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Blizzard issues apology after sexualised character debate

Monday, 25th November 2013 10:58 GMT By Dave Cook

Heroes of the Storm game director Dustin Browder has issued an apology after replying to recent questions over the sexualisation of female characters in MOBA games.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun was at BlizzCon a few weeks ago. During an interview, the site posed Browder with some questions over the portrayal of female characters in strategy and MOBA titles. They then asked Browder to comment on Blizzard’s approach to females in Heroes of the Storm.

He replied, “Well, I mean, some of these characters, I would argue, are already hyper-sexualised 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.”

When pressed by the site further, he added, “We’re not running for President. We’re not sending a message. No-one should look to our game for that.”

Browder’s comments caused much debate over the weekend.

In reply, Browder published an apologetic statement on the Heroes of the Storm site yesterday.

It reads:

In a recent interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I responded poorly to a statement the interviewer made about over-sexualised character designs in games, and I want to apologise for that. This is a serious topic and I don’t want anyone to think that I, or anyone else at Blizzard, is insensitive about how we portray our characters.

It takes work to make compelling characters, but it’s important to take a step back to ensure that we’re not alienating our players. We have an amazing roster of heroes and we will always strive to make sure that everyone can have a hero that they identify with and feel powerful using. And at the end of the day, we all want the same thing. A great game where we can all have fun battling for glory and maybe some bragging rights.

On the stage at BlizzCon, I spoke about Heroes being a collaborative project, shaped by the passion, love, and support of gamers like you. We’re building this game together, we’re listening, and your thoughts are valued.

I would like to thank Rock, Paper, Shotgun as well as our players for their feedback on this important issue. We want to do better, so keep the feedback coming and thanks for the continued support. We’ve got some pretty amazing things in store for you and we’re looking forward to seeing you in the Storm.

Will this matter change how Blizzard approaches the MOBA’s female quotient, or will it be business as usual? It remains to be seen. What do you think?

Via Eurogamer.

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39 Comments

  1. FeaturePreacher

    Business as usual. I guess there’s about 2 more years before this whole victimization crap gets extremely cliched and humorously predictable to the point where no one cares in any earnest sense.

    #1 8 months ago
  2. Judicas

    I don’t really see much wrong with the quote up you’ve used of his, unless he said more I don’t see what needed to be apologised for…

    #2 8 months ago
  3. TheBlackHole

    They’ll do whatever sells, because consumers are really the ones who tell you what people want, not journalists.

    #3 8 months ago
  4. TheBlackHole

    P.s.

    I didn’t care for the article and don’t think he had anything to apologise for.

    #4 8 months ago
  5. Bowser

    Very stupid that he’d be expected to apologize for something like this.

    #5 8 months ago
  6. dizzygear

    What do i think? I think im getting sick and tired of this politicly correct bullshit and i think the man said nothing he had to apologise for.

    #6 8 months ago
  7. Dave Cook

    @3 Well, I wouldn’t say that’s true in all cases. I think we’re pretty good at calling out bullshit from time to time. We tend to tell it how it is.

    @4 My article, or the original? Bear in mind that we’re just relaying what happened between RPS and Blizzard here.

    #7 8 months ago
  8. absolutezero

    I think I said all I wanted to say about this on the Forum but this stand down from Blizzard is fucking horrible.

    Really really horrible.

    #8 8 months ago
  9. TheBlackHole

    @7

    Not your article Dave, the original.

    Also, Telling it how it is, and knowing what the consumer really wants are two VERY different things :)

    #9 8 months ago
  10. Dave Cook

    @9 Cool :)

    Yeah I agree actually. I mean, did you see the story I wrote regarding DICE today? They won’t add a squad creation lobby to Battlefield 4, despite many fans clearly asking for it. Missing a trick there I think.

    #10 8 months ago
  11. Clupula

    So what did he have to apologize for, exactly? There’s nothing in his original statement that should have pissed anyone reasonable off.

    #11 8 months ago
  12. Creepy

    RPS at it’s best, a bunch of social terrorists wielding their reader base as a weapon to harass developers and force them to censor their games.

    #12 8 months ago
  13. TheWulf

    @3

    They do. And unfortunately that turns women away from gaming.

