Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gender And Representation In Warhammer's Realms of Chaos

It was long ago. A Salt with a Deadly Pepa had just come out, Bad Religion had just done SufferDie Hard was in theaters--and nobody knew who Tzeentch was.

More than a decade earlier, Dungeons & Dragons--by fusing wargaming and SF fandom--had been be responsible for an influx of women into the hobby gaming scene. In three years, Vampire: The Masquerade would bring more in.

But this is wargaming and this is England, 1988, and Games Workshop was totally not doing that. And it's been that way ever since.

Why Pick On Warhammer?

Because by 1988 Warhammer had become basically its own hobby. After re-inventing tabletop wargaming for a post-D&D world with Warhammer Fantasy Battle (1983), they followed up with the one-two punch of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (1986) and Warhammer 40,000 (1987) (the game which still looms over the miniatures hobby like a bleak and shouldery god) that was powerful enough that GW could afford to create a chain of Games Workshop stores. A teenager could scour the yellow pages for a place to buy tabletop stuff, go in, spend 45 minutes, come out and get picked up by mom without ever seeing a copy of Dragon or Call of Cthulhu anywhere near the top shelf.

In miniatures wargaming, Warhammer stuff was--and still is--nearly the only game in town, dominating the vast central plain that separates kids and their role-playing games on one coast from bent bearded men and their historical wargames on the other.

With power this great comes responsibility--and when it came to getting women into wargaming, the Warhammer franchise's Girlfriend Index, a quarter-century later, is still miserably low.

Why Pick On Realms of Chaos?

RoC was quite unique when it was first unleashed on the world. It was the first GW product to have so much time and money allotted to the artwork.
-Tony Ackland

Warhammer has elves and dwarves and trolls but it also has Chaos. The baroque imagery of Chaos is the defining difference between the Warhammer mythos and the D&D one and that--because of the role of mutations as an excuse to convert and scratch-build miniatures--drives a lot of the mini-painting and modelling sub-hobby. The two Realms of Chaos books (Slaves to Darkness and Lost And The Damned) were central to building the Warhammer games into a coherent universe, and the lavish nearly-300 page books still stand as a high-water mark for mechanical richness, inventive writing, graphic design, and especially art in hobby gaming.

Without Realms of Chaos--which made the bad guys as interesting, playable and prone to internal strife as the good guys--the Warhammer franchise is just another '80s D&D variant with D&D in space tacked on. With Chaos, all the pieces of the Warhammer cult the Internet knows and loves and loathes slide neatly into place. Such sins as Warhammer commits trace back to this garden.


Warhammer was nearly called Battleblade:  also, Warhammer was typed by Rick Priestley’s mum.
-Bryan Ansell

There were women around Games Workshop when RoChaos was gestating, but not a lot. Sixty-odd writers, artists and miscellaneous staff are credited on the first book, eight of whom are women--but none of them did any writing, illustrating or game design. About half worked on the short showcase of painted miniatures in the middle of the book--in addition to Trish Morrison, sculptor and co-founder of Marauder miniatures, three women (I think) painted minis: Suzanne Bladon, Katy Briggs and Lucie Richardson.

Only one female name reappears for the second book--Lindsey D. Le Doux Paton (now Priestley), previously credited as a typesetter, moves up to the writing staff for Realms of Chaos: Lost and the Damned. This makes a difference: while both books were loaded with the flavor fiction pieces Silver Age RPGs were so weirdly enamored of, the first one has nobody besides a nameless girl who "sniggers" while an old man's telling a Spooky Chaos story and an equally nameless woman who helps an artist summon something in some inscrutable way by "caressing" a statue, whereas the book Le Doux Paton worked on has a handful of stories that actually need the women in them in order to be stories.

The women in Lost and the Damned are mostly first-scene-of-the-horror-movie style sort of victim-protagonists: a blind woman's POV sets up the dramatic entrance of a skeletal champion, another sacrifices her husband to Nurgle for being too fat and then becomes the subject of a weird revenge as worms spout from his grave and turn her into a steed. Still: none of the women in these sidebars fight anybody, do anything particularly impressive, or know much more than anybody else.

There is exactly one gameable, named female character in all of the almost 600-pages of the two Realms of Chaos volumes. She is one entry in a list of 68 pre-generated chaos warband members: Jarea--a compatriot of Yrlman the Loose.

