WoW Celebrity, Twitter, and the Problem of Victim-Blaming

Paris Hilton wearing a bra and garter belt at a party.

This was linked on Crendor's Twitter last night. It is the first image you get when you GIS "Paris Hilton whore".

If anyone was paying attention to Twitter last night, it was a blood bath.  A fairly well-known WoW machinima creator by the name of Crendor (aka WoWCrendor) decided last night to use Twitter as his personal platform to berate women who dress like “whores.”  What surprised me the most was not that his fans jumped up to support him but the sheer number of people who Tweeted or re-Tweeted things that myself and others were saying about how sexist and victim-blaming he was. Instead of initially apologizing for the whole thing, he got wildly indignant and decided to dig the hole deeper, including tying a woman’s dress to the amount of times she gets creeped, abused or cheated on. Sound suspiciously familiar?

WoWCrendor finally pushed out an apology later, with little to no self-awareness of what he actually did wrong or why that train of thought was so damaging and promptly deleted most of the tweets. I have them all saved here if people wish to see them in the unvarnished light of day. I’m really disappointed by this as he was one of my favorite movie creators by far. I felt like he wasn’t one of the douchebags that randomly populate every aspect of gaming culture.

Now, I’m not writing this article just to point fingers at Crendor. Goodness knows I did enough of that last night on Twitter. I think we all need to sit down as a community and think about what he said, why he said it and confront some really thorny issues.  Because Crendor isn’t just a bad dude who said this. A lot of dudes say this. A lot of gals do too. This right here, this train of thought is what directly contributes to rape, abuse and other forms of harassment being so hard to punish for, because societally, we feel the real instigator of all of these things is not the person who committed the act, but the person who was victimized. They wore the wrong thing, they said the wrong thing, they dared to be in an alley or a bar, I could go on. We’ve grown so used to believing that the woman in this scenario brought it on herself that there’s little to no mention about the person who is culpable – morally, ethically and legally.

What is this called? The actual term that gets used in most feminist circles is “victim blaming.”

Victim blaming occurs when the victim(s) of a crime, an accident, or any type of abusive maltreatment are held entirely or partially responsible for the transgressions committed against them. Blaming the victim has traditionally emerged especially inracist and sexist forms.[1] However, this attitude may exist independently from these radical views and even be at least half-official in some countries.[2]

People familiar with victimology are much less likely to see the victim as responsible.[3] Knowledge about prior relationship between victim and perpetrator increases perceptions of victim blame for rape, but not for robbery.[4]

World of Warcraft is obviously a fictional world and a video game and we don’t all physically interact with eachother. So it might feel like a lot of what was said last night doesn’t really apply to my little blog, but it does. It’s very apparent if you read my blog that the feelings and mores that we have about the real world very often carry themselves into our virtual spaces. Not only do people we deem “celebrities” in our nerdy little niche of the Internet say terrible things about 50 percent of their possible fan-base, but we have to deal with victim-blaming inside the game, even. Victim-blaming is such a pervasive thought that at it’s weakest concentration, it is even a defense for bullying and trolling. Have you ever thought, “well, they were just asking for it” and then done something mean or rude? Yeah. It’s that too.

But let’s bring it back a little. I was stalked and harassed via World of Warcraft by someone in my friend circle. You might even say that we had a slightly friendlier-than-friends relationship. I dance around this because even though I have a restraining order against this person now, since he’s been harassing me via blogs, Twitter, and WoW for well over 3 years, I still know that there’s many people who will read this and say, “Well, didn’t you do XYZ with him? That’s why he’s doing this to you.” See? Why is the person who is sending me rape threats on a daily basis less culpable of harassment than me, the person who gets to put up with this abuse daily? See how illogical it is? Or did it not even occur prior to someone you know saying something like this for you to see that?