    This actually comes up a lot on Tumblr, that women are turned off gaming because they’re disgusted by the average guy salivating at their character. The worst offender being MMOs like World of Warcraft, since you don’t have an option to not be objectified. This is why the number of women playing WoW is <1 per cent, it's the per centage that enjoys pervy males salivating over them.

    For most of the women I've spoken with about this on Tumblr, they don't actually enjoy the thought of you objectifying and salivating all over them, they don't like the idea of you fapping off to them and looking at them as though they're a perfect rape target. Imagine that.

    But Blizzard goes with what sells — to gamers.

    There's a reason that this is most prevalent in gaming, rather than anywhere else. You don't really see this so much in films, TV, or books. And if it is on TV, they have the shame to put it on after 9PM, and it's usually only there if they have absolutely nothing at all better to show. It's basically porn, after all.

    I'm sorry if it hurts your sensibilities but I like seeing more respectful depictions of women that aren't just fantasy objects. Like Jade in Beyond Good & Evil, or the NCR officers in New Vegas.

    New Vegas…

    Okay, funny topic to drive my point home. There's a popular mod for New Vegas to reduce the amount of women serving, since the arsehole who created it believes that the military isn't a place for women. Another mod sexualises the outfits the NCR women wear, but not the men.

    That's a very, very regressive attitude toward women. That women are objects to be fought over and won. Of course, I'll be seen as white knighting because some people have an overly simplified, black and white world view. Yeah. There's that. I know. Believe me, I know. Instead, for someone with half a brain, it might be that I have empathy and I'm not a sociopath.

    I've frequently accused gamers of sociopathy and I don't think I'm wrong, there. And it's often low-level sociopathy, too. Like a crime waiting to happen. In this case: A rape crime.

    And don't tell me that gamers can tell fantasy from reality — they can't.

    Proof? I have proof! If gamers could tell fantasy from reality, they'd be able to empathise with real women who feel sickened by this, who feel that their gender is just an object to be paraded around in games for the satisfaction of straight, white cis-males.

    That’s why most gamers can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality. The evidence is damning.

    The lack of empathy is damning.

    Do I have more evidence? Yes! Why, yes I do! I’d like to direct you to the Steam forum for Gone Home, which has such an aura of hatred of women that I find it repugnant, and it’s a hatred fuelled by how the women aren’t straight.

    So gamers go on a rampage about how there are these virtual women who won’t feign interest in them, and how they have to play a gay character.

    Sociopathy is, quite explicitly, the inability to feel empathy for others.

    That’s what I see in gamers, every day.

    And it’s not just this topic, either, but many others. Like the WoW topic in general, where I had to deal with two different people that had very bad WoW addictions. That was hard. I had to pay for their upkeep and they got ,i>very violent with me whenever I tried to talk to them about it. I had to bring in outside help just to remove them from my home.

    Just think about that for a moment. How bad an addiction would have to be. And I’ve seen this not once but twice, now.

    And the response I got for bringing this up was pure low-functioning sociopathy, anger and ire from a person who was no better than a crime waiting to happen. And that’s how I see a lot of gamers, honestly. Without that base empathy for other people, gamers are often crimes waiting to happen. My interactions with them in multiplayer games have pretty much just shown gamers to be that, too.

    I’ve heard it all. Homophobic slurs, racial slurs, misogyny…

    Hell, I heard some of that from the bastard I was trying to wean off WoW.

    So this is why I have a low opinion of gamers. Yeah, it sells. But should it? Should it really? That it does sell makes me feel a bit ill.

    #13 8 months ago
  14. TheWulf

    It’d be nice to see that some of you actually talked to women and that you weren’t all so afraid of women that you can’t connect with them.

    This is one issue I will go all ‘social warrior’ about because I see how it affects me.

    Find a woman in your life — any will do. Even if it’s family. Ask her how she’d feel if you felt hot for women in video game characters, if you think that women should dress all sexy for your amusement, and that women should be okay with you getting off to their sexiness day in, day out. Ask how she’d feel if women existed in games solely so that men like you could get raging nerd boners.

    See how that goes for you.

    Yeah, a minority of women enjoy that, but most of those I’ve talked to are actually upset about it. They see it as part of rape culture, where people are teaching themselves to look at women as objects who must obey the orders of superior menfolk. LEST THEY BE WARNED, WITH FISTS.

