Episode #10 – “Smooches, Fanfic and Community: Queer People in Azeroth”

Episode #10 – “Smooches, Fanfic and Community: Queer People in Azeroth”

Sep 11

Our tenth(yay!) episode features Tzufit and Apple Cider talking with special guest Kiran (retired WoW player and queer writer) talk about the lack of queer characters in WoW’s lore, representation in fanfic, homophobic jokes in the game as well as some discussion about the queer player community in WoW.

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Below the cut is a full transcript of Episode 10, “Smooches, Fanfic and Community: Queer People in Azeroth.”

Tzufit:  Hello and welcome to Justice Points.  We are Azeroth’s social justice and feminism podcast.  Today we are going to be talking about queer relationships and the queer community in World of Warcraft.  With you as always are your hosts.  This is Tzufit, and also we have-

Apple Cider Mage:  Apple Cider Mage.  Hello everybody.

Tzufit:  Hi Apple Cider.  And today we also have a very special guest, Kiran.  Glad to have you with us.

Kiran:  Thank you.

Tzufit:  Alright.  So before we jump right in, Kiran why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?  Your history with WoW, your interests in-game, out-of-game, whatever you would like us to know.

Kiran:  Oh wow.  I actually started playing Warcraft right after Burning Crusade dropped, so I want to say early 2007.  I’ve played a lot with my partner.  I’ve been pretty constant over the last 6 years.  I’ve founded a couple guilds.  I’ve done a lot of roleplaying, a lot of raiding, more raiding than I’d like to admit to.

Apple Cider Mage:  Haven’t we all?

Kiran:  Yeah.  Other than that, I’ve been really involved in founding LGBT guilds, that sort of thing.

Tzufit:  Great.  Well thank you for joining us today.  We felt like you would probably be a very good fit for the topic, since that’s something that you’ve had experience with in the past as well.

Kiran:  Yeah, it’s definitely something that I can talk about at length.

Apple Cider Mage:  That’s what we do.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  So I will go ahead and dive right in.  Apple Cider, I’m going to throw this to you because you actually had a pretty great list going on of queer characters that you were able to find in-game.  Of course, as we discussed on our episode last week, we should point out that because WoW is extremely reluctant to acknowledge the existence of sex whatsoever, anytime that we refer to in-game NPCs as being queer, that’s obviously a bit of a jump.  We only know that any NPCs have any kind of relationship with any other NPCs because of the existence of babies.  You know?  It’s not really a clear-cut thing.  So when we’re talking about queer relationships where there aren’t necessarily children that we can look and say, “Ok, these people must have had sex at some point in time.  They must have had some kind of relationship,” it’s even a bigger grey area, perhaps, than a lot of the characters we talked about last week.

Apple Cider Mage:  It’s really hard because you’re not only working with the fact that Blizzard routinely doesn’t want to show any explicit relationships and sex, like you said; it also is the fact that Blizzard has not really gone on record as being super LGBT-friendly.  Obviously I think that they’ve grown as a company because we know that there was a case, I think in 2007 or 2008, where they actually cracked down on a LGBT guild’s – openly advertised as an LGBT guild – name, saying that it promoted sexuality.  That actually got overturned eventually, thankfully.  But Blizzard’s characters, their lore, do not explicitly state anywhere that any of these characters that we’re going to talk about are queer.  I mean, it is all speculation and putting 1 and 1 together and we’re even going to talk about the characters that are way more fan speculated, perhaps, that don’t even necessarily have any textual evidence, but have been extrapolated by the fans looking for representation.  That’s kind of really what is the bigger issue here.  It’s not just about queer characters in a video game.  It’s about representing the LGBT community in the video game, in the game that we play.  That’s why this episode is so important.  We’ve heard some criticisms of this already, because it’s not “Well how good will Blizzard be if they include 1 character or 2 queer characters, 3 queer characters.”  It’s not a number.  It’s the fact that queer people, like us, play World of Warcraft and would it be such a big deal to have those kinds of relationships thrown into the game that we enjoy?  It’s not a big deal.

Kiran:  Exactly.  I think everybody wants to have that representation there, especially when they’re playing a game that they pay for.

Apple Cider Mage:  Absolutely.

Tzufit:  And particularly when it’s a game that people spend as much time on as we do in WoW.  It really becomes sort of representative of this second community that you’re spending a lot of time with and a lot of energy on.  So it can be very harmful and very hurtful to feel that you are excluded in some way from that.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  It’s obvious to all of us, and to the gaming community at large, we’re here.  We’re not going away.  Everybody across the spectrum, through the rainbow, we’re all here and it’s a thing.  It’s pushing the experiences, the stories that we want to see, that we want to see told, or even told by other people like us in video gaming that’s so important.  That’s kind of why we’re taking a lore perspective first because it’s so absent.  It’s so absent from World of Warcraft.  The list that I have, I don’t think it’s exhaustive, but it is a very short list.  I think that the shortness of it, even from the fact that it is all speculative, is also a big point as well.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and I think, just to round it off with part of the criticism that we heard – the point was made, obviously, that because there is no real sex, in terms of the sex act, anywhere in Warcraft, except for the existence of children, why would it even matter or how would we even know that there are queer characters?  That’s a really offensive standpoint to come from, because then it’s sort of assuming that anybody who’s queer, the only thing that’s kind of definable about that is who their sexual partners are.

Apple Cider Mage:  I would hope that it’s obvious, but it’s obviously not obvious, that sexuality, attraction, relationships, and who you actually are attracted to and have sex with are not necessarily overlapping circles.  They’re not all on top of each other.  They all have some overlap, but they’re not equal to each other.  Queer romance is just as important as queer sex.

Kiran:  Absolutely.

Apple Cider Mage:  In some ways, I feel it’s even more important.  I think so much of what we see in video games does get reduced down to the sex aspect, and the fact that so many queer people get pegged as just these sexual beings when there are queer asexual people.  It’s not just a sex thing.  Having queer characters be in a romantic relationship with each other in a healthy way is just as important as showing heterosexual characters in a romantically healthy way.  We don’t see a lot of that, either, but the fact that we are so underrepresented is a big deal.  The first characters that I wanted to jump into on our list – and I feel so embarrassed that I didn’t remember them until I was well, deep into this list in the first place – because I ran across them in World of Warcraft in Vanilla.  I mean not just Vanilla, I mean early on in my leveling experience.  This was the first time that I had gone through the game and had said to myself, “There’s got to be something more here.”  I kind of maybe am misremembering or maybe sort of hopefully misremembering how the quest went.  If you played Alliance-side in Vanilla, and you went through Arathi Highlands – which I didn’t suggest to anybody because it was terrible and boring – you ran across 2 characters named Kinelory and Quae.  Kinelory and Quae were one of the first times that I saw, as an Alliance player, particularly an Alliance player that didn’t go through like the night elf starting zone, where 2 women were working together.  This is unheard of at this point.  You get this sense that it’s not just a friendship, or if it is a friendship it’s a very deep and intimate one.  Kinelory and Quae are a night elf woman and a human woman who are doing reconnaissance intelligence work for a man named Bill Odelin or something.  He’s a mage.  He’s in Hillsbrad back before Hillsbrad got destroyed.  They are spying on one of the Horde camps in Arathi Highlands because they believe that there is a new plague being developed.  If anybody did quests in Hillsbrad, it’s pretty frickin obvious that there’s a plague being developed, but the story goes that they are spying on this Horde camp.  You get sent to Arathi and you meet up with Kinelory and Quae.  You actually have to escort Kinelory through an ogre camp to find one of the Undercity apothecaries.  It was a whole long quest chain.  The biggest part of it is that you have to escort Kinelory, in bear form to protect you, through this camp.  The flavor text, or the gossip text, around the quest is that Quae is very concerned about Kinelory’s safety.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  She’s really worried that you’re going to get her home safe.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  Kinelory, throughout the quest, is like “I’ve got to get home to Quae.”  That’s her driving motivation and she brings it up several times during the quest.  So that, to me, is basically what started me kind of thinking, even back then in Vanilla, that this necessarily wasn’t just a friendship or just a working relationship.  It was so unusual for the fact that is was also 2 women, too.  I think a lot of times the representation, the very scant representation, in video games of queer characters is predominantly men.  I feel like women, in a lot of ways, do not get represented in a positive way if they are queer or gay, things like that.  So the fact that it was these 2 very smart, very talented fighters, obviously spies, working together off in this remote location – I mean, Ok.  The fan fic writes itself.  It felt positive to me as a young, queer woman in 2005.

