Monday, 23 June 2014

Big Log

In June 2012, I wrote a couple of articles about the lip service that Blizzard pay to their own policies. In 8 years I have seen the Blizzard ToS and EULA and various other things that we have to agree to have stretched to several pages. I have never read these terms of conditions, but then again I don't intend to intentionally offend anyone, buy Gold, use bots or deliberately cheat in any way shape or form.

2 years ago I wrote, "Blizzard is relying on your own sensibilities, and the upshot is that if you don't mind, then Blizzard doesn't mind. In the end you get the game that you are willing to put up with."
I have changed my mind on this point, Blizzard get exactly the game that they want. This was brought sharply into focus with Rob Pardo's, idea of writing fun games for Single, White, Straight Teenage boys. It is a cliché that gamers sit glued to their computer screens, consuming large quantities of Porn and Pizza. I am not the ideal person to champion Feminism and or Gay rights, but does it matter if a storyline contains Homosexuality, or female role models that are strong, and not just physically tough in a Red Sonja kind of way, or conform to strict stereotypes (the Harlot, the schemer, the emotionally weak and feeble woman, the lover scorned). Women are great and they come in so many varieties. If writing strong women into a story is too difficult, here is a radical idea, employ some senior women into your company.

Why is everybody in Azeroth a fully paid up member of a fitness club, and why do woman characters have to have breast augmentation, slim waist and shapely buttocks. Fighting dragons whilst wearing a chain mail thong and a pair of large silicon breasts is not helpful for trying to swing a claymore above your head.

November 22nd 2014 will see the 10th Anniversary of World of Warcraft.

The world around us has changed. When the game came out, my daughter was still a baby, and my son was not yet born. The player base is essentially 10 years older, we have aged with the game.

It is not a simple case of young gamers growing up with Minecraft, and then on their Twelve birthday saying to their parents, I want to play World of Warcraft now, that will be the base game plus 4 expansions. That is some barrier to entry right there, with no chance of ever being able to catch up to the current content (except for when Blizzard decide not to provide any new content for 12 months).

The point I am trying to make is that Blizzard are still catering for a teenage white heterosexual male, when the real demographic is now a young adult, or in some cases middle aged with a family. Throw into this equation that some of these 7 Million are actually female or Lesbian/Gay/Transsexual. In some respect it is time for the Computer Games industry to grow up, because we have.

I am not looking for a sanitised, ideologically perfect world that I can safely let my children enter without risk of contamination, but removal of some of the excessive swearing, offensive abuse and the ability for Blizzard to actually act on their own policies. The one area that I keep coming back to is this gem from the Blizzard naming policy:

This category includes both clear and masked names which:
· Are inappropriate references to human anatomy or bodily functions
· Are pornographic in nature

Last night a hunter in LFR mass rezzed a few of the dead, at this point I noticed the name "Labiaminora". Being a man of the world and one that as actually touched a real life woman, I recognised the first 5 letters and wondered why female genitalia is to be found nestled in an avatars name. Google informed me that we are looking at the component level of the female genitalia.

In my opinion it is not big and its not funny, and I wonder what these people actually achieve by using medical terms/slang words/spoonerisms for genitalia. I would be embarrassed to have a Blood Elf Paladin called "Dickhead" and then having an issue trying to find a mature guild in which house my character.

In my original post "Communication Breakdown", I highlighted a number of character names that contravene the Obscene/Vulgar aspect of Blizzard's naming policy. The list was just quickly compiled by me trawling the dark recesses of my teenage experience and checking the EU Armory. If I can do it I am damn sure that Blizzard customer service can do it.

  • Knobhead - 62
  • Dickhead - 28
  • Wanker -1
  • Dickwad - 1
  • Twat - 20
  • Twatchops - 2
  • Pillock - 70
  • Bairyhalls - 35
  • Fanny - 212
  • Hairyfanny - 10
  • Maryhinge - 62
  • Mykhunt - 9
  • Mikehunt - 109
  • Hairyballs - 84
  • Labia - 115
  • Labiaminora - 16
  • Labiamajora - 11
  • Bigtits - 87
  • Bigmelons - 40
  • Beefcurtains - 87
The use of some of these words is highly misogynistic, and are designed to offend women. In some ways I hope you are offended by them, because Blizzard saw the sense to put a policy in place, then removed all responsibility of policing it.

Pick a character from the list and report them, I can guarantee that Blizzard will not action or sanction the ticket. They do not inform you the result of your ticket, normally because there is no result.

How anybody can ask for homosexual characters, and strong female leaders, when this company let the teenage player base get away with rampant misogyny. This is easy to police so what about Religious/Racial/Sexual harassment in game, I believe that Rob Pardo might see that as getting in the way of the fun.


