but you don’t allow use of a word in your title in comments… and obligatory trigger warning..)

    I thought I was imagining things when I came across that Tillers daily for the first time. Everyone around me was wondering why I was making such a big deal out of quest text that they didn’t even bother reading. One guildie even put me on ignore because he thought my pointing out the overall privileged position of caucasian men (this somewhat dovetailed with the recent US VP debate…) was an insult directed at him, rather than a pointer to just understand something from a different point of view (e.g. mine, that of a woman and working in a heavily male-dominated field like computer science).

    Like Lhivera points out above, it’s really easy to make the case that this isn’t the only reprehensible thing in this game, and why should we not give Blizzard a pass for sexual harassment when mass murder, genocide, and animal cruelty is rampant … but societies all over realize that those actions are horrifying and tries to address those problems where applicable with laws and sanctions and more. Plus, we don’t become murderers in real life just by killing thousands and thousands of creatures in a game.

    On the other hand, r*** culture and sexism can be pretty difficult for some to even recognize, let alone do anything about. It comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s tolerated if not outright legal in some cultures. Until someone does something that finally crosses a boundary (such as unwanted physical contact or stalking) one of the few ways to deal with it is to point it out and try to tell the person what they did wrong. And then others will doubt what you say, slut shame you, or even drive you to suicide as a result (see Amanda Todd). The people that perpetuate this problem will view these references as further validation that it’s okay to continue with whatever they’re doing because it’s common. Heaven knows I have enough guildies going “yeah! we r***d that bitch!” even though I’m quite sure they’re people just as reasonable as me that would never harm anyone else in that manner in-person. What does that do to someone that has, or that isn’t sure that what they did was a bad thing? Not to mention what that sounds like to someone that has experienced something horrible in their past.

    Possibly the most odious thing is that all of this is veiled just enough for WoW to keep the ratings it has right now – funny the same ratings that force them to modify a holiday like Brewfest in different countries prevents them from outright saying “r*** them” as opposed to “have your way with her”. Someone somewhere had to give it some amount of thought on top of writing the original lines…and thought it was okay. Even though this would most likely be against their own harassment policies if it involved two actual players instead of NPCs.

    • Sorry about the filtering! We had to set really stringent word filters on the comments for a while because I was being harassed. I will rectify it now. Thank you for the really insightful comment.

  4. First off, I want to say welcome back. I’m sorry that what drove you back was something so negative, but I am glad for you to be blogging again.

    I’ve noticed a general tone of cruelty in the xpac, as well. I only just started last week and have only played a few hours (one toon nearing 87 is all I’ve done), but I was disturbed early on by some of the violence pawned off as “humor” in the first zone. In the “story” quest of the 4 explorers that you go through at Pearlfin Village, the game designers apparently thought that murdering someone’s pet would get a quick laugh out of their target audience. It happens again, moments later, and while the second death is from the animal’s heroism (socks) and you get to have the animal later as a summonable trinket, it still left a bad taste in my mouth.

    I get that Blizz was trying to do another funny “The Day Deathwing Came” storyline, but it didn’t pan out at all. The mechanics are tedious and the story isn’t remotely funny. Top that off with pointless pet murder and you’ve got yourself a real ball of crap.

    I realize it’s nothing in comparison to the gravity of the issues you’re bringing up, but I think it all adds to a juvenile, macho, meat-headed atmosphere that’s laying over this xpac. From the intro video to the new advertisements, the whole thing seems to be marketed to younger and younger males who think this crass cruelty, violence, and sexism are funny. It irritates me quite a bit.

    • I didn’t do the Socks/Gizmo line until I started leveling up my shaman but I was definitely weirded out by that. But I’m really not into pet cruelty/death at all. I can definitely concur that despite the appeals towards a wider audience in SOME of the content (Halfhill, Kun-Lai quests, etc) there’s definitely a young dude veneer on other things.

