Taking Fun Seriously

Serendipity abounds. I’ve been slow posting, and in the meantime, several items on the topic of “It’s just a game, isn’t it?” have come to my attention. First up, bunny ears.

It seems that to celebrate Easter, WoW introduced a new achievement which required players to find a female character from one of each of the races and catalog put bunny ears on her, presumably using some sort of gizmo. No permission of said female toon was required.

Some of the women objected. To them, a line was crossed and their avatars were sexualized without their permission. Many in the gaming community reacted just as is expected when challenged: It’s just a game. It’s just an avatar, it doesn’t mean anything.

Credit where credit is due, Raph got here first:

But boy, avatars is a pretty special case. We have a lot of “specialized hardware” around this in our brains, and avatars tend to trigger a lot of it. For example, the fusiform face area or FFA is a part of the brain that seems to be involved in facial recognition, and also seems to fire off when identifying specific objects with fine distinctions (for example, it fires in birdwatchers when identifying birds, and in car aficionados when recognizing specific makes and models). The interesting thing is that the FFA activates even with iconified faces — with stuff that we just think of as a face.

It may be a game, but it isn’t just a game. Your body and your mind reacts to it pretty much as if it’s life. Some people manage to be pretty detached about the experience, but then that’s true of life AFK, too.

Here’s how I feel about it. People take their appearance seriously. WoW has lots of “zap someone’s appearance” toys, but most of them only work on group members. So there’s some form of implied permission there. The height of a players’s avatar will affect their behavior, and so will the amount of “eye contact” another avatar is giving you.

So, I think WoW blew it here. It’s not the moral equivalent of murder, but the moral equivalent of slapping a “hottie” sticker on the back of women at the park. I have little patience for those who argue that “people wear bunny costumes all the time, it’s celebrating the Easter bunny.” There are two problems with this, first, the people who wear the costumes choose to do so. Second, that’s not the only meaning of bunny ears, which have been associated with sexual availability for at least 50 years.

Geez, just ask anyone who is a fan of manga and anime. The acheivement didn’t require you put ears on male avatars, did it? I think there’s be a lot less issue if it had. No, the female characters had to blow kisses at males. Doesn’t that strike you as being a bit, umm, one-sided.

Anyway, not a mortal sin, but a mistake on Bizzard’s part.

3 thoughts on “Taking Fun Seriously

  1. Would it have been better if the girls got to paint the guys faces to look like Easter eggs? A non-curable effect?Also, would it have been ok if everyone got to bunny ear everyone else, not just boys tagging girls? Just remember, the people who came up with that quest are the same guys pulling 100 hour weeks, i.e. they haven’t had a lot of chances to learn what’s over the line.

  2. 2 thoughts came to mind immediately while reading this post.1) The boys have to do stuff to girls, and the girls have to do stuff to boys? F*** THAT. This lesbian is not interested in blowing any kisses at boys, thank you. Let me get quest updates by flirting with girls AND/OR boys and I’ll be happy on that point.2) No, I don’t think it’s acceptable at all to give players the ability to alter another (non-groupmate) player’s avatar without permission. And the bunny ears are REALLY over-the-line. Speaking as a woman, I personally would feel violated if someone outside of my circle of friends gave Karaya bunny ears. I identify a lot with my character. She represents ME in-game. It’s that simple. So in other words, “Bitch, back the f*** up. You don’t even know me like that.”So, what could have made this idea okay? I think blowing kisses for a quest is okay. It’s an emote, and we already have it. Attaching a quest update to it for V Day is acceptable, I think. It should be used for both boys and girls, and the bunny ears should be scrapped. AND boys and girls should be able to get updates for blowing kisses at whichever gender(s) they prefer.Bottom line is, WoW is not a kink game. Those games exist – adult games where it’s understood that by playing you are giving consent for others to.. you know.. “do stuff” to your avatar. WoW ain’t it.

  3. You know what? I was offended at first, but then I went and read Raph's blog, and then Wolfhead's blog, and I've had a change of heart. In fact, it's inspired an idea for a Thanksgiving quest!Okay, the elves (Night & Blood – one for each faction) have to do quests to prepare for the harvest. First they have to pick up a flag in their home towns, and the flags have a classic ancient symbol of the harvest on them: the swastika.Then they have to go out into Azeroth and spread sunlight to all the land to nourish the plants. But the can get help from the other races. As long as they have the swastika flag, they can give out little gold sun-shaped badges to the other races. No permission is needed, they can just tag you with a sun badge at will if you're not an elf.If you're one of the people who gets a sun badge, then you'll have a quest to gather in a specific location (depending on where you are in Azeroth) with other people who have sun badges.At the end of each day, Whichever faction has accumulated more sunlight points – produced by people with sun badges being in the designated areas – wins!And since it's a race each day, we'll call the quest “The Faerian Race”!It's flawless! And since it doesn't discriminate based on gender, none of the crybaby feminists can bitch about it ;D

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