Blizzard is apparently taking measures to foster diversity and inclusion at BlizzCon 2018

    
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Diversity and inclusion have been hot topics in the gaming industry for some time now, and it’s one that Blizzard plans to put front-and-center at BlizzCon 2018. In an article recently published by Polygon, Blizzard’s Diversity and Inclusion Leader Kelly Stevens and Executive Producer Saralyn Smith go into detail about the ways in which the industry giant behind World of Warcraft and Overwatch plans to encourage and celebrate diversity and individuality at its upcoming yearly convention.

One of the main manifestations of Blizzard’s D&I focus is a part of BlizzCon that the studio is calling the Nexus, where up to 200 attendees at a time can gather “in an open house format” to listen to both Blizzard employees and “external speakers” host discussions that Stevens compares to TED Talks: “People can come and listen to a story related to that individual, related to diversity and inclusion in general, or at Blizzard,” she says.

According to Polygon, “The speakers include members of the LGBT community, women, military veteran representatives, and people with disabilities. The Nexus is near an escalator and an elevator, and gender-netural bathrooms will be available.”

Even beyond the Nexus itself, Polygon says, “BlizzCon will be at standards ‘beyond ADA compliance,’ with quicker queues, wheelchair seating at stages, an accessibility kiosk, listening devices, and three sign language interpreters available on site.” The company’s professed commitment to diversity, inclusion, and accessibility isn’t limited to the physical convention either; Blizzard is also taking measures to ensure that BlizzCon content delivered via the online Virtual Ticket is also accessible by providing “closed captions and subtitles, including on archived content, for viewers who are hearing impaired.

In addition, Blizzard wants to try to include the online audience in the BlizzCon festivities as much as possible by allowing users “to vote on topics and questions, respond to questions in panels, join in on Q&A with developers, and vote to influence the direction of events.” It’s an ambitious undertaking, but an admirable one.

Source: Polygon
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Cyro-Nydd

Well, that’s a few steps above Corpse Grinder, I’m glad they’re showing attentiveness this time!

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Carebear

So I wonder, how can you say if a game character is homosexual or not? For example you see a male Human or Night Elf or Blood Elf. How can you say that he likes men or women? Or when you see a female, how you can tell if she likes women or men?

What am I missing? What exactly is the request to developers?

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Ravven

If you’re talking about Blizzard specifically, then nothing in relation to Warcraft. They’ve done a good job in Overwatch, though – a game where you play a set character with a backstory. For MMO developers at large, it would mainly pertain to story-driven games with choices and romantic sidestories, as in SWTOR. The comment below about being forced into a relationship with the opposite sex via dialogue choices was a good example. :)

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Carebear

I see! Yes i understand for swtor type games but specifically this article is about blizzard and that they take steps into diversity etc. And i was wondering whats wrong about blizzard games that would make people complain about and blizzard need to “apology” in their own way.

I have an irl friend who is gay and we play wow together (and many other MMOs) and he never complaint to me about that (not even in other MMOs.. swtor is his second favorite).

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Dug From The Earth

I hope all that diversity can help them fix the azerite system quicker.

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Utakata

Good for them! Now if they really could clean up the toxicity in Mythics, raiding, PvP and Trade chat in WoW, I’ll start to believe in their sincerity on the issues as opposed just looking good for the PR. Just saying.

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Bruno Brito

Good on them for trying, but if Blizzcon is similar to any anime event i ever been, it’ll be full of jaded and toxic white nerds who can’t stand within arm reach radius of women or non-binary people without being asshats/pervs/weird.

While the intention and concept is great, is the execution that will be hard. Let’s hope they’ll do it right, because toxicity in these communities should be weeded out before they take root.

And get ready, because this WILL be blown out of proportion by internet trolls and idiots yelling bullcrap.

Theryl
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Theryl

Good for them. The whining from the usual suspects should be extremely entertaining.

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Alex Hyer

Yep.

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Castagere Shaikura

It still needs to happen. I know alot of you don’t see an issue but people like to be able to create a character that they can relate too. MJ does streams and all her character will have red hair if they can. White males don’t see it as an issue because they never had to. Nothing more insulting with an mmo that only lets you make White male or female human characters if your not white. Being a gay gamer is probably worse. But we don’t complain most of the time and just make a beast race character.

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styopa

“Nothing more insulting with an mmo that only lets you make White male or female human characters if your not white. Being a gay gamer is probably worse.”
Really? NOTHING is more insulting?

It’s funny, because I don’t play MMOs to play myself. I play elves, orcs , even an occasional cow-thing. Never been any of those. It’s deeply important to you that your toon PRECISELY matches your self-image? All the games I’ve played, the men are unrealistically, ridiculously buff, while the women are unrealistically, ridiculously curvaceous. Seems like the only people who DO get to play themselves are Kim Kardashian and The Rock?

