Blizzard Dev Offers Apology for Response to Sexualization Question

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Blizzard Dev Offers Apology for Response to Sexualization Question

That Rock, Paper, Shotgun question about hyper-sexualized female characters struck a nerve.

At a recent Heroes of the Storm interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Blizzard developer Dustin Browder was caught off-guard by a question about hyper-sexualized female characters in MOBAs. When asked how Blizzard intended to approach the issue in Heroes, Browder argued "we're just making characters who look cool," and said that Blizzard wasn't running for President or sending a message. Browder has since said he responded poorly, and wants to apologize.

"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," says Browder. "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."

RPS' original question about character design swiftly spiralled out of control. "This is a genre about empowerment," said RPS' Nathan Grayson. "Why shouldn't everyone feel empowered?" To which Browder replied "uh-huh. Cool. Totally," shortly before PR stepped in and shut the interview down.

Browder's blog post apology was contrite, and concluded with an appeal to the player base. "We want to do better, so keep the feedback coming and thanks for the continued support."

Source: Eurogamer

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What exactly is wrong with what he said? If anything, I think RPS should be ashamed for driving the guy into a corner like that. He's a game developer, he was there to talk about the game he was developing and not gender politics.

I haven't seen many of the HotS character models yet but the ones I have seen seemed fairly reasonable, unless they're considering the naked Zerg Queen Bitch of the Universe as hyper-sexualized?

I agree he could've given a better response, but it wasn't a bad one. They want to make cool looking characters. Done.

RPS deliberately used a loaded question, without having it have any bearing on the actual game...Oh, well. Free stuff!

I am 100% with the dev. The entire gaming industry has taken this whole sexualisation issue to absurd lengths. Frankly, it's embarrassing.

kurupt87:
I am 100% with the dev. The entire gaming industry has taken this whole sexualisation issue to absurd lengths. Frankly, it's embarrassing.

I agree. It seems like every single thing has to be some kind of gender politics thing nowadays.

kurupt87:
I am 100% with the dev. The entire gaming industry has taken this whole sexualisation issue to absurd lengths. Frankly, it's embarrassing.

While I agree that his response wasn't really bad at all, I disagree completely with the rest of your sentiment. I'm not sure how anyone can say it's embarrassing for the industry and fans to take a look at, and have a discussion about sexism in games, gender roles, and the sexualization of characters. It's a topic the industry needs to be talking about, and it absolutely has not been taken to absurd lengths.

Ugh not this debate again the poor guy, its the individual design that got the green light by the producer and people go "zomgz bewbs hotness why you no sexualisation equalisez blahah blah"

It seems like nowadays every single time there a good looking women as a heroine that people get overly aggressive and offended.

Bottom line if you don't like the design don't play the game

kurupt87:
I am 100% with the dev. The entire gaming industry has taken this whole sexualisation issue to absurd lengths. Frankly, it's embarrassing.

100% this.

Renegade-pizza:
I agree he could've given a better response, but it wasn't a bad one. They want to make cool looking characters. Done.

RPS deliberately used a loaded question, without having it have any bearing on the actual game...Oh, well. Free stuff!

On the RPS piece, it was a question that was being lead up to and was fair to ask. They didn't have a good answer, and they apologized for not having a good answer. This forced them to clarify their point later.

Doing this sort of thing used to, at one point, be known as the lost art of "interviewing". In any case, this is a no-fault at the end of things.

Blizzard developer Dustin Browder was caught off-guard by a question

No it was a statement by Nathan Grayson. A question has to end in a question mark. By that point in the interview RPS was just ranting about character design using the interview as a political soapbox.

RPS: I have to add, though, that comics might not be the best point of reference for this sort of thing. I mean, it's a medium that's notorious - often in a not-good way - for sexing up female characters and putting them in some fairly gross situations.

Browder: We're not running for President. We're not sending a message. No one should look to our game for that.

RPS: But it's not even about a message. The goal is to let people have fun in an environment where they can feel awesome without being weirded out or even objectified. This is a genre about empowerment. Why shouldn't everyone feel empowered? That's what it's about at the end of the day: letting everyone have a fair chance to feel awesome.

kurupt87:
I am 100% with the dev. The entire gaming industry has taken this whole sexualisation issue to absurd lengths. Frankly, it's embarrassing.

Right, the issue should be mentioned like once a year, and then ignored after that. It should definitely not be brought up when talking with a developer of a potentially huge game that sexualizes most of its female characters in a very boring way.

The only reason this issue is "embarrassing" is that games journalists are able to bring it up so often because it constantly keeps happening. It's embarrassing that games continue to be so juvenile. It's great that Blizzard wants to make awesome looking characters. I don't think anyone would be complaining in a few female characters were sexualized, but it is a problem when it is basically being presented as the norm. Is hyper-sexualization the only way to make female characters "cool"?

