Ladies Just Aren’t in the Cards

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.

Hearthstone Screenshot 08-20-15 16.59.48

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!

Jaina_Proudmoore(320) Valeera_Sanguinar(2)

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.

malfurion

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!

Alleria_Windrunner(14694)

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.)

pit

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.

14 thoughts on “Ladies Just Aren’t in the Cards

  1. Hello, fellow Imgurian and female Hearthstone player! I came to check out what you were writing about video games and started freaking out when I saw you wrote about Hearthstone. I’m a female Hearthstone twitch streamer/tournament caster and I’m just so excited when I find other ladies playing my favorite game!

    I love your article, and I have a few things I’d like to add.

    Personally, I’ve been the target of quite a bit of gender-based harassment while in Hearthstone. Admittedly, this interaction was with people who added me after games; I had to accept the friend request. But man, that’s how you make friends! I’ve made a ton of friends by accepting friend requests from people after games because most people turn out to be completely normal and friendly. But every so often, I get absolutely ignorant, gender-based hate speech, and that hurts.

    The other thing that bothers me is that Blizzard still refuses to adopt gender-free language in their games. Magic and Pokemon have been using “he or she” in their card text for over 10 years, but Blizz can’t quite get the message for some reason. When your opponent runs out of cards, the fatigue says “Your opponent has run out of cards! He will take damage every time he draws a card.” I know that’s minor, but it’s SUCH a tiny fix, and they refuse to do it. Why?

    There’s a lot more I could say about what it’s like being a lady Hearthstone streamer and putting yourself out there for Twitch Chat to comment on, but that’s for another article 🙂

    Add me if you want to! Shelby#1203

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    1. Glad to have you here, Shelby! And I get what you mean. Even though I’m a grammar teacher, I’ve always been a fan of the gender-neutral use of a singular “they” in those positions. “Your opponent is out of cards! They will take damage…” would be so much better, in my opinion. I agree that sometimes it seems nitpicky to complain about “little” things like that, but those things are what make people forget that the person on the other end of the match might be a woman, and if we could just make women gaming seem like a normal thing, I think I lot of the harassment and awkwardness would abate! It’s the little things, as they say. 😉

      And I added you!

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  2. In Jaina’s and particularly Valeera’s defense, one is a mage and the other is a rogue. Typically they’re classes that shouldn’t be getting hit, and heavy armor would encumber their natural abilities.

    I’m from imgur by the way, hi.

    Also what’s your scoring system? Is 32% F a good score, bad or average? What’s the best score a game can get (ie 10/10)?

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    1. Hello, fellow Imgurian!

      And yes, I totally get the lack of need for heavy armor for those battling beauties, and you have a point! But not wearing heavy armor doesn’t necessarily have to equate to boobs out and backs bent to keep the booties in frame. Surely there’s a happy medium where women can forgo heavy armor while still being mostly dressed and maybe possibly in powerful poses rather than ones meant almost exclusively for sex appeal. Alternatively, there’s always the possibility of providing both scantily clad femme fatales AND fully clothed female fighters. This would be my favorite compromise!

      As for the scoring, I was just going by the American grading system of A being excellent and F being the lowest score. At 50%, an F grade becomes the next highest grade (D) and rises from there by increments of 10. I actually very much love playing Hearthstone, so this grade only reflects their representation of women in the game, not the actual enjoyment that can be derived from playing.

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  3. “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,” isn’t that art style and not gameplay you are talking about?

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    1. Sure! Probably a poor choice of words. I was trying to transition from the ways you can talk to your opponent (which is irrelevant to gameplay overall) to the actual playing of the game, which is, of course, when you’ll be seeing the game art. Hopefully you can see what I was going for, but in the end I think you’re right; I could have worded it better.

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  4. i think that the clothes are not the problem. the problem, as you stated at the end, is the stupidity of not giving options for their public. with that said, this 48% statistic is related with what? because people love to tell that women only play casual games and i´d like to see how´s that going. great article!

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    1. I have heard that women play predominately “casual” games as well, but then we encounter that tired argument of what makes a “real” gamer. What is the litmus for being a worthwhile gamer? Time invested? Money spent? Competitive nature? People who play some of these “casual’ games often spend more time, effort, and even money on them than people who have religiously played some of the more mainstream “real” games do, so which one is the “real” gamer? I’d wager that both have a stake in that claim.

      In any case, opinions aside, the facts are showing that the number of games women play is growing casual and otherwise, so this includes Candy Crush, sure, but also games like Hearthstone, Minecraft, Witcher … oh, wait, I’m just naming the games that I play! Well, you get the idea. Women are out there, gaming alongside men, but of course, how often when you’re knocking down forts with a PuG in Heroes of the Storm does it come up that everyone on your team feels the need to report their gender? In short, there are more of us out there than most people think! 😉

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      1. i jus think that this kind of discussion loses strength when it goes to generalisations. a game is a product, a product is made for its consumers with costs in mind. if some product has a majority of male consumers it will be made with focus on them. it´s not bias, it´s business. i don´t mean to be rude, but for a company it may be more lucrative to lose a few female consumers and keep the majority of payers happy. of course there´s marketing involved here, with the image of the company and stuff like that, so this have to be accounted for.

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      2. You’re not wrong, but what would “keep the majority of players” from being happy if they, in addition to what they have now, provided more images of fully clothed women? I highly doubt any players, male or female, would be up in arms or quit playing over it, and it would probably be good PR for them and attract new customers, particularly those women who shy away from games like this because it feels like such a boys’ world and not entirely accepting.

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  5. Welcome Hayley! SO glad to have your voice here.

    My story in brief, I’m not a gamer in the truest, most current sense—but I loved quest games and puzzles as a young woman—especially Tetris, Zelda, Metroid, and the Mario franchise (despite the constant female rescue) but I enjoyed Yoshi’s Island where I could at least be a flying dinosaur.

    As for Blizzard games, my ex-husband was a WoW addict and played with his friends from around the country. Then I discovered he had created a Blood Elf character that looked like me to do menial tasks like, mini quests, power leveling activities, and of all things — fetching his damn mail!

    Personally, I think they have it all backwards. You should be represented by a wide choice of fully-clothed female character by default, and PAY for the “privilege” of sporting a half-naked fembot warrior, if that’s your flavor.

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    1. Ha! I can agree with that. I would just like an equal balance of practically and impractically dressed badass chicks I can play. Sometimes, I want to rock the sexiness. I have no problem with sexy ladies running the show! But sexy doesn’t always have to mean “half-naked,” so let’s start seeing some powerful and women in games who maybe don’t have their boobs half out. Sure, give us the option of half-out boobs, but don’t make that the only option!

      Like

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