Gender Roles In Gaming

This is a 2 part post. The first being over at my personal blog, the Rant Page. The second being a little less about gender roles in society, and more about how males and females are perceived in a gaming environment. As I said over there, this post has been a very long time coming. I believe I have been planning to write a post about gender since maybe May, perhaps even a little before that, and it was in fact listening to the Obscurecast that reminded me about it and finally made me decide to get my thoughts down. I’d like to thank Pewter, Gazimoff, and Stu for the inspiration.

The general consensus amongst and about gamers seems to be that games are for boys and girls don’t play games, but that’s just not the case. I guess most female WoW players, or indeed players of any online game, will experience “Omg you’re a girl?” at some point in their gaming experience, which to me has always felt strange, I mean, yes I am female, and last time I checked there are a lot of us around here. What’s so amazing about owning a pair of breasts? Even girls who perhaps don’t enjoy console games, or MMOs, can be found gaming these days, there are games such as the Sims and Farmville around that make gaming much more accessible for everybody.

In WoW, females are often treated differently to males, and there are different aspects of it. Sometimes they are treated with much more respect, given the benefit of the doubt for messing up, given gifts, easier guild access. I always hated guild applications that asked for real name or gender for this reason, and also the other reason, much more difficult guild access.

There is the belief amongst WoW players that “girls cause drama”, and on this basis, a lot of guilds will be very sparing with the amount of female players they accept. The trouble is, this creates a self fulfilling prophecy in that the majority of us don’t care for drama much at all and just want to play the game. I’ve been on the receiving end of sexist remarks ingame. In my TBC guild, if I tried to join in with guild chat, very often I was met with, “Get back in the kitchen lol,” which hey, they may have found funny, but I don’t. I’m a female, so therefore I can’t join in with stuff without being made to feel that I’m inadequate as a player. Of course, I don’t personally come across this too often, but some girls get it quite bad and that’s absolutely horrendous. A lot of the time, females are seen as lesser players which simply isn’t the case, there are some excellent female players in this game, it’s all down to the individual. There are some awful male players too.

I’ve seen this happen more publicly too. Comments in trade about girls not playing WoW, they’re all fat and ugly, and so on. People advertising for pugs either stating that they have a girl in the party, or requesting more girls for the party. There was a guild back in TBC on my server called <Sapped Girls Can’t Say No> which I found utterly disgusting, and I immediately reported the name – they didn’t last long thank God. The worst part about all of the derogatory things that happen, is that more often than not people laugh at them! Like women aren’t important, they’re just there for shits and giggles, and you know what, that actually hurts a bit.

The way in which gaming companies portray women and men doesn’t help very much either. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely against the skimpy armour they make women wear, the ass shots you see in a lot of console games, how butch and muscular they design their men, and the differences in strength, how weak and weepy they design their women, and how macho they design their men. None of this really helps matters. What the game needs is women who kick ass, and don’t seem to be there merely for sex appeal. I think the best female protagonists this game has to offer is Lady Sylvanas and Keristrasza. They kick ass, and they lead. Shame about the bikinis. These women show people that females are powerful, and aren’t to be messed with! Although, it’s a shame that often women feel that to stand up for their gender, they can’t be feminine, else they’ll only be mocked for being female, because that’s not true in the slightest. I can sit on the lawn in a skirt, reading Hitchhiker’s, and telling a man to go make me a sandwich if I want.

It would be nice to think that things are slowly improving, I mean, I notice a lot less “Omg you’re a girl” style comments these days, but I still see sexism popping up in guild chat. There are some real chauvinists in this game and it’s a shame I cleared my screenshot folder because I had a couple of excellent examples in there I’d taken for this post but cleared it to make space on my PC. I do think the gaming culture has come a long way, but there is still a little way to go to get things to be a lot more equal. Also, this image confuses me. I’m not sure whether it’s great for showing that girls are powerful too, or horrendous for basically being fanservice. I’m inclined to lean towards the latter, sadly.