  5. I don’t think I can agree with your use of the term “r*** culture” here. A key element of such a culture is that r*** is tolerated or condoned. Otherwise, what we have is r*** used as a plot device. Actually, this is the kind of thing that gets George R. R. Martin in a lot of trouble with certain feminists. Somehow, they miss the fact that he is not glorifying in the misogynistic world his characters inhabit, but damning it. He’s showing how destructive and terrible such a world really is.

    In most stories where conflict is at the core, the protagonist is driven by injustice. Someone or something has hurt the protagonist in a deep and personal way. Most people will have a strong emotional reaction to seeing a character in a novel put through that kind of pain. Reading about r*** in this context makes me feel uneasy, even a little sick. However, that is exactly the author’s intention. By making you feel, vicariously, the pain and helplessness that the protagonist feels, you empathize with her and understand her motivations.

    A real r*** culture isn’t interested in making you feel emotionally invested in the victim of a violent act. Instead, it places the blame on the victim, or glorifies in the act as a form of domination. This is the sentiment made, consciously or not, by someone who claims to have r***d a PvE boss or a player in PvP. Thankfully, our society continues to move away from those kinds of sentiments, though admittedly there is still a long way to go.

    I do think it’s reasonable to question whether interactive storytelling allows the same level of emotional investment and empathy that books or movies allow. It seems that, in your case, rather than getting you to feel concern or empathy for the character(s), the situation made you critical of Blizzard for including such elements.

    • Seriously, Scott? Way to miss the point and mansplain to the blog author — who by the way, HAS BEEN SEXUALLY HARASSED — so you should consider that she might know more than you about this particular topic before you start telling her that she’s doin’ it wrong.

      “Scott D
      October 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm ∞

      I don’t think I can agree with your use of the term “r*** culture” here. A key element of such a culture is that r*** is tolerated or condoned.”

      Wrong. R*** culture includes a lot more than just “Whee! R*** is sexy happy fun times!” It also includes the concept that it is normalized in our society, and it trivializes sexual harassment and violence, which is something that women struggle with DAILY. When a popular MMO starts using references to r*** as needless plot devices and even plays it for laughs (e.g. the quest where you collect Gina Mudclaw’s debt from the creepy guy), then that’s problematic.

      The questline about the pregnant woman, although not technically r*** culture, is still sexist as hell because it features a woman’s struggle (we’re told she’s the clairvoyant who started the Sunwalkers on their journey in the first place), yet doesn’t give her a chance to express any of it in her own words. It’s all relayed through her husband, in his role as “official male mouthpiece”. She dies in childbirth (which is in itself pretty full of WTF as a previous poster mentioned), and she gives birth to TWIN SONS. Y’know, because we have to get more males up in here. She’s basically reduced to nothing but a vessel who’s just there to make you sympathize with the male characters (husband and baby sons), before she dies offscreen. Way to remove her agency, Blizz.

      “A real r*** culture isn’t interested in making you feel emotionally invested in the victim of a violent act. Instead, it places the blame on the victim, or glorifies in the act as a form of domination. This is the sentiment made, consciously or not, by someone who claims to have r***d a PvE boss or a player in PvP.”

      Love the “no true Scotsman” fallacy here. Your boundaries for what constitutes a “real r*** culture” are pretty narrow, and I don’t appreciate how you’re minimizing the experiences of players who have actually endured sexual harassment. You’re essentially saying that their insights about the game aren’t “real” enough for you to take seriously. Do you have any idea how arrogant that sounds?

      Do us a favour and do some research into what sexism and r*** culture actually means before you post next time, kthx.

    • We live in a world where it is acceptable to publicly condone punitive r**pe of prisoners, and to buy drinks for someone until they can’t or won’t say no.

      I’m not sure what world you’re living in, but by themselves those would qualify this as a cultural value, never mind with all of the other crap we pile on top.

      YES, we live in a r**pe culture. What on earth gave you the idea that denying it without researching it would be a useful addition to the conversation??