Lastly among the retinue is Jarea, a sorceress whose strange tastes have led her to Yrlman's side to learn the ways of pleasant perversity that he knows too well. But Jarea is far more powerful than Yrlman and is jealous of the favour he receives. For the moment she revels in her gnawing envy, biding her time--soon she too will take her first steps in the dangerous dance of Slaanesh's chosen…

So it's not much: an unillustrated jealous employee formerly in some creep's sexual thrall (would you say an ambitious male follower was "jealous"?--you'd probably just say he was "scheming" because that's a verb and so it's about what someone does, not an adjective about their emotions)--and she has an ant face. But she is Warhammer's first female chaos warrior. Hail Jarea, Shatterer of Ceilings.

I honestly doubt any of these stories (or lack thereof) per se turned off many potential female Warhammer players, or made male players take any extra effort to keep them out--you'd have to be pretty deep into the books already to notice them. They do, however, illustrate just how little it occurred to anybody at Games Workshop that there were girls inside the Warhammer world who did Warhammer stuff or girls in the real world who might want to do Warhammer stuff.

What does fail to turn young potential gamers off is seeing or not seeing themselves reflected in the art.
Left: dude, Right: dude
Also Not Appearing In This Book

Neither justice nor art are ever served by an artist making art about something they have no talent for  but once GW became both a corporate entity which openly did things just for the money and the largest voice in its entire hobby (and all the social spaces that entails) then the art directors and administrators become responsible for seeking out artists and writers who can do the things they can't.

If Adrian Smith insists the magnificent optical vortex he summons in that picture up there will dangerously unbalance if he drew in some tits, I have to trust him (he is, after all, an actual genius and I hate drawing guys, personally)--but it's preposterous to suggest the art director could find no decent and Warhammerable artist that was available to draw some woman on some other page.

In books stuffed with drawings and descriptions of dozens of creatures and societies, the number of missed opportunities here is amazing: centaurs are all drawn as guys, minotaurs are all guys, beastmen are all guys (despite how awesome and scary "she-goat" sounds), everyone involved in the Warhammer creation myth--the story of the Horus Heresy--is a guy, dragon-ogres are all guys (no rounded and distending green torsos), the Sensei--who possess a fraction of the Emperor's power and lead good-aligned warbands against chaos-- are only referred to as the Emperor's "sons", the word "coven" gets used a lot--and the leader of one is called a "magus"--with nary a "witch" anywhere (aside from the possibility of witch elves buried in the army list).

Crowning the casual archaisms (using "he" for everything, "Many wise men have been carried…""huntsmen") it's repeatedly pointed out that if your chaos champion does really well for a really long time he can become a daemon prince. And there's rules for daemon princes and point values and lots of pictures and generally just the word Demon Prince every third fucking page and nobody ever managed to think the words daemon princess yet somehow they do remember to note that wizard's familiars can take the form of "beautiful young women" as well as "sorcerer's imps and bizarre creatures"--and, oh yeah, the lesser daemon of Kweethul is a harpy. Women were treated not like audience members but like a sword & sorcery trope, in there attached to things just like snakes and snails and scorpion tails were.


There are two kinds of women in the Chaos art: sexy and not sexy.

Out of five or six-hundred pictures, here's pretty much every single not-sexy woman:

The vast majority, however, were very explicitly babes, which brings us rather neatly to...

"Slaanesh was meant to be a sibilant, erotic, breathy, whispered/murmured sound. The models didn’t turn out quite as erotically charged as I’d hoped."

-Bryan Ansell

One of the first Warhammer games I ever played--when I was fourteen--was with a girl fielding an army of Slaaanesh--and the last one I played had a girl fielding an army of Slaanesh.
There are four chaos powers: Nurgle, Tzeentch, and Khorne, who are male--and Slaanesh, lord of depravity--who is both male and female.

So: 7/8ths male and almost* the only time Warhammer talks about androgyny it's in the context of evil. If  teenagers play you and you're the only game in town, that's a message, and it's obviously a fucked up one.

Slaanesh also dips into the whole sex-as-evil trope since there's no Good God of Sex but what're you gonna do? It's hard to imagine how anybody would do that without some very boring hippie shit anyway. Something about sex as transgression goes beyond passing cultural norms and gets into taboos about adult spaces vs family spaces and how authority and religion are always an attempt to control sexuality (because desire can and routinely does ignore and disrupt the oligarchic status quos these institutions are based on--see Romeo and JulietHamlet, all noir movies ever made etc) and so, basically, the idea of sex being somehow a disruption is just kind of always there because it is.

