Blizzard's upcoming Multiplayer Online Battle Arena title, Heroes of the Storm, features characters drawn in a way that some would call over or hypersexualized. Game director Dustin Browder was asked about this in an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun on Friday, and his response created an uncomfortable atmosphere.
RPS: You have some interesting alternate outfits for heroes. Roller Derby Nova, especially, caught my eye. On its own, that’s totally fine – just a silly, goofy thing. A one-off. But it got me thinking about how often MOBAs tend to hyper-sexualize female characters to a generally preposterous degree – that is to say, make it the norm, not a one-off at all – and StarCraft’s own, um, interesting focus choices as of late. How are you planning to approach all of that in Heroes?
Browder: Well, I mean, some of these characters, I would argue, are already hyper-sexualized in a sense. I mean, Kerrigan is wearing heels, right? We’re not sending a message to anybody. We’re just making characters who look cool. Our sensibilities are more comic book than anything else. That’s sort of where we’re at. But I’ll take the feedback. I think it’s very fair feedback.
RPS: I have to add, though, that comics might not be the best point of reference for this sort of thing. I mean, it’s a medium that’s notorious – often in a not-good way – for sexing up female characters and putting them in some fairly gross situations.
Browder: We’re not running for President. We’re not sending a message. No one should look to our game for that.
RPS: But it’s not even about a message. The goal is to let people have fun in an environment where they can feel awesome without being weirded out or even objectified. This is a genre about empowerment. Why shouldn’t everyone feel empowered? That’s what it’s about at the end of the day: letting everyone have a fair chance to feel awesome.
Browder: Uh-huh. Cool. Totally.
Yesterday, Browder took to the official Heroes of the Storm website to apologize for how he answered the question from RPS.
In a recent interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I responded poorly to a statement the interviewer made about over-sexualized character designs in games, and I want to apologize for that. This is a serious topic and I don’t want anyone to think that I, or anyone else at Blizzard, is insensitive about how we portray our characters.
It takes work to make compelling characters, but it’s important to take a step back to ensure that we’re not alienating our players. We have an amazing roster of heroes and we will always strive to make sure that everyone can have a hero that they identify with and feel powerful using. And at the end of the day, we all want the same thing. A great game where we can all have fun battling for glory and maybe some bragging rights.
On the stage at BlizzCon, I spoke about Heroes being a collaborative project, shaped by the passion, love, and support of gamers like you. We’re building this game together, we’re listening, and your thoughts are valued.