This is why I’m exceptionally annoyed with someone like Crendor using a platform that is public and open to his entire fanbase to directly spout victim-blaming and other sexist malarky. Because all it does is serve to reinforce some really scary ideas that, out in the wild, have managed to make it hard to report any sort of abuse or rape or harassment by the victim because of what the backlash will be. It’s even become so normalized that women should expect and understand that they will be hit on because they were dressing sexy. And that they should just deal with that. Why is it that when the crime becomes involved with sex or abuse that suddenly we don’t find the person who did those things responsible? We don’t say that the bank was “just asking” to be robbed by having all that money inside of its vaults.

I want WoW celebrities to rise out of the primordial ooze, much like everyone else in our culture, and stop putting the fault of a crime on the person who had the crime committed against them. I want people to stop using their status and their public forums to spreading the same garbage we hear every day. I want there to be repercussions and consequences for thinking this is an okay idea to espouse professionally. I want people to think about this in all areas of their life, from bullying to abuse, to rape and even stuff like just creeping on someone at a bar. Unhook your brain from its track of “they were asking for it” and think about “what can I do to stop this from happening to more people?” We can even try all we like to make people “less of the victims” as we have been for years, but we really need to focus our efforts on not creating new criminals and bullies.

Clothes are just clothes, Crendor. They are swatches of material we use to express ourselves. They do not, however, force a person to do something to them. They do not ask for things. They are garments we wear for various reasons. A woman should be allowed to wear what she wants and not be at fault when lots of dudes feel compelled to hit on her in a creepy way. Dudes should stop hitting on people in creepy ways and if you think that clothes have anything to do with it, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

(Note, the bridge is wearing pasties and a thong. Hope that helps.)

Aubrey Plaza in Blizzard’s Newest Ad Spot – Awesome or Merely Stereotypical?

Almost as if Blizzard heard my cries about wanting a female spokesperson for World of Warcraft in the wake of the Chuck Norris debacle, it debuted this “What’s Your Game” ad spot featuring Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation fame. She plays herself (or perhaps a bit of her April Ludgate character from the show) talking about her boyfriend getting her this game for her birthday and subsequently dumping him when she realizes she likes the game more than him.

The video is funny enough, however there has been some criticism amongst some of the gamers I know about how it still relies on the “bitchy girlfriend who isn’t into video games” trope in order to be funny. I would say it is a little bit of that but manages to turn it on its ear by the end. The line about wanting diamonds is the crux of that criticism; advertisements, especially around the holiday season, tout a lot of heterosexual marriage proposals and buying a diamond for your special lady. So Aubrey wanting diamonds, even as a joke, could be seen to play into that. It also seems like the boyfriend is talking about the ever-popular Minecraft at first, considering how mining for diamonds is somewhat of a thing.

In the end though, the insensitive boyfriend is tossed on his butt and Aubrey goes on to enjoy the game as her own person. As a Horde player, presumably, judging by her shirt. While I’m glad that Blizzard decided to go with a woman celebrity, and especially a funny one at that, the idea that she didn’t get the game on her own still sticks in my craw. I want to see her playing an undead mage or something!

Ah well, progress is progress, eh? Least there was no racist voiceover this time.

Blizzard Sponsors Homophobia with Chuck Norris Ad Spot

Last night, Blizzard debuted another one of their celebrity ad spots during a football game. It featured Chuck Norris, of eponymous joke fame, with a fairly annoying and offensive Asian stereotype voice-over, running around beating people up as a melee hunter. Funny, right?

Eh, maybe not as funny as I imagined. Why is that, you ask? Probably because Chuck Norris has publically gone on record espousing many views that are fairly bigoted. Like that schools should feature a more conservative agenda, Day of Silence shouldn’t be held, and other such fun ideas like how he dislikes Roe vs. Wade. The fact that these links from his own blog and various websites go back a couple years shows a progression of ideas that he is free to express, but are not exactly friendly towards a particular segment of the possible World of Warcraft population.

But Cider, you say, what does it matter what he says on his silly site? Blizzard was just using him for Chuck Norris jokes!

