GameScenes: What is your relationship to World of Warcraft? What does it mean to you, as a female-player?
Angela Washko: Well I used to play pretty “hardcore” while I was in college. One of the common responses from male players to my questions about how they feel about female players is that “they just aren’t as good” or “that it’s not natural for women to be good at video games.” Which (though I can’t back this up with scientific evidence) seems quite ridiculous to me! [WARNING: INACCESSIBLE GAMING LANGUAGE COMING UP] When I was playing at my most competitive I was generally #1 or #2 in DPS (damage per second) and wearing some of the best equipment you possibly could for the content available in the game at that point. But I always found that there was suspicion about my rank and participation. One of the guild leaders was very affectionate toward me, and this created some tension with other guild-mates (including my IRL boyfriend hehe)…that I might be getting preferential treatment because of this. I felt uncomfortable that “give her a boob job!” was sometimes used as an exclamation of victory or success in a raid, never liked that for some reason my guild-mates had a fascination with talking about butt sex (butt sechs), and of course all of the discussion of getting back into the kitchen……but I never did anything about it and was too scared to say anything expressing dissent.
My art practice has developed into a feminist practice in which I use play to address power structures embedded into collective consciousness through media. I started to re-play the role-playing console games I grew up with (Final Fantasy 2-10, Chrono Trigger, Metal Gear Solid, Valkyrie Profile, Star Ocean and more) – deconstructing them for the obvious impact they had on forming my ideas about relationship roles. This is quite silly on one hand, obviously it is absurd to project yourself onto a video game character, but people do…and I did. That project is called “Heroines with Baggage.” Then I started thinking about World of Warcraft and the fact that the developers were not responsible for reinforcing negative stereotypes about women, it was the community. Now I feel as though I have the tools (and courage) to talk about the language in a way that hopefully unearths the reasoning behind it. Hopefully it will impact the breadth of things discussed and the way in which they are discussed on the servers I play on…this was the initial goal, but I’m not sure that I’m in it for that anymore. It was easy early on to package this as a “feel-good” “change-the-world(of Warcraft)” project and the more I do it, the less realistic that is as a representation of what I’m doing.