  6. Lets say that Blizzard, be it several developers or one represenaive who embodied the company as a whole,decided to tomorrow to address this and other vaguely offensive things in game. Would you prefer them to remove the offending material from the game completly or rewrite it to fit your standards?

  7. I agree wholeheartedly with you… Did you also notice the quest in Karasang Wilds? There you gather herbs to help a woman during childbirth… And she dies. During childbearth. With an npc next to her constantly using holy spells (well yellow glowy spells :) ) AND the medicinal herbs you gathered before supporting her in this task.
    Yay, woman dying of child birth when we as players can effing raise the dead. All the time.
    …I know its not r*** culture and more treatment of female npcs’ in general, but…
    *sighs*

    Personally, I never even bothered to discuss this or the issues you noticed (I did, as well) with any of my acquaintances in-game, after all I am just too sensitive. Or something.

  8. I’m not playing Mists at the moment and all the quests mentioned in both the post and the comments chilled me a bit. And I’m male…

    I have a feeling that these quests were put in because pre-launch the main complaint from the masses was that the game was becoming too kid-friendly and it would not be the “cruel” and hard-core warcraft they were used to. So they OK-ed these to point them out later as “mature content”. Problem is, this is the exact opposite of mature, or rather it’s how a 13 year old thinks that “mature” is like. *sigh*

  9. Scott wrote:

    “By making you feel, vicariously, the pain and helplessness that the protagonist feels, you empathize with her and understand her motivations.”

    That depends on who “you” is, obviously, or this blog post wouldn’t have been written. Surely there are more universal and less ham-fisted ways to accomplish this? Any competent writer will have no trouble establishing empathetic characters.

    Thought experiment: If you replace one of these quests with a man, caged and violated by men, does that help you empathize with him and understand his motivations?

    • “If you replace one of these quests with a man, caged and violated by men, does that help you empathize with him and understand his motivations?”

      Yes.

      Maybe I don’t see your point. “Shawshank Redemption” and “Deliverance” both jump to mind. Male on male r*** in both movies served to motivate the characters and made me that much more invested in their plights. Removing it from the former dumbs it down by ignoring the harsh reality of prison life. Remove it from the latter and the story likewise collapses.

      I think what you might be asking is whether I would find that kind of violence acceptable in a game, even if only implied. Again, I see no difference. R*** is r*** and violence is violence. Most people would probably see male/male r*** as “ickier”, but that’s irrelevant. In any case, isn’t that exactly what is implied if you do the quest with the Mogu’shan on a male character?

      • I’ll probably end up putting my foot in my mouth here, but let me point out that both Deliverance and Shawshank Redemption are rated R and Martin books are hardly appealing to children, while the TV show is on a pay-for channel at child-unfriendly times. I’m not sure a comparison between those pieces of literature (and Martin’s work… ZING!) and World of Warcraft might be a bit non-linear.

        I think, too, that the argument about said “Culture” has (here’s the part where I admit I’m WAY out of my league here, but I think ACM knows that) some to do with the careless handling of such a serious subject. I don’t know that anyone suggests Blizz, is putting that act in a good – or even neutral – light, but that it’s handling material that’s emotionally explosive with too careless of hands.

        Now to be fair, I’m not a fan of censorship. I am a fan of safe places, though, and if people can’t escape from the “harsh reality” of the real world in a fantasy game that’s become more and more child-oriented via Harvest Moon and Pokemon style mini-games, then I think there’s a clear problem with cross messages.

        Anyway, just my two cents. Hopefully I haven’t bungled up too much here.

        Stubborn

  10. Well I think they tried to emulate the Chinese Culture a bit, and went too far..(Did I just say that?) Chinese Culture has a long history of woman abuse.

    Then again it’s a game where we kill, and plunder to our hearts content. Are there degrees of wrongness?

    I think there’s only one person to blame. Mario…sexist Italian Plumber Stereotyp trying to save a helpless Princess

    • Ah.

      ROBOT EMULATE THE CHINESE MODE – ENGAGE!

