In the wake of the ongoing investigations into and lawsuits over Activision-Blizzard’s sexual harassment and discrimination scandal, the teams at Blizzard have said very little about the situation, and the company itself has not publicly acknowledged or responded to the four demands issued by its internal proto-union. What the teams have done that folks on the outside can see is tinker with the games themselves, changing names and references to disgraced developers, altering potentially offensive images, and even removing some controversial emotes from games including World of Warcraft and Overwatch.
The moves haven’t really gone over with the playerbase, as even we have pointed out that these are relatively minor changes that don’t impact gameplay and certainly don’t address the workers’ plight in any way.
Blizzard has clearly heard that grumbling, as yesterday the WoW team released a dev blog addressing its recent moves. The studio says that back in August, it set up internal channels for developers to speak up about “content that doesn’t represent who [the devs] are as a team today.”
“In a game that has thousands of art elements and a word count in the millions, we recognize that these updates will amount to very few total changes overall. Nonetheless, we believe these changes are worthwhile. World of Warcraft is meant to evolve over time, and every day, new players from every walk of life and every corner of the world experience our in-game content for the very first time. As a team, we want the world they see to stand as an expression of our talents and principles. Goofy jokes and occasional mature innuendos are part of WoW, and probably always will be. Still, we want to remain mindful of whether certain elements of that world are welcoming to all players. In short, we want our jokes to be inclusive and not punch down.”
That includes things like the reclining semi-nude elf painting, which was replaced with a bowl of fruit and caused so much ruckus back in September. “Some of the art that populates our world is often re-used throughout the game,” the studio explains. “To be certain that we don’t have any instances in which this art appears in a way that is not respectful, in some cases, we might opt to replace specific elements entirely.”
Blizzard also says that during the same time, it collected feedback from players on “practically every aspect of the game,” which has “influenced many gameplay improvements [it’s] working on for patch 9.1.5.” One example would be all the customization options that are now on the table, in spite of Blizzard telling us at BlizzConline that they weren’t happening; that includes the addition of an incubus demon that will be a future option for Warlocks who aren’t fans of the classic succubus.