Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ok internet, fine. You win. Ok? You win.

I have been trying really hard not to write a post about Ji Firepaw. I tried to scratch the itch by poking people with sticks on the battle.net forums, then stopped when I actually started getting angry and sad at the responses. I mean, it's silly for me to be writing this in so many ways. The change is already made! It's done! Good job, Apple Cider! My input is not needed! Especially because I would never in a million years have noticed the original as a problem!

But it just keeps going and the things being said are driving me nuts because I am immature. So fine. You win. I'm going to write this thing even though I should be writing about Grubtor. Or posting screenshots. Or anything else, really.

Alright so let's get a few quick, rhetorical jabs out of the way first.

Why do y'all care so much about the change? It's just a videogame guys! Didn't you know it's a videogame? You're not allowed to care about things in it. And frankly, if you're that upset by a minor change to one quest, maybe you should just find a different game to play. Maybe you should stop playing WoW is what I'm saying here. I mean if you're going to be writing blog and forum posts about it, clearly you've got bigger problems than this one level three quest. Didn't you know that there's poverty and starvation and civil war in the Sudan and radiation and earthquakes? You're not allowed to care about this since all that other stuff is happening. Anyway, if you don't like the change you're pretty obviously a dyed in the wool misogynist right? It's the only explanation. If you don't like the change, you hate women*.

Oh man. Whew. That felt pretty good. I know I know, sarcasm is the lowest form of blerbity blobbity bloo, but really. So very many people have been saying all that stuff without even the slightest hint of awareness and it's really been burning my omelettes, you know?

I continue to be gobsmacked - maybe gobwalloped - at the people that are claiming the NPC's character has been rendered "dull" or "gutted" or "stale" or "cardboard" or whatever other synonym. To begin with, if your character can be destroyed by a change this minor then honestly who cares about him in the first place? That is some painfully weak, uninteresting characterization that can be gutted by changing like 50 words. Like half a tweet dudes! Why is this a big deal?

Also, on what planet is the original text interesting? On what planet does it even make sense within the lore?

If you get sad or angry or doubtful or indignant or insulted in Pandaria you summon a demon. This is a whole culture of sentient beings that have developed around the reality that getting upset can call into existence powerful beings from another dimension that will try to kill you and everyone near you. Do really think that this culture doesn't have strictly enforced rules of protocol? Do you really think this is a culture where catcalling is going to be A-ok? Seriously?

But even if we grant all that - sure, why not, I'm magnanimous - it is not interesting. It's not a "unique flaw." It's not compelling. It is dull and expected. It is a confirmation of boring, old, Western societal mores.

Look at the forum threads on bnet. Look at the threads on MMO-C. Count the number of people saying "it's just a compliment," and "can't a guy compliment a woman" and on and on and on and on. Ji's initial dialogue is standard, rote stuff. In fact in the real world, men feel entitled to positive attention from women and often lash out in degrading, terrifying ways when they don't get it (that image is an XKCD comic remixed by a woman to more accurately reflect the world she lives in). It confirms the myths our culture likes to tell itself about women and men. It confirms the myths our culture likes to tell itself about how everyone's straight. Ji's culture should be wildly different from ours, and yet he behaves like just another dude from down the street.

Hey guys, you know what can make for an interesting, compelling character? A man that is so alien from our culture that he treats the genders equally. You know what would be really interesting? If that equality of treatment extended to his romantic liaisons.

I mean, we all know that's not going to happen. But the terms of the debate so far have been just unbelievably surreal, I felt like it fit right in.

Look. My boyfriend and myself really, really like the TV series Trueblood. Probably our favorite character is Lafayette. The show is based on a series of books, and Lafayette is killed in the first of those books. His character on the show was so popular, however, that the scriptwriters kept him alive in their adaptation. You know what I said to that?


You know what usually happens to the gay guy, or the black guy, much less the gay black guy? Yeah. Most of the time he dies. So throwing out that part of the source material to keep that character alive? Actually choosing not to kill the gay black guy? That is amazing. Stunning. Interesting.

Making a race of magical talking pandas that treat women the same way they're treated in the real world? Not even a little interesting. Making a race of magical talking egalitarian pandas? Compellingly original!

Finally, what is going on in your brain when your first worry is "oh my god they might take all the bigotry out of my game." Like the worst possible outcome in the world is that 10 million people can play the game and not have any of them be offended.

I mean to begin with, that is so far from a possibility that you should sooner worry about getting sucked through the monitor and turned into a low-level quest mob. There is plenty of every kind of awful thing for everyone! We can all have second helpings!

And even if that were to somehow happen then like really who cares? If there existed one perfect wonderland MMO that everyone could play and no one playing it ever felt badly about themselves... why is that bad? Really?

Look. Guys (and yes, I know some of you are women too). Some women have enough to deal with in the real world. Is it that much to ask that some of them be allowed to get to level three without having that real world intrude, especially since the WoW quest text system does not allow any kind of response? Is it really that important to you that this one NPC be boringly identical to legions of actual men? Is it really necessary for something to be unenjoyable for other people in order for you to enjoy it?

If it is too much to ask then you know what? Get over it. Get. Over. It.

However! Let it never be said that I am not gracious. You want more misogyny in your WoW? Fine, awesome, let's do it. We can make the big bad of the next expansion the dread Lord Misog'yn'Thoth <The Lecherous One>. The initial raid tier can be headed up by the Gross Demon Goreanton, who sits on his mighty throne of sandwiches and demands ever more to be heaped at his feet in tribute. The storyline will be about how Misog'yn'Thoth wants to subject women to chattel slavery and Horde and Alliance can band together under the joint leadership of Tyrande and Sylvanas to crush his initial footholds on Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms then chase his followers back to the dank realm of Neanderthalia. After the raid takes him to 10% the captive women around the raid space burst their own manacles and strangle him down to zero with his intestines and then Jaina immolates the remains. That's just a quick sketch really, I'm sure the encounter design team can work something out.

I would absolutely get behind that expack, y'all. That is some compelling storytelling or whatever.

*In case it's not obvious, this whole paragraph is just parroting what people are saying against the change. They are uniformly terrible arguments and are rightly excoriated. If you respond to this post as if I was actually advancing those views, you should be embarrassed.


  1. Great post.  I mean really, I wish I could've physically grabbed this blog post and beaten it over the head of every one of those "Ji supporters" in the numerous Beta Feedback threads.  At the very least, force them to sit down and fully read the MetaFilter post you linked (definitely sharing that).

  2. I'm one of the people that wouldn't have noticed this. Mostly cause I don't read quests, even though I want to. If I had seen it at all I would have assumed that he said the same to all other chars. As Ji is the horde-panda I wouldn't be surprised by him being thick-headed, short-sighted, chauvinistic and so on. He's a character in character. I wouldn't have noticed them changing this on beta either. And I certainly don't mind that they did change it.

  3. *nod* yeah, that's part of why it's funny I ended up posting this - I would never have thought to complain in the first place. But the pages and *pages* of forum threads about it are just... so messed up. The only response that makes sense to me is "yeah, I can see that" and moving on with your life, not doing weird internet detective stuff on apple cider's alts and reporting them to the GMs to get flagged for a name change. =/


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