      “All right, men, we’re emulating the Chinese until the bitter end on this one, for good or for bad. Remember, if it offends anyone’s sensibilities, IT’S THE CHINESE’S FAULT!”

      :: laughter and back-slapping ::

      “I’m sure they’ll buy that.”

  11. Good post. Another thing that is really getting to bug me is how much they love the ‘bros before hos’ phrase. They’ve used it once in the xmas quests (bros before hohohos) and again in Pandaria (bros before hozen).

    I’m like — enough, already. It was NEVER funny. And don’t call me a ho, stupid brochild devs.

  12. Rape and sexism is horrible period. But you are professing censorship here. Yes, world is full of bad things: war, sorrow, famine, hate, anger etc. Does that mean we should pretend they don’t exist when constructing/play a game? No. It doesn’t erase the existence of them. Let’s grow some thicker skin here.

    • When you are making a game for a mixed audience, you really need to be thoughtful about said audience. If they are allowed to put in rape culture in their video games, I’m definitely allowed to address this and criticize it. Oh wait, I guess I have to grow a thicker skin. That’s not censorship on YOUR end, right? So why is it okay to have them put it in a video game and alienate their audience but me not to talk about it? Yep, okay.

      People who deal with rape culture every day not wanting it in their video games is a pretty legitimate complaint. But thanks for your overwhelming helpful comment.

    • Yes, why not? If WoW aimed for emulation of the real world, why don’t toons have to eat and get the right nutrition while others starve, why cannot they invent, why don’t they go to the toilet or acquire diseases that disable and disfigure them, why is there no such thing as contamination of soil through feces, no allergies, no parasites that slowly eat you, why is there no mass premature death of children, no cancer, AIDS, little wormy things in colons and shit, why is there no creativity in NPCs…

      Sorry, but “y u no accept realism in fiction?” always falls short quite. Because it’s fiction!

  13. 1. Farmer’s Daughter, I can’t see.
    2. Halfhill, I can’t see. Guy is being painted as a pathetic jerk – intentional
    3. Garrosh is being painted as a colossal excretory-orifice – intentional
    4. Guo-lai, yes, that’s over the top.

    I think there is a lot of policial correctness and oversensitivity floating around generally (not necessarily here). Making a character that is a mouth-breathing, knuckle dragging, Attila the Hun style guy, doesn’t mean the creator of such advocates that character’s behaviour or attitudes in any way.

    For the record I am also female, and although I haven’t been sexually assaulted, there is a little skeleton hiding in the closet from childhood that I have no intention of revealling or discussing with strangers, so I think I’m qualified to speak on the subject.

    I can say though, that as an adult woman I know my power and if anyone accosted me, I would get out of jail before they got out of the hospital.

  14. There’s a simple solution. If you don’t like the sexism and rape culture in the game, don’t play. Don’t give them your money….but by the mere fact you still are giving them your money still, you are a hypocrite, and just as guilty as the rest of us.

    • SNORE. Really. This again. Don’t you angry, sulky, tantrum pitching little boys get any new material ever? You’re soooo boring~ You can’t really think you’re saying anything smart and new, I mean, I can’t believe you’d be that clueless–oh wait you’re probably a little boy. Oopsie ;)

      As a consumer, I have the right to comment on what’s in the media I consume. if you think I don’t you’re very very silly! (And it has nothing to do with freer speech or censorship, btw, you have the right to say what you want but I have just as much right to tell you to grow up.) Sure, if Blizzard keeps up, i can vote with my feet and leave, but I don’t think they will keep it up. “Betches, queers, homos and hoez” as you call us are all playing games and we generally spend more than you. We’re also much less fickle–if we like a thing we stay, not like you flavour of the month teeny bops who play for maybe three weeks and then get bored and go back to Madden or w/e. ;) Eventually you and your li’l shocky-jocky wah-wah crew will go the way of the dodo and media will change to reflect that. In this day and age when Halo 4’s going to be banning sexist, bigoted, nasty-ass little trash talkers if they mouth off too often? Diaper-baby scaredyboys’ clubs are vanishing.