And anyway problems with this part of Slaanesh are pretty much part-and-parcel of the pseudocosmic 70s glam rock androgyny it grew out of--Slaanesh basically plugs into the same socket as Bowie, KISS and Manson:

Pastel and electric shades are the chief colours, although white is often used as well. These colours are also sometimes carried over into everyday wear, although they may be modified to fit in with current fashions. Regardless of any considerations, all Slaanesh followers wear garb of sensuously high quality.

….its troops parade in frivolous colours and clashing patterns, fantastic jewels and flamboyant costumes. The whole impression is that of a costume ball or masque rather than a battle…Its Daemons and warriors shriek obscene jokes to each other, disport themselves with the dead and laugh with pleasure even as their own lives are taken. Any sensation is, after all, to be experienced and enjoyed. To express horror is regarded as a dreadful failing, one that is sure to be punished by the lord of pleasure.

Slaanesh's creatures concatenate the sensual with the fucked--the mounts of Slaanesh are lean Gigeresques with phallic heads, "long, feminine legs" and at least 4 boobs running down the front, the fiends are pale insect-centaurs with whiplike tongues, and the greater daemons are Tom-of-Finland minotaurs with extra arms in studded leather. Many creatures of Slaanesh exude a musk that makes you want to stand near them, doing nothing.

And then there's the daemonettes--

The Realms of Chaos books are full of daemonettes and sexy babes for the best possible reason: the artists all liked to draw them. The artists all liked to draw them for the worst possible reason: it didn't occur to the art director to hire a wider variety of artists.

Regardless of the reasons they got there--Mandy will not roll without her daemonettes. Period. You can pry them from her cold, dead, feminist-gamer fingers.

Slaanesh and his panoply suggest a basic problem with de-sexualization. If you took away the daemonettes and replaced them with Female Champions in Reasonable Armor, you'd be inviting every woman and every feminist I've ever seen play Warhammer to leave the table. And that would be--in the most results-based and scientific sense--a sexist effect. Less women getting what they want, less women period. Suggesting the daemonettes are sexist or a problem is suggesting it's sexist or a problem to invite Whitney B. and Vivka V. and Mandy M. to come and play and be happy. And it isn't--not even a little.

A certain kind of girl really likes fielding an army of half-naked hellions in fetish gear--it happens to be a kind of girl I know a lot of. Unfortunately, it's pretty much the only kind you can be if you like having women in your army and you want to play Chaos.

There are thousands of male miniatures and male characters in the Games Workshop catalogue--for women it's the relatively recent Sisters of Battle, the egalitarian-but-enigmatically-masked Eldar, or the daemonettes and the rest of Slaanesh's slutty army. It's this asymmetry that's bad and sexist. The men in Chaos are about war or disease or mutation or fucking. The women are about fucking. You can be whatever you want, so long as it's a choice.

To put it another way: it's not Slaanesh's fault if the only women in the Realms of Chaos work for Slaanesh, it's Khorne's fault for not hiring more women.

The Distaff Powers

The easiest way to untwist the genderweirdness in the Realms of Chaos is just to do what most adult gamers reflexively do anyway: ignore it. But there might be more interesting ways.

Let's posit a few things:

We know the people of the Imperium and Old World are Orwellian satires of hidebound xenophobes invented by Thatcher-era Britpunks.
We know these people--Space Marine chaplains, Grey Knights, Keepers of the Black Library, etc--are the sources of most of the legends we have about Chaos.


What "everyone knows" about the Chaos powers is also filtered through a comically backward worldview.

The fact is there are at least three other major chaos powers--with Beasts, Mounts, Daemons, Marks, Sigils and Gifts of their own, but these are spoken of only in the quietest and most secure vaults of the Black Library. The old men call them the Distaff Powers. The existence of warp beings even more powerful than the Emperor is disturbing enough--female creatures of such status are a downright obscenity.

One is Lolth, Queen of All Shadows, but the other two…?

…and there are probably others with no gender at all.

This runs smack into the Shreyas Paradox (named after an RPG guy who actually believes it): If you reproduce a medieval (or any past) time period or mindset in a game, you're reproducing a time when people were oppressed--which might offend people. But if you change the past so it reflects contemporary values you're whitewashing oppression out of history--which might offend people.