27 thoughts on “Gender Roles In Gaming”

  1. (Late to the party…)

    I never considered that people can be annoyed by the name and gender question. I’ve seen it in all the guilds I’ve been in, and I’ve included it in the app for my current guild. Why? Because I’m curious. Because I *hate* not knowing who I’m talking to. It was very odd to talk about the shaman with the female name, refer to the person as “her”, and find out three months later that he’s a guy. He never hid it, he was just not very talkative and he didn’t have a microphone. I don’t like being called “he”, so I assumed everyone likes to be addressed as the right gender…
    (And I think I’m a bit of an odd one out in regards to girls applying… I tend to be more lenient than I am with guys, not go into a “she’s making my gender look bad” direction. I’d rather take a slightly clueless girl than a guy, even though I know I have no rational basis for that. Well, except for wanting more people to talk to about haircuts and pretty robes :P)

    Of course, I can afford to not care about gender because no one has ever told me that I suck because I’m a girl. Even when I did suck very bad at the game. I sometimes wish that I got an “omggirl!” reaction, I’m starting to feel there’s something wrong with me :P
    Jen recently posted..We are filthy

    1. Haha, I guess, in some guilds it’s not an issue. If a girl applied to our guild, for example, we wouldn’t care about her bewbs we’d actually look at her application the exact same way we’d look at a guy’s, sadly, I have got into 2 guilds because I was a girl. The moment they found out I was female, they pushed to get me a spot. In the first I wasn’t 70 yet, in the second, they didn’t have a spot for me but pushed to get me in the moment they did. Both guilds once getting past that were great to be in, but I still had it lingering over my head a little. I’m always a little afraid that it’d go the other way, too, that girls won’t be accepted to guilds just because of their gender. Luckily, this kind of thing is pretty rare though!

      Generally speaking, I don’t care much about gender either, I don’t get much discrimination aimed towards me, especially these days. Thank God!

      1. I guess I got into my first guild technically because I was a girl… but it was because my boyfriend was already there. (I resisted it, I felt very bad for being completely clueless, but he talked me into it.) But I see that as being a different topic – partners in general. When he became RL, I would deliberately sit out to avoid people thinking he gave me preferential spots. I still kinda sucked, but we had several girls in the guild, some good, some less good, so I hope everyone saw my performance as a result of not enough practice or skill rather than as a result of my gender. Either way, they never commented anything to me.
        Jen recently posted..We are filthy

        1. I would assume they saw you as a new player learning your class rather than “you’re bad because you’re a girl”, which is usually the case, not always, but usually. Guys have the exact same issues when they start playing, I’ve known some terrible male players as well as females, and I always put it down to either, A.) they’re still learning, or, B.) they don’t play too much so it doesn’t really matter as long as they’re having fun and not hurting anybody. I’d like to think the majority of players have similar viewpoints :) – based on gender anyway.

  2. What get’s my goat is that for every female taking heat from the pubescents that mainly populate this game theres another one who wears their gender like a crown of thorns. I’ve known several who to be quite honest fed the flames to get attention then whined about it later. Most of the people I play with don’t find gender to be an issue thankfully.

    @Pewter – Fat hate? How do people who would hassle you know you are overweight? I’m fat but I don’t exactly broadcast it.

    I can get behind supporting anyone playing wow without hassle (I practically have a /report button hotkeyed) but even I find this slightly ridiculous.

    How would people know any of the details about me if I didn’t tell them? If I was gay/black/fat, how would they know from Vent? I realise some people can be absolute idiots when they get behind a keyboard – im no exception – but to invite this kind of hate and then whinge about the fact that it exists to me is confusing. I agree it shouldn’t exist but why go looking for it.
    echo recently posted..So long and thanks for all the fish

    1. Oh, yeah, we call those ‘tee hee girls’ and annoyingly there are a damn lot of them >.>

      I agree with you about the appearance thing though, the only way they might know is if you post a picture on the forums (guild or otherwise), or if you actually talk about it. The thing is, appearance ‘hate’ can be avoided, for the same reason there are so many dicks on the internet – nobody can see you through a computer screen.

