Blizzard Entertainment’s Many Missteps When It Comes to Women
A Recent Apology from Blizzard’s President Aims to Quiet Female Critics.
Chances are you've heard of Blizzard Entertainment, the mega-company that created Diablo, StarCraft, and Warcraft. What you might not realize is that, recently, Blizzard's stance on women in its games has been... well, let's just say less than progressive.
There's a certain amount of derision woman simply expect from games which — despite statistics suggesting nearly half of gamers are women — are still created primarily by and for men. No matter what game you pick up, it's not unusual to find women wearing skimpier clothing than men or that women are treated differently (both by in-game characters and other players) than men. In this way, Blizzard's games don't really do anything new or unexpected: women aren't treated particularly well, but they aren't mistreated any more than they are in other games.
But Blizzard's stance on women has taken a steady nosedive. When asked about a female character in the upcoming Warlords of Draenor game expansion, Chris Metzen, Senior Vice President of Story and Franchise Development, explained she wouldn't be making an appearance because "it's more of a boy's trip." An April Fool's joke showed supposed new character models that didn't fit standard beauty norms — and that was the entire joke.
Game Director Dustin Browder argued that skimpily clad female characters — and only female characters — were just a result of "making characters who look cool" (though he later apologized for his remarks). And, most recently, Chief Creative Officer Rob Pardo explained that diversity wasn't a value for the company and that Blizzard focused on fun rather than representation.
The latest outcry has apparently been enough to turn the gaming giant's head. Pardo has resigned — though this certainly wasn't the official explanation — and Blizzard President Mike Morhaime has made an intentional effort to reach out to the company's female fans.
Morhaime replied to a letter a fan had written explaining why she was was no longer playing Blizzard's games (mostly the reasons listed above) which wound up posted online and going viral. What he has to say is what women gamers have wanted to hear — but haven’t been hearing — from the company lately. Morhaime admitted Blizzard has made mistakes but espoused a commitment to diversity, saying there's no reason inclusivity has to come at the expense of fun. It runs counter to a the recent messaging that's painted Blizzard's games as places where women aren't welcome — or if they are welcome, they certainly aren't welcome to be heroes.
Is Blizzard turning over a new leaf? Maybe. Gamers who have gotten an early peek at Warlords of Draenor are reporting that there are more female characters — and female heroes — than we were lead to believe. But does this mean we'll be seeing LGBT characters in Blizzard games any time soon? Though this is a step forward, I wouldn't hold my breath on that.