Tzufit:  It’s also interesting that it is one of – especially at that time – there really weren’t, outside of the night elves obviously, a ton of examples where you really did just have 2 women off by themselves in-game and they were working on whatever mission they had by themselves.  There really did tend to be – there might be women in power here and there.  Warcraft hasn’t been too completely terrible about that, although I certainly don’t want to give them a pass.  You don’t often see 2 women working independently.

Kiran:  Yeah, definitely.  It’s always they’re working on behalf of someone or they’re just kind of doing a task or a job.  Just like, “Yeah, we’re doing this for somebody else,” not necessarily for themselves.

Apple Cider Mage:  I kind of wonder if the subtext was intentionally there.  I think this is kind of where most of the speculation for some of these characters comes from.  Is this subtext?  Was this something that somebody intended or is it just coming off that way?  It’s hard to determine.  But they care about each other.  They love each other, regardless.  I think that’s pretty obvious.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  Whether it actually is a loving, romantic relationship or whether it’s a loving friendship, either way, seeing examples of very deep and loving female friendships is also a pretty crucial thing to have as well.

Apple Cider Mage:  My only criticism of that is just that far too frequently I think in a lot of ways, the female friendship sort of thing often gets used as a cover instead of having to delve into queer relationships or lesbianism, things like that.  I’ve seen a lot of people try to inject that into a story and have it, “Oh they’re just friends.  Oh they just really care about each other,” because women are so close and intimate and emotional with each other.  That again, kind of loops back into a lot of damaging stereotypes that hurt queer women a lot, especially the whole idea of “Well every woman is a little bit bisexual because they’re so emotional with each other.”  As a bisexual woman that ticks me off to no end.  But I think that Kinelory and Quae are a really good, very early, example of maybe it’s subtext.  Maybe it’s not.  But it’s obviously evidence of something there, something that really doesn’t get put into video games at all.

Tzufit:  It might be interesting, too – I know that their quest line was revamped for Cataclysm.  It’s slightly different now.  I would love to see the old quest text and emotes versus the new ones, and take a look and see exactly what’s changed, if anything, and if there’s anything significant there.

Apple Cider Mage:  The only thing that I noticed when I was actually doing research for that is that the quest giver is actually in Arathi Highlands now, so you don’t get any of the gossip text from Ben, the mage, at all.  I think that’s one of the things that supported was that – basically I think the only thing that he said was that you took really good care of Kinelory and that she usually looks more dusted-up coming home late from the bar than she did going through a camp of ogres or orcs.  I think it’s just mostly been changed now where it’s pretty much the same quest, it’s just given by a woman quest giver in Arathi Highlands who is like a captain now.  I think that’s the only thing that’s really radically different.  I think Kinelory and Quae still have the same quest text for the most part, especially where they’re expressing their deep and abiding interest in each other.  I have to ask this, Kiran, you said – in the pre-show, actually, so this should probably be elucidated for the listeners, you haven’t played Alliance a ton, correct?

Kiran:  Not at all.  Maybe for a cumulative 30 minutes over the 7 years I was in WoW.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, because I’ve noticed a lot of the examples that I dug up of queer characters – and I feel so bad for this if you haven’t played Alliance a ton – is a lot of them are Alliance quest givers or Alliance NPCs.  I feel so terrible.

Kiran:  I’m sitting here trying to think of Horde characters and I’m like “Uh.”  To be honest, it’s kind of a toss up because I feel like both demographics wouldn’t be very accepting canonically of queer relationships because the Alliance is really straight and narrow and I think the Horde would be more concerned with dominating other races than giving two fucks about who you’re sleeping with, really.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  That’s an interesting point that you bring up, because the Alliance does seem to be very “straight and narrow” and they have more of the adherence to the Light.  I’ve heard some people try to use the Light as some sort of proof that queer characters wouldn’t be accepted in Azeroth.

Kiran:  Yeah, I’ve heard that too.

Tzufit:  Yeah, let’s talk about that for a minute, because that has always struck me – coming from, initially, a roleplaying background as well – I always found that to be a pretty significant stretch.  I think that only way that that argument makes sense is if you’re, for whatever reason, equating the Light directly with traditional Christian tenants.

Kiran:  Christianity, yeah.

Tzufit:  Right.  Exactly.  I mean, certainly there are aspects in common, but are they really aspects that aren’t fairly common to lots of religions?  I certainly don’t think so.  I think the Light is just somebody needed to create a religion.  They took this couple of parts that tend to be present in religions and they inserted it into this new one they were creating.  But nowhere, from an in-game standpoint, do we get any kind of moral judgment about – not even just about queer relationships – but about sexuality in general.  Where are people shamed in-game for having sex?

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, it really doesn’t happen.  The Light comes to whoever has the will strong enough to use it.  That’s it.

Kiran:  Yep.

Apple Cider Mage:  If you want to be a Light-wielding paladin or priest, obviously there’s some level of acolyte training that you go through for specific spells, but if you call on the Light and have the will to use it, you get to use it.  Gay, straight, whatever.

Kiran:  Basically, yeah.

Apple Cider Mage:  It’s like the Force.  It’s not like Catholicism.

Kiran:  Pretty much.

Apple Cider Mage:  So if it’s like 2 gay paladins, they’re still wielding the Light and the Light has really nothing to do with it.  I actually find that good.

Tzufit:  Right.  That’s the part that’s always bothered me.  I think the Light actually has the potential to be a pretty inclusive religion, but it’s only when people force it into the box of things that they’re looking it at through this set of glasses or that set of glasses from outside of the game.  Then, all of a sudden, it starts to become a little more restrictive.  But if you just let it stand for what information we’ve been given in-game, that’s not there.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  So that’s sort of interesting is people’s take on the lore, because it’s really not spelled out anywhere.  People’s take on the lore is going to definitely be informed by, at times, very bigoted preferences.  It’s very telling.  That’s one of the reasons why I am a little hesitant at times to say that Blizzard is as inclusive, because just because there’s an absence doesn’t make it proof of inclusivity.  It just allows people to make it inclusive because you haven’t specifically ruled anything out.

Tzufit:  Oh yeah.  I certainly agree with you there.  I don’t think that they necessarily were creating an inclusive religion.  I’m just saying that I don’t think it’s really fair to confine people, especially in a roleplay sense, to the idea that this is our morality when that’s certainly not spelled out as such in-game.

Kiran:  Definitely.

Apple Cider Mage:  Kind of on the Alliance tip – and this is actually a really interesting thing to bring up considering what we’ve talked about so far – I think Alliance actually has one of the most compelling arguments for the fact that there are queer characters in existence.  As of Pandaria, both of the factions again got a faction-specific capital in the Vale.  For the Alliance, that is Shrine of the Seven Stars?

Kiran:  Yeah, it’s Seven Stars.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  It’s Two Moons for Horde and it’s Seven Stars for Alliance.  There are 2 NPCs.  They don’t have any dialogue whatsoever.  No dialogue.  But there are 2 NPCs, both women, Anne and Marsha Stockton.  They both have the same last name.  And, on top of that, they kiss, flirt, and talk emote at each other all day.  This is really interesting to me because when Pandaria first came out, I wasn’t aware of them.  People actually brought them up to me.  If it had been 2 of the same race, you could have easily passed it off as sisters, maybe, or cousins or family.  But the fact that they kiss and flirt with each other and have the same last name and they’re different races – I mean, somebody hold me back.  They’re married.  Come on.  Let’s just be real.

Tzufit:  Truly, that seems like the most obvious answer.  Certainly there are still – if you go on the WoWHead comments, of course – there are still people fighting and saying, “Well Blizzard doesn’t get involved in stuff like that, so it’s probably just that one’s adopted or one is half-human, half-dwarf.”  Whatever.  But, I mean, the simplest answer here is that they’re married.

Apple Cider Mage:  The kissing and the flirting gives it away.  We’re not going to do some Sailor Moon judo-chops through the air to try and make it look like 2 lesbian women are cousins.  You know?

Kiran:  They’re cousins.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  I hated that, by the way.

Kiran:  So did I.