      However, I personally don’t want to go around hiding my gender just to avoid trouble because I very rarely find it. I don’t announce that I’m female, and I don’t tend to correct people calling me “he” in pugs either, but in guilds I quite like to not be called a guy. And surely that’s fine, if a guy did it nobody would bat an eyelid, just as long as you’re not rubbing it in people’s faces because that goes a bit too far, and yes, I do think that the ‘tee hee girls’ are one of the biggest problems when it comes down to women getting respect in games, how can we get respect when in the same breath there are 3 more girls posting bikini shots from holidays on their guild forums and flirting with every person who comes their way. /grumble.

  3. When I’ve joined a pug and said something in vent (after the obligatory OMG a Girl comment), someone will ask, Who’s Healing? And someone always says, well, the chick of course.

    I’m boomkin and proud of it, jerks. Not all chicks are healers (though nothing against those that are… I admit it’s my offspec!)

  4. That guild name? I couldn’t begin to guess how many times I’ve reported it (not all on the same server, thankfully, and a lot were because I checked on the Armoury and saw it) Whenever I saw Bananaskall on Azjol Nerub EU, he got /spat at because he was GM of the first one I reported. I bet if you checked the armoury now, there would be at least half a dozen guilds and arena teams with that name.

  5. That picture is definitely fanservice. Mainly for Arthas’ (Artha’s?) armor– there’s absolutely no reason to put her in a bikini except that it’s drawn specifically for the male gaze, rather than to demonstrate female power. Female power isn’t making women out of powerful male characters anyhow– it’s *making original female characters who are powerful in their own right*.

    I would like to see a formidable female who is not dependent almost completely on a male for her story; unfortunately, Sylvanas falls into that category because of the Arthas stuff. I would also like to see a prominent, powerful female who isn’t an elf. (One could count Jaina, but again, a big part of Jaina’s existence in WoW seems to focus on men, whether it’s Arthas or Varian.) It’s a big part of why I was SO in support of the Female Trade Prince movement in the Cataclysm forum– it got over 300 pages and is still going, and Blizzard actually put “Boss Mida” in the game as an NPC. Not the leader of the Goblins, but as an NPC and many still have hope that she could potentially move up in the hierarchy…

    So yeah. Annoying as hell.

    I personally am fortunate that I haven’t encountered horrible sexism ingame; I see it in the forums, but I’ve considered myself extremely lucky, after reading various accounts from others. *knocks on wood* Part of it’s probably my server; there tends to be more balance between genders on RP servers, I’ve found.

    1. I’ve found RP/PvE servers to be a lot more mellow than PvP servers, RP more so than PvE, and I think that may well have something to do with it as well. The thing is, the guys who act sexist ingame are pretty much trying to show off to the other guys. The fact that they can make women feel tiny apparently makes them more manly? I don’t know either :/

  6. I don’t find the whole ‘omg you’re a girl’ thing so much anymore, apart from a subtle change in attitude towards me after I speak up in vent in pugs. My guild is great, we have a lot of female players and a female officer (used to have 2), and everyone is treated equally from my point of view.

    What I do find however, is when I join a pug that starts having problems and I dare to speak up and make suggestions, rarely are they taken seriously. Usually there’ll be a couple more wipes before people decide to listen to the girl. Which is very frustrating because I’m a very experienced player and good at my class, and yet I constantly have to work twice as hard to be respected in this sense of the game.

    1. I suppose I’m lucky in a way that my sound card is so messed up that I can’t speak on vent, it does mean my being female isn’t broadcast, but at the same time, the pugs I do join don’t use vent.

      Sometimes, it’s nice to be just that Shadow Priest that does a lot of damage, rather than the girl, or the tank’s girlfriend.