Maybe it is because I’m a general peon in the scheme of things, and not an actual PR practitioner but I believe that when you use a celebrity to endorse your product, you endorse their name, clout and image. If that image is them also spouting off stuff on the Internet (which -is- important these days), then you are tacitly endorsing that too. Nothing a celebrity says or does in the public eye exists in the vacuum, especially in these days when celebrities have easy access to social media. This is why celebs lose contracts and endorsements from backing companies when they do something that the company doesn’t agree with, especially if it hurts their image. You don’t want your puppy chow associated with a known animal mistreater, you don’t want your brand of vodka associated with someone who racks up a DWI. So if you want to be a company that is friendly to all your customers, not using someone who wants to leave some of them out is a good idea. The fact that Chuck Norris has a history of saying these things long before Blizzard reached out to him is problematic at best. It’s no Corpsegrinder, but it does leave me with some questions about the thoroughness of Blizzard’s vetting of celebrities or maybe even outright dismissal that it is important.

That all being said, why can’t we use a more nerdy, awesome celebrity to promote World of Warcraft? Like Mila Kunis (a woman, gasp!) or Vin Diesel. They both play or have played WoW at some point in their career and they don’t quite have the same problematic background as Chuck Norris.

The End of an Era

Raid fights Taerar the world dragon.

I’ve been quiet the last few days, and for a lot of reasons. Well, not just because I had five days off from work, but also because as of last night, my 25-man raid decided to finally call it quits for good. My raid has ostensibly been together since UBRS, in one form or another – 10-mans, 40-mans, and then 25s. We’ve fielded 10-mans, done achievements together, even squeezed out a server first or two along the way. We were never the most progressed all the time, or the most well-known, but we had been around a very long time. I’ve only been in it to some degree for five years now, a lot of the older members have been in for 6 or 7 years. It almost felt like it was never going to die, that we’d just keep going on because that’s what we did. That was our notable aspect.

Not anymore, however. It saddens me greatly to see something of an institution that weathered raid leader change-ups, absentee DPS, raid attunements, guild perks and even people in our raid passing away, go the way of the buffalo. I felt like we were a raid team that still held onto some immutable shred of what life used to be like back before paladins had 30 minute blessings and you could summon your entire raid into the raid instance. Unfortunately, time and familiarity doesn’t hold things together, it pulls them apart. Even rocks get worn down into dust after long enough. I felt that a lot of our members were playing a game they hated solely out of respect and loyalty to a raid they cared about. So while I am sad that this has to break apart, it had to happen and it means that we can all go on to be happier (and dare I say more productive) people.

The question here to be asked is this though, “Do I dislike raiding now?”

Raiding has made me the mage I am today, and I’d never speak ill of it. Even when I wanted to quit, give up and start crying because I’ve historically done (in my mind) less DPS than I ought to be doing every step of the way, there’s not a single moment I can think of where my raid team didn’t force me to improve – whether it was using macros, looking at spell rotations and theorycrafting or BIS lists. There’s no way this blog would even exist if it wasn’t for these people that have supported me and definitely carried me through more content than your average raid. Even when I hated it, or them, or the content, or myself, I still did it.I raided late into the night, even as a backup, when I had to be up for work at 4:30 AM. I raided when I was sick, exhausted, or on medication. I’ve missed maybe 3 boss kills from Burning Crusade to Cataclysm. Because that’s just what you do. Raiding has a way of getting under your skin. As much as it has eaten up my time and stressed me out to no degree (especially as of late), I still love it. I hope to be doing it in one form or another for the rest of my WoW career, as long or short as that may be.

Is it time for a break though? Possibly. I have a few loose ends to tie up, however, namely a staff. I’m 75 siphoned essences short of a legendary and I’d also love a purple flame bird. How will I achieve those things? Not sure right now. A few 10-mans might shake out of this for the time being. I might go to someone’s alt runs. I might PUG it. Who knows. After that, 4.3 will come and I will make the decision to raid or not at all. I might take this well-earned vacation to focus on making myself a better mage and enjoying myself. I might hit up LFR. I might just go fire for the end of my days and force you all to read about it (mwahahah!) Maybe I’ll go onto bigger and better things myself.

