A week ago I didn’t think I’d be sitting here and writing this, but I’m done with WoW Classic — and with this column.
As you’ve no doubt read, last Wednesday highly disturbing allegations of company-wide abuse and discrimination came to light as the state of California filed a lawsuit against Activision-Blizzard. Considering how intensive this two-year investigation was, how nobody but Blizzard PR is denying that this happened, and how many current and former employees have since piped up to confirm this wicked culture, there’s no reason to doubt that this studio’s been up to some really vile stuff while suppressing it.
While the heaviest tragedy and the due focal point of this story needs to be on justice for the victims and a top-down reform of Blizzard, this changes a whole lot for the people who cover Blizzard’s games and enjoy these virtual worlds. Every player now has to answer this question for him or herself: Can I continue to game with a clear conscience, knowing what I now do about the studio?
It’s not as easy a question to answer as it might first appear. You have to consider that it’s not the players’ fault that Blizzard was horrible to its employees. You have to look at all of the established communities and social ties that people depend upon for friendship and connections. You have to take into account all of the sheer effort and time that people have put into their characters — and how much passion and interest they’ve invested into these games.
For some, this might be a no-brainer to walk away, wish that Blizzard would burn to the ground, and expect everyone else to do likewise. And since internet and gaming culture is as it is, they might be absolutely harsh to anyone who doesn’t fall into line with that thinking.
Yet for others, this might be tearing them apart from conflicting feelings and desires. They may even push back against others demanding that they quit, triggering an unnecessary player vs. player conflict.
What I’m saying is that this decision not something to trivialize because this situation is sending shockwaves out to every corner of the WoW and WoW Classic community. Players and guilds have to make the call to stay, take a leave of absence, or quit. I’ve read a whole lot of rationalization for all of these decisions over the past few days, and you know what? A lot of them are valid.
I can see why people will choose to stay: because they don’t want to abandon their communities or stop supporting the honestly innocent Blizzard devs and artists who make a living from this. They are championing reform and want to be part of the culture and voice that keeps the pressure on Blizz to do that.
Personally, at this point I can’t look at Blizzard in the eye and say, “I’m going to keep giving my money, time, and column coverage to you.” I love these games, I cherish the friendships I’ve made in them, but… yeah. It’s over. I can’t in good conscience keep playing. Blizzard as an overall institution failed its employees — and the trust of us players — and I can’t support that.
And that stinks. I was really looking forward to playing through Burning Crusade Classic and Wrath Classic and writing up these fluffy little columns for this journey. I’ve poured so, so many hours into my Gnome and Draenei that are now being tossed aside. For the first time since 2004, I no longer have World of Warcraft installed on my computer, and I feel more than a little naked for it.
Then again, it feels like the right thing to do in this situation. There are more worlds than these, as the Stephen King phrase goes, and while other studios aren’t clean either, I can play there without feeling like I’m handing my money to abusers and corporate cowards.
For this situation, I’ll be rooting for justice to prevail, for the abused to experience healing and vindication, and for Blizzard to jettison its leadership in favor of men and women of integrity. No less than a top-down cleaning of house and a full audit of all accusations and reports is acceptable.
I’ll be increasing coverage of other games I play, but for Casually Classic, I’m signing off. Thank you for reading during this past year.