Ah, feminism. An important movement to promote empowerment and equality for women. Unfortunately, it means that in almost every interview, people ask about depictions or roles of women. This did not go well for Heroes of the Storm Director, Dustin Browder.
In an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Browder seemed a bit unprepared for questions about the alternate outfits and depictions of female characters in Heroes of the Storm. In fact, some of these are my new favorite reactions:
Well, I mean, some of these characters, I would argue, are already hyper-sexualized in a sense. I mean, Kerrigan is wearing heels, right? We’re not sending a message to anybody. We’re just making characters who look cool. Our sensibilities are more comic book than anything else. That’s sort of where we’re at. But I’ll take the feedback. I think it’s very fair feedback.
We’re not running for President. We’re not sending a message. No one should look to our game for that.
I really want to highlight that second one – where he says they’re not sending a message and people shouldn’t look to this game for that. Ah, if only game developers could get away with saying that they aren’t making a game about gender roles, it’s just about beating each other up and women apparently look pretty when they’re in massive shoulder pads and little else. However, of course this didn’t fly. Browder was seriously criticized for this reaction, and has since apologized on the Heroes of the Storm website:
In a recent interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I responded poorly to a statement the interviewer made about over-sexualized character designs in games, and I want to apologize for that. This is a serious topic and I don’t want anyone to think that I, or anyone else at Blizzard, is insensitive about how we portray our characters.
It takes work to make compelling characters, but it’s important to take a step back to ensure that we’re not alienating our players. We have an amazing roster of heroes and we will always strive to make sure that everyone can have a hero that they identify with and feel powerful using. And at the end of the day, we all want the same thing. A great game where we can all have fun battling for glory and maybe some bragging rights.
This truly is a difficult line to walk. The reality is that female characters in most MOBA are depicted as sexualized characters in much the same way that male characters are. All champions are stereotyped to make them easy to characterize; male champions have ridiculous physiques in much the same way female ones do – just look at Tychus Findlay. I’m not saying that sexualization is good, simply that it’s what we’ve come to expect from humanoid champions in MOBA. Most people who play MOBA play little attention to if the character is male or female, they’re more interested in what kind of skills they have – are we talking about a “carry” or “support” hero?
In the end, as much as I might agree with the sentiment that Blizzard isn’t running for president, that they aren’t looking to be a part of this discourse, the reality is that they are making a game and assuming that a large population will be involved with it. As such, it will have an impact on perceptions of women. Whether they like it or not, they have to at least appear to consider these things, even while designing heroes based off of characters who already should have been considered in this way when originally created.
In all honesty, I’m tired of people asking about female characters in every interview. However, I think Joss Whedon articulates this far better than I could hope to here:
Last Updated: November 25, 2013