Apple Cider Mage:  Come on.  They’re lesbians.  Don’t change just because little kids are going to be watching.  If there was no romantic emotes going on, you could easily pass it off that they are adopted or that they are related in some way, but the fact that they are obviously smoochy-smoochy and flirty with each other and blushing and all that.  Obviously they’re just emotes.  But I honestly think that they’re the most compelling argument that we’ve seen so far of a reciprocal, queer relationship.  Now interesting, they’re both called Stockton, which is – as we know – shared with a couple of other NPCs because they’re named for Cory Stockton, who is a guy developer that works for Blizzard.  I was kind of wondering about that, but honestly I think they’re 2 beautiful – a human woman and a dwarf lady – in love.

Kiran:  That’s awesome.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, it was kind of nice running across them in the Shrine.  Something about it just makes me perk up every time I run by them.  I think that’s kind of one of the reasons that representation is so important.  It’s not even just a political thing.  It’s just – man, if you’re queer are you see other people that are like you in a happy relationship, or even just a cute relationship, in a video game, every time you seen them it’s going to make you smile.  It’s going to make you feel good about yourself.  Now, the other slightly more extant proof of queer people or queer women in the game so far, that isn’t necessarily reciprocal, but is definitely there, is Star’s Rest in Dragonblight in Wrath.  There are 2 night elf women, and I think we should probably kind of talk a little bit about why the night elf culture in particular is kind of special to this discussion.  But there is a Sentinel Sweetspring.  And Sentinel Sweetspring either really likes trolling Sentinel Amberline, who she’s standing next to – but if you go and stand in that camp for any length of time, which you probably did because that quest hub was really long and you were probably there for long amounts of time or AFKing, she emotes at Sentinel Amberline forever.  She flirts at her.  She winks at her.  She like gives her little kisses.

Tzufit:  One of the emotes is, “Sentinel Sweetspring flutters her large eyebrows suggestively at Sentinel Amberline from across the camp.”

Kiran:  Oh that’s great.  Oh my god.

Tzufit:  Yeah, I mean there’s not a lot of ambiguity there, I don’t think.

Kiran:  That’s hilarious.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  Whether Sentinel Amberline wants to reciprocate, I don’t think we know because I think Sentinel Amberline is a little bit annoyed by it from how she seems to respond.

Kiran:  She’s like, “Could you just stop?”

Tzufit:  Her response is, “Sentinel Amberline turns and holds her nose in the air in disgust at Sweetspring’s flirtations.”

Kiran:  Aw.

Tzufit:  Yeah.

Apple Cider Mage:  It makes me so sad.  Sweetspring and Amberline should be together, but obviously Sweetspring should bark up another tree, probably, at this point.

Kiran:  Yeah.  After a couple times saying no, you should get the hint and move on.

Apple Cider Mage:  Exactly.

Kiran:  She’s not biting, honey.

Apple Cider Mage:  Seriously.  There are other sentinels there.  Couldn’t you flirt at one of them?

Tzufit:  The heart wants what the heart wants.

Apple Cider Mage:  If you think about the story not progressing very far beyond Wrath, are they still standing there?  Is it because she’s bored?  Like, what is going on?  Have they finally moved past their differences now?

Tzufit:  Or has Sweetspring just been waggling her eyebrows suggestively this whole time?

Apple Cider Mage:  For years, going nowhere.

Kiran:  That would suck.

Apple Cider Mage:  It’s kind of interesting with the night elf women in particular because it’s always been sort of rumored or speculated – and I don’t know how canonically, because I didn’t play Warcraft 3.  I haven’t read a lot of the night elf-specific extracurricular books in the expanded universe.  There have always been jokes in lore communities and RP communities even that night elf women, when all of the men went off to go into the Emerald Dream, that they were left behind and what do women always do when the men are suddenly not in the equation?  They just all turn into mega lesbians and just sleep with each other.  How do we feel about that?

Kiran:  No.

Tzufit:  Yeah, I mean it’s really problematic.  Night elf society is obviously founded and lead in a very different way than a lot of the other societies, either Alliance or Horde, because there really is a pretty defined separation between men and women for night elves.  Men tend to be druids whereas women tend to be either priestesses of Elune or warriors.  They actually kind of have a lot more options at their disposal than men in this society do.  But the notion that because all the men went away now it’s like time for all the ladies to start sleeping together, that’s really obnoxious.

Apple Cider Mage:  It’s very straight male dominated discussion of women’s sexuality.  Absolutely.  “Oh, suddenly all the men walked out so naturally the other women turn to each other for comfort.”  Waggle eyebrows, you know.

Kiran:  Gag.

Apple Cider Mage:  It delegitimizes queer women in a matriarchal society.  It also suggests that a matriarchal society is inherently lesbian on some level.  It also erases the presence of a potential bisexual or pansexual, omnisexual, non-monosexual culture in night elf society, which I think is possible and the case.  That was one of my first brushes with actual community talk of sexuality was the night elves, as it were.  So to see at least 1 night elf woman who has some context that she might be queer, I don’t want that to be backed up to the fact that at one point the druid men were gone.  I want her to be able to stand on her own.  It’s interesting because the night elf society used to be more canonically matriarchal and definitely more gender-divided, and they obviously had to change that from Warcraft 3 to World of Warcraft.

Tzufit:  Right, because you have to be able to have female characters who can be druids and male night elf characters can be warriors or priests.  They don’t want to close that off for obvious reasons.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  It went against what I thought was Chris Metzen’s original plans for the night elf races.  He really did want them to be matriarchal in World of Warcraft.  Obviously, from a gameplay standpoint that wouldn’t work.  But it’s kind of interesting to see how sexuality gets discussed in a society that has quite a lot of strong women and also a moment in their history where all of their men were completely absent, or most of their men.  We’ll say most of their men because I don’t think everybody went.  That’s kind of how the community discusses these sorts of things.  So the fact that they’re jumping off of that from lore, it just makes me really angry.  I think that there should be really more legitimacy to any night elf woman, or any night elf man for that matter because night elf men being gay is not even a thing on the table.  Why doesn’t anybody talk about how all the men went off to be druids?  Did they all become gay in the Emerald Dream?  Did they all start sleeping with each other or were they too busy being druids, somehow, in the Emerald Dream to magically all turn gay in the absence of women?  Why does that never get discussed?  Why is it all very seemingly male-driven fantasy of all the women left behind turning into lesbians and sleeping with each other?

Kiran:  I think that depends on the server you’re on and the community, because I found that everybody was a gay male on my server.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  I think it’s kind of a really mixed bag as to what kind of conversations you hear.  Unfortunately, when I first started playing WoW, I was friends with a lot of men.  So you can kind of extrapolate where that went.

Kiran:  Oh yeah.

Apple Cider Mage:  So far, we’ve discussed a lot of Alliance examples of potential queer relationships supported by either emotes or this, that, and the other thing.  Interesting to me, is I knew that there was a quest on Alliance for jewelcrafting where you go to the trainer and she actually asks you to make gemstones for – is it Lila?  I think it’s Lila.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  I’ve got the quest open here.  “I’m trying to impress this trade ship captain.”  I wonder if it’s not supposed to be Leela, as a Futurama reference or something.

Apple Cider Mage:  Oh yeah.  It’s absolutely a Futurama reference.

Tzufit:  Then it goes on to, “I’ve been working on a necklace to match her lovely purple hair, but the gems have gone missing.”  So yeah, I think it’s probably supposed to be Futurama there.

Kiran:  That one was my favorite.

Apple Cider Mage:  But the thing is, I didn’t realize this – this is also a Horde quest.

Kiran:  It is.  I’ve done that numerous times.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  Obviously for gameplay reasons of it being a reference and it’s a joke, it still very much comes across, Horde or Alliance, that there is a trade captain, Lila, who has beautiful purple hair.  It could easily be a night elf or a troll or an orc.  Maybe she’s two-timing.  Maybe there’s a woman on the Horde and the Alliance.  Maybe she has tons of admirers.  But she apparently likes to go out drinking with her friend.  I really like the fact that something that may have just been intentionally a nod to something else got turned into, pretty interestingly, a pan-factional potential queer relationship.

Tzufit:  Potential love triangle there because it’s 2 different NPCs who start the quest – one in Orgrimmar and one in Stormwind.  For both of them, the object of their affection is this captain.