But since you should only be gaming with people you trust to handle any conversation that might come up, this paradox doesn't matter.

p.s. Yes I gave this entry a goofy pseudoacademic title on purpose.

* Yes, there is the very neglected Liadriel. Try googling him/her.


Jameela said...

It's tough because at this point I don't even know which depictions of women offend me anymore. When drawn as "sexy" they are objects fabricated by the male gaze. When they're sturdily built, wearing functional armor they imply that women deserve respect only if stripped of their femininity.

I think the real problem here is not so much how they are shown, as who is depicting them.

When discussing matters of privilege with someone who has less than you, the only correct course is to be quiet and listen. In the same way men should not work in a vacuum when creating female characters. Without a women's voice in the discussion the results are, by definition, problematic, whichever direction they lean.

I'm happy to play a babe in a spiked bikini or an androgynous orc if they were drawn or written by women. I can feel confident that those decisions were made by someone with informed empathy and a lifetime of experience. But as soon as I realize my character was crafted and handed to me by and all male cast I don't feel comfortable with the results.

Anonymous said...

So you can oppose certain self-appointed SJWs and still be a SJW when it's called for? I approve!

My response to the "Shreyas Paradox" is as follows (and is official in my 1930s pulp game): PCs in an oppressed group _can_, but are not _required_, to take a disadvantage reflecting their low status. If they don't take the disadvantage they're treated like anyone else.

Now I still point out that the 1930s were racist and Jim Crow was enforced, and assume that'd be the case in a pulp campaign. Maybe it's easier to get away with in a pseudo-"historical" setting than in a made-up fantasy world.

Zak Sabbath said...

In terms of games:

When I write about gender here I am _only reporting what the women in my group tell me their experience is_ .

What they want is ok, so I ask them what they want:



_As a painter_ :

I have to be able to make art about my own sexual desire. The same as everyone else. Everyone's desire is a perspective they can represent--doing otherwise creates a problem of repression.

Society goes in _very bad directions_ when a piece of art is judged by who made it rather than by what it is now that it's finished. It no longer _belongs to society_ and is no longer results-based .

Now, this doesn't mean the object stops _making you uncomfortable_ but that discomfort is _a discomfort that heterosexual men desire and think about women_ which is, basically, a fact of life that isn't going anywhere anytime soon (and which has many benefits and is not all bad) so it's like being uncomfortable that the color orange exists.

You have two choices:
-never look at the color orange or
-find a way to look at it.

Zak Sabbath said...

Typing can't make somebody a "warrior".

Jameela said...

Zak, I mostly agreed with your article and comment but

to compare feeling uncomfortable with sexist representations with being uncomfortable with the existence of the color orange is fallacious. Male-dominated fantasy art is not unchangeable fact, it is a current state of affairs.

Minority representation in every field is constantly changing, and sometimes improving.

So I'd posit that I, and anyone who feels uncomfortable with institutionalized sexism/racism/ableism/whatever has a third choice.

-Not ignore it
-Not find a new way to view it
-But work continuously to correct it, namely by not accepting it as a "fact of life"

Zak Sabbath said...

A REALLY IMPORTANT rhetorical sleight of hand just happened.

You just switched:

"Being comfortable with heterosexual men finding women attractive and accepting it"
(what I said)


"Being comfortable with sexism and accepting it".
(what you said)

Those are two WAY different things.

First thing has to happen in order for everyone to function on the planet and for humans to even exist.

The second thing should never happen.

Zak Sabbath said...

if you're saying a guy representing a woman as sexualized is _de facto_ sexist, then you're not agreeing with anything I said, anywhere.

I said the opposite:

the sexualized representation isn't sexist--the
representations is sexist.

Jameela said...

Oh, word! Glad I misunderstood and you weren't calling sexism an unchangeable fact! Thanks for pointing that out.

Zak Sabbath said...


But that can be remedied with the stroke of a brush.

Unknown said...

I was hoping you would post about warhammer. I was hoping it would be part of the art history lesson. I do know that the much reviled GW pushes people away from gaming, both women and men. Some of which you mentioned.
I don't want to distract you from the main topic, but what I meant by art history was miniature figures are like small statues, but then GW has models- pieces meant to be put together- kind of like legos. also the fashion of GW has been an influence- that cape needs a fur cape over it and that fur cape needs chains over it AND THOSE CHAINS NEED DANGLING SKULLS. ha.

