I’ll come right out and say it: I play way too much Hearthstone. In case you’re not familiar, this is basically a Magic: The Gathering rip-off created by Blizzard Entertainment using digital cards which feature various monsters, heroes, and NPCs from the Warcraft universe.
If all of that meant nothing to you, that’s ok. You don’t have to have a Battle.net account or be familiar with card-based strategy games to appreciate this post. Just stick with me.
The real meat of the gameplay comes from PvP – that is, player versus player – interactions. This means you’re paired up against random strangers from all over your region and you play your provided or pre-made decks against each other.
However, if you’re a woman who games, you may have heard that “paired up with random strangers” part with a shudder. It you’re like me, you’ve experienced some sort of abuse in one form or another when it becomes clear to anyone in the group that you are a chick. This leads to insulting but relatively minor things like assumptions of inadequacy all the way up to game-ruining experiences like threats and verbal abuse.
Hearthstone, thankfully, has none of this.
Unless you add someone as a friend, your opponent cannot chat with you. They can only make their character say a couple stock phrases, as can you.
Each hero says something slightly different, but they’re all very G-rated. If your opponent is managing to annoy you anyway, you can right-click on their character and “squelch” their hero’s voice, meaning they can click their little speech bubbles all they want, but you won’t hear them. (They also won’t know you’ve chosen to squelch them.)
So as far as opening women (or any players) up to the harassment gaming is famous for, Hearthstone does a pretty good job of keeping that stuff out of the equation.
Where the issues arise is in the gameplay itself: particularly the heroes players can choose to play as and the cards players construct their decks with. Of the nine stock heroes players can choose from, seven are men and only two are women. Both women wear the ridiculous armor made famous in comic books, most things from the fantasy genre, and nearly all video games, whose purpose is to show as much cleavage (and accomplish as little protection – what’s the point of wearing armor at all?) as possible. While some have done their best to explain this phenomenon, there’s really no need for cleavage and bare midriffs and cocked, exposed hips, is there? These women are supposed to be ready for battle!
With that waist-to-boob ratio, poor Jaina must suffer from some serious back pains. Valeera’s pose specifically brings to mind other back-breaking poses made famous by comic book heroines (though, of course, the credit should really go to the illustrators who gave these ladies the ability to twist their spine like taffy in order to contort their bodies to impossible positions).
To be completely fair, though, we do get some hardcore nip action in-game, and it’s not from either of our two heroines.
Thank you for that, Malfurion.
In any case, very recently, the game’s creators have come out with some alternate heroes. You have to pay for the honor to play these new characters, which are exactly like the old ones except they look different and have slightly different sayings. Someone get my checkbook!
Of the three that have been revealed, only one is female, but praise be! She is fully clothed!
This is a game that can be played for free, but like most of all new games, it is pay-for-perks, meaning you can spend real money to get an edge or, in this case, to be represented by a fully-clothed female character, if that’s something you’re into. You need only shell out $10 for this privilege. What a deal!
That puts us at a new total of 12 heroes, and we’re up from two ladies to three, or 25%.
Though study after study and source after source after indisputable source have shown that women make up much more than a measly 25% of players (the real number is closer to 48% but appears to be rising each year), women do not have such an accurate representation of presence when it comes to the characters they get to play.
Given the number of female gamers, the fact that only 15% of games have a playable female protagonist is — and pardon my French — a damn shame. While Hearthstone is technically in that 15%, it still seems silly that a game which could easily have a nice 50/50 balance of male and female characters if they wanted chose instead to leave women grossly underrepresented.
This extends into the playable cards in the game as well. Of the hundreds of cards in the game that feature a gendered sentient character, 56% feature men, 28% could be considered gender neutral, and only 16% feature women.
There is absolutely no reason why the cards (and heroes) couldn’t have an equal representation of male and female characters, but the numbers don’t even come close. To take it even further, of that 48% of women playing, I feel like at least a few women would enjoy being represented with a larger percentage of female characters who are clearly badass rather than simply tits and ass. (Not that the two are mutually exclusive.)
Great boobs and the ability to knock your head off in one blow. Some women have it all.
In the end, I have to give Hearthstone a 32% F. I chose 32 because it the amount below the 48% of female gamers that their 16% female representation falls.
With 132 new cards released just this week, Hearthstone, you could have turned this around, but you chose to keep the game art the same boys’ club it’s always been. As a woman who loves Blizzard games, I’m going to have to recommend you work to raise that grade on your next expansion or risk disappointing, oh, about half of your playerbase … again.