I can’t think of a single modern game that doesn’t let you change skin tones. What are you playing?

None of the toons I’ve ever played in any MMO have actually had sex organs so I wouldn’t presume their gender or sexuality because video game characters don’t actually have sex. I guess my biologically-male or biologically-female toon might be gay? Certainly I’ve never been confronted with the lack: “Hey, I wanted to play a gay Tauren but it’s only letting me put my Tauren penis into vaginas? Where’s a dev when you need one?”

Isn’t that up to me as a player to decide if/when I role play?

Andy McAdams
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Andy McAdams

It’s funny, because I don’t play MMOs to play myself.

Such is your choice. In converse, every character I play is part of me, maybe exaggerates an aspect of myself in a way that I can’t in real life. Whether I play elves or sylvari (lettuce elves), or worgen — there’s a kernel of who I am, some aspect of me in every character I play. I identify closer with some characters than others, but being able to identify to my characters is integral to enjoying the game.

(fun fact – I wrote a masters thesis on the concept of the self as it relates to avatars in video games, specifically MMOs. So this area is my domain of expertise, socio-culturally).

I wouldn’t presume their gender or sexuality because video game characters don’t actually have sex.

So, as a gay gamer – let me try to explain this. The sexuality of the character has little to do with the character creator and more about how the others throughout the game interact and react to you. For example, I played SWTOR as a Jedi Consular and reacted to the story the way I thought my character would react – right up until it turned out to be a romantic relationship with a woman that I was now stuck with — I couldn’t play it any other way (apparently according to Bioware, the only 2 interactions you can have a woman are cold as ice refusal or saying nice things which means you really wanna have sex with her). I stopped playing immediately after because that wasn’t who I wanted my character to be. I would be *nice* to have gay romantic opportunities in games (which are few and far between), but I’ll settle for not being forced into a relationship that I don’t want.

It’s hard to see from the outside but almost every interaction in MMOs that has any sort of relationship (even friendship) overtones assumes the hetero.

Now, before anyone comes back with “oh you say you want to be just like everyone else, but you really want special treatment …” I don’t want special treatment — I just want space to fill in the story how I want without being constantly reminded that programmatically, the game has decided I’m straight. An explicit call out every now and again is really nice too (especially in kick-ass NPCs), but rather I just want the space to make the story for myself where I can be gay.

I don’t know if that makes sense, or if you even care. But there it is.

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styopa

I sincerely appreciate your considered, well-reasoned reply. Thank you. I do think your reply makes perfect sense from your point of view.

I hope you’ll likewise appreciate my reply as serious and not flippant or dismissive.

“So, as a gay gamer – let me try to explain this. The sexuality of the character has little to do with the character creator and more about how the others throughout the game interact and react to you. ”
I understand and agree where it comes to stories in the game that compel choices you wouldn’t perhaps make, or assume your gender or preferences that aren’t self-held, but aren’t we ALL confronted by that in the bolt-on stories given our characters in games? (Moreso single player games, since they tend to more frequently assume a backstory; MMO devs rarely bother.) I mean, *plenty* of games have narratives where we have a significant other that’s died, or kids that have been abducted or died, or pets that have died or whatever – most of those don’t apply AT ALL to the teens and twentysomethings that are the bulk of the gaming population. Speaking for young teens, even having them play an ADULT is ‘outside their context’, honestly.
I’m not sure why or how homosexuals not given the choice to act out their personal proclivities in their game character are any less disenfranchised than pretty much everyone else? If you’re complaining because devs (again, mostly in MMOs) rarely put in subtle, nuanced, or actual choices in storylines GENERALLY, then I’m completely with you. If you’re asserting that somehow homosexuals are particularly disenfranchised or hurt by this…meh, not so much.
If you’re arguing that such choices (where they do exist) are largely only offered along heterosexual lines, I’d only say it’s pragmatic. I think we can agree on the fact that homosexuality is a marginal practice; depending on which study you believe, it’s 1-10% of the population. It’s up to a developer to decide how far down the “balkanized list of life practices” they want to cater. 20% of adults have a mental disorder – should they write a storyline for them? Around 18% of adults are divorced, should there be a story line for them? 16% of US adults have a recognized disability…etc. Can we wish they had more time to offer more to smaller and smaller groups? Sure, but let’s at least be honest and recognize it’s an economic decision, not a “oh let’s exclude the gays” as it’s so commonly formulated, particularly in 2018.

Andy McAdams
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Andy McAdams

aren’t we ALL confronted by that in the bolt-on stories given our characters in games?

