World of Warcraft: Dragonflight will feature body types for player characters instead of gender, along with voice and pronoun selection.
The upcoming expansion launches in 2022, with the Alpha Test having begun earlier this month. While raising the level cap to 70, adjusting the UI and talent trees, adding the new Dracthyr race and their exclusive Evoker class, and raising a dragon that they can fly, it may be a far smaller change that some players have noticed.
As reported by WoW Head, recent updates and further datamining efforts discovered Blizzard Entertainment may intend to add several “inclusive” options.
For starters, the gender selection now has “Body 1” and “Body 2” rather than the traditional Male or Female. This is a trend in some recent games, such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons, possibly integrated to avoid offending those of non-binary genders. Despite this, the physiques are usually unequivocally male or female; one of which typically shown fully topless.
The option has been shown operating in-game thanks to WoW Head’s screenshots, being available on the character creation screen and in the barber shop, where players can customize their race and gender.
This may go further, at least according to datamining the alpha, as code allowing players to choose their pronouns is also found in the game. These include he/him, she/her, or they/them, along with choosing their voice; a departure from previous updates that only allowed players to select one voice per either race or gender.
WoW Head do note that, along with the character creator UI having no assets for pronoun choice, most dialogue refrains from using any pronoun when addressing the player. Despite those strings of data being removed from the then-latest alpha build, WoW Head suggests they will be included in the future.
Game Director Ion Hazzikostas reportedly stated in an interview that players will be able to choose their voice in the future. As such, it seems likely with the addition of Body 1/2, and players being able to choose either male or female voices, the inclusion of pronouns is almost certainly on the menu.
Blizzard Entertainment has been desperate to clean up their image in the eyes of the public and these inclusive efforts may be the developer’s attempt at that.
In July 2021, The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Activision Blizzard; also accusing them of sexual discrimination, and a “frat boy workplace culture.”
One of the most damning claims included “a female employee committed suicide during a business trip with a male supervisor who had brought butt plugs and lubricant with him on the trip.”
After that we saw staff walkouts, resignations, accusations of document shredding, CEO Bobby Kotick allegedly having prior knowledge of the claims made against employees, and breast milk being stolen out of communal fridges.
Due to the above Activision Blizzard purged not just references to accused developers from Overwatch and World of Warcraft but “sexualized paintings” and certain jokes from the later. This was purportedly over the content being “outdated and inconsistent with our values as a team” and “inconsistent with our goal of building an inclusive and welcoming game world.”
Along with several policy changes and diverse hiring initiatives a new Chief DEI officer [Diversity, Equity, Inclusion] was assigned. Kristen Hines promised to “partner across all [of the company’s] gaming teams to ensure diverse and inclusive perspectives are included in game design, including storylines, character development, gameplay and community interaction.”
While the new body types and pronouns for World of Warcraft may be the first of those efforts, others fell flat on their face. Activision Blizzard proudly revealed their “Diversity Space Tool“, which assigned characters a number metric based on how quantitative their “diversity” was.
The tool was met with total rejection, as reducing a character’s identity to token traits was not just seen as virtue signalling, but it undermined the very inclusivity it was hoping to enshrine. Trying to judge which races or sexualities were more “diverse” than others was sure to be a losing battle from the off.
Soon after, Activsion Blizzard after claimed the tool was “not being used in active development” – despite previously stating that it had been tested by both Call of Duty: Vanguard and Overwatch 2’s respective development teams.
Will World of Warcraft: Dragonflight’s body-types and pronouns suffer the same fate as Blizzard Entertainment’s other inclusive efforts? Let us know what you think on social media and in the comments below.