Last week, the gaming world was a tad busy running Halloween events and watching BlizzCon, so it passed almost without notice that a US politician from Anaheim, California, home of BlizzCon itself, called out Blizzard over the gross conduct of players in World of Warcraft.
According to Vice, US Congressman Lou Correa, who’s been focused on combating domestic terror groups across the country, was made aware of an evidently racist Halloween contest scene hosted by players in WoW thanks to one of his own staffers who plays the game. Correa’s account subsequently tweeted a image from the event depicting a male human character with white hooded robes and torch, accompanied by two crouching dark-skinned humans, one of whom is named Jessejackson and references Charlottesville.
“.@Blizzard_Ent—I was looking forward to welcoming you to Anaheim for your 13th #BlizzCon,” Correa tweeted. “Instead, I find myself asking how this can exist in one of your games. The @FBI knows online radicalization is real. I hope you agree & will remedy this immediately. Racism isn’t a game.”
Vice followed up with the congressman, who told reporters that Blizzard needed to clean up the game and do a better job of moderating this type of content.
“The user-generated content found in World of Warcraft is just one example of how far-right extremists are infiltrating online platforms and video games. […] By allowing white supremacists refuge, companies inadvertently create safe harbors that extremists can leverage to recruit and indoctrinate other people while also degrading the enjoyment of their own fans. […] I call on the industry to do better at managing and moderating their communities. Your players and fans want to play your games, not fight with white supremacists. Kick the bad actors out—for everyone’s sake.”
Again, this isn’t going to surprise most of our readers, as the press has been covering MMO toxicity and its often racist elements for many years, including an incident of KKK costumes in RuneScape. In fact, in 2018, a former white supremacist leader outright claimed that online games are being actively used to recruit new converts to hate groups.
Vice went on to dig into the guild in question here, finding that players have been complaining about the group in World of Warcraft (and other games) for the last decade. The publication also obtained leaked audio of a post-event meeting at which the guild argued about the prank; the group discusses fleeing members worried about being exposed and losing their jobs, while the leader suggests there a conspiracy afoot, hand-waving the situation by claiming his costume was a ghost rather than a klansman and justifying the group’s behavior as merely edgy jokes rather than violence advocacy. It’s also made clear that the guild’s website was closed down and “cleansed” to protect members from their own post history, though the server’s Reddit says the guild is still in-game.
Blizzard itself has apparently not yet issued a statement, but that’s pretty common for bans like this. Then again, there’s not really anything common about a congressman calling out a video game company on Twitter for unwittingly hosting racist content. (There was apparently a post on the official forums a few days ago, but it’s since been deleted.)
We can’t really recommend reading the Twitter thread as it’s riddled with dumb memes and racist images, but there are a few people thanking Correa for bringing attention to the issue, saying that they’ve been reporting guild’s leader for years and that in the ensuing days he’s finally been banned from WoW, though the recording makes it sound like a three-day ban only.