Skimpy Armor: Hawt, Skanky, or Indecent?

A debate has erupted about avatar-clothing options in World of Warcraft [insert obligatory fanboi disclaimer here]. What obligations do the developers have in terms of clothing options? Suppose the uber gear is indecent according to the standards of some appropriately defined community. Is it a problem? For extra credit - was this an issue in text-based MUDs (everything was, I think), and how was it handled?


Comments on Skimpy Armor: Hawt, Skanky, or Indecent?:

Lee Delarm says:

Not being able to access the forums at work, can someone summarize what the arguement is for me?

As for obligations, I don't believe the developers have any obligation to abide by any standards except for those advertised by it's box and rating. However, this is an MMO and I think there are clearly defined expectations (and a nice disclaimer) that states that play may change at any time that may raise the rating level.

Seeing as how most people understand all this, and it's rated a "Teen" game, I don't think anyone has any right whatsoever to demand less skanky clothing. Of course they could always vote with their feet and their wallets, but it's proven time and again that the majority of the people don't really care enough to do so, hence, the developers may continue with their vision instead of every little thought that pops into the populaces head.

Extra Credit

Yes this was a problem in MUDs, in various forms. It was handled in WIDELY different formats though. Some MUDs made areas or "rooms" for adult content with special locks and keys. Some actually went to the lengths of asking for birthdays for age confirmation (yes, I know most gradeschoolers can add ;)). Others however, actually led to the breakup of MUD staffs and creation of new adult oriented MUDs of which some focus on the adult play aspect (prostitue NPCs, adult "rooms") whereas others just have more mature content (swear words, skimpy clothing, naked nymphs, etc).

Posted Feb 16, 2005 9:16:49 AM | link

Scott says:

Of course, all the clothing in question is for females.

Because, you know, guys would be bothered by that sort of thing.

Posted Feb 16, 2005 10:10:17 AM | link

Edward Castronova says:

One of my students (thanks Chris Lee!) just suggested the company should set up skimpy and non-skimpy servers. Not sure what that adds to the content load.

Posted Feb 16, 2005 10:10:26 AM | link

jez says:

Lee: In summary, some people think the skimpiness of female armour in WoW is offensive (especially since the same armour is sturdy and protective on male characters). The linked forum post is a bile-ridden diatribe telling these people to "grow up".

In general people don't seem to mind that there is skimpy armour available, and given that there are options to reduce the skimpiness (e.g. wearing shirts), I don't see what the issue really is. Forcing minors to see computer-generated flesh?

My only real issues with it are the unrealistic attributes. Armour that is nothing more than a chainmail bra is not going to be effective in the real world! (And I like the suggestion on the forums, that to redress the balance male players should have equivalently skimpy armour).

In MUDs it wasn't so much a problem because you didn't have to look at people; in WoW, you can't really miss heaving elf bosoms. On the other hand, you didn't have to look at your character all the time in MUDs, and several people on the WoW forums have the attitude "If I'm going to be staring at the back of a character all the time it might as well be an attractive one". An attitude which I agree with, although I haven't yet been harassed due to being an attractive night elf in WoW -- when I am, I might well change my mind. (Males playing females don't seem to mind unwanted attention; us females playing females, however, get enough of it IRL).

Posted Feb 16, 2005 10:45:09 AM | link

Neil says:

I'm not sure where I stand on this one, but I find that I agree with people who say that it is unavoidable to see the scantily-clad female characters. Let's not ignore the male characters who are are modelled with equally attractive physiques. Blizzard artists seem to have an appreciation for both sexes. Some mail armor for men has an opening at the bottom that shows their abs when a shirt isn't worn. I think this would be considered indecent to some people also.

It's also notable that the female humans' rest on their knees when they are sitting, instead of actually sitting. I found one AFK female (on her knees) with a human male (not AFK) standing strategically in front of her. And I'm sure there are other examples of what players can do that Blizzard never intended. "Game content may change during play".

Maybe there should be a maximum hardware recommended for players who are offended by suggestive images. Make the game look so bad that you can't really make out the characters. An "untextured characters" option... Render characters as pokemons instead... I dunno.

Posted Feb 16, 2005 11:33:39 AM | link

Timothy Burke says:

The problem with the rant in question is that it begins from the premise that someone who complains about the choices available is restricting the freedom of others. "Who are you to say what someone else should do or choose?", it asks.

Ok. This may work as a response to certain kinds of cultural politics against the backdrop of the totality of popular culture and the public sphere. It is not very coherent as a response to a MMOG where every single "choice" has been custom-designed by the producers, where every option is there because the creators of the game have decided it should be there. WoW is not Second Life: you can't custom-design your own armor pattern and wear it. In fact, WoW has an even-more design-constrained environment than most MMOGs: the aesthetic choices you can make about your character's appearance are very, very slim. Character customization is downright primitive at the initial stage. Your choices in armor tend to be intensely driven by the utility or practicality of the item. Every once in a while, you can choose between two equivalent items that provide comparable bonuses: I've decided to stick with an eyepatch that gives my rogue good bonuses rather than Ghostshroud, a common endgame headgear, not just because I like the eyepatch bonuses but because it looks cool. But that kind of fork in the road is rare with WoW.

