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Posts Tagged ‘Sylvanas’

I’ve a strong interest in how women get portrayed in computer games; partly because I’m a strong believer in equality, partly because I like supercool ass-kicking women and there’s so few in games. With that in mind I’ve often found myself thinking about the depiction of female characters in my beloved Warcraft. There’s a hundred different ways I could approach such a topic, but for today I thought I would stick with the big picture and look at some trends across the board. To do that, I’m going to analyse some of Warcraft’s lore characters with a doodad called the Bechdel Test.

The Bechdel Test is intended a measure of female presence in media. Originally showcased in a comic strip (+1 geek point there) the test examines a film (or in this case, computer game) based on containing 3 simple criteria:

1. Does it include at least two female characters?

2. Who talk to each other?

3. Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?

It’s actually quite shocking how many movies, tv shows and games totally fail this test, which is of course the point. Naturally it is by no means perfect, but it’s useful as a kind of litmus test of how women are portrayed, highlighting the complete lack of well-developed female characters in modern entertainment. So how does World of Warcraft fare under the Bechdel Test?

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“He’s too powerful! Heroes, quickly, come to me! We must leave this place immediately! I will do what I can do hold him in place while we flee.”

Horrified to see the indomitable Sylvanas turning on her heels, I run along with her and my team-mates as I suddenly realise that the Lich King himself is coming for me… and he’s pissed off! Cue adrenaline rush. Cue running for my life.  Cue a big grin on my IRL face. I’m totally lost in the moment. This is Warcraft history in the making.

Then: “Shammy, come over here.” I turn to see my fellow team-members, instead of running with Sylvanas as she makes a defiant last stand, have cowardly hidden in a corner. They casually ignore Arthas as he strides slowly past them. They’re actually ignoring the Lich King. Confused I huddle up with them, wondering what’s going on. When I ask why we’re not legging it along with the  Banshee Queen, I’m told that “it doesn’t matter, its easier this way”. We then proceeded to rather pathetically follow behind the Lich King instead of fleeing from him, picking off his undead minions in ones and twos. We got to the end, defied physics by walking through the final rockfall  and completed the instance. I was annoyed. This was the first time I had run the Halls of Reflection and that thrilling experience had been marred by a PUG who would rather finish the instance in record time than to become immersed in the awesome-sauce of Warcraft. I felt cheated. I had been taken from my exciting make-believe world where I was fighting alongside one of my favourite heroines, to being reminded that I was just stabbing buttons on a keyboard to make pixels hit other pixels.

Sylvanas Windrunner: Not just a pretty set of pixels.

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