    #14 8 months ago
  15. Darkfield

    Well anyone who played enough Blizzard games knows that they can be accused of many things, sexualising ain’t one of them. They have a lot of strong female characters, they’re costumes usually aren’t that revealing, the only ones that perhaps are Jaina and Sylvanas, their hero outfits are the same as males. So I wouldn’t say that blizzard has anything to apologise for.

    PS: you’re blowing this way too out of proportion… I have been playing WoW for more than 6 years, been playing in enough guilds with females in them, been good friends with a few of them. None of what you’re saying is applicable to Blizzard, rather it has to do with people playing it. Blizzard has no control over what ever the hell is going on on people’s heads.

    #15 8 months ago
  16. absolutezero

    Rape Culture aha ha ha ha

    Oh man post your tumblr. Please.

    #16 8 months ago
  17. Darkfield

    @Absolutezero Everyone has a utopia that they retreat to in their minds, TheWulf has this Dystopia that he can’t get away from… So it’s a trap, there’s no going back once you go there. :D

    #17 8 months ago
  18. TheWulf

    To say my last on this, I’m almost tempted to start up a Bigotry Bingo on Tumblr, which tracks how often the following comes up in either articles on news sites, or in the comments:

    * Fear and/or unmitigated hatred of women.
    * Fear of having to put up with LGBT people in their games (likely tied into secret hatreds of those people).
    * Insistence that a trans person is not a real person.
    * Seething hatred for anyone who wants to see positive portrayals of the above groups (LGBT people and women in general), portrayals that aren’t hurtful to them.
    * Absolute support of rape culture (a la Penny Arcade), but only if the victims are women.
    * Seething hatred for anyone who wants to have a level-headed discussion about the problems caused by gaming (in regards to health and mental wellness for all involved).

    It’s amazing how often these things come up. Is… no one ever ashamed?

    #18 8 months ago
  19. Clupula

    @13 – As someone who has 99% female friends, I can name all of ONE woman is actually offended by things like this.

    Or Dragon’s Crown.

    Or Bayonetta.

    In fact, what most of them are offended by are men who think they speak for all of them when they’re “supposed” to be offended by something they aren’t.

    Is it a dick move to make a mod for Fallout to get rid of female NPC’s? Yes, it is, but nobody is saying sexism doesn’t exist. What they are saying, however, is that not every woman spends all day on tumblr thinking that everything is a great injustice towards their gender.

    There are actual real problems in the world. There is a real war against women from one side of the political spectrum in America. There are new anti-choice measures being created every day. These are the things that effect the world and need to be fought against. Not digital boobies.

    There’s a line in the Dead Kennedys song called “Where Do You Draw the Line” that sums up the attitude of the people you seem to know perfectly

    “The Party Line says, ‘No, feminists can’t wear fishnets’
    Want to help stop war?/Well, we reject your application
    You crack too many jokes/And you eat meat
    What better way to turn people off
    Then to twist ideas for change/Into one more church
    That forgets we’re all human beings”

    Of course, the song also asks, “How many liberators really want to be dictators?” which I think is a great question for this debate, because it brings up the notion that not everyone is offended by the same things and not everyone feels that these things need to change.

    In fact, by wanting to forcibly change these things, instead of simply offering an alternative, you cause undue resentment from people who might have been on your side otherwise.

    #19 8 months ago
  20. TheBlackHole

    @TheWulf

    “This is why the number of women playing WoW is <1 per cent"

    At its peak, Nielsen data found that WoW was the most played core game by females 25-54, estimating over 400,000 female players in the US alone (against 675,000 male). Not only that, but their game time accounted for 54.6% of all gameplay minutes in December of that year.

    Don’t mistake your view with that of the other 99%, because in all fairness, while I agree with some of what you’ve said, you’re simply way off base arguing ‘facts’ without actually being reasoned and balanced with your arguments.

    “That’s why most gamers can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality.”

    - Saying things like this doesn’t help people take you seriously, either. Nice to see some strong opinions being expressed on a serious issue though, whichever side of the fence you’re on.

    #20 8 months ago
  21. TheBlackHole

    @19

    Excellent post.