So this is not an environment where you make a wide range of personal aesthetic choices: it's an environment where the designers have largely set the aesthetic down to its details in advance. If you don't want to have a skanky female NE, you have to work hard to avoid it. Or roll a female orc. Shirts, etc., can mitigate the effect somewhat, but not that much.

So the poster is taking the wrong tack to defend the game. I think what he has to say instead is, "Yeah, the NEs are skanky and/or sexual in the game, AND I LIKE IT THAT WAY." Not, "don't interfere with my freedom of choice", but "I like and appreciate the aesthetic choices of the designers". This is evidently a harder road to walk for some people, but it's the only way you can go. In those terms, I think you can make a pretty good case that WoW is aesethetically consistent internally AND consistent with a deeply established set of fantasy tropes. Chainmail bikini armor has been around so long in visualizations of fantasy that it's an in-joke now. If you protest that WoW is not realistic in these terms, I'd say, "Quite right--but visual realism on this one point would wildly contradict the general aesthetic of the game as a whole". Nothing about the game is visually marked by tropes of realism.

Posted Feb 16, 2005 12:04:32 PM | link

jez says:

Timothy - or anyone - could you define 'skanky' for me? As a Brit I'm reading it as the school-playground-insult I associate it with (rather like 'smelly') but I presume it means something completely different in America? (viz. "skanky ho'", etc)

Posted Feb 16, 2005 12:50:01 PM | link

Heather Sinclair says:

I believe issues with the armor really boil down to three things:

1. The armor is all shows a significant difference between the male model and the female models. Skimpy armor for men is almost unheard of, and what is considered "skimpy" by male standards are downright covering for females. (Skimpy male armor is shorts, skimpy female is thongs.)

2. There is no way at all to tell what an item will look like before putting it on, at which point it becomes nodrop. Neither the name of the icon or the icon bear any resemblance to the final model. It is not socially acceptable to be in a group, win a roll on an item, and then *not* wear it because you don't like how it looks.

3. (tying into point 2) WoW's only real endgame is item aquisition, and there is little to no choice between different items in the endgame. While a priest who didn't want to look like a vegas showgirl could theoretically convince guildmates to let her get the mage or warlock robes instead, past that point the choice is gone, it's all class-specific.

Posted Feb 16, 2005 12:55:18 PM | link

Edward Castronova says:

'promiscuous to the point where it's embarassing to others' is the way i was using it. 'slutty'.

I wish someone would give a solid definition of 'snarky'.

Posted Feb 16, 2005 12:58:32 PM | link

Marty says:

Arguments involving "realism" in the armor hold no water with me. If it's OK for a piece of armor to somehow make you twice as intelligent, it's OK to have that armor protect uncovered body parts.

As for the males, there are skimpy armor sets, at least in leather. You should see the Scorpashi set on a Night Elf male. Put on some pants!

Posted Feb 16, 2005 1:09:58 PM | link

Jimpy says:

There was a similar debate on the boards some days back about the 'waiting' animations of the female Night Elf avatar. Basically, Night Elf women seem prone to "bouncing in place" with a girlish and cheerleaderesque hop from time to time. Needless to say, Night Elf men are not as hyperkinetic. In fact (though I haven't quite played every possible combination), I believe the bopping effect is limited to NE ladies (humans are less perky, it seems).

If you attempting to role-play a kick-ass Huntress riding about on her White Tiger and dispensing justice with her Bow Of Horrible Slaughter, the occassional flouncy bop is a bit, shall we say, out of character.

I would suggest that, at the end of the day, neither of these complaints are really rooted in indecency per se - at their core they aren't really about people being upset that their character is slutty-looking or that they have to look at skanky priests.

I think the real underlying issue is the fact that female characters in WOW are forced into a very classic "adolescent boy fantasy" direction, and that there really is no way around this. The reality is, unless you are willing to sacrifice performance, at some point in your female character's career, you will look slutty. And, regardless of what you want, your night elf babe will bounce like she's cracking gum and talking on her cell phone about that dreamy druid she saw in Darnassus. Nothing you can do to stop that at all.

So, for me at least, it isn't so much the hawt gear that bums me out, it is the fact that, even in WOW's limited character generation model, my male characters can have different 'personalities' through looks (for example, I use white hair and a full beard to make my mage an old man, and a clean-cut golden-boy Ken doll look to make my paladin princely), but my female characters are pretty much all chatty and cute little girls (not hard to believe when 20% of the "character generation" is devoted to choosing how many earrings they get to wear).

So, I guess to answer your questions:

1. I don't think developers have particular obligations to present clothing options to appease all communities; however

2. I do think developers should be careful about having imposed character flavor (such as a lack of clothing choices and forced animations) that are clearly directional (at least in terms of character development) and especially when they are limited to one gender.

I mean, what if I don't *want* to be half-dressed and perky, not because I'm a prude but, well, just because I'd rather not 'bop' while backstabbing and eviscerating my victims? Too bad. Girls are perky. Live with it, put on your bikini and get back to grinding.

Posted Feb 16, 2005 1:30:38 PM | link

MM says:


I gotta say... this is so american.

Personally, I'd like to get rid of those ugly undergarments too. I'm very curious to see what variety of shades night-elf nipples come in.