Renegade-pizza:
I agree he could've given a better response, but it wasn't a bad one. They want to make cool looking characters. Done.

No, it was a terrible response. He acted like you have to be making a political statement in order to not have ridiculous female characters. He also basically said, "Well, this is a video game, so it doesn't matter", as if video games were just throwaway non-culture.

Video games are the most important new form of popular culture. It is a big problem if that culture continues to perpetuate a demeaning view of women.

Browder made it clear what the intent was for character aesthetics, why did RPS think it's okay to tun the game discussion into a sexualisation/objectification discussion? Browder probably shouldn't have brushed them off with "uh-huh. Cool. Totally", but he was put on the spot with a hot button issue. I'd have probably said something worse.

Seems like RPS was on a witch hunt for more clicks, unfortunately I gave them a click to read the source.

Aaaand the social warrior crime squad strikes again! (liberal crime squad pun)

These so called interviewers would be the first ones to complain when suddenly all "sexy" characters in games would disapear.

And what the hell is so bad about sexy characters anyways? Aslong as female characters kick the same amount of ass and are equal to the rest of the lineup then there is no reason to complain about it.

All these wanna be feminists that ride the bandwagon to line their pockets need to be shut up sooner rather then later.

It wasn't really a bad answer, more of a "non-answer". It was the verbal equivalent of someone casually shrugging their shoulders. The fact that he actually had to apologise just adds to the illusion that he made some wildly offensive statement.

He was just a simple game dev and he came into the interview completely unprepared for it to devolve into yet more gender politics.

I agree that the whole skimpier armour = More protection is stupid but there's a time and a place for arguments like that. Ambushing someone with a 'gotcha' question is just a low blow.

Vivi22:

kurupt87:
I am 100% with the dev. The entire gaming industry has taken this whole sexualisation issue to absurd lengths. Frankly, it's embarrassing.

While I agree that his response wasn't really bad at all, I disagree completely with the rest of your sentiment. I'm not sure how anyone can say it's embarrassing for the industry and fans to take a look at, and have a discussion about sexism in games, gender roles, and the sexualization of characters. It's a topic the industry needs to be talking about, and it absolutely has not been taken to absurd lengths.

IMO... yes, it has. More accurately, it has on these forums. It's reached an insane boiling point where people start frothing at the mouth merely at the mention of it.

Look, the entire feminism in gaming debate non-withstanding; I'm simply tired of being treated like the Hitler of video games because I like sexy female characters.

Do I think all female characters should be sexy? No. Often it can ruin a setting that is supposed to be taking itself seriously. Do I wish we had more variety in female characters? Absolutely. Should more females be written better? Well, in an industry where Halo is considered good writing I believe more video game characters should be written better in general, regardless of gender. But yes, of course.

However, in a MOBA "making characters that look cool" is essentially all the depth that's really needed for a character. You think of a theme, and you design their look and abilities around that theme. You write up a paragraph of back story and you're good to go. As such, I simply think it's unfair to call a designer sexist because he made some sexy characters, especially in this case as HOTS contains characters from Blizzard franchises and, as such, are all more or less pre-designed. You can only change it so much before that character isn't the same character.

Louzerman102:

Blizzard developer Dustin Browder was caught off-guard by a question

No it was a statement by Nathan Grayson. A question has to end in a question mark. By that point in the interview RPS was just ranting about character design using the interview as a political soapbox.

RPS: I have to add, though, that comics might not be the best point of reference for this sort of thing. I mean, it's a medium that's notorious - often in a not-good way - for sexing up female characters and putting them in some fairly gross situations.

Browder: We're not running for President. We're not sending a message. No one should look to our game for that.

RPS: But it's not even about a message. The goal is to let people have fun in an environment where they can feel awesome without being weirded out or even objectified. This is a genre about empowerment. Why shouldn't everyone feel empowered? That's what it's about at the end of the day: letting everyone have a fair chance to feel awesome.

Wow... RPS just smashed head long into the fail button with that one. Also, RPS wants to discuss gender politics in reference to titles that are primarily geared towards a male demographic? It's like a guy complaining about the color of the deodorant bars in the womens section of Target or vice versa.

There are questions that could be asked about the topic that might raise useful and thought-provoking answers. I tend to agree with the sentiment, however, that by the end the interviewer wasn't asking questions; he was being that guy at the party you're trying to extract yourself from.

Colt47:

Wow... RPS just smashed head long into the fail button with that one. Also, RPS wants to discuss gender politics in reference to titles that are primarily geared towards a male demographic? It's like a guy complaining about the color of the deodorant bars in the womens section of Target or vice versa.

It gets better. Have you read the response article where Greyson whines about the entire event while crying?