    #21 8 months ago
  22. Djoenz

    TheWulf has a point. Many WoW gamers are addicted as hell. Ive heard enough incidents where addicted players do crazy shit for virtual items. Some even killed their nemesis because they got ripped off or threathened. Many gamers that are addicted to games wordwide are living in a bubble.

    They are basically brainwashed.

    EDIT:
    About the sexualizing aspect in games well sex sells people. Im way more disturbed about the music industry tbh.

    What music video these days (in the commercial side) doesnt have sex in it. It makes me sick to see Miley Cyrus twerking and what not.
    Great way of being an example for your young fans Miley. Bravo.

    #22 8 months ago
  23. Clupula

    I can name all of ONE game I or anyone except that one girl I know found offensive. Duke Nukem Forever’s depiction of rape victims saying things like, “Please Duke, I’ll become hot again after you rescue me” (I’m paraphrasing) obviously is fucked up and indefensible. Not that they are raped in the first place or not that there’s a tampon machine in a strip club, like one reporter whined about (has that reporter seriously never known a sex worker as a person? There ARE tampon machines in strip club dressing rooms because, hello, girls do sometimes have periods). Or that he goes to strip clubs or gets head from a groupie.

    But that in a moment when they’ve been subjected to such a horrible crime, that the dialogue the developers gave them is one of subservience to Duke and being worried more about how attractive he would find them, than their own situation.

    If they actually yelled at him and said, “Hey, you macho dickhead, you’re supposed to be some sort of hero and you obviously couldn’t stop this from happening to me, what the fuck good are you?” then I think that would have been fine. If they held a mirror on the satirical character and brought up the fact that what happened to those characters, even if it was by aliens, was a serious thing, then I think its use in the game would have been okay.

    But yeah, just so you have some context that I’m not some Mountain Dew-guzzling dudebro thinking that “chicks don’t belong online” or whatever. In fact, I’m actually responsible for introducing quite a few of my female friends to gaming.

    But this whole, “Oh no, there’s boobs! How horrible!” attitude needs to stop.

    You want change, you don’t change it by taking it away, you change it by becoming developers yourselves and offering alternatives. Offering games that have the things in them you want to see. Not by taking away the things others do.

    #23 8 months ago
  24. Darkfield

    @TheWulf TBH that has nothing to do with gaming in general rather it has to do with the fact that people are typically have disregard for everyone else but themselves. These folks are disfunctional IRL, triumphant assholes over the Internet. Making others feel miserable is their life’s mission. I have seen many people like that in just about every online games and communities. The answer to a problem like that lies in education and spreading information. And that responsibility lies with governments and education systems. People aren’t coming to play games for education, it’s an escapism, the sad fact about that is most people unload their frustrations in a way that advertantly or inadvertently hurts others.

    Ethics and sense of morality is outdated, people do not acknowledge the fact that things can exist that they don’t understand or I’m not even sure if they have to understand, therefore they respond to things they do not understand with fear, distrust, hatred, contemptand and intolerance, making the world very difficult to live in. Go in a local church and ask the pastor/priest’s opinion on a lot of those things, you’d be surprised to see a lot of the bigotry you’re talking about starts from those kind of places, cloud the visions of the attendees and spread across homes and family to family, person to person. Our moral values has become dangerously outdated and that affects humanity as a whole and it won’t get better without raising awareness.

    @Clupula and TheBlackHole nice posts guys

    #24 8 months ago
  25. xxJPRACERxx

    I’m pretty certain TheWulf has no female friend. (except in his head)

    edit: No, your mother don’t count.

    #25 8 months ago
  26. TheBlackHole

    @25

    Way to lower the tone.

    #26 8 months ago
  27. Neroist

    IF they make an attractive woman in a fantasy game some people appalled. But what about the male characters who have muscles coming out of their muscles? I’ll tell no one cares about the fantasy male characters who are all 250 pounds of lean muscles. It’s only the females????

    #27 8 months ago
  28. Ireland Michael

    While I definitely do think the industry has some issues in the way they portray women… this is simply not one of them. People are overreacting almost obscenely to what he said.

    @28 Half the time it’s the men overreacting about females characters.