      If you really think your argument is especially intelligent, original, clever, or, you know, pertinent–or that you yourself show up on anyone’s radar as much but an irritating flyspeck–you’re quite mistaken, little boy. ;)

        • This is a poor analogy. Fur is obviously fur. It’s fur on the shelf; it’s fur when you pick it up and look it over in the shop; it’s going to be fur no matter what: there is no way to remove fur from fur. The creation of fur coats, fur bags, fur whatever, will always involve animal death.

          By contrast, WoW isn’t sexism on the shelf, when you see a video game box with a dragon or an elf or the Lich King on the front. Neither is it when you pick it up and read the blurb. WoW is billed as fantasy fun, escapism, a game that involves teamwork and sports epic storylines and boss fights, and, for the most part, that’s exactly what it is. Quests like this, dumb storyline slips, do not have to be part of it. The devs can change things so as to better keep with their intended theme of fun immersion and butt-kicking.

          Let’s not forget, too, that you can buy synthetic fur and know you’ve not bought actual fur. There is no such certainty in buying a different game in place of WoW, because sexism is rife in the industry. Silently cancelling a subscription and sloping off to another game is not going to keep the issue in the spotlight.

        • More like: Buy a jean and find out it turns into fur later.

          If it was about children’s toys, how there is stuff that’s poisonous for babies and it is only discovered after people complain of their children getting sick, would you tell those people to time travel and unbuy it? It’s called hindsight bias, do google it.

  15. I think what they were going for was to have the player be disgusted at the virmen/the mogu/Jin Ja, but that’s only an impression, and if it’s what they were aiming for, they rather missed the mark. The one thing you absolutely should not do in a game is have implied rape of the player character. Mainly because it’s upsetting to people who’ve been assaulted, but even people who haven’t often get annoyed at the loss of control.

    (For my part, I didn’t mind the mogu one — I reasoned that I escaped before anything happened — but I still think that my lack of trauma doesn’t outweigh somebody else’s very real trauma. Er. If that made sense. The opposite of “I didn’t mind it, therefore it must be fine.”)

  16. Commenting belatedly because I found this through Google, searching to see if anyone else found the carrot quest so revolting.

    What makes that quest stand head and shoulders above some of the other offenders, in my opinion, is the absurdity of the virmen. They’re joke mobs. They’re afraid of turnips. They’re not to be taken seriously. In pairing it with them, Blizzard have essentially said that abuse isn’t to be taken seriously. That abuse is a joke.

    I can’t help but side-eye the name ‘virmen’ as well. A pun on ‘vermin’, sure, but if you break it down you get ‘vir’ and ‘men’. ‘Vir’ as in ‘virile’. And then this quest is tied to them. I don’t even know.

  17. I’m a bit late to conversation, but I found it an intriguing one. I was not put off by the farmer’s daughter quest, but I was thoroughly disgusted by Jin Jao’s comments regarding how he could repay the loan. It is loathsome.

    The importance of having multiple people of differing backgrounds view dialogue is important. Unfortunately, not everyone has quite grasped this concept yet. I read an article recently that highlighted this importance and I wish that I had a link to it, but I couldn’t find it again.

    Someone in BioWare wrote an article extolling the virtues of having both male and female writers. He cited his work on Dragon Age II (I think?) that highlighted its importance. I believe that the group included four women, each of varying backgrounds and interests (particularly in light of gaming; he mentioned that some like the roleplay/romantic elements while others were focused on combat or strategy).

    During one of their regular get-togethers, someone introduced a quest or plotline that was intended to be humorous. I can’t remember the context of it, but, in providing open feedback, all four women vetoed the concept while all of the men thought that it was quite hilarious. The women — despite their differing backgrounds and differing interests — all thought that it could be construed in a manner that could be seen as forcing another character to do something unwanted that could have sexual undertones. They each stated that it made them uncomfortable. The men — including the article writer — didn’t see this at all and were shocked that it could have be perceived that way, especially given that it wasn’t their intent.