All this fuss over sex. It happens all day, every day, everywhere, all the time. Nudity is not offensive, and fear of it is embarrasing.

Posted Feb 16, 2005 1:36:58 PM | link

Matt Mihaly says:

I can tell you what the attitude towards prudes in our MUDs is: Tough.

In terms of clothing though, players are able to make their own clothing of limitless variety (subject to template approval by an admin), so it's not really an issue anyway. You can always commission a piece of clothing to look exactly as you wish. Go prude or go slut, your choice.
--matt

Posted Feb 16, 2005 2:16:50 PM | link

Darniaq says:

I agree female avatars in WoW are styled more from a male perspective than from the perspective of androgynous objectivity. In general, WoW's style feels like it was envisioned by men for a slightly more male audience than female. Not as much so as Lineage 2 (screenshots of their Dark Elven women are not work safe), but not nearly as chaste as DAoC.

But this isn't without precedent. If Blizzard was to take the unusual step of proclaiming an official position though, they simply need to point to their decade-old Warcraft license and the history of Azeroth during that time. Of course, if it gets to the point where they feel the need to even take that unusual step, chances are they'll patch in more body covering first.

I do wonder what took so long for this debate to appear though. We've known since E3 2003 what Night Elven females were going to look like. I believe that was the first race Blizzard designed. Is it the success of WoW that adds volume to an otherwise oft-repeated and oft-forgotten discussion on discretion?

Posted Feb 16, 2005 2:21:29 PM | link

ren says:

>What obligations do the developers have in terms of clothing options?

Legal obligations - just those that cover obscenity in the countries where the game is sold I imagine, well I guess that there might be some duty to warn of the danger of photo-epileptic fits if certain forms of strobing were used in the clothes.

Moral obligations - some groups might suggest that one has a duty to respect the person generally or women in particular though these would be general obligation that it would be thought the publisher should also abide by.

I think that some groups would like a set of moral obligations to arise from the nature of the game e.g. that the MMO is in a form of community that through some aspect of its nature imbues it members with rights that in turn confer duties / obligations on the publisher; however other than any expectation that might be set up in the contract with the player base (in the form of the EULA and anything else that would lead to a reasonable expectation) I find it hard to see a good argument for a new set of obligations that pertain to the publishers in this or many other respects.

Posted Feb 16, 2005 2:56:26 PM | link

megan conklin says:

i am a university professor, and I used an MMO virtual world (Second Life) in a class recently - it was terrible trying to find "professor" clothes that I could have my avatar wear! I ended up cobbling together an outfit that didn't make me look ridiculous, but I was under NO impression that the game should be *required* to give me these clothes. I understood that I was asking for something unusual (ie. NOT club clothes), and therefore I'd have to find it myself!

FYI, it wasn't just about skimpy clothes & nudity in my case - I could have worn a complete "Trinity from the Matrix" head-to-toe leather outfit too, but somehow that seemed equally weird.

FYI part 2, I ended up with a pair of jeans, a purple shirt, and a long-sleeved black sweater!

Posted Feb 16, 2005 4:19:12 PM | link

Nick Yee says:

Two things strike me:

1) The high percentage of male players and the vocal nature of the teenage male players in the game (and adults who act like teenagers) and gaming culture ethos creates this hyper-homophobic atmosphere in MMOs. Someone is always calling someone else a fag in public channels. Macho bravado flung around like no tomorrow, etc.

2) About 50% of the female avatars are played by male players. Many are wearing those skimpy outfits. Many are getting hit on and deliberately flirting back with other male players (for practical benefits). Men flirting with men in thongs. See the homoeroticism?

The interplay between homophobia and homoeroticism is really quite funny:

"I am not fag ... Oh hi there sexy night elf huntress in a thong ..."

Posted Feb 16, 2005 4:31:16 PM | link

mike says:

I'd agree with Heather's #1--the same piece of armor looks vastly different when worn by male or female characters.

What's slightly more problematic: in general, the stronger a piece of armor is, the cooler it looks--and 'cooler' in the wow female aesthetic means it covers less and less. And you can buy in to the aesthetic or not, but you don't have a choice about the numbers; better is better.

Caveat: I've a guildmate who's definitely in the 'hawt' camp--with alts and alts full of spare clothing--so my view of what constitutes high-level armor might be slightly skewed.

Posted Feb 16, 2005 4:35:11 PM | link

greglas says:

I agree with Tim -- there isn't a great deal of freedom to customize in WoW - CoH is much better in that regard. All the human avatars in WoW, male & female, look rather goofy, don't they? And the NEs are a bit -- I guess skanky is a pretty good word for it. (I much prefer the undead.)

Of course, the complaints about armor and NEs belong in the larger context of women & computer games. And as we all know, there are problems here, and people who research the issue, etc. I think trying to frame this as a "rights" issue, as some above have done, isn't very constructive -- sure, mostly male designer teams have a "right" to provide whatever avatar options they want for their games (as long as they don't violate indecency laws) and female players who don't like the options provided have a "right" to not play, and a "right" to complain when they think the armor is too skimpy. All these "rights" don't tell us how, practically speaking, to make the E3 booth babes go away or how to make the boys in the computer game industry grow up a little. For some reason, relying on market forces hasn't worked any better for gender and race problems in games than it has for Hollywood.

