Politics, pronouns and the players

examining how videogame players react to the inclusion of a transgender character in World of Warcraft

Authors

  • Frazer Heritage Birmingham City University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.20250

Keywords:

transphobia, trans linguistics, transgender characters, online fora, videogame community, videogames, World of Warcraft

Abstract

Despite being released in 2004, the online videogame World of Warcraft (WoW) introduced its first transgender character only in 2020. This article examines how players responded to this new character, named Pelagos, analysing how many players were for/against the inclusion of Pelagos, how these views were constructed and how players interact with each other. Data from official WoW fora demonstrate a surprising backlash against transphobia and overwhelming support for the inclusion of a transgender character. Those who were against the inclusion of Pelagos framed their arguments in terms of objections to political correctness, arguing that gaming should remain politically neutral. By contrast, those in favour of including Pelagos argued that videogames are political by nature. Further, examination of pronouns revealed that Pelagos is very rarely misgendered. Such a positive response has implications for research into Critical Discourse Studies and for videogame companies.

Author Biography

Frazer Heritage, Birmingham City University

Frazer Heritage is a Research Fellow in the Department of Criminology and Sociology at Birmingham City University, where he focuses on discourse and sociolinguistics. His primary research interest is corpus linguistic approaches to the representation of gender and sexuality across different forms of media, particularly within videogames and in social media communities. He is the author of the book Language, Gender and Videogames: Using Corpora to Analyse the Representation of Gender in Fantasy Videogames (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021).

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Published

2022-05-06

How to Cite

Heritage, F. . (2022). Politics, pronouns and the players: examining how videogame players react to the inclusion of a transgender character in World of Warcraft. Gender and Language, 16(1), 26–51. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.20250

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Section

Articles