As sad as I am now, I know that I won’t be sad forever. And the raid might be breaking up, my memories and connections to these people I’ve spent more time with than boyfriends or jobs will never go away. We’re going to still be friends in one way or another, I suspect, and I think that’s what truly matters in the end – not the bosses you’ve downed, but the people who were alongside you when you did it. Their names will never be forgotten, much less their intrinsic personalities – they have made me both who I am and everything I’ve grown to be.

My hats off to all of you, you know who you are.

 

Homophobia at Blizzcon and Beyond

Trigger warning: Homophobic language. I also use “queer” occasionally to describe people across the GSM (Gender and Sexuality Minority) spectrum.

I’m sure by now, by way of either the forums or various other blogs on the subject, you’ve all heard about the Blizzcon incident with Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain and Corpsegrinder from Cannibal Corpse. For those of you who have been outside the reach of social media this entire time, the summation is this – during the L90ETC opening act, Blizzard showed a video of Corpsegrinder talking about Alliance calling us “homo” and “cocksuckers.”  He goes on to call blood elves “queers” and “faggots.” Corpsegrinder then took the stage with the band and proceeded to call out the Alliance again before going into the set. There’s some contention as to whether the video was bleeped out or not, but despite any editing or not, Blizzard made a really horrible decision to give this person both a platform and audience for this homophobic grossness. What is deeply ironic is what was going on with me during Blizzcon when this all went down, hence why I don’t remember this very well.  As Mythrai wrote at her own blog:

Strangely, when the Corpsegrinder incident occurred, I was taking advantage of the (supposedly) shorter lines for the Diablo III demo with Apple Cider Mage and sucksmybrain about the Lore Q&A discussion around explicit LGBT characters in upcoming WoW stories, and how excited we’d all be if that came true.   We tossed around cheery ideas about Quae and Kinelory, Koltira and Thassarian, Sassy Hardwrench (come on, with a name like that, you know Sassy is an enterprising young gay goblin.)  To come out from that discussion to find that degrading homophobia was being played, promoted and even implicitly supported by the Blizzard team at the same time we were feeling hopeful about being represented by a major gaming company we loved and supported… saying it was a crushing blow is putting it mildly.

Coming back to the hotel that night to start reading Tweets and forum posts about what occurred was shocking and hurtful. How could Blizzcon support this? Over a Horde/Alliance conflict no less? People were jumping up to make it about some stupid video game faction dispute when the larger problem was looming there. Homophobia should never be a part of a company’s public face, especially at an event that features many, many fans that are queer, gay, or transgendered. Some of whom I hung out with a majority of my weekend and had great times with. Some of whom are me, even. Allowing someone like Corpsegrinder to express the same bigoted language and slurs that we hear in battlegrounds, trade chat, and even in our guilds and raids is damaging. It means Blizzard is condoning that language as a company, despite having rules in their TOS against it.

People started writing letters to the company post-haste, posts were written, petitions were created. A forum threads was eventually made (with a lackluster blue response), and L90ETC apologized. To some people, all it read as was “I’m sorry you are offended” which to some of us this is never an apology, merely a dismissal of the audience’s feelings.  It wasn’t until Mike Morhaime himself (president of Blizzard, also member of the band) stepped up to offer the more sincere of the apologies. My hope is that Blizzard really takes this incident to heart and forever changes their public face in regards to what kind of language they support out of their company, as well as a harsher look at their audience. My deepest desire is that maybe they even make good on their Q&A panel admission that they might see fit to include more LGBT characters in their game should they fit. Unfortunately, regardless of what Blizzard does, a situation still remains looming over our heads.

Because, really, the problem here on a more daily basis is not the giant company. It is society and nerd culture. Blizzard fucked up but the people we play this video game do not even see the error of their ways, despite playing with queer people on a regular basis. Rising numbers of social minorities of all stripes are playing World of Warcraft, and yet the audience still talks and reads unspeakably cis-gendered, straight, white male. This was never more evident than by watching the live raid that also took place at Blizzcon and seeing Blood Legion using racial slurs against a well-known priest called Kinaesthesia (of Learn2Raid fame) from Vodka as well as other inflammatory language and unsportsmanlike conduct. If these are the “leaders” of the raiding community, why does the rank and file have to act better than them?