    Let’s not forget the biggest problem with the Internet… everyone has a voice. So most of the time, it’s only the people who have a problem with something that are shouting, making it seem like *everyone* has an issue when that simply isn’t the case.

    #28 8 months ago
  29. fihar

    To be perfectly honest, I don’t see anything inherently wrong with Browder’s statements either.
    It’s actually something of a typical Average Joe answer. You can’t expect every single developer out there to be something of a moral compass and is out to make the world a better place.

    I applaud anyone who’s brave enough to challenge society’s flawed views in what is considered sexually attractive, but I won’t blame anyone who doesn’t think it’s their place to do so.
    But I do look down on people on who make it a point to further worsens what is actually wrong with society.

    #29 8 months ago
  30. TheBlackHole

    “People are overreacting almost obscenely to what he said.”

    Actually, the majority really aren’t.

    It’s the media that have jumped all over the apology. Comments are almost exclusively supportive of the developer.

    TheWulf notwithstanding.

    #30 8 months ago
  31. absolutezero

    Browder did not even say anything in the original article, he was talked at and lectured to and decided it would be better to just end the interview instead.

    Thats why RPS threw a fucking fit like a petulant child, posting something similar to one of wulf’s “despairing at humanity” cliches and thats where the apology came from.

    The question itself is riddled with inaccuracy and straight up bullshit, League of Legends has over-sexualised characters, not every dota-clone. Of the big three its only LoL that went down the anime style path and it works for them. In addition to that they have monsters and men and ugly women things and gnomes.

    Nathan took an opportunity to attempt to force a discussion about the over all state of the industry and used moba’s as an excuse. Quite rightly the guy from Blizzard who was only there to talk about his new game, shut it down and left.

    RPS pulled the exact same shit with CDPR and were politely told to fuck off then aswell.

    #31 8 months ago
  32. Neroist

    Yeah lets take something to this level.

    “He-man with those muscles and no shirt has offended me. I cannot believe they would portray a male charatcer with no shirt and all those muscles. Will all the women of the world except me to look like him? Like He-man? Will all the girls think less of me because of cartoon He-man?! Stop over sexualizing my cartoons and exploiting males!”

    That somes up I think the level of stupidity of this argument.

    #32 8 months ago
  33. absolutezero

    He-man should be accessible to anyone that wants to watch it. A little girl should be empowered by watching He-man.

    Everything to everyone at all times.

    #33 8 months ago
  34. Ireland Michael

    @30 I’m guessing you haven’t been around the Blizzard community often.

    I didn’t mean the average person in general.

    #34 8 months ago
  35. Hybridpsycho

    @27 That’s because according to feminist men can’t be victims of sexism. Women can’t be sexist.

    I’d argue that men are just as sexualized in our society as women are, but if I say that I’m a sexist misogynistic bigot asshole.

    I can’t believe anyone who’d work huge part of their lives for equality would actually care if some of blizzards character models look sexy.

    It’s absurd and childish, fight for women who need it. No one is getting hurt by this.

    Browder shouldn’t need to apologize for what he said, it was the most sense anyone has ever made when it comes to asking these sort of questions.

    #35 8 months ago
  36. absolutezero

    Actually have any of you seen the Nova outfit that caused the question to be asked in the first place?

    http://cdn2.gamefront.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/heroes-of-the-storm-nova-roller-300px.jpg

    Look at it. Someone call the cops the movie Whip It needs to be banned.

    #36 8 months ago
  37. DarkElfa

    Since when is anything RPS does considered actual journalism?!

    As for Blizzard, they should be ashamed for giving into BS political correctness pressure.

    #37 8 months ago
  38. Dirk

    @Neroist

    The argument is that the depiction of men in video games is aspirational. Seriously, that’s the argument. Apparently every guy wants to be a roided up, “grizzled”, US space marine with zero personality and a vocabulary consisting of mostly swear words. It’s nothing more than people complaining about the stereotyping of one group by stereotyping a different group. I’d find it funny if it didn’t make my brain hurt.

    #38 8 months ago
  39. Cobra951

    There is no need to apologize for anything done to fictional characters, ever. The overriding principle here is freedom of expression. That’s tempered by the rights of real people, which of course, does not include drawings, textures or polygon models.

    #39 8 months ago

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