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/11/22/re-that-heroes-of-the-storm-interview/

Epic_Bubble:

It seems like nowadays every single time there a good looking women as a heroine that people get overly aggressive and offended.

Who has been complaining about "good looking women as a heroine"? Can you point to an article or video where this happens? Or do you define "good looking women" as solely those with gigantic boobs and butts? If a woman is wearing normal clothes are you unable to determine if she is "good looking"? If she's wearing crazy fantasy clothing that isn't sexual are you unable to determine this?

No one is complaining about developers not making good-looking, cool, or stylistic characters. The problem is only when the female's main characteristic is "sexy" while the male characters have a variety of attributes to differentiate them from each other.

(Captcha note: Being forced to type "Coughequences" is making me ill. Maybe I need some Nyquil or something ...)

Louzerman102:

Blizzard developer Dustin Browder was caught off-guard by a question

No it was a statement by Nathan Grayson. A question has to end in a question mark. By that point in the interview RPS was just ranting about character design using the interview as a political soapbox.

RPS: I have to add, though, that comics might not be the best point of reference for this sort of thing. I mean, it's a medium that's notorious - often in a not-good way - for sexing up female characters and putting them in some fairly gross situations.

Browder: We're not running for President. We're not sending a message. No one should look to our game for that.

RPS: But it's not even about a message. The goal is to let people have fun in an environment where they can feel awesome without being weirded out or even objectified. This is a genre about empowerment. Why shouldn't everyone feel empowered? That's what it's about at the end of the day: letting everyone have a fair chance to feel awesome.

Yep, that's not a question, that's an indictment. Fuck RPS and the horse they rode in on. This is exactly the wrong way to go about getting the idea of gender equality taken seriously. Such a social change requires a dialogue from both sides where mutual understanding can be reached. You will get nothing from this aggressive "have you stopped beating your wife" malarkey.
Well nothing except mistrust, paranoia, anger, and further disconnect from actually getting people to listen to you.

You know it would serve these sensationalist twonks right if these companies decided to avoid this issue by just not including female characters at all.

Why pick on blizzard? Their female characters are usually very strong women.

Nathan Grayson and his social-justice self-hating anti-male bullshit is why I stopped reading Rock Paper Shotgun. The publication became more about his self aggrandizing click-bait then reporting on actual PC gaming news. Kudo's to Blizzard for it's answer and shame on them for their retraction. When Grayson tried to spring the same bullshit on CD Projekt, they torpedo'd it with "We making videogames, son. Why do YOU see sexism here?" and never mentioned it again.

This is not the logical discourse sexuality in culture needs. This is making the sexuality discourse into a HOT BUTTON TOPIC and using it as ammunition to fuel a personal agenda. Grayson is single handedly dragging RPS into the shitter.

wizzy555:
Why pick on blizzard? Their female characters are usually very strong women.

For the same reason Vanillaware and George Kamitani are sexist despite having a female protagonist in every one of their 8 games. Its an emotional argument in the moment that ignores the history of the company/medium.

I know how to deal with this! have all female game characters from now on all wear burqas exclusively that way no one will be offended by them being underdressed. After all there were complaints of Lara Croft being underdressed on some sites so better safe than sorry.

Kumagawa Misogi:
I know how to deal with this! have all female game characters from now on all wear burqas exclusively that way no one will be offended by them being underdressed. After all there were complaints of Lara Croft being underdressed on some sites so better safe than sorry.

The important thing is to make sure that all the female characters are handled in the same way depending on what you think about women. Either they are defined by being sexual, or they are defined by being a temptation to men. Try to avoid having your female characters have various interesting traits. That's definitely what RPS was asking for.

Or, maybe you're not understanding the issue at all.

It would be interesting to see more female characters that are designed around their personality.
All political/social/gender issues aside, It's just getting boring seeing the same portable boobs-on-legs characters.

Yet we never see RPS grill Mariel Cartwright (lead artist for Skullgirls) on why she keeps making such sexist character designs. http://kinucakes.tumblr.com/

This is her person tumblr by the way, so you can't claim these images were made under instruction from her boss either. This is just the kind of characters she likes to draw.

Clovus:
No, it was a terrible response. He acted like you have to be making a political statement in order to not have ridiculous female characters. He also basically said, "Well, this is a video game, so it doesn't matter", as if video games were just throwaway non-culture.

Video games are the most important new form of popular culture. It is a big problem if that culture continues to perpetuate a demeaning view of women.

Explain this mindset to me. If you were to replace video games with books or movies that argument would be absurdly broad. There is no overarching 'book culture' and there is no overarching 'movie culture'. If you take games as seriously as the number of times you used the word culture seems to imply, you'd realize there are many different kinds of games. So yes, some games are just throwaway "non-culture", and Rock Privilege Cisscum needed to get knocked off its high horse.

wizzy555:
Why pick on blizzard? Their female characters are usually very strong women.

who have a choice of A, B or C pole dancer wear for clothes

Yeah, I have no trouble with having female characters in heels and corsets around. But it would be nice to see some that didn't have that since it seems in many games the female half the world population is entirely made up of the largest collection of Victoria's Secret models you've ever seen.