It galls me and makes me incredibly angry that this is still what we have to deal with every day in the nerdy community and I am set on calling it out wherever I see it. I hope the rest of you have the strength to as well (but I can understand if you don’t.) We need guilds that uphold these things as policy, reports to GMs whenever we see it in-game, and a larger community presence. Because nerd culture needs to wake up to the smell of its own manure that it has been wallowing in all these years and realize that the time of the pervasive racism, homophobia, rape jokes and general disgusting-ness is over. I want an Azeroth where all of us feel safe to be ourselves, to see our stories and strife reflected in the characters we play and interact with, and people to get over their ignorance.

Some other blogs that wrote on the subject:

The ‘mental Shaman – Blizzcon: This is about homophobia not Horde v Alliance

MMO Melting Pot – The homophobic Corpsegrinder rant at Blizzcon explodes

Apple Cider Goes to Blizzcon, Part 2

Cosplayers from Blizzcon. A blood elf is helping a hunter with her helm.

Hello, faithful readers! I hope you didn’t miss me too much when I was in California. Between Blizzcon, Hallow’s Eve (in-game), and working, I’ve been a busy little gnome. I didn’t forget you guys though. Here’s my breakdown of everything I did while I was at the convention last weekend.

Socializing

I got to meet a lot of really awesome people briefly or for long amounts of time during Blizzcon. I didn’t get to meet every single person I wanted to though, I had that little time there. The first night I got there, I went to the WoW Insider/Wowhead meetup. It was a lot of fun – they were giving out tons of prizes at the door. I got several booster packs of the newest TCG cards, Monster swag, and a couple imps of Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs perfume! (I managed to get a “Gnome” one, too!) The WI staff at the party were all very wonderful and nice. Bunch of them were live-casting at a table with some of the guys from Wowhead. I also got to meet Kinaesthesia from Vodka/Learn2Raid (a personal hero of mine, I watch all his videos), Pewter from Mental Shaman, Perculia from Wowhead, O from Stories of O, Trade Chat (I chased a couple of gross guys off of her when she was hanging out with her lady-friend), as well as hanging out with the Flavor Text Lore ladies quite a bit. I also got to see a few people from my guild too. I briefly saw Felicia Day and Robin Thorsen from The Guild. I wanted to say hi to Robin, as she’s my favorite actress from when I still watched the show, but they were being guarded by guys just to get through the party. The rest of the weekend was a blur of guildmates, Flavor Text Lore ladies, my server meetup (got to meet another mage I raided with), and some Elitist Jerks people. I met Dysmorphia from Games and Trips and shared some amazing Polish liquor called nalewka. Dysmorphia is my sister-in-feminism, and her blog is amazing. The crown jewel of my weekend was meeting some of the Blizzard staff – last year it was Ghostcrawler, but this year I got to have long conversations with both Nethaera (who is very cool) and Zarhym. I thanked Nethaera a lot for being a woman inside of the gaming industry (as she’s been in it for a very long time) and giving me hope that you can be a public face for a gaming company and still survive. As for Zarhym, he’s a real sweetie, along with the rest of the staff manning the “Ask Blizzard” booth. I didn’t get a picture with either of them, but I’ll have fond memories of getting to speak with them face-to-face.

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria

I was sitting with Mythrai (who writes at her own personal blog) as we got a good seat for both the opening ceremonies, as well as the World of Warcraft preview and when they finally announced the new expansion, I felt a little funny. How could it possibly, actually be true? As the preview rolled out, I accepted it a little more. Sure, the world had been fleshed out. Pandas seem feasible. I’m still more excited about the amount of casual content, but I’m still coming to grips with Pandaria as a reality. It didn’t hurt that it was explained by Cory Stockton, my favorite developer at Blizzard. My pet collecting habit seems to make me think I’ll love the “World of Pokemon” aspect with the pet battling system or at least financially when I level and sell off my rare pets. The talent revamp is something I’m a lot more edgy about, admittedly. It feels TOO simple at this point, especially for mages. I’ll go into greater. detail about my feelings on that in a later post this week.  Challenge dungeons as well as expanded non-raid PVE content and exploration is what I’m most excited about. I got to play through the starting zone on a pandaren monk and I have to say that even at this early stage, they really knocked questing and fighting out of the park. The environments look great and the feel of the monk class feels pretty intuitive at this point. I might have to roll a gnome monk!