Stuart said...

Sisters of Battle? And the strong matriarchal theme in the Bretonnian mythology? Admittedly all came along later.

Adam said...

I wanna see all your ideas for alternative Chaos gods. It's what you were put on Earth to do.

Unknown said...

There is also the Paranoia interpretation: women aren't allowed to be Space Marines, but since many of them wear masks no one can really tell. The women passing as men in pressurized suits all think they're alone, or perhaps one of a handful, but since no one ever asks a masked Space Marine to remove his mask (their implicit code of camaraderie dictates they can never even question each other's masculinity), they don't realize that literally every masked Space Marine is actually a woman. Part of the reason for the intense machismo of Space Marines is that nearly every single person feels like she needs to prove herself one of the guys and above suspicion, not realizing the people she's trying to pass herself off as are already just like her.

Zak Sabbath said...

none of that has to do with how a young, female potential player who is new to the game is going to view the game when she sees it.

In-world "no-prize" explanations don't change the fact there's either little female miniatures people can pickup and go "oh cool!" or there isn't.

krokodylzoczami said...

I think that the strength of Warhammer universes lies in their grounding in the ideas of (mostly) Western culture - I think that it's one of the things that make it different from D&D, which focuses more on pulp and presents a world where everything is possible.

Most of the factions and characters in GW materials are male - but it makes sense to me, as they resonate with the things I know from the books, paintings, history etc. Most inquisitors are male, but the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoyevski is male, too. Chaos Warriors and Space Marines are all male, but when I read about history or watch medieval manuscripts, there are no (or there are very few) female knights or Viking raiders. In medieval paintings, it seems to me (I'm not an expert, though) that male devils are mostly depicted as warlike, cruel, and so on, and female only as sexy. Sisters of Battle are female, but not because inclusivity, but because of Joanne D'Arc.

I think Warhammer mirrors our culture, with all its unequal rights and representations, with all its wrong ideas - and I find it to be a totally legitimate approach. It feels wrong and real and powerful.

Still, it certainly does not make it the most accessible setting for female gamers.

And Chaos armies are really in a dire need of some female, pseudo-neo-raphaelite cultist miniatures.


Zak Sabbath said...

You can make a game _about_ a society that's wrong while still having great roles for women in it who want to play women.

For example: a society like the Imperium could be overrun with female-led and all-female rebel bands.

krokodylzoczami said...

Sure you can, but you would either end up with one more small faction like Witch Elves or Sisters of Battle, which wouldn't be that meaningful for the setting, or you would make a game about a clash of Western-like culture with a different one; this may be just as enjoyable to play as Warhammer, but it's not the same thing.

Sexist worlds should not be the only ones we can play in, but they should be an open possibility. For instance because they mimic history to some extent (like Pendragon). Or because they create the situation of "every female adventurer and every heroine has to go against the current", which is wrong, but to a large extent true in real life.

Zak Sabbath said...

You are mistaken in your first paragraph. Creating large roles for women wouldn't change the setting at all.

If people at your table don't want to play those roles: it's the same old Warhammer

If they do: it's the same old Warhammer but the focus is on a certain conflict in it.

Warhammer can focus on marines vs orks


marines vs chaos


chaos vs chaos


orks vs eldar

…suggesting that adding on sections fleshing out what half the Imperium does would make all other focuses impossible isn;t rational.

krokodylzoczami said...

Fair enough. I can imagine Warhammer with Sisters being a concept similarly powerful to Marines, or with Witches of Kislev developed into a fluffy, significant faction.

Still, nobody managed to do it so far. But should it be in GW's priorities to especially develop these ideas, to push the setting towards a greater number of female roles? I kinda like the idea of developing the setting haphazardly into whatever direction feels tempting and inspiring, and not directing it to be more audience-friendly.

It's nice to think that the guys at GW are doing their best, and choose what they publish on the basis of aesthetics, and not because something is more or less masculine. It's still possible, though, that somewhere in GW archives are designs of an absolutely amazing Witches of Kislev army, but they were never published because the managers preferred crappy Marine Centurion designs that they believed would sell better. That would suck.

Zak Sabbath said...

I already explicitly addressed this in the post.
once GW became both a corporate entity which openly did things just for the money and the largest voice in its entire hobby (and all the social spaces that entails) then the art directors and administrators become responsible for seeking out artists and writers who can do the things they can't.
Once they went corporate and do things that are only justifiable by the desire to make money,they no longer get to claim artistic license.

krokodylzoczami said...