  1. Recently while running the LFR I managed to get into a group with the same hunter. How odd is that running into the same person in multiple LFRs. How did I notice it was the same person you might ask? Because when I saw their name I said, how can they get away with a name like that. Their name was sparkletits. I must admit, unlike anything on your list which is just horrible, I did get a chuckle out of it. Not because I thought the name was funny, but I thought to myself who the hell names their character that.

    Blizzard does not abide by its own rules and yet it expects us to? I believe that is wrong.

    Remember, this is a game were a GM said to me one day that if I reported a botter again that I would be banned. Just to let them do their job. All because I reported it on all my characters. Hey, it is against their rules, I was making sure it did not go unnoticed, and I get threatened with a ban for doing so?

    When blizzard would faster ban the person doing the right thing than the person doing the wrong thing, there is a big problem going on somewhere in that company. It would not surprise me if it were all the blizzard employees that used the name dickhead, because it would be fitting for them.

    1. There are 6 Sparkletits in Europe, but only one of them is max level.

      You are faced by a screen that says Enter your Character name here. The first 7 all get rejected because you used characters from Lord of the Rings. Your mind goes completely blank, and then an ideal jumps in there.

      Unfortunately the now max level Priest is called "Sparkletits". Brilliant and so embarrassing.

    2. Bob - true story, that's exactly how I ended up with my Battletag... I was just goofing around with the interface and put in a name that absolutely would not be available and it just added a random 4-digit code to it.

      (the name isn't profane or inappropriate, it just has nothing to do with anything about me in-game, it'd be like your battletag being Jumpshot or Grumpy's being Divemaster)

      As for the situation in general, I had a back-and-forth with Blizzard about names a few years back, I'm on an RP server that's supposed to have additional naming requirements but we still have the usual "ikilluded" and such running around... after reporting a handful (who annoyed me in trade) whose names weren't being changed I put in a ticket. Apparently, at least at that point, a forced name change doesn't go into effect unless "multiple" complaints are registered. There wasn't any explanation about how many "multiple" consists of, could be 2, it's probably 5 or 10. Regardless, they definitely didn't proactively go after names that got past their original filters and I'm sure they don't now, either. I'm not a fan of that but that's why it's happening.

  2. Just 3 general comments/questions that I'll leave relatively open ended.

    1) Is it fair and reasonable to expect that just because we've aged during the lifespan of the game that the game has to "grow up" in the same vein? Someone who started playing the game at 18 could be introducing it to their 10-year old child today... would the game be more accessible and appropriate to the 10-year old if the game was now tailored to someone in their late 20s? Side question - how did the Harry Potter series of movies handle the exact same scenario? Were the later moves skewing older? I only watched the first one so I can't comment. It'd be instructive to know. Were the early ones PG and the later ones AA (or whatever the equivalent is in the US)? Did they add more "adult" themes in ways that the earlier ones shied away from?

    2) A new show started airing this past weekend called The Last Ship (or something like that)... it contained an absolutely throwaway line from a female crew member that she had intended at some point to visit Paris with her girlfriend. We will never meet that girlfriend. Thought exercise... had the dialog been boyfriend instead of girlfriend does that actually matter to anyone? If we were going to get anything similar in WoW, it would be similar... WoW, the game, barely touches on anything personal about its NPCs, they're action heroes, not people. Maybe some surface dialog and NPC sex changes could happen and perhaps they'll have some sort of impact in the broader world at large but I just have a hard time wrapping my head around that mattering to anyone. Can you tell me with any confidence (ie. backed up by any in-game actions or dialog) that more than a handful of NPCs are heterosexual? Far as I've noticed there's really no indication one way or the other, it's just not something that's visible.

    3) Regarding inappropriate names, I'll simply quote the always interesting and often insightful Mark Cuban on this one, the quote's in reference to Donald Sterling but applies equally here: "I'm the one guy who says don't force the stupid people to be quiet. I want to know who the morons are."

    1. For 1, what they do it just group up together, as characters, and the story is based on the characters current age and it grows with them. They do not "handle" it so it grows with the audience because that does not matter. Good is good and as long as it remains good, childish or not, people will watch it (read it). So the story is based on the age of the characters with no concern to the people viewing it.

      For 2) There is this gay couple in the shrine. A female dwarf and a female (human I think) that have the same last name. It is only an assumption, but they are always together, they have the same last name, and they come off looking like a couple. Does anyone notice this? No, they do not. But blizzard has its fair share of gay people they just do not put banners up and flashing lights and arrows pointing to them saying gay couple here, come look at the circus attraction because it is not that. It is just two people in the same world we are. No one cares if they are gay just the same as no one cares if they are straight. I agree with blizzards stance on it. They do add it in game like that but they do not go out of the their way to make a big deal out of it because it is not a big deal. That is just who they are, gay or not, it means nothing to our game play so it is a non issue.