Posted Feb 16, 2005 4:52:53 PM | link

Jim says:

Timothy Burke wrote:

>The problem with the rant in question is that it begins from the premise that someone who complains about the choices available is restricting the freedom of others. "Who are you to say what someone else should do or choose?", it asks.

Ok. This may work as a response to certain kinds of cultural politics against the backdrop of the totality of popular culture and the public sphere. It is not very coherent as a response to a MMOG where every single "choice" has been custom-designed by the producers, where every option is there because the creators of the game have decided it should be there.>

This isn't totally accurate. It is true that the "choices" have been predetermined by an authority. However, making a change to these choices alters that. If a change is made to satisfy one group, it can impose something unwanted on another group. In other words, "Bliz please take a way their skank and give me my prude."

Although the choice may not actually exist, making a stance change regarding the issue satisfies the people who prefer it and angers the people who are against it. The power of the majority is to get their choice on an issue, even if it involves change.

However there's really a simpler answer. Give players both options for what they see, either by toggling an option on their client or giving players appearance choices (which I'll label the politically correct names "exotic" and "standard"). Maybe give them both, to satisfy the people who want no skank and those who just want an option.

Posted Feb 16, 2005 5:26:56 PM | link

William Huber says:

There are two discourses that keep getting tangled together, particularly among the kids in the forums.

One is the issue of sexual content per se - the moral panic/Janet Jackson/media-effects line. The other is, as far as I'm concerned, the real, serious issue that cuts to the heart of questions of gender in games (and, peripherally, in game culture) - the hypersexualization of women (and not men), and the implicit homophobia in the need to de-sexualize male bodies except as surrogate agents for the player's desire.

The fact that there are now people behind the (gendered female) desired-body throws a twist into the old film-studies way of looking at this issue, and one thing that the thread reminds me of is the matrix of trade-offs in this system of desire: sometimes, it is gratifying to be the object of desire. The question is really why game-engines continue to enforce the gender-demarcation which determines who gets desired and who does the desiring.

For most of us, this distinction is obvious. But for a lot of this audience, it is not.

The posters that called for a "male succubus" (isn't the term incubus?) the could seduce both male and female players, in order to be symmetrical with the bisexual seduction power of the female version. That suggestion was not given a response - which suggests that the freedom of desire that the would-be advocates of sexual expression advocate (at least as being modelled and represented by the game) is actually quite restricted. Funny, isn't it, that specific types of sexuality can be "naturalized" by the game - and thus cast other types as "unnatural."

Posted Feb 16, 2005 7:46:06 PM | link

Tess says:

Contrary to the original rant, in most of the forums where I've heard women discuss this topic repeatedly, there doesn't seem to be much of a great concern over how OTHER people are allowed to dress, as long each person has some choice in the matter.

Dress is a form of communication, and it is rather disconcerting to be forced to constantly send a message you do not wish to send. The situation at WoW was first drawn to my attention by a woman who plays a high level paladin, and was very annoyed by the fact that she couldn't find a set of platemail that said, "I AM A BADASS." Instead, she was sending the message, "Call 1-900-HOT-PALY, now, for exciting one-on-one conversations with sexy paladins who want YOU!"

Now I'm a bit worried about what my female Gnome is going to look like past level 50...

Posted Feb 16, 2005 9:42:32 PM | link

ren says:

An interesting data point is Second Life where one can create the body form and choose from a seemingly limitless supply of clothes. The vast vast majority of female-presenting avatars look mid 20s many are scantily dressed.

Unfortunately I assume that the SL player base is quite different from the average MMO player base, also of course the context is very different, so any direct comparison does not hold water, but it’s still interesting to see what happens when a group -is- given the choice.

Just linking with Richard’s thought experiment a little: there was also a very interesting thing on TV in the UK last night called: Why Men Wear Frocks, which dealt with contemporary and historical transvestisms and the presenter’s views of how the practice related to gender roles (interestingly he too more of a gender than sexuality line), the presenter and writer was the Turner Prize winning Grayson Perry. Interview here: www.channel4.com/life/microsites/W/why_men_wear_frocks/interview.html.

The way I understood the conclusion of this program was along the lines that I read some or Richard’s thoughts about MMOs i.e. that both MMOs and transvestisms are tools that allow the individual to express parts of their personality that they find it hard to access in every day life.

Which back to SL would suggest that players are simply living out media stereo types that that have internalised as fantasies. Though interesting point above that in many cases I don’t think that men can access the same thing as wanting to look like Brad Pitt is conflated with wanting to ‘do’ Brad Pitt, hence fantasies are probably come out in instrumental forms e.g. power over MOBs other players (hmm thus griefing becomes simply an extension of the power structure that is implicit in the game), rather than the visual being given privilege – sigh back to gender stereotypes then, hmm I think I'm back where I started - this post could implode any second.

Posted Feb 17, 2005 3:21:10 AM | link

Richard Bartle says:

jez>people on the WoW forums have the attitude "If I'm going to be staring at the back of a character all the time it might as well be an attractive one".

There's no compelling technical reason why your avatar can't look different to you than it does to everyone else. You could be looking at the backside of a curvaceous human female while everyone else sees a hideous half-orc barbarian.

