World of Warcraft is getting more flexible gender expression tools
The alpha version of World of Warcraft‘s next expansion (titled Dragonflight) has opened up for player testing, revealing some new changes to the game’s character creator. Starting with Dragonflight, body types for in-game characters will no longer be designated by gender, instead simply being labeled as “Body 1” and “Body 2.”
As spotted by Polygon, Body 1 will replace the phrase “male” in the character creator, and “Body 2” will replace the female designation. The first body type will include options for facial hair and other traits formerly designated as “male”, and “Body 2” will host the traits formerly designated as “female.”
Players will be able to choose between these two body types when creating a new character or when visiting a barbershop in the game’s major cities. The barbershop feature has been around for some time, and had previously allowed players to change character features beyond a simple haircut.
Blizzard Entertainment is swinging big for inclusivity in World of Warcraft
Blizzard isn’t the first company to expand the gender options in its character creator, though its improvements come after a year of reckoning at the studio (and its parent company Activision Blizzard) over allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination, and abuse.
According to World of Warcraft news and data mining site Wowhead, Game Director Ion Hazzikostas also indicated in an interview that the company hopes to allow players to customize their voice lines in the future. This would allow them to use different voice packs regardless of which body type they choose.
In Wowhead’s plunge through the data files of the Dragonflight Alpha test, it also found text strings indicating that players might have the ability to select their pronouns after the expansion is fully released.
World of Warcraft does not extensively refer to the player’s pronouns, so such a feature might also be a social tool to help players communicate with guildmates, party members, etc.
Studios as large as Maxis and as small as The Game Bakers have been making similar updates to their games of late. It’s part of a growing recognition that lots of people want to play characters whose gender identities may not be so strictly defined.
The World of Warcraft team has been exceptionally proactive in making changes to the game following the explosive lawsuit filed by the State of California against Activision Blizzard in 2021. In the weeks after the lawsuit, the team stripped out in-game references to former game director Alex Afrasiabi. Afrasiabi had been named as an alleged abuser in a lawsuit filed against Activision Blizzard by the State of California.
Following Afrasiabi’s removal, (and the renaming of an Overwatch character named after former level designer Jesse McCree) Blizzard changed its policies for referencing real-life people in its video games.