Sexism and Swordmasters

Swordsman in a dress?

Swordsman in a dress?

I am so tired of hearing everyone tell me that our Swordmasters are girlish. It drives me nuts.

Apparently some people have difficulty with the idea of a slender swordsman with long hair who wears a robe. Do they think martial arts Kendo practitioners look like girls too? I guess they’ve never seen pictures of Norman warriors at Hastings in their long mail coats. For a footman, the long body cover is not at all a bad design. It’s when combat moved to mounted knights that it was more important to keep the legs separately armoured. The idea of seeing a man in full plate armour wading through the mud is basically daft, it would be too heavy.

Truth is, it’s an elf in a fantasy setting. It isn’t girly, it’s an ELF. Sorry if that’s too complicated for some people.

But there is more to it than that. The ire directed on forums towards people who asked for female Chaos Chosen, the general sexism towards Swordmasters and put downs on dwarf tanks for their height. I’m sick of the attitude from the player base that tanks must be uber-macho, and the refusal to accept that a slender looking character can do the job. No one complains about their healers, casters, or melee dps not looking macho enough, so it isn’t just players who can’t handle having a non-bulky alter ego. People aren’t whining about Disciples of Kaine wearing long robes when they fight or goblins not looking sufficiently badass. What is this particular issue with tanks?

It makes me so very glad that most of the haters will have rolled destruction so I don’t need to deal with them other than via a swift eye-laser to the goolies. From behind a sold shieldwall of Swordmasters.

Whose breasts are they anyway?

There’s a certain advantageĀ in being a female blogger. It means we can bring you this overview of the breasts in the WAR universe. So, here’s a screenshot of every female char’s breasts – clothed and unclothed (and rank 31, since we’re working with templates at the moment). There’s one from a rank 1 char in there, and I think I left out 1 set of high elf ‘naked’ breasts as the racial unclothed breasts all look pretty similar – showing clothes make all the difference.

Go on, see if you can tell which class each pic is from?

Many thanks to my husband who took all the screenshots while I was out at work and then with our visitors. He managed to capture this screenshot while working on the project – it made me laugh a lot, because the other player is clearly checking out the naked dark elf!

So I was looking at the screenshots…

There are 11 new screenshots from E3, go take your time and look through them. And then tell me what’s missing?

Yeah, where are the female characters? I counted one Warrior Priest and that was all. (On closer inspection — which involved me and Arbitrary going through the pictures saying to each other ‘I can see boobs! Oh no, wait …’ — I think there may be a female zealot too. And not sure what the class is in picture 11 but that has boobs too!)

Admittedly you can’t always be sure with elves but if it wasn’t for previous screenies I’d be wondering if the female models were in the game at all. This isn’t a push for equal rights for virtual world toons, just seeing pictures of characters I might want to play helps me decide on classes and I doubt I’m the only one. It was the screenshot of the dwarf engineer girl with the spanner that really got me interested in the class.

Also, on another note, squigs look HUGE!

Tanks come from Mars, Healers come from Venus?

Tanks and healers are the two character roles in MMORPGs that don’t really exist in single player games. When it’s just one character against the world, you have to survive the damage, kill the baddies, open the locked doors, solve the puzzles and save the world all by yourself. But in these multiplayer games, you have the option to specialise in a supporting role to better benefit the group.

Even though they are both support-type roles, players have the idea that tanks are more likely to be played by men and healers/support are more likely to be played by women. I wanted to look at whether or not this was true and why people made this assumption, so I started at the motherlode of MMORPG population surveys, Nick Yee’s Daedalus Project. And most importantly, is it likely to be true in Warhammer too or are there other factors in play?

Are there more female healer characters?

There’s no real survey information on this. But my experience is that even male players who usually play male characters may select a female character for their healer. The healing role is associated with feminine characteristics — sits out of the action with a nuturing/supporting role, is often fragile, is looked after by tougher members of the group, wears a robe.

The surveys do show that many people transfer real life assumptions and stereotypes about gender into MMORPGS (eg. treating female toons differently to male toons). And especially for players who project themselves into their online avatars, picking a female toon for a more feminine role might be a natural choice. For the same reason, a lot of people do assume that most women play healers. Even if it isn’t true, healers are associated with the female role.