Richard

Posted Feb 17, 2005 4:58:47 AM | link

Richard Bartle says:

Neil>I found one AFK female (on her knees) with a human male (not AFK) standing strategically in front of her.

I was told they had this problem within 10 minutes of going live with Church of Fools, having optimistically assumed that the "pray" position would be used exclusively for praying...

Richard

Posted Feb 17, 2005 5:01:22 AM | link

Tobold says:

Indecent clothing is still a matter of choice. So maybe some sort of information campaign would be enough: "Warning! If you insist to play a human or nightelf female, and wear epic armor, part of your virtual flesh will show as exposed."

There are lots of races in WoW, like trolls, where the females are ugly, or at least rather plain. And "my avatar is too sexy" problems don't arise.

Posted Feb 17, 2005 8:57:08 AM | link

Michelangiolo says:

Being a rather typical bookish geek/gamer, it bothers me a bit a that the vast majority of fantasy-based MMOs have these exceedingly strapping male avatars...but not that much.

It makes me laugh that in World of Warcraft, my magic-oriented characters are cut like Gov. Ah-nold, yet they can't can't hit with their weapons to save their lives (literally).

Frankly, for all the cat calls a higher level female avatar might receive in WoW (and I'm not excusing that behavior), it doesn't excuse the fact that the male characters are just as hyper-sexualized in their appearance. That this is seldom acknowledged only drives home the issue that the player-base is exceedingly male and either insensitive or desensitized to such concerns.

Depending on your class in WoW, as a male avatar you're potentially wearing 1) a silken house frock, 2) tight leather outfits, 3) cloth outfits that make you look like a cabana boy or romance novel cover boy, or 4) studded metal gear straight out of a BDSM catalog.

Now, considering that the majority of these outfits emphasize the primary points of the male physique above all else, is it that women are getting a raw deal or that they are just as "guilty" of being insensitive or desensitized as men when it comes to idealized forms?

I'm comfortable with how I look, but the last thing I want to do is look my own digitized butt for the few hours a week I might play a game, let alone my butt in the clothes I usually have to wear in real life.

Key things:
1) We're a long way away from being able to completely port our appearances into a game (not just vague approximations)

2) I doubt there's much of market for that beyond novelty and maybe the adult industry

3) As long as we continue to play in fantastical worlds of magical, futuristic, and alien heritage, we will never be able to have "normal" appearances (which I beg someone to define, regardless)

4) To paraphrase, on the internet, no one knows you're a dog in a night elf huntress's skimpy clothing.

Posted Feb 17, 2005 9:14:49 AM | link

Edward Castronova says:

William> The other is, as far as I'm concerned, the real, serious issue that cuts to the heart of questions of gender in games (and, peripherally, in game culture) - the hypersexualization of women (and not men), and the implicit homophobia in the need to de-sexualize male bodies except as surrogate agents for the player's desire.

Ren> There was also a very interesting thing on TV in the UK last night called: Why Men Wear Frocks.

Every once in awhile I wonder why robes are not acceptable male attire these days, as it seems to me they would be a lot more comfortable than jeans and t-shirts. In games I tend to prefer the look of a robed caster, too. Robes => a latent desire to androgynize? Maybe. Interesting.

And this then reminded me of a thought that I hesitate to share, but will in the interests of advancing discussion: I have noticed, in several games, that male avatars in tight pants have something, um, missing. (I'm evidently so homophobic that I hesitate to say 'the avatars are dickless'. There! I did it! I said something about a penis, and I am not gay, I think. Whew!) In WoW it's particularly pronounced - er, denounced? - in the case of NE males. There ain't nothing there.

Not sure where I am going with this, other than to provide additional evidence that American game designs are as tortured about sex as American culture is.

Posted Feb 17, 2005 9:27:06 AM | link

Owen says:

I have skimmed the current threads on this issue and the older ones (this issue flared up towards end of open beta too). As far as I can tell the majority of the complaint are there is skimpy female armor, but that there isn't enough non-skimpy armor. There should be equally good armor in both skimpy and non-skimpy varieties so that if people want to look skimpy they can and if they want tough "realistic" looking armor it should be available too. Perhaps this could be implemented via the interface menu like they currently allow users to decide whether or not to display headgear and capes. Or maybe they just need to make sure that there is a wide range of both skimpy and non-skimpy armor available at all levels.

Posted Feb 17, 2005 3:26:51 PM | link

Jim says:

This topic seems to center around designers' rights. That seems to be a popular one these days.

What if Blizzard wants to express that "Night Elf women are socially inclined to be slutty, and therefore we want them to look sluttly." Or perhaps they choose a more acceptable stance, such as, "Night Elves see clothing as a barrier between themselves and nature. For this reason they choose to wear as little covering as possible."

What would the answer be to this? I think it would be the same. There would be the group that wanted the developer to change their stance to what they themselves want, and there would be the group that likes the current stance for whatever reason.

Either way, Blizzard can decide what "ought" to be within this world they have created, and I support their right to do so. I wish players would try to appreciate this virtual world rather than conform it to their own ideals.