    2. Yeah to be fair to some of the devs, I believe Redbeard noted on one of his posts that there are two creative teams in WoW: the quest/zone team and the 'executive' development team. The former, who populate the world with NPCs and provide the smaller stories, are generally pretty good about inclusion. It's when you get to the Rob Pardo and Chris Metzen level, the executive devs, that you get that misogyny, homophobia, and general White Male Teen edge to the game. That's why the larger expansion or patch stories cause so many people to protest that the culture is...immature, to put it nicely. And those big plots, those big stories, are the ones marketed, the ones every player is exposed to, the ones that affect the game as a whole. So they are the ones that get the attention, that get noticed.

      The thought exercise above...the fact that it did mention girlfriend is important, for reasons of representation, and therefore changing it to boyfriend would matter to gay people as it would mean a loss of representation. The only situation where it truly would not matter to anyone (besides diehard bigots, obviously) is when same-sex relationships are as equally represented in media as hetero relationships. Then, the choice to make the unseen, undeveloped partner of the character male or female (or whatever) would be pretty much completely arbitrary. At this time, it is not. So in short, yes it does matter to a growing number of people.

      As for the question of how many NPCs are hetero, that's what the default is in our culture at the moment. Every NPC is assumed to be hetero unless and until shown to be otherwise, because in our society homosexuality is seen as the exception, not a normal, common occurence. Plus, the vast majority of the NPCs whose sexual orientation IS made clear, are hetero, which implies that homosexuality is rare (else the representation would be larger).
      I'm sure it would be an educational experience if you (quite rightly) used that fact that there is no indication one way or the other to argue that most NPCs are actually homosexual. My bet is that you would face a massive backlash of denial. Might be fun to try , though. :P

    3. @Dehakha

      Not sure if you'll see this but I've always questioned the value of "representation" in general when it comes to fiction, whether video games, books, movies, TV shows, etc. If I only wanted to be surrounded by people like me, frankly, I could never leave work.

      These days, the books I read involve more or less flawless action heroes (going through a Clive Cussler phase).

      The TV shows I watch run the gamut from vampires to action heroes to actual superheroes to folks with much nicer jobs, houses and cars than I do, plus a whole bunch of other dissimilarities.

      I'm a straight white guy, significantly older at this point than the teen version of me that's apparently the core WoW demographic according to most of the negative feedback surrounding representation ("White Male Teen"), but aside from that I'm in that camp. I feel not one BIT represented in the game... nor is it something I crave or seek. When I create a new toon I tend to mix things up, I have a decent number of female toons as well as quite a few darker-skinned ones. If there was a toon that looked like me I doubt I'd actually pick it... who fantasizes about playing yourself?

      Maybe it's simple... maybe it's just that only marginalized (to any degree) groups have a need for representation in their fictional media of choice and that's why I can't see it. I don't really buy that, though. Back when it was airing I watched and enjoyed the TV show Veronica Mars... the primary reason I watched it is because the protagonist, a young "detective", was female... I thought and still think it was a better show because they made that choice, it was the right choice within the show's universe, they were able to spin some unique stories vs having a male protagonist.

      Basically, I don't like the idea of introducing elements like sex, race, colour, sexuality, etc just for its own sake. It feels cheap, like the throwaway line from The Last Ship that I mentioned (it's been weeks and it STILL feels cheap). But if they can actually craft a scenario where there's impact as a result, that's something I can get behind. I'd fully support folks who are petitioning for that level of integration, not because of some nebulous concept like representation but because it would make for a more interesting story.

      Saw this in a recent WI queue and is the reason I came back to this post... basically re-affirms my point that if Blizzard did add those elements they would just be window dressing. He supports it and in all honesty I'd be fine with it as well, I just don't think it's enough and I don't see it as being worth the level of angst that I see around about it... I don't see how those types of small steps are even worth taking without a bigger plan. And yes, anyone can disagree and say it's enough, or better than nothing, but I'm just as entitled to an opinion as they are.

      "Should WoW have a same-sex relationship?"

      Personally I would like to see one. But I don't know where it should be, or who the people in it should be -- whether it should be a couple of entirely new characters or established ones, etc. I've always felt you could do this in WoW without much dwelling on it by simply having an NPC drop a line about 'his husband' or whatever. But that might not be satisfying for players who identify strongly with the idea.

      WoW in general doesn't really show us much of character relationships that way. I've never even seen Thrall and Aggra kiss, for example. I doubt that WoW would ever give us a same sex relationship that felt any more real than that. It would still be a nice step forward in my opinion.