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He Said She Said: Hypermasculinty

Amanda Dean

He Said , She Said is a new feature at WoW Insider, which looks at the game from masculine and feminine points of view. This week we discuss the difference between bearing among male and female characters.

David: What's the big idea with all the macho attitude in male characters? I wrote an article about this problem some time ago, and I'd like to see what you think about it. Many people don't even realize it's an issue though; they just assume: "This game is about killing things, therefore, as a male, I should look as violent and intimidating as possible." For those people that think this this way, that's fine; those people should have that option. But let's look at all the male avatars that are available to us in WoW and find out how many options there are for those of us who don't want to look like a football player on steroids. The answer is... one! Other than Gnomes, every single male avatar in the game is pumped full of that "I'm gonna kill you if you get in my way" attitude that I just don't want to play.

Where's the old wizard who spends all his time reading books rather than pumping iron? Where's the skinny rogue who kills things by knowing when and where to put his dagger rather than slashing it around with arms the size of some tree trunks? Where's the option for a male to actually look wise and eloquent instead of brutish and arrogant?

As it is, your can only look gentle and sophisticated if it's female. In fact, women are the only ones with a broad range of options for various personalities, from "delicate vixens" to "good-natured giantesses," "cutesy girls" to "barbarian war-mongers." Men, on the other hand, get just two choices: "Body-builder bent on breaking bones," or "Gnome." That's it.

Amanda: I agree with you that it doesn't make sense for a Bage to have the same physique as a warrior. Mages throughout the history of fantasy have been largely been spindly and sickly, with the exception of battlemages, of course. Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee were excellent choices for epic Mages. Neither of them were too young nor were they overly buff, but they struck fear in the hearts of those who opposed them. It's kind of a "I'm gonna kill you if you get in my way" kind of a world, especially if you're a Gnome.

On the other hand, for female characters, it seems that fantasy is filled with tantalizing temptresses of classes. While the female characters do have the option of having a pleasant visage, they are almost too pleasant. Do you think a Paladin staring down a Pyroblast would have such a vacuous look on her face? Probably not. Even if you don't take their armor into consideration, when in battle female toons look more like prom queens than combatants.

I think you mean that Alliance femmes look like delicate vixens" to "good-natured giantesses," or " "cutesy girls." Ok, maybe Tauren are good natured, but the pure violence in the Blood Elf's eyes take all of the delicateness away from her Vixen, and Orc and Troll Females are far from cutesy. I'm actually kind of jealous of character creation for male avatars. Since you all get to customize facial hair, the characters overall have considerably more personality. We generally get to adjust piercings, which is not nearly as obvious. (No, I'm not endorsing facial hair for female characters, just visible variation.)

My understanding is that Blizzard doesn't give character variation in the models due to scaling for armor and mounts and such. I looked into Star Wars Galaxies where you had more control over character customization. I didn't play the game a whole lot, but I found that I was unimpressed with the game. I would not trade extensive storyline and graphics for a more customizable character. It also seemed that most players gravitated to the same shape and size and didn't really make use of the variability in characters. I do expect that Blizz will follow through with better character customization in WOTLK. (and give Undead the Thriller dance!)

So you've stated a problem, how would you fix it?

David: The female characters in the game do have a lot of options -- if you want to be vicious, you can choose any female troll face but one, and yet if you want to be a nice female troll, then that one option is available to you. If you want to be an intelligent looking male human, however... good luck. Every single one looks like a middle-school dropout on steroids. Taking all the available combinations as a whole, female characters have a multitude of facial expressions and body types to fit any kind of human personality, whereas males only have two: vicious or laughable.

The solution could have been pretty easy: Just provide some alternative choices for the characters. Let the blood elves be tall, skinny and wizard-like, for instance. Or even provide an additional body-type for some races without changing what is there now, since I know many people like the races the way they are. The Chronicles of Spellborn is a good example of a game with a wide variety of body-types for males.

Now, however, it's probably too late for new body types. Wrath of the Lich King will not provide any new races, and anyways, Blizzard seems to think any new race would have to match this ultra violent stereotype they've created for all Warcraft males or else it wouldn't "fit" properly. I'm sure a number of players would agree with them, even if I would not.

New faces and expressions could be added, though. I'd like some options for a character to be wise and friendly looking, as a holy priest, for example. I may never get my old and frail wizard, but at least I could have my wise elder shaman without a scowl, snarl, idiot stare, or a mouth hanging open.

Amanda: I haven't heard that the reason for not adding new races is about fit. Our readers came up with a number of great suggestions for making some of the existing classes in the game into playable classes. There's plenty of material out there. Just like the inability to change the body type of models for different classes, it's not in their plans for programming. I would rather have dynamic facial expressions, depending on the situation I'm in.

I found it an interesting move to give the Horde the pretty Blood Elves in the Burning Crusade while assigning the monstrous Draenei to the Alliance. I believe this was done for the purpose of making the different factions appealing to different types of gamers. As a pretty loyal Horde player, I would gladly swap those two races any day. And by the way, the only female troll face that doesn't seem angry looks pretty vacuous.

In the end the name of the game is Warcraft. Most people are more interested in the MMO rather than the RP parts of MMORPG. Keep in mind though, that by the time you reach the end of the game, your facial expression really doesn't matter since it is usually hidden behind a helm or hood. We shall see what happens come Wrath of the Lich King. For now we just grin (or grimace or pout) and bear it.

In a world of gamers and gamer girls, let's take some time to examine what makes us the same and what makes us different. Here at WoW Insider we're discussing all kinds of in game issues through the lens of gender. Check out our inaugural post, we welcome all of your comments, and be sure to send in your ideas for our discussion.

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