Posted Feb 17, 2005 5:13:00 PM | link

Tess says:

Oh, I meant to add, on the point of text-based-MUDs: On my old TinyMUSH, people could describe themselves however they pleased. As long as everything was PG-13 or less, it was pretty much anything goes. The amusing thing was that for female characters, the text descriptions became a dead giveaway for the gender of the player. Males and females focused on completely different attributes when describing female characters. If, for example, breasts were mentioned anywhere in the description, there was a 99% chance that the player was male. Women, describing their characters, tended to focus on facial features, height, build, clothing, and accessories. Nearly all female characters, regardless of whether they were played by men or women, were tall and slim, but they were not all beautiful. For the most part, female characters played by women were not described in sexual terms at all (I can really only think of two noteworthy exceptions, and one of the players in question was a lesbian).

Regardless of what sex they were playing, bad typing, bad grammar, bad spelling, and the overuse of ridiculous cliches (eyes that burn straight into your soul) tended to be more predominant among male players. Males were also more likely to do things in the description that violated the conventions of their community, either by accident or deliberately.

Female characters played by women were usually reasonably believable, albeit prone to embarassing histrionics at times. With the usual exceptions, many of the female characters played by men, in contrast, were Japanese-named gun-toting, grenade-lobbing lesbian amazons who had lots of tinysex, had improbable breasts, and started tinyplots about alien pheromones -- but their poor players couldn't, for the life of them, spell the word "pheromone" the same way twice.

How we all co-existed, I'm not quite sure.

Posted Feb 17, 2005 9:52:18 PM | link

AFFA says:

There are alot of good points in this discussion.

1) WoW lacks visual customization at all levels.

Yes. Very yes. This is hard to adjust to after the excellent initial customization in City of Heroes and the ongoing equipment customization in Anarchy Online.

I noticed the same lack of customization in Everquest 2, although there seemed to be more equipment options for each level. I hope future games follow the City of Heroes model, giving players a way to make their character visually distinct, even at a distance, from the very beginning.

2) Some players like the skimpy look while others do not. Should developers satisfy both, and if so, how?

I think it's a worthy goal, but few game companies could make two separate styles for each armor type. Most games already assign the same mesh/texture/icon/etc to multiple items because of art resource (and technological) limits. Asking for twice as many resources is wishful thinking, not a practical solution.

But if art resources are already used for multiple armor sets, why not let players choose between two existing armor resources? Some of the low level armor looks great. Give the skimpier armor a toggle (preferably a per-item toggle) between the skimpy look and an existing art resource that is more modest. There are some technical problems--the server might have to transmit not just which armor another player was wearing, but which style it was set to. This could be more work or more bandwidth or both. I don't know how WoW works or how feasible this would be. (I.e. When another player comes within range, does the server send a list of mesh IDs the client looks up? Or does it transmit a list of equipment IDs that the client translates into the correct meshes? "Inspecting" another player has a delay, but the client could be getting other information, like the equipment stats, so this isn't a good clue.)

Some clothing in Daggerfall had multiple apperances. If you right-clicked a cloak, you could put the hood up or down. Some clothing could be short or long-sleeved, shirts could be open, buttoned, or tied in a knot at the waist, etc. Of course, in a single-player game with no mirrors, you only saw a difference on the paper doll in the character sheet.

I do not think that giving players an option to see skin or not is the right approach. I don't care if other players dress like sluts. I care if my character dresses that way. I want a way to toggle whether I show skin or not, not whether I see it on other players. Otherwise, how would I know if I'm wearing a metal bikini? When I get even more unwanted attention?

I don't want to restrict other players from being mature (or immature, depending). I want good equipment that doesn't make me look like a pointy-eared whore. I want more choice in the game, not less.

3) Realism.

Ha ha. This doesn't hold much weight with me, either. Even though I don't like the skimpier female outfits, they do fit with the general art style.

4) Janet Jackson

It's interesting someone brought this up. I don't think the issue for most WoW players or most offended superbowl viewers is prudishness. Everyone seems to spin it that way, but this does not match my experiences. I think the "American obsession with sex" exists only in the media and the imaginations of the pundits (or, in other words, if everyone's already obsessed, why all the high pressure salesmanship?).

I don't have a problem with nudity. I have a problem with my tough, no-nonsense character having to choose between grey equipment and looking like... something she's not. I have a problem with choreographed, sexualized violence towards women. There is a big difference between this and classic prudishness.

5) Some male armor in WoW is almost as bad.

Yes, it is. Most of the skimpy armor is on the Alliance side, though. Which brings up some questions: Will the party-every-night attitude on the Alliance side reduce their military readiness? Or will the Horde fail to produce enough little soldiers to carry on the fight in the next generation?

6) Females avatars are more anatomically correct than male avatars.

Ideally, my avatar would have the choice to not wear tight pants. But if my avatar had to wear tight pants, I'd prefer some sign of masculinity to the Ken Doll mesh male avatars have in most games (but not a huge, frightening, undefined bulge like the allegedly neuter Atrox in Anarchy Online).

7) Annoying idle animations.

I play mainly a Night Elf female and Tauren male. If I could change only one thing in WoW, I'd turn these animations off. My Night Elf bounces and my Tauren scratches himself at least once a minute when standing still. Neither animation is... heroic.

Posted Feb 17, 2005 11:29:51 PM | link

William Huber says:

Edward C : In WoW it's particularly pronounced - er, denounced? - in the case of NE males. There ain't nothing there.