On this issue, firstly, the we're not sending a message...em, you kinda are, it's unavoidable. You act a certain way, or do a certain thing or make a certain choice, you send a message, everyone does. I also have to say that, if the only way you can think of to make 'cool-looking' female characters is to give them outfits that make them all look like they'd feel at home spinning around a pole...perhaps you're not thinking hard enough?

K.

What the hell... now people need to apologize every time they don't play into someones agenda?
How about we grill them on the problems of gun control and abortion next time, also throw some religion in there just for fun.

Louzerman102:

wizzy555:
Why pick on blizzard? Their female characters are usually very strong women.

For the same reason Vanillaware and George Kamitani are sexist despite having a female protagonist in every one of their 8 games. Its an emotional argument in the moment that ignores the history of the company/medium.

Ah yes, the 'tradition' argument. That's always been such a popular one in the US Southern states.

But no, the problem is not the sole fault of any one company. The problem isn't that sexed-up female characters exist. What cannot be repeated enough (because people making arguments 'defending the industry' keep ignoring it)... is this. The problem is when there is almost nothing except sexed-up female characters.

I don't have a problem with the concept of idealized player characters. That's intrinsic in the concept of escapist entertainment. At least guys tend to have more than one ideal to choose from, though. You get your clever male archetypes, your beefy ones, your sneaky/agile types... Women get "sexy" and... full stop. Yes, there's a couple exceptions, and I think things are starting to improve on this front. But only because there's attention being paid to the issue.

So no, it's not Blizzard's sole fault here. But asking one of the biggest game developers out there about its overarching character designs in the context of the wider gaming community is entirely fair.

Also, I find it rather disturbing that the most common response here is damning RPS for daring to question the golden gods.

Kururu999:

Clovus:
No, it was a terrible response. He acted like you have to be making a political statement in order to not have ridiculous female characters. He also basically said, "Well, this is a video game, so it doesn't matter", as if video games were just throwaway non-culture.

Video games are the most important new form of popular culture. It is a big problem if that culture continues to perpetuate a demeaning view of women.

Explain this mindset to me. If you were to replace video games with books or movies that argument would be absurdly broad. There is no overarching 'book culture' and there is no overarching 'movie culture'. If you take games as seriously as the number of times you used the word culture seems to imply, you'd realize there are many different kinds of games. So yes, some games are just throwaway "non-culture", and Rock Privilege Cisscum needed to get knocked off its high horse.

Well, that's kind of the point though right? Video game culture shouldn't be so homogenized. But, yeah, you're right. There are lots of games that don't have this problem and there are tons of different kinds of games. It's just unfortunate how often stuff like this shows up in video games (especially in AAA), that it is dismissed as irrelevent for gaming, and that the response to it is so vitriolic. Part of the problem is that the community (at least the on-line community) reacts so strongly. Especially since the solution (make more interesting female characters) seems so obviously positive.

When did RPS get "knocked off its high horse"? Blizzard made a pretty thoughtful apology. People can complain that somehow they were forced to do so because a small group of journalists made sad faces or whatever. But would not apologizing have cost them anything? No. Therefore you have to assume that the guy from Blizzard was being sincere.

Karnesdorff:
I also have to say that, if the only way you can think of to make 'cool-looking' female characters is to give them outfits that make them all look like they'd feel at home spinning around a pole...perhaps you're not thinking hard enough?

K.

wombat_of_war:

wizzy555:
Why pick on blizzard? Their female characters are usually very strong women.

who have a choice of A, B or C pole dancer wear for clothes

Ignoring all other game companies, focusing entirely on Blizzard, name three high-profile characters of theirs who dress like pole dancers. I will grant Sylvannas as half-a-point, out of the goodness of my heart.

wombat_of_war:

wizzy555:
Why pick on blizzard? Their female characters are usually very strong women.

who have a choice of A, B or C pole dancer wear for clothes

Eh? Nova's default suit is equivalent to the male ghost counterpart. This is the art for the medic from starcraft 1 http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20080310025305/starcraft/images/c/cc/Medic_SC1_Art1.jpg

Vedrenne:

Ignoring all other game companies, focusing entirely on Blizzard, name three high-profile characters of theirs who dress like pole dancers. I will grant Sylvannas as half-a-point, out of the goodness of my heart.

Um, most female WoW player characters once they pick up some gear? Gear that is all enclosing on males and yet somehow little more than a midriff exposing chainmail bikini on a female? And before you say they're not high profile, who do you see more often? A random NPC or the thousands of chars running about?

K.

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