Actually, tanks are also associated with the male role. Heavily armoured, fighting off monsters, protecting the weaker party members and often taking leadership roles all fit in with a stereotypical male image.

Enough about the characters, what about players?

As part of a general demographics survey, Nick Yee asked players if they would prefer to have healing or damage spells, given the choice. From the link, you’ll see that he’s broken the results down by age and gender. Over all agegroups, women preferred the healing spells and the older respondents of both genders tended more towards healing than younger ones.

He also ran a survey about which players prefer hybrids and which prefer more specialised classes. Again, he found that women and older players preferred the hybrid role. (He doesn’t really define hybrid in any detailed way.) Of course, the players who preferred specialist roles could prefer specialist healers, and not all of the hybrids will be healing. But in the main, hybrids have tended to have some healing ability.

Healers also tend to sit back and take less of a leadership role, how about that?

OK, this is just my assumption. You certainly can lead a group or a raid from a healer, I have in the past, but as a general role it tends to be more reactive than proactive. You wait for people to get hurt and then heal them. You wait for other people to pull and then react. You sit at the back and watch what everyone else is doing, then decide how to best support them.

Nick Yee has an interesting survey where he first asks people if they like leadership roles and then asks if they are guild leaders. What he actually found was that men were more likely to prefer leading but women were proportionately just as likely to be guild leaders. Again, on my experience, being a guild leader is often as much about social and management skills as pure leadership. But what the survey does show is that women are less likely to take the lead when thrown into a group situation (or at least, less likely to claim to enjoy it). This would nudge them away from tanks and towards support classes.

The benefits for social players of playing a healer

Relmstein wrote a great article a few years back about why fewer people play healers. But the rarity of healers and the need for them also makes them a great choice for social players. I know that in WoW I had a very different experience of the game when I was playing a priest. I had invitations for every instance and raid I ever wanted to attend. I never had to look around for a group (this was pre-TBC), they called me! As someone who is primarily social, this was great! Because of the social side, I loved my healer.

Women, who tend to be more sociable, are drawn to healers for these social benefits.

Playing with a partner

From survey results, 60% of women play MMORPGs with a romantic partner. That’s a lot of people. Although some of them, like me, will have persuaded their boyfriends and husbands to play with them, the majority will have been persuaded by their menfolk. When this happens, it tends to be that the person who knows the game better picks their own class first and suggests a good support class to the other one. Since men don’t tend to prefer healing, there’s a good chance that for a lot of these women, the first class suggested to them will have been a healer.

So … you’re saying that women do tend to play healers then?

Well yes. Based on the surveys, more women do tend to prefer healers. But it probably isn’t by as large an amount as people normally assume. Older players of both gender are drawn to hybrids and to healers as well. People also assume without asking that female healing characters are played by female players.

Is Warhammer going to be different?

It could be different and here are a few reasons:

Many of the healing classes are designed to be dealing damage also. You don’t have to choose between one or the other.

Healers may not be in short supply, based on the WHA class survey. If that’s the case, social players may not be nudged towards them so much.

Player base is tending older and more female. More women are playing MMORPGs these days and warhammer may not be their first game. Older players also like to heal and play hybrid classes, and they are not all women.

Men playing Witch Elves

Jalaar has an interesting thread on Warhammer Conflict about Men role-playing as Witch-Elves.

Fact is, most MMORPG servers are not designated as RP servers. So surely just rolling on a non-RP server would mean that everyone realises you aren’t RPing as a witch elf? But no, people feel the need to add explicitly, “I might play one but I won’t be playing as one.”

Here at the Book of Grudges we have no issues with people roleplaying (or just playing) characters of opposite genders: go play, have fun. But is there something about the highly sexualised witch-elves that makes guys just a little bit awkward ? Perhaps even the non-RPers identify with their characters more than they like to admit.

This reminded me of one of my funnier roleplaying experiences back on a RP MUSH. I was a staffer and I was playing a female character to run a scene for another player (who was male, but had a female character).

It was great, lots of conflict, good roleplaying all around. At the end of it, the other player sent me a whisper to say that he’d enjoyed the scene but he thought I needed more practice in playing women because my character wasn’t feminine enough.

What do you think? Can men RP females more convincingly than women? Would the idea of being represented online by a semi-naked ninja elf toon make you a bit uncomfortable?