Well, they're elves. They're immortal, right? No need for reproduction. Because if they could reproduce, what with all the porn-stars around, the planet would be thick with elflings in no time. Perhaps the virtual castration of the Night Elves is a measure to preserve the delicate balance of power in WoW. Kudos to the far-thinking designers!

Posted Feb 18, 2005 12:20:22 AM | link

Alan says:

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the WoW /dance animations. Those too are rather suggestive, particularly the human male hip gyrations and pelvis-thrusting. (I'm not making this up. I'm almost a little ashamed when I type /dance on my char. But I do it anyways for fun so what does that say?)

As for the female chars being hit on, I privately laugh to myself every time I hear about this. Not because I condone the behavior (which I certainly don't), but rather because some (a lot?) players still haven't come to the realization that all characters in the VW are projections, carrying a real world person behind it of unknown age and sex.

My favorite example was when I made my female char in SWG a Dancer for a few days, to try it out and see what it was like. It soon became apparent that some of the male characters in SWG had not accepted the above paragraph's proposition. It became downright rude and obnoxious, forming part of the basis for my char leaving the dance floor.

As for the female Night Elves, Blizzard turned up the skank/slut factor a bit high on them. Then again, they could have gotten a *really* stupid idle animation like human females, frowning, sighing, looking bored, spreading their hands out as if to say "Why me, oh lord?" Not skanky or slutty but certainly not good or in character (unless your char is perpetually bored and annoyed).

Posted Feb 18, 2005 11:58:40 AM | link

Hans Terje Bakke says:

Jim wrote:
> What if Blizzard wants to express that "Night Elf women are socially inclined to be slutty, and therefore we want them to look sluttly." Or perhaps they choose a more acceptable stance, such as, "Night Elves see clothing as a barrier between themselves and nature. For this reason they choose to wear as little covering as possible."

Ah! A game world reason for it! This would have made the world more immersive. But one of the points in this discussion is that there is exactly that there is no such justification. (Or have I missed something?)

AFFA wrote:
> I do not think that giving players an option to see skin or not is the right approach. I don't care if other players dress like sluts. I care if my character dresses that way. I want a way to toggle whether I show skin or not, not whether I see it on other players.

You're not alone!
I don't mind nudity in the game, as long as it's not on the battlefield. And I don't want my character to wear only a jockstrap in the market square either in the game or in real life. I'm not sure I would like to see others that way either, but if it's once a month it might be amusing. If it's once a day it becomes either irritating or boring. And if 50% of the population do it all the time, I might resign to indifference. Yet I am not indifferent to how I present myself (i.e. my character).

Posted Feb 22, 2005 4:11:58 PM | link

Hans Terje Bakke says:

To follow up Ren's comment on Second Life and Tess on an old TinyMUSH:

In A Tale in the Desert people can change their avatar appearance including clothing at any time. There is no equipment to wear and the clothing you choose means nothing apart from how you appear to yourself and others. It would be interesting to see some demographics on player age, sex distribution and player sex vs. character sex in that game. (Where can I find it?) People have very different ideas of how they want to appear in that game, but "slutty" is hardly one of them.

So, WoW and other games with few variations in appearance for high-end equipment: Have the decisions been made based on an assumption that it would be commercially beneficial to do so? Or is it simply the artists' perception of what "cool" is?

If anyone wants to do a survey, I think it would be interesting to know the answers to
- What do males playing males want (other) female characters to look like?
- What do males playing females want _their_ characters to look like?
- What do females (playing females) want _their_ characters to look like?

The reason for these questions is that there is no evidence to be found in the games based on observations since (players feel that) there are no options. So we don't really know what they _want_ to wear. Even when it is not strictly necessary (by their own record) to wear the skimpy stuff, it is too much of a hassle to change gear all the time. Such occasions are of purely social character - often a go-clubing setting - where it is desirable to dress up (that is, down) for the event. The absolutely voluntary dressing of Atroxes in polka-dot swim suit and sunglasses doesn't give much of an answer.

Posted Feb 22, 2005 4:33:03 PM | link

Jim says:

Hans Terje Bakke wrote:

>Ah! A game world reason for it! This would have made the world more immersive. But one of the points in this discussion is that there is exactly that there is no such justification. (Or have I missed something?)>

I was assuming the opposite... that people wanted to change the content of the world to suit their own preferences. I guess that would be an assumption though, wouldn't it?

As for having in-game reasons for scantily clad night elf women, you only have to go back as far as Warcraft III. To my knowledge, there has never been anything other than an amply-bosomed, scantily clad night elf female.

Posted Feb 23, 2005 3:38:54 AM | link

Joshua says:

I wasn't even looking for anything regarding WoW. More precisely, I was researching ancient armors, but as a player of WoW I figure I'll pipe in.
Any, and I do mean ANY claim of armor for female avatars in a video game and more specifically WoW are pretty moot points. You can protest the sexuality that is used in any game till you are blue in the face, but this is a land of liberty. You don't have to play the game. If you seriously have a problem with their scantly-clad female characters, you might as well go crawl in a cave and die.
Point is that all the feint-of-heart morons out there that have an issue with too much virtual skin being shown off need to quit ruining it for the majority of everyone else who don't just give a crap. Find a bloody hobbie. Quit nitpicking at stupid themes like the indecency of sexual undertones in games. You are wasting your life.

