The issue of gender inclusivity in gaming has been around the traps for as long as gaming, and is something I’ve discussed on this blog before. One of the main reasons for this in both the computer and table-top gaming world is the images that are used, which signify gaming as a man’s world where women are not wanted; but another problem in the physical world has been the reception that women get, physically, when they enter a stuffy room full of fat, beardy men who haven’t had sex since they broke their blow-up doll a year ago. They tend to get stared at like freaks, and suffer a lot of unwanted attention related to their gender. One would think, though, that in a world where the player’s real gender isn’t visible, this wouldn’t be a problem, and that in fact online gaming would offer a way out of this problem.
Now, gay men and women in the military in the US are advised (in fact, forced) to get around this by means of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which enables everyone to keep pretending that there are no gay men in a largely male organization, and thus avoids requiring the majority of the group to avoid changing their behaviour (in this case, largely “worrying,” one imagines) to fit the minority’s presence. It’s good for morale, apparently, but has come under attack from Lady Gaga, who is apparently more powerful than Nancy Pelosi, presumably because she has nicer breasts.
But perhaps Lady Gaga should be turning her enormous temporal power to a much greater injustice – the exclusion of women from World of Warcraft. The Border House blog has a report on advice to a female gamer who has joined a guild with a don’t ask, don’t tell policy – about gender. That’s right, she’s meant to keep her gender secret from the other players. Apparently she’s lucky – according to commenters on the post, a lot of top flight raiding guilds are male-only. The presumed reason is that the male players start “thinking with their sack” (to quote a commenter) when they hear a woman’s voice. Which sounds a lot like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to me (and like all the previous eras’ unfounded concerns about women in the military, to boot). So this woman has to decide if she can hide her gender (which must be a little difficult, when you have to talk over a microphone – I’m not sure how that works), or tone down her raiding / move to a different guild – or be blamed for all the petty morale problems and fuck ups that affect the guild she’s in.
I’ve observed before that World of Warcraft seems to reproduce all the pettiest and most unpleasant parts of our normal world, and that its fantastic and escapist elements don’t seem to transfer to either the political, class or economic relations within the game. Gender, of course, can never hope to escape the constrictions of the real world in such an environment. Is this because of the conservatism of high fantasy, is it inevitable when a large number of ordinary men do a hobby, or is the attitude in the gaming world actually a notch more exclusionary than in the real world, because men are fragile about women intruding on their club – just as they were in the workplace 30 years ago? And can we as pen-and-paper gamers do better than this?
In reading this report I also discovered that there is a a semi-official “out” server for gay, lesbian and transgender players, “Proudmoore.”