Apple Cider Mage:  Trade Captain Lila, who gets beautiful purple necklaces for her beautiful purple hair from all the ladies of Azeroth.  If they ever put Trade Captain Lila into the game, I would just die.  I would just die.  But it’s interesting because it shows even the unintentional stuff – I really like the idea of certain things that are either a glitch or just someone not thinking potentially being this place where those kinds of characterizations can spring out of it.  Let’s say this.  Say it was just a straight up Futurama reference.  Why are those NPCs women?

Tzufit:  Right.  So if you had already decided that the jewelcrafting quest givers were going to be women, fine.  But you can do a Futurama reference where the person coming is Fry or Professor or whoever.  On top of that, it’s only a new expansion.  You’re only creating thousands of new quests.  Why pick this one specifically, where you’re going to make that reference?

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  It kind of raises the question, are these quest developers – and I know we’ve spoken to one now – are these quest developers slipping these things in on the sly or is it just unintentional stuff?  We’re never going to know unless somebody actually is listening to this show right now and alerts us.

Tzufit:  Wants to give us a hint.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  I mean, that’s a good question to ask our audience.  Anybody in our audience, if you are a quest developer or know a quest developer, please let us know.  Are you slipping these things in on purpose or is this just unintentional?  Give us a shout.  Send us an email.

Tzufit:  Obviously, you know, it’s nice to hope that.  Certainly these are lots of different quests.  Probably lots of different people contributed to them.  So the answer’s not going to be the same across the board, but it definitely is hopeful, I guess, that maybe some things are in there intentionally.  Best case scenario, somebody wanted that to be that way in this quest.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  It’s probably a little bit naïve, but you want to hope that even in a sly sort of way that somebody is kind of batting for you in your quests and NPCs and things like that, and the characters that you’re really fond of.

Tzufit:  Now one of the things that Apple Cider noticed when she was compiling this list is that, interestingly, we get a couple of characters who will kind of flirts with people who have male or female avatars.  Interestingly, most of the examples that we have of that happen to be gnomes.  One of them is, of course, Skyguard Khatie, who – if you did any of the Skyguard faction stuff, they’re the ones where you get the cool mounts out in Outland by Skettis, all of that.  Then the other one was Belbi Quickswitch, who’s a gnome at the Darkmoon Faire and at Brewfest who will call anybody a cutie.  Of course Skyguard Khatie flirts with everybody who comes up to do the Skyguard dailies.

Apple Cider Mage:  Can I just say how pleasing it is to me that gnome women are some of the only representations of potential bisexual characters.

Tzufit:  I’m trying to think if there’s an argument to be made about gnomes.  That people would try to say that they would be more inclined for that for one reason or another, but I think it’s really just that we have 2 good examples of characters here who maybe are attracted to both men and women.

Apple Cider Mage:  It’s really interesting because, I think – and this is obviously a pet topic to me in particular because I am bisexual.  I go by queer a little more than bisexual.  This is one of the very few indications that we’re not being completely erased.  Bisexual characters are really woefully underrepresented, not just in video games but everywhere, because apparently I guess people feel that they can’t somehow logically represent bisexual people without making them date both men and women at the same time somehow.  I don’t know why this makes writers pull out their hair.  I kind of do like that they’re both gnome women because gnome women are cute and I play a gnome woman.  While she’s not, in particular, bisexual, a lot of my characters are because that’s how I roll.  I am a little bit critical because gnomes are still played off very much like jokes.  I feel like some of the underpinning of flirty gnome women particularly Belbi Quickswitch, especially at Brewfest, I feel like it’s played off as a joke that she’s this short little woman and she’s hot to trot with everybody.  I don’t know.  Something about it doesn’t always feel like laughing with me, but laughing at me or just at gnomes, maybe.  Gnomes I never feel are played very seriously.  To have some of the only representations of potential bisexual characters – or at least just not mono-sexual characters, being gnome women, it feels a little bit like a joke.

Tzufit:  I can see that because I think gnomes – to the extent that we get any indication of sexuality from anybody – gnomes seem to be a race that people are really uncomfortable sexualizing because they insist that gnomes are sort of very childlike.  I think people lose the sense that gnomes are supposed to have a childlike wonder, but the vast majority of them are older than the humans that you encounter.  They’re not like 12 years old or anything.  So I think because that’s, a lot of times, how the game portrays gnomes to us – and then a lot of people, when they RP gnomes, they do them in a very silly and sometimes childish way – I think it encourages people, or really I should say discourages people from exploring sexuality with them because it feels taboo.  Right?  It feels like you’re sexualizing this childish person and because of that, it’s easier to make a joke about a gnome flirting or a gnome being bisexual because there’s nothing behind it.  That’s a totally safe joke to make.

Apple Cider Mage:  Right.  It’s really interesting because gnomes do have that sort of jokey duality where people regard them as kids despite the fact that they do not look anything like kids.  They have beards.  They’re losing their hair.  They’ve got boobs and hips.  They’re not children.  But they’re very sexual.  Have you seen their dances?  Their dances are basically like butt wiggling and then the dudes will smack the women’s asses.  And don’t get me started about that.  But yeah, it feels like it’s sexuality that’s played up for laughs because they are so diminutive.  I know that there’s quite a lot of criticism of that in real life, because I feel like a lot of people do that to other marginalized populations where the sex thing becomes a joke because how would you ever find these people sexual?  It’s very demeaning.  I’ve come across that whenever we start talking about things like how we sexualize fat people, that sort of thing.  So the fact that 2 of the most “openly bisexual” characters are gnome women, while I like to see that kind of representation, I like my little gnome women representing, but most of the time it does feel like kind of a cruel joke that, “Oh well, they’re sexual.  Isn’t that so hilarious?”

Tzufit:  “They’re trying so hard.”

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, exactly.  Or, “It’s so funny because you would never, ever actually be attracted to a gnome.”

Tzufit:  Right.  On to the even more speculative portion of today’s episode, which is some of the fan-initiated or hoped-for, I guess you might say, possible queer relationships.  These are between characters who we really have even less evidence of from, as Apple Cider said at the top of the show, from textual evidence in-game.

Apple Cider Mage:  I’m in the fan community of World of Warcraft, a little bit.  A lot of it doesn’t seem to really appeal to me because a lot of the fan relationships focus on men, and so I kind of just don’t pay attention.  Nothing against anybody else who finds this stuff cool, but men and men just is not my bag.  I like thinking about women.  You know, whatever.  But a lot of those fandom-driven relationships tend to be mostly men, which is interesting because I think that overall, yeah, they have the least representation actually, textually in-game.  Maybe the few scant mentions we’ve actually gotten in-game are women because it’s written by, I’d assume, a large majority of straight men.  Maybe that’s why we’re seeing a lot more extant hints of women’s sexuality, but you don’t see anything with dudes.  Not a single thing.  There are dudes who are friends, but even that-

Kiran:  Yeah, that’s pushing it.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  Even that’s rare.  It’s interesting that all 3 of these fandom-pushed relationships are all dudes who are friends in-game.  So I think that’s kind of where the jumping-off point is.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  In-game, one of the most prominent examples I can think of as 2 men who are obviously very close friends are the paladin pals in Eastern Plaguelands.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yes!

Tzufit:  But even with that quest line – those guys are extremely close.  They are best friends.  There is no question.  But the quest kind of goes out of the way to explain to you that they both have crushes on Fiona, who’s the worgen lady who’s driving the caravan throughout the Eastern Plaguelands.  So it’s like it’s kind of holding up a big flag and saying, “Listen.  We know you think they’re close, but guess what.  That’s not what this is.”

Kiran:  It’s like they’re doing the dudebro “no homo” thing.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  They’re childhood friends.  There’s no way they could ever whatever, whatever.

Kiran:  Yeah.

Apple Cider Mage:  It’s interesting because there are quite a lot of male friendships in the game and they’re all people that have to work close together, but there’s always some dynamic to them that gives them the particular spark of inspiration for fans that there could be more there.  Asric and Jadaar, which are the blood elf and the draenei that were originally in, I want to say Dalaran, and they eventually got moved to the Argent Tournament, right?  I think.

Kiran:  Yeah, that’s where they’re chilling as far as I know.

Apple Cider Mage:  I think they were in Shattrath first.

Kiran:  Oh, Ok.