Posted Feb 26, 2005 1:58:14 PM | link

Michael Hartman says:

> MM wrote:
> I gotta say... this is so american.

That is sooooooo true.

> Personally, I'd like to get rid of those
> ugly undergarments too. I'm very curious
> to see what variety of shades night-elf
> nipples come in.
>
> All this fuss over sex. It happens all day,
> every day, everywhere, all the time. Nudity
> is not offensive, and fear of it is embarrasing.

It never ceases to amaze me that the idea of a bare boobs or a bare butt are absolutely devastating, but chopping someone/something up into tiny meaty bits is completely fine.

Violence = good. Nudity = bad.

ABSURD!

Probably the two (perhaps only) things I am ashamed of as an American are this phenomenon and our refusal to switch to the metric system.

It reminds of an artist on Elf that I almost hired to do some artwork for our company. He had some amazingly well crafted scenes of assassins plying their trade in a most sinister and sadistic fashion.

I went to his web site and started reading about hiring him for work. He had some silly statement where he said something to the effect "I absolutely will not do nudity due to the fact that I have a family and a child."

Somehow having a child means its ok to draw people being horribly murdered for money, but a bare boob is just unacceptable?

That is a warped set of principles.

Posted Feb 26, 2005 2:30:38 PM | link

Michael Hartman says:

Argh. On ELFWOOD, not Elf. :(

Posted Feb 26, 2005 2:31:50 PM | link

N.S. says:

Oh Pleasssse! You've got to be kidding. This is **Role Playing** for Cripes Sake!

I'm a business woman that has to wear a suit all day. I *LOVE* being able to come home and have some *fun* being a bad ass Night Elf in sexy clothes that I couldn't wear in 'real life'!! My only complaint is that I can't design my own clothes to be even more unique!

I've seen more flesh on a beach for cryin out loud! (Ever been to any Southern US beach at spring break?? All the fat co-eds running around in bikinis with all God gave them hanging out?? Now THAT'S offensive.)

You guys sound like a bunch of Nuns and Priests or worse yet, those stupid fanatical groups who try to censor everything. (Which by the way, if you don't want your fabulous Elf boobs peeking out then **choose a different character to play** or cover up with a tabard or shirt!)

It's my prerogative to look hot AS A CARTOON if I want to and no one is forcing you to log on and look at me. So think about that the next time you're bashing someone's brains in, killing and SKINNING innocent animals, or challenging some other human being to a blood thirsty duel.

Posted Mar 7, 2005 1:25:20 PM | link

Biggles says:

To the more recent posters, I'd just like to make something clear:

No one has actually stated that they are offended by seeing vitual nudity. You are attacking no one and showing that you haven't followed the discussion at all (fair enough as it is fairly long).

If anyone plans on continuing this discussion, I believe the current topic is greater avatar customisation, and allowing the players to express the way They wish to look to others. Whether they dress like sluts or not is up to them, but currently there seem to be very few options not to.

Posted Mar 7, 2005 2:08:28 PM | link

Blackbyrd says:

Seeing as I don't play WOW I cannot speak to the choices their designers have made. I can however tell you that I play Lineage 2 which has the same, or some would say worse, problem. If, that is, you consider it a problem. I think the idea that anyone has a right to impose their point of view on the designers of these RPG's is ridiculous.

The only way to move the world is to start with that small move inside yourself. Go out there and change peoples minds, Shake some hands and make them understand. Don't Shout. Don't Whine. Don't Blame. If this issue is important to you start a sound discourse. Don't just take a side, MAKE a side, and pull everyone over that you can.

Also understand your audiance. If its and MMO full of teenagers, your not going to win points with the "im my day" sort of arguments. Speak to their terms, help them become as passionate as you are about defending your opinion.

That all being said - I think there is nothing wrong with the depiction of the avatars in any of the MMOs I have played. These are fantasy games, and based on only the imaginations of their designers. Yes Dark Elf Females in Lineage are haughty, slutty, half-dressed charactures. but in the end still not real, and not intended to be thought of as real.

Then you have those who would argue that this sort of depiction promotes violence towards women. I say that same line of logic could just as easily say women are superior because theyre just as tough as the men (in their shiny plate mail) when wearing only a band-aid sized bikini.

Posted May 13, 2005 9:25:20 AM | link

Sulecrist says:

Has anyone here heard of a tabard? Not only is it a symbol of pride and teamwork, it also nicely manages to cover up almost all of the inappropriate bits of skin. Sure, you can see a little knee and a little elbow... but you see those just walking through a shopping mall.

I play Horde, and we don't have these problems. Although our helmets tend to get in the way of our hair.

Posted Sep 17, 2005 10:48:40 AM | link

Dana says:

YOU STINK!!!!!!!!!!

Posted Oct 4, 2005 4:34:23 PM | link

ThisIsLateBut says:

Just found this while surfing but had to get the last word in...

Make a prude faction whose job it is to hunt down scantily clad characters...

Do right wing christian organizations have mmorpgs? That'd be a hell of a funny thing!

Posted Feb 13, 2006 8:57:15 AM | link