Sunday, October 23, 2011

LGBT Representation in WoW Lore Characters

It's actually relevant.

During the World of Warcraft Lore Q&A panel at Blizzcon, a young woman came up to ask a question on behalf of her girlfriend. The question was regarding the lack of representation of LGBT characters in WoW. Chris Metzen, Senior Vice President President of Story and Franchise Development, fielded the response. He said that they would certainly like to do an LGBT character, but just needed the right time to do it. Here is a paraphrasing provided by mmo-champion:
Everything is gravy as long as its just a great character. There is the possiblity of adding them, as long as the story is compelling, might see it in the future.
That isn't a direct quote. His actual words more more eloquent.

I think it's great that Blizzard wants to do an LGBT character justice. It'd be very easy to add one in and it be a poor representation. I also think that maybe they shouldn't wait for it to just happen. I think it'd be possible to deliberately add one without it seeming forced.

But let's play devil's advocate for a bit and talk some stuff. How many characters in WoW actually exhibit heterosexuality and gender normativity? Truthfully, 99% of characters don't exhibit any sexuality at all. Is a character only LGBT if they outwardly show it?

And how would a character show they sexuality? Other than professing a desire for a particular person or gender, it's through their actions. Other ways would be through speech and manners of dress. Many WoW NPCs have no voice. And the manners of dress for all WoW characters is pretty outlandish. That being said, there are medium-level characters that do have speaking/acting roles in the game where it could be done in a way that is respectful. There are also major characters who appear in cutscenes and throughout the game where it could be done.

With regards to a transgender character, how would that be signified? You could either have a character explain that they used to be of the opposite gender, which would seem forced. You could have an NPC of one gender that is always referred to as being the opposite gender, which might come off as a bug. Perhaps the character would always appear as one gender because of a magical transformation they've undergone, but the spell occasionally wears off and the have to reapply it, showing their birth gender. It's a very tricky issue.

In conclusion, there aren't any clear LGBT characters in WoW right now. But with the majority of NPCs in the game it's impossible to identify anything with regards to their gender/sexuality. Even if they do make a character that is LGBT, it's very easy to get it wrong. However, none of this means that Blizzard shouldn't go out of their way to do it, and do it properly.