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.
|Pictured: Blizzard's HoS PR team|
I'm reasonably sure the sound I overheard was the simultaneous, spontaneous excretion of earthen construction materials from the rectum of the entire Blizzard PR team.
Look...Blizzard; this is an intervention and I say the following because I love you.
You referred to comics, so let me quote Peter Parker's uncle Ben, "With great power, comes great responsibility." Your game is going to be seen by millions, it's going to do well because it has "BLIZZARD(tm)" stamped on it. Video games are a medium struggling to gain recognition as "art" and I am 99% sure your developers agree that they should be, meaning it's sort of hard to turn around and say "We're not sending a message." That's what art DOES, it sends messages, it influences perceptions and culture. Your art direction tells young women and girls that they're supposed to struggle for a body type that is impossible for many and that their value is to become objects of male desire; that nothing else about them is valuable UNLESS they conform to that. It tells young men and boys that there is only one acceptable body type for women, and that without sex appeal their other qualities do not matter. It's as simple as peer pressure; if everyone with a trait is doing something, others with that trait are being implicitly told that they should too. This doesn't mean people are stupid, it means we're social animals and take queues from the group.
Blizzard, you have a megaphone now whether you wanted one or not. You got one when you became one of the best known video game companies in the world. If you endorsed a pair of shoes, they would sell thousands of pairs. You created a digital sparkle horse and sold hundreds of thousands of them. You have your own convention devoted entirely to your products; no one else in the industry has that. You can't expect to be treated as art when it benefits you, and as a product when it doesn't.
Now there's nothing wrong with a character being sexy, there's nothing wrong with showing it and embracing it. There is something wrong when it is the ONLY depiction of women in your game; when "cool" for female characters requires they also be as sexy as possible. There is something wrong when a largely male team decides that all female characters need to conform to male gaze. Lets not delude ourselves, most of the characters were designed originally by men. It is not Kerrigan that chooses to have high heels as part of her alien get-up, it's a lead designer at Blizzard.
No one is specifically looking to your game for a message, but it's contributing to a culture that already deluges us negative expectations and standards women. You CAN be better than that, you can refuse to contribute to a social norm that says the only value of a woman is her body.
You do not need to be running for President to be trying to set a positive example, heck, you don't even need to be running for Senate, or the House (though I _really_ hope you know not to say things like, "The female body has ways of shutting that thing down.") Heck, you don't need to be running for Student Body President or Head Card-Shuffler at your local game store to be a decent and even mildly progressive person.
There are somewhere around 7 billion people on the planet; slightly more than half are women. Of that 3.5 billion, there is a myriad of body types that go entirely unrepresented in games. So crazy thought, try and fix it. You took a tiny baby step in WoW when you made female Pandarens a little rounder than the other races; it's a great start! Now apply it elsewhere.
And seriously, don't give us the "We're not running for president," excuse again. If it was because you have a lack of female characters in different body types, own up to it and try to do better. Make new characters, or throw Snow Blossom in there and let her wreck face.