Apple Cider Mage:  They go all the way back to Burning Crusade.  They were in Shattrath first, then Dalaran, then Argent Tournament.  These two are a cross-faction relationship waiting to happen, apparently, because they bicker with each other all day like an “old married couple.”  They basically keep insulting each other, like “Oh you’ve got us into trouble this time.  We’re going to not have any jobs.”  And then, “How could you do this?  You’re so stupid.”  The fact that they do bicker like that, people seem to think this lends itself very much to a very cute but outwardly acerbic cross-faction relationship between 2 races that would have nothing to do with each other.  That’s always a great start to an angsty relationship if you think about it – very Romeo and Juliet – a blood elf and a draenei, especially contextually from the Burning Crusade expansion.  Blood elves and draenei did not like each other one bit because blood elves, in some form, were responsible for the draenei even crashing to Azeroth.

Tzufit:  Yeah, there’s some great narrative potential there.  Apparently, from what I just looked up here, they actually are some of the NPCs who appear intermittently at the Darkmoon Faire now.  They don’t have any scripted conversation, but you can see them there together and they’re doing the talk emote at each other.

Apple Cider Mage:  The obviously have gone through some adventures together.  That is good fodder.  How did they get like that?  Why are they always with each other?  You have to maybe see – and it’s very easy to see – that especially for a cross-racial, cross-factional relationship like that, there’s only a couple of reasons maybe they’d be with each other so long over so many different places.  Obviously they’re a fan favorite, much like Grifta the troll, but Grifta isn’t wandering around with another troll dude arguing about how stupid they are to each other.  You can definitely see where some of these fan-created relationships come from.  I don’t think there’s any fan-created relationship that doesn’t have some really plausible root in there being a relationship between 2 men.  I don’t think these things are made up out of whole cloth.  I think there’s definitely some potential there, especially from the angst angle.  That’s why I think a lot of people really like Koltira and Thassarian.

Tzufit:  Yeah, that’s certainly an interesting one too, especially considering how much both of those individuals have been through, both by themselves – because let’s not forget how you become a death knight.  It’s certainly not a pleasant process, which each of them have been through.  On top of that, the Lich King’s betrayal and everything that happens in Northrend and then subsequently to that – so yeah.  There’s a lot of shared history there.

Apple Cider Mage:  If you did any of the revamped quests in Andorhal, it definitely keeps pushing the story that you got a glimpse of in Wrath.  Koltira and Thassarian obviously know each other and they consider each other brothers to some extent.  They obviously have shared a lot of really gruesome, fucked up stuff.  Andorhal, you really get the sense that they recognize that there are factional differences that they now have to really be cognizant of and obviously this ends very badly for Koltira, as we can tell, under Sylvanas.  But, man, there is so much angsty Romeo and Juliet sort of stuff that can happen there.  Oh my god.  You know the whole tortured in life, tortured in death, and they know that they can’t be together because they’re Horde and Alliance, but they will anyway.  Very star-crossed lovers kind of stuff if you take their relationship to that kind of level.

Tzufit:  I have to point out – I know I’m jumping ahead a little bit here – but the other people we were going to discuss are Anren Shadowseeker, who is a night elf, and Tholo Whitehoof, who’s a tauren.  You seen them throughout the Molten Front and when you quest in Mount Hyjal.  It’s really fascinating that, of these 3 sort of fan-speculations, they’re all cross-faction relationships or potential relationships.  I have to wonder if that is intentional because when you have 2 people who are on separate factions obviously there are way more obstacles in their way to becoming a defined “Facebook official” couple.  I wonder if that’s not part of the intent, because it’s a safety net.  We’re going to show these people who may or may not have a queer relationship, but it never could come to fruition because they’re on opposite factions.

Apple Cider Mage:  Blizzard seems to play pretty lose and fast with how divided the NPCs have to be with factional things.  Obviously they don’t want players to be talking to each other.  They want players to have a very defined factional pride.  But I feel like those lines are a little bit more blurry with NPCs because they often can speak to each other using Common or some other language that they share.  So I feel like a lot of that factional differences, never letting it come to pass, is a plausible but not insurmountable odd.  That’s what makes the relationship stakes to high but still possible to overcome.  Again, it makes it great story fodder.  The fact that you actively have a hand in getting Anren and Tholo back to each other after they get separated, I think is one of the more interesting things that they could have done with questing with a potential fan-created relationship.  It’s obvious that they’re really close friends, but the fact that Anren is so overwhelmed to see Tholo –when I did that quest the first time I was like, there’s no way.  There’s no way in my mind that these guys are just friends.

Tzufit:  I had the same reaction.  I was positive.  There’s that cute quest – is it one of the dailies, or I think it’s leading up to the Molten Front, maybe?  You have to unlock the different parts, where you’re like back-to-back with the 2 of them.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yes!  It’s not a daily.  I think it’s one of the lead-up ones where you’re being attacked by elementals or something.  I have very blurry memories of Molten Front.

Tzufit:  No, that sounds right to me.  I think you’re being attacked by elementals and you’re back to back with the night elf and then the tauren, who’s Tholo, comes running up to you at that point.

Apple Cider Mage:  Everything that we’ve talked about could always be covered mostly under the guise of them being friends, but there are so many little things about them that say, no, there easily could be a relationship here.  We do the same thing with women and men in heterosexual relationships, to the point where it seems almost compulsory that women and men can’t be friends because sex and love.  I don’t really like that.  I think past a certain point, you can’t necessarily presume that every man and woman being friends would lead to a relationship.  On the other end of it, you can’t presume that every man who’s friends with a man couldn’t ever be in a relationship together.  It’s very rigid and it’s very polarizing and I really don’t like it.  I think that’s one of the reasons why the fan community is so adamant about stuff like that, because I really feel like you’re railing against a very rigid set of rules in both representation and how relationships are viewed.  It’s like they want to only ever be oriented in a very heterosexual, patriarchal sort of way and that always removes the absence of any sort of queer relationship.  I think that World of Warcraft has the potential to go farther with that, but it would have to improve so much more and break out of the mold so much more in order for us to move past fan-presented relationships and all of the stuff we talked about, which is just still pulling at tiny little strings.

Tzufit:  Yeah.  Unfortunately there’s so little to go on and that means there’s just a long way to go.

Apple Cider Mage:  Society as a whole might have to start picking up the pace if we want to see video games to kind of go in a more progressive direction.  As we’ve seen, video games that aren’t necessarily in the mainstream definitely do go in that direction.  I’ve seen a lot of more indie video games address topics of homosexuality, lesbians, bisexual and queer relationships, trans folk, and things like that.  I’ve always seen them address this stuff more and more because those people are making those sorts of video games as opposed to giant AAA gaming studios who are funded, run, designed by predominantly straight guys.

Tzufit:  But the thing for me is, that something like WoW where you encounter so many NPCs every day, it would be such a simple thing to just have 2 NPCs hanging out that are both guys and one says, “My husband so-and-so,” which happens to be the NPC standing next to him or vice versa.  It would be so easy to just put that in there and not even necessarily have to have a whole storyline behind it.

Kiran:  Just touch on it.

Tzufit:  Yeah, exactly.  Just to acknowledge the existence of it because WoW is a huge world.  Azeroth is a huge world.  So it makes sense that there would be a great diversity of characters in it.  So just stick a gay couple in Halfhill or something, you know?  It’s not that hard.

Apple Cider Mage:  All they would have to do right now is just give Anne and Marsha Stockton text emotes.

Kiran:  Flavor text.

Tzufit:  Yeah, there you go.

Apple Cider Mage:  Like, “I can’t believe I’ve been standing here all day making smoochy faces at my wife.”  It is unfortunate, though.  I think there is a downside to this.  I think that there is a real negative aspect to how World of Warcraft handles thinking about, discussing, or even approaching the queer community or queer relationships because – and we obviously had to include this – World of Warcraft, even in the gameplay, has not done a super great job of representing in particular male homosexual sexuality, or homosexual men.  They have really not done a good job throughout their history.

Tzufit:  Well yeah, because if you’re a straight male guy that’s the scarier thing than thinking about 2 ladies having sex, right?

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.

Kiran:  Yeah, definitely.

Apple Cider Mage:  So some of the representations of queerness in World of Warcraft have actually been really negative – really negative.

