I’m sure plenty members of our Geek Nation frequent a little site called Rock, Paper, Shotgun. A little over a week ago RPS, did a pretty awesome interview with Blizzard Entertainment; you know that company that has a massive Warcraft universe and has several best selling games based on it? Yeah, those guys.
Anyway, you could read RPS’s interview with Blizzard here: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/11/22/blizzard-on-heroes-of-the-storm-female-designs-in-mobas/
What I would like to direct your attention to, is at the very end of the interview, the last three questions that RPS directs to game director, of Heroes of the Storm, Dustin Browder. I will give Browder this much; this interview started as any other interview that was focused on Blizzard’s upcoming game Heroes of the Storm- and then RPS kinda threw him a massive curve ball by directing the interview into a hot topic subject: the hyper sexualized character designs of females in the MOBA genre. Regardless, if these questions were considered off topic, the fact that Browder did such god awful job of answering the questions it’s going to raise flags among the gaming community.
RPS: You have some interesting alternate outfits for heroes. Roller Derby Nova, especially, caught my eye. On its own, that’s totally fine – just a silly, goofy thing. A one-off. But it got me thinking about how often MOBAs tend to hyper-sexualize female characters to a generally preposterous degree – that is to say, make it the norm, not a one-off at all – and StarCraft’s own, um, interesting focus choices as of late. How are you planning to approach all of that in Heroes?
Browder: Well, I mean, some of these characters, I would argue, are already hyper-sexualized in a sense. I mean, Kerrigan is wearing heels, right? We’re not sending a message to anybody. We’re just making characters who look cool. Our sensibilities are more comic book than anything else. That’s sort of where we’re at. But I’ll take the feedback. I think it’s very fair feedback.
RPS: I have to add, though, that comics might not be the best point of reference for this sort of thing. I mean, it’s a medium that’s notorious – often in a not-good way – for sexing up female characters and putting them in some fairly gross situations.
Browder: We’re not running for President. We’re not sending a message. No one should look to our game for that.
Browder attempts to defend his character designs by saying “hey look, it’s not suppose to be realistic. People running around in battle in high heels? That’s already hyper sexaulized, right? We just want to make awesome looking characters.”
Bro, you just shot yourself in the foot. Are you saying because you’re clearly making something fictional, that you AREN’T sending a message? A massive multimedia/gaming company is NOT responsible for the content and it’s message that they are putting out? We’re talking about the same Blizzard right? The same gaming company that creates adorable pixelated pets that you can buy for $5 and that money goes to Make a Wish Foundation, or disaster relief funds? So this company’s games, and what they implement in these games, has NO message? Browder, I’m finding this extremely hard to believe.
I think my biggest problem with Browder’s statement is that they aren’t sending a message, and nobody should look to their game for that. Does he not understand his position? (Like a similar Gabe of Penny Arcade?) Whether you want to or NOT, your gaming company is a market place mogul- people, the community, will look to you, your games, and your messages. Browder may not want to have the responsibility of sending out “a message,” but when you’re a leading flagship in the gaming industry, that role is given to you by default. People WILL look to you, like it or not.
But here’s the bit of the interview that really sent me in a disgusted rage:
RPS: But it’s not even about a message. The goal is to let people have fun in an environment where they can feel awesome without being weirded out or even objectified. This is a genre about empowerment. Why shouldn’t everyone feel empowered? That’s what it’s about at the end of the day: letting everyone have a fair chance to feel awesome.
Browder: Uh-huh. Cool. Totally.
[PR says we’ve run over, tells me I have to leave]
RPS: Thank you for your time.
This is a palm to the fucking face, moment. A DOUBLE face palm moment. Honestly Browder, why don’t you just tack on, “Cool story, bro,” to the end of your statement to clearly emphasize the fact that YOU DON’T CARE what a portion of your audience thinks. So long as it’s “cool” nothing else should matter, right? The interview was wrapped up in awkward frenzy, and though I am fuming at Browder for his poor handling of the situation, at least Blizzard/Browder issued a formal apology:
Yes, the apology is lacking, and like many others in the industry Browder manages to dodge the bullet and never fully addresses the question that RPS formally asked. He tip toed around the bush to say “hey, I understand fair character design is important, we’ll try to make that a priority.” But avoided the actual topic at hand: how can Blizzard help change the depiction of female champions in their games, and in the industry. Though, I suppose, the real question is IF they want the help change the industry?
Which I find odd that Im asking this to begin with. I may not be part of the Blizzard bandwagon right now, but the company took a steady part of my income for about five years of my life. While gallivanting in WoW, and earning tier after tier of armors, not once did I think “Oh man, this is amazingly sexual.” Honestly, half the time I look at a new tier armor design one or two things would come out of my mouth: “That looks AWESOME,” or “That looks AWFUL.” I played a female champion (Blood elf, warlock. FOR THE HORDE), and Blizzard never put my champion in a bikini equivalent of a male epic armor. My warlock was always covered, from head to toe, in some pretty amazing armor (even if I thought it looked stupid. I thinking about you tier 10). Naturally, I am having a very difficult time understanding why Browder hesitates to clearly say, “we want to make a female characters design that EVERYONE can enjoy, without over sexyfying her.”
Because Blizzard has done it BEFORE, plenty of times, in plenty of other games- why is there hesitation in this?
I don’t want to tear into Browder anymore- the guy did the right thing, came out and apologized, and I can honestly respect that. Moving forward, I really hope he takes the time to think about his answers in an interview before sounding like a bro with a sexy bar time agenda. I understand that RPS really pulled the rug from underneath him (and that’s a whole other topic that people can debate), but it also goes to show that Blizzard may want to start thinking about this as a pressing matter; because it is not going to go away, questions like these are going to keep coming up and players will want to have them addressed and answered. Blizzard, how prepared are you, because people will look to you as an example.