The popular video game company behind World of Warcraft has been accused of using identity politics to hide its company scandals.
Blizzard enjoyed huge success with franchises like Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo. Recently its business has taken a downturn and the company’s response has been to cater to liberal politics to generate positive publicity. The fact it has named and shamed 18,000 players in a public registry for “toxicity” and turned a character gay for a quick PR boost seems to be a sign of the times.
ScreenRant was one of many outlets to call out the firm, writing “it looks like Blizzard used this announcement for PR purposes, like they exploited their LGBTQ fans as a way of scoring a win with the press.”
Blizzard came out swinging in numerous ways against its largely apolitical base, seeming to have lost touch with its audience. The firm banned 18,000 Overwatch players for “toxicity,” a term many see as exploitably vague as “hate speech.” The company went so far as to call out the banned players in a public registry.
Gaming politics YouTubers like Ian Miles Cheong are concerned that Blizzard will begin to deny users access to online games they paid for because they made politically incorrect jokes online. This would follow the trend of many other big tech companies denying service to people for political beliefs. Cheong mentioned in his video a tweet by former 2k games and Nintendo of America social media manager Jared Rea, “There needs to be real world consequences for spewing hate online. Taking away their toys is a great way to start.”
Blizzard, as noted by Forbes and GameRevolution, has been referred to by many of its fanbase as the “J.K. Rowling of video games” after revealing that Soldier 76 from OverWatch identifies as gay. Many fans denounced this move as a clear attempt to use LGBT politics to distract from their scandals. J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, is known for using identity politics to generate publicity, such as revealing Hogwarts’ Headmaster wizard Dumbledore was gay.
As noted by ScreenRant, “it looks like Blizzard used this announcement for PR purposes, like they exploited their LGBTQ fans as a way of scoring a win in the press rather than including a diverse cast because that’s the right thing to do for a global game like Overwatch.”
Another Overwatch controversy involved one professional player pretending to be female.
One team featured a female player named “Ellie” who, as Forbes commented was in truth a male professional player who “would actually get girls to go on voice chat while he played the game.”
Many fans who suspected this were condemned as sexists and conspiracy theorists by liberal game journalists for correctly assuming “Ellie” was a fake account being used by an established professional player. Cheong commented that “her supposed accomplishment as a woman was one that Blizzard was more than happy to celebrate, until her identity as an alternate account [was revealed.]”
What made that scandal even worse for Blizzard was that Esports reporter Richard Lewis claimed that Blizzard knew about this impostor, and speculated that they allowed the scandal to grow for the sake of “drama clicks” and publicity.
Blizzard used to be remarkably non-political and tried to avoid identity politics altogether. In 2014, former Chief Creative Director Rob Pardo, when pressured about diversity, said “I wouldn’t say that’s really a value for us. It’s not something that we’re against either, but it’s just not … something we’re trying to actively do.”
Game Director Dustin Browder made a similar comment, “We’re not sending a message. Nobody should look to our game for that.” The firm actually used to ban guilds within games for trying to group players based upon sexual preference, saying “Advertising sexual orientation is not appropriate for the high fantasy setting of the World of Warcraft."