Tzufit:  We have, for example, this is probably one of the earliest ones that would have been around in Vanilla.  In Stratholme, there is an undead NPC called Hearthsinger Forresten who – I can’t remember if he’s one of the bosses who’s always there or if he’s one that shows up occasionally.  I want to say he spawns randomly.

Apple Cider Mage:  He’s considered a rare in that he has a silver dragon, but he’s always somewhere in the instance.  It just depends where he spawns.

Tzufit:  Gotcha.  So he has a loot table that is just sort of littered with gay stereotypes.  One of the reasons people particularly farm this NPC is because he drops the Piccolo of Flaming Fire, which is the thing that you play and it’s a trinket that makes everybody around you dance.  There’s that.  He also drops the Woolies of the Prancing Minstrel, the Rainbow Girdle, and the Songbird Blouse.

Kiran:  Ouch.

Tzufit:  Yeah, yeah.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, because you know, that’s a great representation as to only ever paint men as very effeminate homosexual stereotypes.

Tzufit:  And they covered all the keywords.  They have made this as clear as possible – “We’re making a joke about gay men here.”

Kiran:  Yeah, definitely.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, the dancing and the flame – yeah.  It’s really gross.  It’s really gross and the thing is I don’t think that – I mean I think Blizzard sort of made steps away from that over time, but he’s still in the game.

Kiran:  They could update his loot table.  It wouldn’t kill them.

Tzufit:  Exactly.  How hard can it possibly be to change the name of an item?

Apple Cider Mage:  Exactly.  “Fan favorite.”

Tzufit:  So we have him, then we also have – and this was just sort of ridiculous when it came out.  In the Twilight Citadel raid instance, the second boss fight was Theralion and Valiona.  They’re brother and sister.  Valiona is voiced by a woman.  Theralion is voiced by a man.  They’re both sort of –I’m not sure exactly.  I guess they’re supposed to be twilight dragons, probably?

Apple Cider Mage:  They are.

Tzufit:  They’re 2 slightly different colors, so from an encounter perspective you can tell them apart because it’s important.  They have 2 different sets of abilities.  But Theralion is kind of a shade of pink and to people who heard this, the assertion made was that he had an effeminate voice or the things that he was saying were effeminate.  So all of a sudden, Theralion became the big, pink, gay dragon in the Twilight Citadel instance.

Apple Cider Mage:  Well it’s because his original voice emotes when people were testing it either on beta or PTR – no, it was PTR because raid instances hadn’t been opened in beta.  When people were testing it in PTR, the voice emotes – the original voice emotes – were very, very campy.  I mean like over the top.  There was no nuance about it.  It was like, “Valiona” – it sounded like a very campy “angry gay guy.”  Just really offensive.  People found out about it because of course the voice emotes are going to circulate YouTube in a heartbeat because people can rip them straight out of the game files.  There was an uproar.  A lot of people were like, “Um, no.  That’s not Ok.”  Of course other people were like, “Guys, don’t take it so seriously.  It’s just a joke.  Whatever.”  But it was really offensive.  So they changed him to the voice emotes that you hear in the game now.  But even some of their abilities are like Dazzling Destruction and it’s like pink fire and stuff.

Tzufit:  The one thing on the loot table that’s named specifically for him is Theralion’s Mirror.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  Real good job, Blizzard.

Kiran:  Super subtle.

Tzufit:  Yeah, right.

Apple Cider Mage:  A giant, campy, self-centered, hyper-narcissistic dragon that shoots out pink fire.

Tzufit:  Right.  The abilities are Dazzling Destruction, Fabulous Flame, and Engulfing Magic.

Kiran:  I killed a lot of people by standing in Engulfing Magic.

Tzufit:  That’s really disappointing because Cataclysm was not that long ago.

Apple Cider Mage:  Some of the other things that started in Burning Crusade and still made it into the Cata revamp – and this really pisses me off.  This really, really, really pisses me off.  So blood elf dudes.  Let’s go all the way back to the beginning when they were in beta.  Blood elf dudes, back in the beginning – same as blood elf women although they didn’t really get changed that much – blood elves across the board were very skinny.  Like emaciated skinny.  Even the guys, because their race was dependent on magic abuse.  The original story of blood elves is that they’re all addicted to magic.  Their Sunwell is gone.  They’ve had to find alternate magic sources and as you find out later, they’re feeding off of a freaking naaru in their city.  So they’re not going to be super muscular.  Initially, a lot of women in particular, actually, were pretty happy to see that there wasn’t a giant meaty beefcake race, that there was a slender male model that was going into the game.  Well, as you can probably tell, there was also a backlash to that because how dare we not have super, super masculine, meaty, muscled slap-chest models go into the game?

Tzufit:  To be completely fair, blood elf men are still pretty muscular.

Apple Cider Mage:  They basically got more beef put onto them.  They used to be pretty skinny, but they’re still pretty skinny now.  They used to be even more skinny.  So we have that.  The original forms were really interesting from that perspective.  They really didn’t look like hyper-masculine male models of other races.  They were also much better models.  The problem is that in some of their old flirts and some of their old jokes – and I don’t know how many of them made it into the game, because I really haven’t played a ton of blood elves – the male blood elves made a lot of comments about how beautiful their hair was and a lot of jokes in the game were made about how there are no blood elf men, it’s all women.

Tzufit:  There still are a few.  I just pulled up the full list to check.  There’s one that’s, “Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?” is one of the things a blood elf male says.

Apple Cider Mage:  There is also a quest line that was specifically put in during Cataclysm.  The quest line in Un’Goro, it’s an entire quest chain where this Don Quixote guy, through ignorance or whatever, thinks that this blood elf that he has to save, who is a dude, is a woman and refers to him as a woman throughout the entire thing.  On the basest level, we have stereotypical effeminate gay jokes, and on top of that we go so far as to misgender all of them.  It’s just like one obnoxious, offensive thing after another.

Tzufit:  It’s Maximillian of Northshire, is the guy.

Apple Cider Mage:  So Maximillian – yeah, that entire quest chain was super, super gross.  It’s like come on, Blizzard.  What are you doing?  Stop it.  I know you don’t only have terrible nerd dude gamers that work for you.  Why are you still perpetuating this insanely rigid, very disturbing set of stereotypical things in your game about feminine-presenting men, about homosexuality, about homosexual men?  Then also with the whole misgendering thing, it’s extremely transphobic and extremely cissexist.  It’s gross no matter what angle you look at it from.

Tzufit:  Not unlike what we were talking about last week in that the general Warcraft attitude and approach to sex is pretty juvenile because, again, it’s fine to acknowledge sex when we can make a joke of it or make a joke about something being titillating or tantalizing or whatever.  It’s the same thing when it comes to queer people in game where it’s like, “Well, we don’t need to talk about that because we don’t really talk about sex at all except if we want to make a joke about it, in which case that’s fine.  Let’s bring in homosexuality, absolutely.”

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  It was just offensive all around.  You don’t get to have it both ways, and you shouldn’t have it in a way that you make jokes about people.  The only representation of homosexuality or queerness in your game should not be to make a joke of it.  However subtle you think it is, it’s not.  It’s really offensive and the male blood elf thing just really drove me up a wall because it was just like, come on.  Really?  Come on.  The only positive example that I can think of, and I’m really mad that I missed it in our first part of the discussion, is that there is – as close as we’re going to get – canonically queer character.  There is a quest that was introduced in Cataclysm called The Day that Deathwing Came and it’s you sitting around listening to stories of these 3 NPCs.  There’s a dwarf, there’s a gnome, and there is an old, grizzled orc who is called Martek the Exiled.  Martek the Exiled’s part of the story talks about hot babes.  He flies off on his motorcycle with a hot babe and your choice of hot babe in the story cinematic is 3 women, 1 dude – and it’s a blood elf.  Were they originally going for an effeminate blood elf dude joke?  Probably, but the thing that they undo at the very end is that they specifically have Martek refer to the blood elf guy as a “strapping young blood elf,” meaning he acknowledges that it is a guy, meaning that Martek by virtue of a mistake or bad programming or maybe even intentional programming is the only extant queer character in World of Warcraft.

Kiran:  Wow.

Apple Cider Mage:  So good job, Martek.  You made it.

