I’ve been playing World of Warcraft again for a number of weeks now and for the most part enjoying being immersed in Blizzard’s bright and colourful fantasy world.
Since I started writing this blog, there have been a few notable cases related to Blizzcons or dev posts (so called ‘blue posts’) that irk me and detract somewhat from my enjoyment of the game and my desire to remain a subscriber (and hence a financial supporter of Blizzard).
The first example is the blatently uneven treatment of female heroic characters; Liore has an excellent blog post illustrating this.
A second example would be the shocking display of homophobia by the guest band at last year’s Blizzcon, which the devs were slow to apologise for.
There are other examples of this I’m sure, I’m travelling at present so I cannot present a fully researched list of incidents. You might ask the question, should this matter, given the fantasy genre’s tendency towards chainmail bikinis and patriarchial societies?
I’d argue that any mass entertainment medium should reflect and support modern and inclusive societal values, regardless of the setting or assumed historical values of the world, the players are modern individuals.These are MMORPGs (emphasis on multiplayer here) and however wild and hostile the wider Internet can be; I think the walled environment of these games should aim to be an inclusive and safe space for the largest possible number of players.
Is it so hard for Blizzard to give more equal prominence to female NPCs? What about giving even a little visibility to LGBT characters that aren’t just blatant stereotypes included for comedy value?
There’s a lot of progress needed on this front I would argue and I think other studios such as Bioware and Sony Online Entertainment have done much more than Blizzard to date (e.g. EQ2’s prominent female NPCs or the LGB supporting characters in SWTOR).
P.S. outside of the online gaming genre, I would highly recommend checking out the Kulthea RPG setting, written by Terry K Amthor and published by Eidolon Press. It is a superlative example of a rich and detailed fantasy world that embraces a more diverse cast of characters and cultures in a consistent and plausible manner.