    I think that it’s disappointing when things like what has occurred in Mists of Pandaria occur in the gaming industry. I’d like to think that it’s unintentional, as was the case outlined in the article provided by the gentleman from BioWare. I’m pragmatic enough to realize that this isn’t always the case, but I can definitely hope that it is. I’d like to believe that the carrot comments were taken out of context or that no one realized how repulsive Jin Jao’s comment could be or even how the game may have inadvertently portrayed a humorous look on pedophilia.

    Things like these, however, highlight the very reason why it’s important to have a variety of people look over things like this. Gamers are no longer strictly straight white males. The target audience has changed and it is in increasingly necessary to include differing viewpoints — particularly when you have a game like World of Warcraft, which is intended to hit as broad an audience as possible!

    • I actually remember that interview – it was with David Gaider, who while not my favorite dev from Bioware, did make a really good point about having different POVs working on development! And for all the reasons you spoke about too. There’s just so much privilege tied up in what is seen as acceptable or funny.

  18. Pingback: Patch 5.2 – The Problem with Twins, Part 2 | Apple Cider Mage

  19. Thank you SO much for your blog post and the following discussion. I am RELIEVED to know that I am not the only feminist wow woman out there….I KNEW there had to be more!!!! On a side note (and admitedly not having read through all of the comments yet) The amount of homophobia that takes place in wow (mostly by players I know) bothered me to the point of quitting my guild, and forming my own on my server that includes a mission statement of inclusivity and a complete zero tolerance for things like sexism, racism, homophobic comments, etc within the guild. As a lesbian woman and passionate wow player, I get tired of the constant use of gay and faggot in trade/raid/guild chat, and I have looked into Blizzards policies regarding this matter, and while thier own website says these comments are reportable as “language” offenses under the “report player” option, and despite reporting the same individuals over many months at this point, it has become obvious that Blizzards language policies are more of a CYA than an actual, enforced policy. While I know that enforcing something like this is hard, I feel like having content that reinforces the sexist, racist, etc ideals that our culture doesn’t like to acknowledge as existing (you’re reading too much into it…) does not help. As far as I know, our guild is the only one like it on our server, and we have a small group of people who are dedicated members, and we have successfully leveled our guild from 1-23 since the release of MoP. Keep fighting the good fight and please don’t ever stop bringing these sexist/racist/eurocentric etc. institutions to light! Yay feminist gamers!!!! <3

  20. This topic has always been incredibly sensitive, there are alot of wrongs and alot of rights. What I believe is not everyone is the same and share the same opinion or preferences and if we did, the whole world would be stale (But I will say there would atleast be no more warfare. Some may see that as worth it). And, I will agree on both sides, some content should be applied with great caution when dealing with a T-rated game. Though I will also agree that there are some things that are okay to ignore.

    There are jokes many people will find very offensive and ofcourse that’s a big mistake to have such a joke to begin with, but there are just as many people who appreciate the joke and choose not to apply it to their own lives. This, I believe, is called Dark humor or Black comedy, it is fairly common, and usually those who enjoy it (and, who have a good head on their shoulders) would never, in real life, encourage such vile acts or commit them themselves.

    Everyone is making very valid points (Besides those who seem to reply to others in very childish/intentionally aggressive manners.) and I wish to respect all of your opinions. I do have my own but I try my best to see the points in both perspectives.

  21. The sexism and rape culture bothers me in games a lot as well. They do this to “sweeten” the experience for male gamers but it is at the expense of female gamers. It poisons the fun for me.

    In WoW tonight I finally got a death knight rolled up and one of the first things I did with a friend was flirt. My female character said “I’m a full service kind of girl.” My jaw just about dropped to the floor. I was like, WTF? It made me uncomfortable and it wasn’t funny or fun. I know it’s supposedly a trivial thing but it does matter. Yes, it does.

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