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You may be Strong, but Smell isn’t Everything…

May 10, 2011

Dear Reader,

Yesterday, I mentioned that I had misread Spinks’s (that’s grammatically correct) line about experience being better than masochism.  Initially, I read read machoism, which isn’t really a word, and since I know Spinks is a good writer, I reread to see if I’d misunderstood.  I had, so I moved on.

It got me thinking, though, about WoW and machismo.  In the movie 187, which is a good movie if you are good at suspending disbelief, Samuel L. Jackson’s character yells at one of his students “Macho is bullshit!” repeatedly.  I agree, which is why the extremely macho tendencies of WoW are a bit disappointing.

First, there’s the most obvious and superficial examples of machismo, which is the character design.  Now, really, this doesn’t bother me too much (which is why I started with it) since it’s basically expected in these types of games (note I said expected, not acceptable or right).  Big, strong men and disproportionately-sized, scantily clad women are part of the fantasy trope, so, like I said, it’s not a huge deal.  When tied in with the rest of the package, though, it’s just another straw for the camel’s back.

On top of their looks, the characters in the game are mostly tough guys.  Sure, there’s a few cowards here and there (see DK starting area quests), but for the most part, everyone’s a courageous, stout-hearted lad chomping at the bit for a fight, or a secret agent with dangerously hidden weapons (SI:7), or even a troll cook who just has to be weilding a butcher’s cleaver instead of, say, a whisk.  Where are the people we’re protecting?  If everyone in the world is big and strong (not everyone, but most people) or has a person like that at their side, what are we in business for?

Another macho element of the game is the “bigger is better” attitude of a lot of the items.  Compare weapons, chestpieces, helmets, shields, or shoulder armor (I’d say “spaulders” or “pauldrons,” but I wanted clarity, dear reader) to any of the old ones, be they grey or just from Vanilla.  Bigger seems to be better.  Now I understand the artistic need for a larger area in which to design, and that at least I can understand and forgive.  Seriously, though; where are the teeny-tiny daggers that deal huge damage?  Why does every orange item have to be gargantuan?  Can’t design elements like shape and color be just as attractive on smaller models?  Bigger is not always better, but machismo says otherwise.

Now, to be honest, all of those “in-game” elements are pretty small change.  Each one does promote a macho world-view, but none are particularly offensive or problematic on their own.  The real problem with machismo in WoW is the attitudes of a lot of the players.  The “If you’re not one of the big boys, you’re wasting oxygen” attitude put off by some players and bloggers alike is very off-putting.  It’s quite similar to a high-school gym class at times, where the elites look down on the non-elite regulars in the class, even though in other areas of life the athletic gods might be falling behind.  I wonder, too, how often players with that attitude in WoW are treated similarly in real life, and they use WoW as an unhealthy catharsis for their self-pity or anger.

The “raid or go home mentality” is another macho aspect of WoW.  It seems a popular idea recently that if you’re not doing the most difficult (in some ways) activities in the game, then you might as well just cancel your subscription.  Not unlike the student who sits and looks at bugs on the soccer field, there are many different ways to enjoy WoW, and not all of them have to do with the macho use of violence to conquer an enemy (not that I don’t like raiding, for the record, just that I don’t think it’s the end-all, be-all of the game).  Understanding that some people enjoy the socialization WoW provides, and some like the artistry, and some like the lore, and some like – well – anything, is a major concession to many macho elites.

Lastly, the WoW online community seems extremely homophobic.  Sure, a lot of them may be stupid kids who don’t know any better than to show off how discriminatory and ignorant they are, but even so; where’s this attitude coming from?  The only thing that can solve this one, dear reader, is more reporting (and you know what I think about “policing ourselves”), until finally the penalty volcano erupts and those who use WoW chat to spread hate speech are lost in the fire.

In the end, dear reader, none of this is too much of a problem.  Taken together, it can be a little disheartening.  I also give WoW credit for being pretty good about using female bad “guys;” more it seems than a lot of other games.  It would just be nice if a little more of the macho vanished and was replaced with good behavior.


Stubborn (a particularly macho trait)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Katherine permalink
    May 10, 2011 4:30 pm

    “The only thing that can solve this one, dear reader, is more reporting (and you know what I think about “policing ourselves”), until finally the penalty volcano erupts and those who use WoW chat to spread hate speech are lost in the fire.”

    Exactly what I keep telling people. I’m glad that the GMs have stopped giving the standard response of “this is how you put people on your ignore list” when I complain about bad behaviour in chat.

    • May 11, 2011 12:35 pm

      I agree that I prefer something to be done over nothing, but I just feel that being asked to police ourselves and the only way in which we’re given to appeal to a higher authority who does not tell us the results of the policing is ridiculously ineffective. It’s akin to doctors asking us to diagnose ourselves, then tell the doctor what our diagnosis is and then to take the treatment he gives us without knowing whether he agrees, disagrees, is giving us medicine or a placebo.

      More clarity in the process would be beneficial, I think.


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