I didn't remember that part when I was commenting! It seems I need to sleep for a few hours to be able to focus properly (it's after 2AM in my place). Then I'll think the thing over and come back.

Michael Lee said...

I'd often thought that if they came out with toolkit minis rather than specific miniatures for their factions you'd see a decent shift in the types of armies that were out there.

BUT, they wouldn't be able to control how the armies would be presented, losing some of their editorial control over their universe.

When you play their tourneys your whole army has to be GW minis so if pictures make it on their website, or their magazines, it's an advertisement for their products.

Zak Sabbath said...

"BUT, they wouldn't be able to control how the armies would be presented, losing some of their editorial control over their universe."

Which is,as D&D proves, an unqualified good outcome.

Michael Lee said...

I agree totally! If I had the resources, I'd love to create maquettes of a range of body types, and accessories for them to create what they, the gamers, wanted for their armies.

I would love to see what people would come up with! that would be as close to magic as you could get in the real world.

Shockwave said...

Sorry but you're a little wrong. Androgyny depicted as evil and demonic? Wow... RoC is about evil and demonic. Entities that like to pervert anything existing in material world. You're trying to find something about equality in a book about psychopaths with superpowers. Characters depicted in it (in writing or art) aren't in any way cool - they're repulsive, disgusting and abominable. Claiming that Warhammer is depicting androgyny and/or femininity as something wrong and less cool than megamachoism with fullplate and greataxe - using RoC as the only proof - is rather weak idea IMO. What about Liadriel, androgynous elven god-goddes of wine, dance and songs, chief entity in the wood elves pantheon? What about many characters (mainly elves) depicted in WFRP core, sourcebooks, adventures as strong & competent? Wood elves models (wardancers, spellsingres, waywatchers, champions, queen and dragon riding twin sisters)?

What's wrong with them if you don't write about them? Or do you deliberately dropped them from your note 'cause they didn't fit into your thesis? Yes, Warhammer isn't Equality Heaven, but using book about mad murderers as your only base will not take you far.

Damn, you can even find warband of all female Khorne Chaos Warriors if you want. But my question is - do you really want to find such things?

Zak Sabbath said...

Shockwave, I addressed all of those things in my post.

Since you claimed I was "wrong" despite having addressed all of those objections in the post, either:

-you read it and you are a moron (unforgivable)
-you didn't read it and typed too hastily (forgivable)

…so, here are the steps to take next:

-Re-read the post--to see where I address the issues you bring up

-Then leave another comment indicating that you do or don't see where I discuss the issues you raise.

-If you do: good, you can append an apology.

-If you don't: then _ask nicely for me to explain to you the part you missed_


Zak Sabbath said...

And, of course, Liadriel's only in the Old World (not the Imperium) and not terribly prominent.
(Do a google image search for "liadriel")
Though technically the sentence "and the only time Warhammer talks about androgyny it's in the context of evil." is technically incorrect. I'll change it.

krokodylzoczami said...

OK, I've rested enough, I've re-read the whole thing and I'm back.

I'd say that the responsibility of wargame creators is first and foremost to create the best wargame possible. Getting girls into the hobby is a good thig to do, but it's a lower priority.

GW hiring few women back then could be a result of discrimination. But also, it could be done for the sake of convenience - in a male-dominated hobby, more men than women are likely to be interested in game design, and more men than women are likely to be among the best. It's not that preposterous that even when there were women who would make art for GW, it was easier and cheaper to go with men.

Not going the easy way when it comes to hiring women is a virtue, but still it's less important than making a good game. A great game written for and by men and women would be the best, but I'd rather play a great game written by men than a mediocre game written by both genders.

"GW became both a corporate entity which openly did things just for the money and the largest voice in its entire hobby (and all the social spaces that entails) then the art directors and administrators become responsible for seeking out artists and writers who can do the things they can't." - instinctively it feels right to me. I'm more likely to shout "Gandalf for president" than "Karl Franz for president", not only because the latter is far less popular, but also because Gandalf feels more like a character created for the sake of art, and Karl Franz more like a machine to make money.

Still, even the best artists did things for the money: say, Shakespeare. Why then should making money be a reason to deny someone artistic licence?