Indeed we are. Playing outside my context of life experience is a big reason to play games / MMOs at all. But I would also argue that there’s an ocean of difference between writing homosexual choices and writing divorcee choices. As much as I want my homosexuality to be a non-event, remarkable only for how unremarkable it is, the reality is that it’s something I *have* to be aware of just about all the time. Getting a divorce is a monumental event that can impact a person for years to come – but it’s not quite the same. It’s comparing apples to oranges.

We don’t need to get into a discussion about the actual percentage of homosexuals in the world, as I feel like the binary system is probably more restrictive than people generally act. But neither here nor there.

I, and most gay gamers I know, don’t expect a tit-for-tat, for every story line that is overtly straight we expect one that is overtly gay. It’s more general than that – I’d love to just have *some* options that can reflect on that part of who I am. For the bulk of the rest of the time, not having a forced hetero interactions and just leaving the space in the story for me to fill it in with my own internal role-play is fine.

And it’s even OK to have forced hetero interactions – not every aspect of every game needs to (or should) cater to me and my experience. But having some, or having the space / ambiguity in the story that doesn’t explicitly drive us one way or the other is fine in most cases.

Sure, but let’s at least be honest and recognize it’s an economic decision, not a “oh let’s exclude the gays” as it’s so commonly formulated, particularly in 2018.

This is a bit tough. In today’s world, unless you are on the far extreme of the ideological divide, you aren’t actively saying “let’s exclude the gays” or any other marginalized group. You just … don’t think about them, or how they might view something, or what they might want in a game. That comes back to economic representation – the more often the gays are represented in our economy, the more often people think about them, the more often they consider their view points.

That doesn’t even get us into the actual representation of gays in pop culture – which is still largely very effeminate, flighty, superficial, promiscuous. That’s true for some gays, but there’s also a big portion of the demographic that’s not like that.

Anecdotally me – I have a masters in media-cultural theory and I’ve worked in technology for the last decade. I’m not effeminate, flighty, superficial. I’ve been married for 3 years and with my now-husband for the last 8. It’s still remarkable to see gays like me represented anywhere (most often now it’s like … Campbell’s soup commercials which is a bit…unexpected).

So it’s not necessarily that I disagree with your economics statement — it’s just that the solution to the issue is also the problem with the issue.

(sorry, this last bit got a tiny bit off topic…)

Andy McAdams
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Andy McAdams

the reality is that it’s something I *have* to be aware of just about all the time.

Case in point, it’s still terrifying to admin that I’m gay even on Massively where people ‘know’ me and generally respect me. Still terrifying.

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McGuffn

I can see it being insulting if you select the human race and nobody looks like you. See also: Wild West Online.

Also, I’m pretty sure Geralt from the Witcher has had sex. Just saying.

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Utakata

“None of the toons I’ve ever played in any MMO have actually had sex organs so I wouldn’t presume their gender or sexuality because video game characters don’t actually have sex.”

This certainly getting a lot of /upvotes for something so cluelessly misfiring. o.O

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Schmidt.Capela

White males don’t see it as an issue because they never had to.

Depends. I’m a white(ish*) male, but as often as not I choose non-white female characters. In fact, my currently favorite human avatar is a female of mixed Latin-American and African heritage.

(White-ish because, while I’m closer to the white phenotype, my family tree includes at the very least ancestors from both the North and South of Europe, from Africa, and from the indigenous Latin American people.)

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Slaasher

Just curious. Why do gay gamers have it worse when it comes to character creation??

Andy McAdams
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Andy McAdams

Check out my answer above.

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Ravven

I hate MMOs that don’t allow you to make a non-white character, as that is my preference. I wish that more MMOs allowed for older characters, or let me make a warrior type with a bit of meat on her. Real characters, in other words. Regarding story-driven games, such as SWTOR, you should definitely be able to make a gay character. I’ve always thought that the character Pree from Killjoys would be amazing fun to play in an MMO that let you make story choices: gay, an ex-warlord, totally badass and fab looking to boot. I love him so much.

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Cyro-Nydd

I prefer role play in my role playing games, rather than just an online incarnation of my IRL existence. So despite being a white male, I play dark skinned female characters when “human” is the only option available, or dark elves, reptilians, beastly races or alien.

I’m not gonna say that I feel insulted when “white” (or pasty-complexioned Asian) is the only option available, but I do consider it a terrible waste and will vote my displeasure with my wallet and my feet.

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McGuffn

In addition, Blizzard wants to try to include the online audience in the BlizzCon festivities as much as possible by allowing users “to vote on topics and questions, respond to questions in panels, join in on Q&A with developers, and vote to influence the direction of events.”

And Star Citizen thought they could compete with this! What were they thinking?

gelfred
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gelfred

Not sure how common/uncommon sign language, interpreters and disabled accessibility is at such large events but its a good sign that they are advertising it a little, will probably give such people more confidence in being able to enjoy Blizzcon going forward.

Also closed captions on online video is always good!