My only real hesitation about this newest expansion is that most of my raid team seems to want to quit over it, and the subject of cultural sensitivity. Blizzard messed up the original Pandaren Monk pet by dressing it in Japanese attire. I hope this doesn’t turn into a mish-mash of Asian cultures and alienates their audience because of it; ape-ing (or is it “panda-ing”) most of someone’s cultural dress, attitudes and beliefs into a game made by mostly white developers for a predominantly white audience just doesn’t sit right with me in the end. I am white myself, but I know friends of mine that play World of Warcraft that have already been hurt by this expansion decision and that bothers me greatly.

I also hope that Blizzard does the right thing and properly develops the female Pandaren models. I’m tired of women being an afterthought when it comes to their art direction and design.

World of Warcraft’s Annual Pass

I admit, I already bought this. For those who don’t know – the annual pass is something they rolled out at Blizzcon and made available immediately to everyone. It is essentially a cell-phone contract for World of Warcraft; you agree to pay for 12 months with whatever payment plan you currently use (game time cards, 1 month-1 year subscriptions, etc.) and you receive a free Tyrael’s mount in-game, access to WoW’s next beta, as well as a free copy of Diablo III added to your account. It was explained that this is because they don’t want their WoW subscribers to feel torn between two games. I definitely smell a little bit of fresh revenue (I mean who doesn’t) but I still got it anyways. You can get me to do anything if you involve a sparkly horse. And for those curious, yes you can buy the Diablo III collector’s edition and add it to your account, even if you get it for free via the annual pass. What it will do is simply add 4 months WoW game-time to your subscription to offset the cost.

Which brings me to my next point…

Diablo III

After what seemed like an interminably long line (thankfully I was waiting with Mythrai and sucksmybrain), we finally got to sit down in front of the demo. Part of me had waved my hands at it, not wanting to stand in a long line. “Oh, it’ll just be out in a couple months.” “Oh, I’ll just grab someone’s beta account!” It was definitely worth the wait. Some background on Diablo III though – I’ve never played it before Blizzcon. I’ve just had the strange coincidence of managing to go a ton of the panels for the game, been friends with other Diablo fiends. Everywhere I look, there’s talk about Diablo. But I’ve never gotten into myself. That didn’t stop me from getting excited about it and once I had been seated in front of my own demo station, I immediately got squee-ish.   The graphics are amazing and despite never have played a game in 3/4ths view or that uses click-to-move/click-to-cast, I rolled up a sorceress and went off on my merry way, killing undead and doing quests. The only downside was only have 2 spells available to me at any one time. However, if you have the benefit of getting the beta (PASS ME A KEY, OKAY?), definitely try this. I think all of you won’t be disappointed.

Psst! Also, there’s a great article up at WoW Insider about why people new to the Diablo franchise should play it.

Murkablo belches fire onto Apple Cider.

…Everything Else

After those things, most of Blizzcon was a blur of parties, hanging out, meeting people, catching glimpses of GSL, World of Warcraft arena tournaments, standing in lines for things I wasn’t sure of, and eating tons of delicious food. After a while I got a little tired of walking everywhere and just flopped on my hotel bed to rest and have some peace and quiet. Blizzcon always tires me out and puts me into debt, but it is worth it every year. The cosplay was amazing, the people were amazing, the panels and events were amazing. Travelling home made me sad but I’ll always have the memories I make every time I go to keep me company.

The only blot on my experience was something I’ll go into in my next post. Tell me about your Blizzcon experience (whether via the DirectTV stream, online stream or in-person) in the comments!