Or maybe it's about prosperity - with its domination of the market, GW should be trying to do inconvenient, but good things, because a single commercial failure isn't going to cost them as much as it would a smaller company?

"In books stuffed with drawings and descriptions of dozens of creatures and societies, the number of missed opportunities here is amazing:" - you listed a large number of ideas, but only some of them seem to be working as well as the original ones featuring men. Centaurs and minotaurs reference Greek myths, where AFAIK they're only male, demon princes are a thing in Judeo-Christian demonology more than demon princesses (I think only Lilith would qualify), neither the Emperor nor Horus seem to me to work well enough as women, with them referencing both Dune and various mythologies (you probably could, though, base the whole Heresy story on some other myths, say, with the Empress-Tiamat and Horus-Marduk, or the other way round). What I mean is it's really harder to come up with good ideas depicting men and women equally.

Zak Sabbath said...

>"I'd say that the responsibility of wargame creators is first and foremost to create the best wargame possible. Getting girls into the hobby is a good thig to do, but it's a lower priority."

These priorities in no way conflict, however, so it's pointless to prioritize them.

"GW hiring few women back then could be a result of discrimination. "

Irrelevant. Even GW had a few hack artists--even if they couldn't find many really good women to hire at the time that could do good dark fantasy, they could easily have hired a few female hacks instead of male ones.

"Still, even the best artists did things for the money: say, Shakespeare. Why then should making money be a reason to deny someone artistic licence?"

Because even _if+ artistic expression is a higher priority than social justice, some corporate entity making money is obviously a lower priority than social justice. Duh.

"you listed a large number of ideas, but only some of them seem to be working as well as the original ones featuring men…What I mean is it's really harder to come up with good ideas depicting men and women equally."

I listed those ideas SPECIFICALLY because it would be _really easy_ to come up with awesome ideas to fit them.

Just because you're unimaginative it doesn't license professionally creative people to be.

Your excuses seem like an obvious dodge: google "demon queen"--literally thousands, perhaps hundreds of images come up.

No single one of those examples must be re-ordered to include women, but all of them could have been by anyone motivated. That's the point of creativity--to transcend the obvious.

Warhammer achieved, aesthetically, a great deal:

-heroicized chaos enough to be playable as an army

-disaggregated chaos into 4 armies, all thematically distinct

-successfully created a fantasy world that didn't feel like D&D, despite many similarities

-created, from whole cloth, convincing sci-fi equivalents of fantasy races that don't feel cheesy or half-done

-successfully combined sci-fi and fantasy tropes visually in ways that, likewise, don't feel cheesy or half done


Considering all the improbable changes in the way people think about fantastic worlds that Warhammer managed to pull off, inserting women no more than _at least as forcefully as D&D already has_ seems a minor creative task.

krokodylzoczami said...

The priorities can conflict - if you're a CEO of GW and search through 100 portfolios of hack artists, you can pick the artists whose art you like most or pick the artists who are women. Why shouldn't you do the first thing? Still, you could consult some gamers, male and female, whether they like the art you choose, so as not to base your choice on your likings only. I believe that would be the best thing to do.

Then: why, once you become a corporate entity, should you suddenly stop making art and start only making money? Sure, social justice is more important than cash, but besides these two, artistic qualities still matter (even when often they are a way to get more cash from clients appreciating good art).

"inserting women no more than _at least as forcefully as D&D already has_ seems a minor creative task" - good point, you've convinced me about this one.

Zak Sabbath said...

Your 1st paragraph makes no sense:
the term "hack artist" precludes "liking" and the idea of consulting "some gamers" to pick any artist instead of trusting your art director is a total abdication of both artistic license and social priorities.

Sure, social justice is more important than cash, but besides these two, artistic qualities still matter (even when often they are a way to get more cash from clients appreciating good art).

Again: you're _hiring a hack artist_ no creative priority could possibly justify this. So hire a female hack. At the _very least_.

krokodylzoczami said...

Well, fair enough. Hiring no hacks at all would probably be the best idea.

Zak Sabbath said...

Once a company chooses to go the way of greed, they usually decide to hire hacks.

And then they take on different responsibilities than when they had total creative integrity.

Once you compromise: the world owns you, and gets to make demands.

Unknown said...

I want a massively corpulent lady Champion of Nurgle.

I want Tezzeetch to have a tenticular Sorceress Champion.

I want Khorne to have a lady Knight that, in a rage, ripped off her own skin.