Kiran:  You go, Glen Coco.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, exactly.  Furthermore, it pretty much is the only proof of an out, possibly bisexual character as well, and a bisexual dude at that.  That is unheard of.  Do I wish that it’s probably intentional?  Yeah, I definitely do but the chances that it is intentional are very slim.  Extremely slim.

Tzufit:  We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the lore and NPCs and the extent to which we have any representatives of queer characters in game, but the fact remains that we have plenty of examples of queer people who play World of Warcraft.  What we’re going to look at in the final portion of the show here is how that community is represented, the extent that it is available for people who want to find an accepting community like that, and some of the problems that may be encountered in the LGBT community in WoW.

Apple Cider Mage:  First off, Kiran, I know we’ve discussed this a little bit when we were discussing the characters, but how do you personally feel about the kinds of representations, or lack of representation, in World of Warcraft?  How do you feel about that?

Kiran:  It’s just not there.  Blizzard likes to think that they’re getting progressive, but it’s nonexistent.  When you compare Blizzard to, for example, Bioware that’s really big on queer representation, it’s like apples and oranges.

Apple Cider Mage:  It’s been kind of labeled like Bioware-bisexual, but it’s still leaps and bounds.

Kiran:  Yeah.  I mean Bioware at least gave you the option to play a bisexual man.  They gave you an option to play a bisexual woman that wasn’t just like some random trope.  She actually had legitimate feelings.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  I know some of the criticisms or defenses of that are, “Well it’s World of Warcraft, an MMORPG, not an RPG.”  You have a game.  You have to make ways to do it in a way that makes sense for your gameplay.

Kiran:  All it would require to make some sense is a little flavor text and some quest lines and you’re pretty much good.  Doesn’t even have to be dialogue.

Tzufit:  Yeah, that’s essentially what we were saying earlier, too.  It just doesn’t take that much.  You don’t need to set up a huge backstory or have you following these people through an entire zone.  All you need is a little bit.

Kiran:  Just something.

Tzufit:  Right, anything.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, like what if you got a quest where somebody was like, “Oh my god.  My girlfriend, she went into this valley that’s filled with troggs.  Can you find her for me?”  That’s all it would take.

Kiran:  That’d be great.

Tzufit:  Yeah.

Kiran:  That’s it.  It’s that simple.  I think the community in Warcraft, especially with the LGBT community, is a huge double-edged sword, though.  On one hand, it’s really easy to find a welcoming guild.  On the other hand, welcoming depends on who you ask.

Apple Cider Mage:  Explain what you mean by that.  I know that there is a sizeable LGBT community in World of Warcraft because we hear about Proudmoore and stuff like that.

Kiran:  If you want to be queer, you go to Proudmoore.  That’s basically it.  But it’s just – at least I found in my time in WoW – you’ve got an LGBT community that’s “Oh we welcome everybody.  We welcome everybody,” but it’s either heavily slanted toward gay men or straight women that really fetishize gay men.  Either one of those options aren’t cool because they really don’t include women and they don’t include transgender individuals.  So it becomes really ostracizing even though they claim to be really welcoming.  It’s kind of obnoxious.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  Have you had any experiences with that personally?  I’m going to presume.

Kiran:  Oh I’ve had experience with that, alright.  I really actually ended up quitting WoW because of something similar to that.

Apple Cider Mage:  That really is kind of upsetting to me, but not unsurprising because obviously in the larger feminist perspective – as my experience as a feminist and a queer woman – there’s absolutely no guarantee that gay people will accept bisexual people or trans people.  There’s a lot of erasure of trans experiences, bisexual’s experiences.  There’s a lot of misogyny- a lot of misogyny.

Kiran:  There’s a lot of fetishizing is what I’ve found – a lot of fetishizing and the fetishists don’t like being called out of it and they eat you alive.  It’s like you’re a roast and they’re like “Now we will attack you.”

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  That was one of the sort of problematic elements that I ran into in any of my travels in the fan community.  I know we talked about the fan community earlier.  A lot of it – I’m not going to say all, because that’s really not the case.

Kiran:  A lot of it is cisgender straight girls fetishizing gay men.  That’s a problem and they don’t see it as a problem.  But when you hit that level of fetishism where you’re like, “This is my ship.  I will go down with the ship,” and you make other people feel unwelcome, it’s like ugh.

Apple Cider Mage:  Just like offensive jokes about homosexuality, bisexuality, or trans people, the fetishizing aspect – you want to justify that it’s benevolent.  “Oh well I find these people so sexy,” but you don’t find them sexy because they’re human individuals that you would like to have a relationship with or you’re attracted to.  It’s a fantasy thing.  You don’t see them as people.  You see them as objects.

Kiran:  Yeah.  You see them as an object, exactly.  It’s objectifying and they don’t see it that way.  A lot of the community, at least that I was a part of, was very – they formed a little clique of objectifying and it was really weird.  It was just a very unhealthy environment.  So I was like, “No.  We’re done here.”

Tzufit:  It can be difficult to break people out of that and really get them to understand why it is hurtful, why it is objectification because a lot of times they think they’re being perfectly accepting.  They think they’re doing something helpful.

Kiran:  Yeah, and they say that you’re a homophobe because you don’t like their little gay pairing or whatever.  It’s like, that doesn’t make me a homophone, it means that you’re doing something wrong.

Apple Cider Mage:  It kind of comes into a lot of really sort of thorny issues of privilege, which is something that you don’t want to have to deal with when you’re engaging a queer community as a queer person.

Kiran:  Exactly.

Tzufit:  Well that might an interesting question too, since Kiran, you said you had some experiences with guild leadership and forming guilds.  Do you have any good advice, sound principles that you’ve found over the years that you spent in WoW, of ways to really ensure that you are creating an inclusive community in your guild?

Kiran:  That’s a hard call because honestly I tried really hard to do that.  In the end what ended up happening was I made my own guild and then I had to kick people out and then you have to invite people.  You have to try and find an officer team that actually agrees with you.  It was a shitstorm.  It was awful.  At one point it was great and then a whole bunch of the fetishists came in and they just kind of formed their own little clique and everything that I’d worked really hard to build over like a year and a half was just gone.

Tzufit:  Oh, geez.

Kiran:  Yeah.  What happened was my grandmother had cancer and I gave my guild up to somebody else because my grandmother has stage 4 cancer, I’m not going to play Warcraft instead of going to visit her.  I just couldn’t GM a 300-person guild and be what I needed to be for my family.  So that was the line in the sand.  I had already seen that the fetishy clique was going places and I’d been distancing myself because I had no point.  When you log on to roleplay with people and they’re all in their little gay pairings, it’s like why am I online?  Why do I pay for this?  Why am I paying for this?  It just got really dramatic.  So-and-so’s father had killed this one and that one, and so-and-so’s boyfriend got kidnapped and so forth and yada yada.  I’m like, why is this a thing?  This is pot calling kettle, because I’ve done some really dramatic things in my roleplay.  I will admit to that right now.  Pot calling kettle black.  At the same time, it just got to the point where there were 10 of these very loud voices that were also very argumentative if you told them they were exercising privileges.  Then there were like the 7 other people out of 300 that just were sitting there like, “Now what?”

Tzufit:  I guess maybe it would be more helpful, from an experimental perspective – if you could create that ideal guild that was accepting and informed and all those things, what would your criteria be?  What would you want to see in that sort of guild?

Kiran:  You would have to just be really toeing the line on privilege and being able to be called out and not argumentative about it.  You would have to be like, “Alright.  I have privileges and I understand why I’m wrong,” and to say, “I’m going to correct this.”  I’m not saying that they couldn’t RP a gay pairing or a straight pairing or whatever, but you don’t get to become the majority and say that your experience is the only experience that people are going to have.  If people say, “I’m feeling uncomfortable.  Can we do something else,” if you’re just coming on to those characters anyway, it’s just blatantly disregarding.  So you’d have to be able to be flexible and to say, “Alright.  Sometimes people aren’t going to want to RP with certain characters of mine.  How can I adapt,” or the community’s just not going to want to deal with that sort of thing.  There are going to be times when you have to just be flexible and that flexibility is going to be key to creating a good environment.

Apple Cider Mage:  I actually run an LGBT-inclusive guild.  We don’t do RP, though.  No RP.  So I think it’s been a little bit easier for me-

Kiran:  Yeah, that’s way easier.  That’s way easier.  Oh man.