  7. No matter how far the game may have come when it comes to female gamers (as opposed to back in vanilla when it seems to have been more rare – or if not rare at least less guys seemed to be aware) – I think there’s always a certain stigma attached to being a female gamer.

    I hate the fact that that’s the case. A lot of people won’t judge you based on you being female – but for every person that doesn’t, there’s probably two that do.

    I don’t like putting my real name on applications to guilds either. And if I’m new I try to avoid talking on vent until people can see I do play well.

    What ends up happening is that I feel I HAVE to play really well. Because if I don’t – they won’t put it down to me being a bad player – they’ll put it down to me being a girl. But of course the backside is “omg you play well despite being a girl!”

    Now, don’t get me wrong. As I said there’s plenty of people there who don’t judge beforehand. The guys in my guild are good and don’t care at all whether you’re male or female as long as you play well. But you’ll always meet other players that do.

    You just need to logon to some forums and see the stereotypes flourish. As I was saying on Pewter’s blog. Just check any MMO-Champion forum and you’ll find people talking about “clicker-housewives” and “girlfriends forced to play”. You’d think a gaming community like that would know better. But apparently not. And it makes me so annoyed.

    Will stop ranting now, I promise :)
    Saga recently posted..The Reason I Hate Gnomes

    1. Oh my God yes, I always do that and I don’t even realise I’m doing it, it’s just an automatic thing. I’m always determined to be top of the meters so that people aren’t thinking “Oh well, she is a girl after all” I want them to think “Wow, she’s good, let’s keep her!”

      People who know me know that I put effort in, and that I’m a good player, but in a new guild it feels like a different thing altogether.

      I suppose this is the background sexism that is more subconscious than anything.

      Also – don’t mind rants! :D

  8. I always thought that picture was mandated to exist by Rule #63. However, I must say that it really confuses me about 63′d Illidan’s tattoos. Do they double as a shirt? Or is she topless and share the same anatomy as Barbie or something? Seriously… WTH?

    Anway, how’s this for a joke: So what’s the difference between girls that play WoW and boys that play WoW?

    Give up?

    Girls who play WoW can still get dates!

    *goes and cries in the corner*
    Vrykerion recently posted..The Implications of Holy Power

    1. Aww *pat* you can date girls who play WoW! :p
      And wasn’t the rule #36?

      Seriously though, male geeks have always had the same kind of stigma, that’s a different kind of discrimination altogether :)

      1. No, Rule 36 is naughtier.

        Rule 63 is simply for every thing that exists, there must be a drawing of it as the opposite gender. Goes from Male -> Female and Female -> Male. And doesn’t have to be dirty! (it just usually is, but not always)
        Vrykerion recently posted..The Implications of Holy Power

    1. Depends on the boy, but yeah. The most recent “You’re a girl?” comments I’ve had.. have actually been in my guild. I was a little ashamed to say the least :/

  9. God. THAT PICTURE. The femme-Illidan is amazing and inkeeping with the costume of the canon Illidan, and then Arthas has to have a plate bikini?? I like a bit of fan service, but…learn to balance it!

    Also a topic for another time – the implication that it is only okay to be a (female) gamer if you also play sports and are fit and healthy. As a FAT female gamer this is something that pulls me up short a lot, but fat hate is even more contentious and difficult to tackle in a WoW environment than a feminist one. (Despite the number of people who say things like ‘a bit of flesh to grab hold of is better than a skinnie minnie’….yeah I stop now before I get into a new blog post….)
    Pewter recently posted..I don’t see your problem- Sexism- World of Warcraft and Geekery

    1. Oh I get fan service, I read Fairy Tale for ages I can’t not get fan service! But Arthas doesn’t wear a bikini.. I now kind of wish he does because that would be hilarious.

      Definitely, fat hate is difficult to contend with in any environment, at least in WoW it’s easier to hide a bit of weight than being female.

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