Wow, That’s Boring. Let’s Add Sexism!

As so succinctly stated on a message board I frequent, the Noblegarden annual event in World of Warcraft amounts to, “Click on eggs before anyone else clicks on eggs to win!” Timed and themed analagous to Easter in the real world, the event’s mind-numbing at best.

Apparently, the game’s developers rightly realized that hours of staring at one spot on your computer’s monitor and clicking blue orbs isn’t appealing enough for its public. Their solution: Let’s introduce sexism! Hey, it makes all other media content popular, and no women play online games anyway, right?

Here’s a little background for those who aren’t familiar with the game. Late last year, taking a cue from the Xbox Live service, Blizzard introduced the ‘achievements’ system. Perform a novel, difficult or repetitive action in the game, and you get 10 achievement points, which at this time, are used for nothing. Several, after achieving them, give you “cosmetic” items, such as clothing, that don’t affect gameplay. One of the few exceptions to the gameplay rule, out of the more than 750 achievements, grants the fastest mount in the game.

Recently, Noblegarden (formerly a day-long event) was extended to a week, and numerous achievements related to it were added to the game. Most are pretty banal (eat 100 chocolates!), a few are cute (find a rabbit a suitable mating companion,) and one is unconscionable: Shake Your Bunny-Maker.

How this works: In the course of participating in Noblegarden, the player will receive an item that will cause bunny ears to sprout from the head of any one player the character chooses that’s in close proximity to them. The achievement is gained by doing this to female characters only of all playable races. Combined with the title of the achievement, it’s a pretty unsubtle reference to Playboy. As an additional attempt to be cute, a side requirement is that the character be at least 18th level. (18th level = 18 years old. Get it? Hilarious!)

Now, the player being “bunnied,” as it were, doesn’t have a choice in the matter. There’s no way to prevent having these bunny ears pop onto your head until after the action’s already been performed. I’ve personally witnessed a female real-life player be made very uncomfortable by the notion, and there’s a very real scenario that some female players are avoiding social spaces, which are the entire point of playing these types of online games. 

Understandably, they want to maintain control of their characters’ appearance and not have their bodies advertise a cultural meme that suggests sexual promiscuity. Another result, which has been witnessed in-game, has female characters lining up in large central social areas allowing the bunny ears to be placed on them, then removing them so the next character can fulfill his or her requirement.

As shown by this thread on the official World of Warcraft forums, the former are derided as not understanding it’s just a game. The latter are cheered on and celebrated. Remember, it’s just a game.

The kicker here is that Blizzard’s own Terms of Service states in, that one of the prohibited interactions with other characters is to “ Harass, threaten, stalk, embarrass or cause distress, unwanted attention or discomfort to any user of the Game.” And yet, Blizzard has de facto provided a game mechanic that, to the perception of at least one female gamer I personally know, and I can’t help but believe many others, requires that the user do exactly what they prohibit.

As a final note, you know that achievement that I mentioned, the one that allows you to have the fastest mount in the game? Getting it requires that this achievement, among many others, be completed.

Remember, it’s just a game.

(Sidebar: This isn’t the first time World of Warcraft has been noted for less-than-perfect views on gender. Another achievement’s titled “Bros Before Ho Ho Ho’s,”; also, there’s an entire line of quests with witty titles such as “Blowing Hodir’s Horn,” “Mounting Hodir’s Helm,” “Polishing the Helm,” “Raising Hodir’s Spear,” and “Thrusting Hodir’s Spear.” But these obviously don’t have anything to do with the real world either, because it’s just a game. )


Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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