Apple Cider Mage:  There’s very defined rules:  No slurs.  Use people’s pronouns.

Kiran:  That’s great.  That’s perfect.  That.  That would be a thing.  That would be a thing that happened.  All of that.  Yes, bold it.  Respect pronouns.  If I could do it again, I would go back to an RP-PvE server so that I could raid with a little smattering of RP.  You know?  At the same time, I would never go straight into a full RP realm unless it was in a completely different game because in WoW, there’s just – on the server I was on it’s overwhelmingly gay males played by cisgendered straight women centic.

Apple Cider Mage:  I think we’re going to go into this in some depth with our roleplaying episode.  How far-

Kiran:  Is too far?

Apple Cider Mage:  Is too far?  Exactly.  While I think World of Warcraft is a really great way for people to be able to express the identities that they want to have, that maybe they don’t get to have in real life-

Kiran:  Exactly.

Tzufit:  To kind of try those on, to experiment with that, yeah.

Apple Cider Mage:  You have to be respectful.

Tzufit:  Exactly.

Apple Cider Mage:  That respect goes on every level, whether it’s rooting out misogyny in men, not just straight men but queer men and gay men.

Kiran:  A lot of gay men are misogynists and they don’t want to be called out on that because they’re already marginalized and they get super defensive, so defensive about it.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  I’ve definitely run into that personally.

Kiran:  Yeah, and I think that’s a huge issue.  Another one too that’s weird is transgendered people will gang up on each other.  It’s like, why are we picking on each other?

Apple Cider Mage:  I haven’t run into that as much because – obviously, again – I’m cis.  I’m not around as many trans people and the trans people I do know are very respectful.  But I’ve kind of heard of the whole, “Well some people really push the blending in and some people really rail against that,” policing how other people express their gender identity.

Kiran:  Mhmm.  The gender police, the gender police.  I hate them.

Apple Cider Mage:  If I had a guild, which I do-

Kiran:  If I had – oh wait.

Apple Cider Mage:  It’s just that inclusivity absolutely has to come at a place where everybody gets respected and that privilege is constantly called into question because there’s so many different ways – whether you’re cis and you have that privilege, or whether you’re gay and you’re erasing bisexual, pansexual experiences, or whether you are a straight person occupying a queer space as an ally-

Kiran:  See that gets touchy because I don’t like ally cookies, but at the same time I like my straight friends and I don’t know really where the whole “occupying space” came from.  I’m not sure what the deal is with that.  I think I missed the boat.  Is there some special place where I’m supposed to be that I haven’t been for the last 15 years that I’ve been out?  Did I miss something?

Apple Cider Mage:  Well I mostly meant like though the RP community in particular.  Straight people occupying a space that does also have queer people in it due to the fact that queer people very often like to roleplay queer people.  Then there’s straight people that like to roleplay queer people.

Kiran:  Then they expect ERP.  That’s awkward.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.

Kiran:  Yeah.  My partner always had that happen.  She usually RPs queer characters.  When we were just RPing, guys would be like, “Can I join your RP,” or they’d be RPing with her and then they’d be like “ERP,” and she’d be like, “How about no.”

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah.  I ran into that a lot more as a queer woman roleplaying queer women characters with straight guys wanting to roleplay lesbians and bisexual women.

Kiran:  You got it.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Apple Cider Mage:  I think the biggest thing about the queer community is really just you got to be respectful.  Got to be respectful.

Tzufit:  I think, from what Kiran was saying earlier on, too – just the full on willingness to completely check your ego at the door and be comfortable with the notion that somebody may say to you, “I don’t appreciate the way that you’re talking to me right now,” or “This thing that you’re doing is problematic for me and here is why,” and being completely willing to just take that on and say, “You know what?  I’m sorry.  That was shitty.  I will fix it.”

Kiran:  The thing is, though, you get a lot of fragile flowers on the internet and some people freak out over nothing.  I think that’s a thing too.  I’ve had a lot of people that are really super sensitive for no reason and you’re trying to have a discussion with them and then they like flip shit and you’re like, “Ok.  That escalated quickly.”

Tzufit:  Yeah.  I think it does take a certain sort of thick skin to really – you’ve got to understand that you’re going to walk in and you need to be able to adapt.

Kiran:  If you can’t handle people that are loud and boisterous or if you’re just one of those people that’s going to constantly think that everyone’s attacking you, maybe you shouldn’t be online.

Apple Cider Mage:  Again, it’s kind of tricky.  I’ve had people pull the whole, “Well you’re just being sensitive” thing when I try to address stuff like sexism and stuff.  So it’s hard.  But if you are a person who has privileges, you have to absolutely be Ok with people calling them out.  You have to be Ok with people calling out your bullshit.

Tzufit:  Yeah, and that’s really more what I meant when I was saying people need to be thick skinned.  If you have a privilege, if you’re walking in there with privilege, you need to have a thick enough skin to be able to deal with the fact that someone’s going to say, “Listen.  You’re making assumptions right now.  I need you to stop.”

Apple Cider Mage:  And then if they don’t, remove them.  I am absolutely no stranger to g kicking.

Kiran:  Yeah, see that happened because I actually when that whole shebang went down, I ended up getting screamed at by one of the people that was like flipping out when we were just trying to talk.  All of a sudden we were kicked from Mumble because we were apparently upsetting them.  It’s like, “Dude, I said a sentence.”  It’s like, Ok.  It was all the same clique and I was like, “This is so stupid.  There’s 4 of you and 2 of us.”

Apple Cider Mage:  Every time I’ve run into a person that can’t listen to the criticism – and I’ve had to do this with men in my guild.  We’re a feminist guild but we do have men and they sometimes say some things that are not cool.  I’ve had to g kick men because they just absolutely wouldn’t back down.  They didn’t take criticism really well.  We had somebody kind of pull a stunt where they said, “Well all of your feminist ‘guys are terrible’ talks, they gave me anxiety.”  I’m like, “Are you seriously talking to 5 other women who all have mental health issues because they have dealt with men in their lives?  You’re honestly telling all of us that your anxiety trumps our ability to have a safe space?”  No, no, no.  It turned into a big thing so we just removed him from the guild.  That’s just kind of how it had to be because if you really want to have a guild that’s inclusive, you have to be able to put your foot down and really – you have to protect the people that really matter in your guild.  That’s what you have to do.  If you say that you are inclusive, that means protecting LBGT folks in your guild, or protecting the people that are being oppressed at that particular moment.  You have to make those hard decisions and you have to get into those fights, but in the end it’s worth it as far as I can tell as a GM.  Well, I think that actually wraps it up for this week.  That was a really awesome episode.  I want to thank Kiran so much for coming on the show, giving their perspective.  It really meant a lot, really kind of getting some outside feedback and stuff like that.  Kiran, do you want to tell our listeners exactly where they can get a hold of you if they want to chat?

Tzufit:  Or any projects you’re working on?

Kiran:  People can get a hold of me – I am all over social media.  I’ve got a bunch of profiles.  Pretty easy to find.  I’m easy to hunt down.  I’m also on Gamers Against Bigotry.  I write a couple articles there.  I’ve only got 1 up so far but there will be more.  Gamers Against Bigotry is a really cool social justice, equality in gaming initiative that’s going on right now.  So if anybody wants to go check that out, go sign the pledge.  Make gaming safe.  Super awesome.

Tzufit:  Very cool.

Apple Cider Mage:  Yeah, we’ll include a link to that as well in our show post.  So we wanted to thank Kiran again for their expertise and their discussion.  We also want to thank our very generous host as always.  Safe Shark Hosting – because hosting doesn’t have to bite.  Safe Shark Hosting does WordPress migration, WordPress and website hosting.  That’s at safesharkhosting.com.  iTunes, remember we are on iTunes and reminder to rate, comment, and subscribe.  We look forward to seeing new ratings and comments.  Hopefully we’ll get some more soon.  Next week’s episode, as we alluded to, is going to be all about roleplay.  This is going to be so great.  We’re going to talk about the positives.  We’re going to talk about the negatives.  We’re going to talk about what you can do to get into roleplay.  We’re going to also have another special guest.  So look forward to that and we will see you next time.

 

1 comment

  1. Arcadia

    If you pick pocket the vendor romance novel from Mists, you discover that the stable master at Tavern in the Mists is a lesbian.

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