Dude, Where’s My Gender?September 11, 2008
Next week, many innocent souls will be logging into Warhammer Online for the very first time, their minds refreshingly void of any in-depth info about the game, and then it’ll happen. Then the cruel door of sexism will slam shut on their faces, and they will cry, and they will wail, and they will seek restitution. “What do you mean, I can’t make a female Marauder or a male Witch Elf?!?”
Now, if you’re rolling Order, it’s smooth sailing for you. 10 careers, two genders apiece. No problem. Yet for various reasons, the Destruction faction comes off as far more gender-biased, with 6 of the 10 careers lacking both gender options:
- Greenskin Shaman – male only
- Greenskin Squig Herder – male only
- Greenskin Black Orc – male only
- Chaos Marauder – male only
- Chaos Chosen – male only
- Dark Elf Witch Elf – female only
So what’s going on here? Is Destruction really adding “sexism” to their list of evil crimes? Are we missing character creation features? Will Destruction become WAR’s de facto “Boy’s Club”? And most importantly, how is Mythic going to provide an easy answer to the casual player who cares not a pip about lore, but just wants to play a certain gender/class combination? WAAAGH! investigates.
Greenskins – The Third Gender?
While there are female Orcs in the non-canonical Blood Bowl, Orcs and Goblins have always been “male” in the Warhammer fantasy universe. Many folks will tell you that they’re not actually male but an asexual third gender, produced by fungus spores and only looking male-like. However, Games Workshop has deliberately left the question of their reproduction (in the Warhammer Fantasy universe; Warhammer 40K is where the “fungus reproduction” came from) up in the air, so nobody has a definitive answer.
So there isn’t a great, solid reason why all the Greenskins are male(ish), other than they’ve always been male in the Wahrammer Fantasy universe, and females would go against that.
Chaos Chosen – From The Dev’s Lips
Why not have a dark armor-clad female warrior of Chaos? Josh Drescher actually commented on this a while ago:
– There will be no female Chosen. It’s a decision we made quite some time ago that was backed by art and design as well as GW.
– This is not part of a sexist plot. Or a lazy plot. Or a plot aimed at ruining your afternoon. Generally speaking, we spend lots of time trying to think of ways to make players HAPPY, not trying to construct elaborate methods of throwing them into a blind rage.
– Yes, you can find evidence in the lore of female Chaos Champions. I never said there were no cases of female Champions. Adam never said it. No one ever said it. But if you look at the dominant, iconic representations of Chaos Champions, they are enormous, hulking, masculine figures. That’s the core of the IP and it’s the look we’re going for with the Chosen.
– From an artistic standpoint, there was no good way to create a female Chosen that maintained the look and visual impact we wanted without sacrificing everything that could in any reasonable way be regarded as “feminine.” We weren’t simply going to strap a female head onto a male body and call it a female Chosen.
Chaos Marauder – Topless Means “M” Rating
The flip answer to the question of “Why no female Marauders?” is “Because Marauders don’t wear no shirts, fool!” and Mythic don’t want no M rating on their game. Yet the Warhammer IP does include cases of female mutations and potential Marauders, so why not a female version of this class?
Josh Drescher reports that the reasoning was similar to the Chosen: “In cases like the Chosen and the Marauder, we felt that it would be inappropriate for our game to try and develop female versions of these careers. We needed them both to be physically terrifying, even at low levels without any armor on. The absurd bodily proportions necessary to achieve that can work on a male model, as it simply makes them look freakishly huge and intimidating. On a female model, however, they just looked awkward and unpleasant.”
Dark Elf Witch Elf – No Wiggle Room
Josh Drescher: “In the case of things like Witch Elves, for example, there was no wiggle room [in the Warhammer IP]. They HAD to be female-exclusive.”
Believe it or not, the Witch Elf gender question is all about marriage (and lore, of course). The Witch Elves are also called “Brides of Khaine”, an all-female cult of priestesses who apparently like knives very, very, very much. As Josh said, not a lot of wiggle room for males in an all-female cult.
However, much speculation has surrounded the creation of the Disciples of Khaine class (new to the Warhammer IP) as a way for Mythic to present a potentially male alternative — even though the role isn’t quite the same (however, notice how both the DoK and the WE dual-wield sharp, pointy objects).
Dark Elf Sorcerer/Sorceress – Hypocritical?
“Aha!” Warhammer fantasy know-it-alls cry out. “So you stick to the game lore for the other classes, but suddenly you can make a male Sorcerer? Warhammer tabletop doesn’t currently have any male sorcerers — just female sorceresses!”
Is this true? Has Mythic been caught being a bit hypocritical in their class/gender dealings, or is something else going on here?
It is true that the tabletop game phased out male Sorcerers a long time ago (prior to 4th or 5th editions), but they still existed as an actual part of the lore — even though the lore is fluid and changes with time.
There is a HUGE Warhammer backstory to the whole issue of male sorcerers, stemming from a Big Bad Boss named Malekith who apparently slaughtered all of the dude sorcerers way back when, because he perceived them as a threat. Games Workshop and Mythic’s explanation for the inclusion of the male sorcerer’s reappearance is that Malekith is temporarily putting aside his grudge against these guys to grow his army more — but he’s probably going to slaughter them all again once the big battle is finished.
We also won’t discount that Mythic took a hard look at the Destruction side and knew that they were pushing the gender restrictions to the limit as it was.
Josh Drescher: “In the case of Sorceresses/Sorcerers, however, GW made it clear that there was ample room for relaxing the standard ‘female-only’ limitations.”
What Will This Mean For WAR?
Right now, small issues like not being able to choose a certain gender/class combination don’t seem important, compared to everything that’s going on. But for players used to choice in past MMO character creation, this restriction might eventually become a Big Deal, demanding more of an official explanation from Mythic. Just… be wary about bringing the gender issue up on any forums; people there have done these conversations to death, and don’t really feel like digging it up for one more go.
I don’t have any handy statistics at my side to tell you that, because X% of real life females tend to roll female classes, Order will statistically attract more female gamers, but I’m willing to claim a hunch that is true. No matter what good lore is backing it up, Destruction comes off as decidedly more “male” in tone, and people do pick up on that sort of thing.