Lhivera’s Library

Adventures in World of Warcraft, Dragon Age, the real world, and beyond

Ji Firepaw, Apple Cider Mage, and Jessica Ahlquist

Thursday, April 12 2012 at 8:54pm CDT

This post has nothing to do with game mechanics. I will be talking about political and social stuff like this from time to time (I did, after all, mention the real world in the site's subtitle). If that bugs you, well, you were warned. 

When Apple Cider Mage first brought up the Ji Firepaw thing, my first instinctive reaction was: "What? People flirt. A lot of guys will flirt with women, even upon first meeting them. Most of these same guys will not flirt with men. This behavior may often come off as creepy, but it does happen, and why should fiction present a world that is better than, or even as good as, the real world?"

And then I remembered what a whole lot of Christians in Cranston, RI had been saying to Jessica Ahlquist, who fought to have an unconstitutional Christian prayer banner removed from a public school: that it shouldn't bother her. That if it did bother her, she should just avoid looking at it. That it didn't matter if it bothered her, because it didn't bother them. That the fact that it bothered her meant there was something wrong with her. (All of this squeezed in between the numerous threats of rape and murder, mind you.)

And then I remembered the post "Shut Up and Listen" on John Scalzi's "Whatever" blog.

I was not OK with what Cranston Christians were telling Jessica Ahlquist, but had very nearly put a stamp of approval on the same kind of thinking regarding Apple Cider Mage's opinion of Ji's dialogue. Why? Because as an atheist, I can see religious privilege looming over US society as big and obvious as a sky full of particularly malignant storm clouds, and it pisses me off, but spotting my own privilege as a dude is like asking a fish to identify that substance it's swimming in. "Water?" asks the fish. "What's water? What's swimming? I'm just doing what everyone does here. I don't understand why you're flailing around and gasping. What's your problem?"

There is no way I can read Ji's dialogue and feel what Apple Cider Mage feels. It just isn't possible. But I can shut the fuck up and listen when she says there's a problem, rather than lashing out defensively with all the rationality of a rattlesnake at a perceived attack. I can think about what it would feel like to spend seven hours a day in a building with a giant banner on the wall that reads, effectively: This place is for us. You are not one of us.

I can remind myself that, just as so many Christians seem to find it impossible to understand that such a banner in a public building is not OK, I will have similar difficulty understanding the way Ji's dialogue makes Apple Cider Mage feel, and that my lack of understanding does not invalidate her reaction.

It's not that fiction shouldn't make people uncomfortable. Good fiction should challenge us, and it should upset us at times. But when only part of the audience is singled out for that discomfort, one of two things has happened: either the storyteller has failed to deliver an important part of the experience to the rest of the audience, or that part of the experience was not important and the group that was singled out has been made to feel uncomfortable without cause. So if Ji being creepy and making the player uncomfortable is essential to his character and the story, Blizzard failed to deliver on that aspect of the story for me. And if it isn't essential, then there is no defensible reason for him to be written the way he was.

And so I'd like to congratulate Apple Cider Mage for convincing Blizzard of the rightness of her argument. As of the latest beta patch, Ji's dialogue has been changed — and, hopefully, Blizzard's writers will be keeping a more watchful eye for such things in the future.


Submitted by Apple Cider Mage on

I'm really proud to see you realize your thinking. A lot of people have been lashing out at me today without even using an ounce of insight as to why I might feel the way I do. Jessica Ahlquist is a really good parallel even if I'm only picking apart video game characters and not standing up for athiests. :(

Submitted by Lhivera on

...happened the day you made your original post, it just took me quite a while to figure out how best to put it into words. It was the reaction today that gave me a kick in the ass to figure it out how to say it. The absurdity of people saying, essentially, "why should this bother you it really bothers me that it was changed" really got to me; it was an exact parallel to the people saying, "nobody even notices the banner but it enrages me that it will be taken down". It's not really the thing that has happened that has them so upset — it's the fact that, for a moment at least, the world has stopped automatically giving them deference.

And of course it's not just a video game character. You know there was discussion among the writers before the change was made, and you know (or we can hope, at least) that the discussion will have an impact on future writing. It's part of the larger conversation that's been going on in the industry for a while now. It matters.

Submitted by davesignal on

You certainly accomplished that, to an astonishing degree. I am pretty much going to shamelessly steal that fish line for use in illustrating that point, it's tremendously put together.

Submitted by Lhivera on

I appreciate that. I couldn't swear that I didn't pick that fish analogy up somewhere over the years, but I imagine that if I didn't make it up, whoever did probably won't mind!

Submitted by Aowyn on

The disconfort caused is unlikely to be intended by Blizzard, when they try to place us out of confort, they usually do through events in the world, like Garrosh assuming the position of Warchief or the fall of Theramore. The one who wrote the original text probably had no idea of it. It doesn't invalidates the effort of Apple Cinder, in fact it's just curious how it's common to be blind to certain meanings in the words we choose; some interpretations require sensibility to specific ideas to be recognized.

There was a similar topic in the day next to the post of Apple Cinder in http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/4362516994?page=1, where Galatea express the same type of concern and received similar responses. Galatea didn't explicit say that he or she felt offended (in fact, mentions that it was to avoid a future discussion when it comes live), but was targeted anyway.

Submitted by Lhivera on

Yeah, I don't think discomfort was what they were going for here; I included that because it is possible for an author to be aiming for that and just screw up. I tend to agree with davesignal: Blizzard is just kind of oblivious to this stuff, and that's become more noticeable recently because this is an industry-wide conversation that's happening as the gaming world becomes massively more diverse.