Here’s Blizzard’s rationale for changing some of World of Warcraft’s emotes, art, and names

'Goofy jokes and occasional mature innuendos are part of WoW, and probably always will be'

    
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I'm not dead and get new models biannually

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.

Activision-Blizzard is considered a controversial company in the MMO and gaming space owing to a long string of scandals over the last few years, including the Blitzchung boycott, mass layoffs, labor disputes, and executive pay fiasco. In the summer of 2021, the company was sued by the state of California for fostering a work environment riddled with sexual harassment and discrimination, the disastrous corporate response to which has further compounded Blizzard’s ongoing pipeline issues and the widespread perception that its online games are in decline. As of fall 2021, multiple state and federal agencies are currently investigating the company.
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Ashfyn Ninegold

This is what a responsible developer would do who was sensitive to the changing mores of society.

Does Blizzard fit that description?

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Bruno Brito

Do you think they fit? I’m asking honestly.

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Utakata

I would say probably no at this point. But I haven’t entirely lost hope that there might be real change though either in a distant future. The old guard needs to be cut, Bobby needs to be handed a golden parachute and collective bargaining rights need to be considered before I can start to say “Yes” though, to name a few.

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Phubarrh

Is Mankrik’s wife still fridged?

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Malfious

tl;dr – none of this would have happened had it not been for the recent shitshow

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Estranged

So, how many Blood Elf and Draenei /silly voice lines are they deleting?

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Utakata

If they are being deleted, they’ll likely be replaced with something more wholesome I gather. Although to do that, they’ll have bring back the original voice actors to re-record. So if they plan to do anything here, it may take awhile.

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Estranged

I find it interesting how Tipper Gore pushed music and entertainment censorship in this country, considering her political stance. Could often depend on a liberal to have a fun sense of humor. No more. I’m more likely to find a fundamentalist that would laugh at dark humor today.

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Utakata

Folks of all different stripes have fun senses of humor depending on their personality I gather…

…though I am not sure what this has to do with the topic at hand. Nor what it has to do with the question you asked in the OP. /shrug

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Estranged

Because cancel culture and white knighting are basically exclusive to one group in the US. No one is immune, even NPCs are targeted. LOL

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DJ Meowth

They won’t be replaced. Other voice lines were removed over the years, and replaced with nothing.

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Utakata

Okays…thanks for clarifying that. I know they’ve been replacing names and emotes, so I had assumed they would be doing the same here.

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Tee Parsley

A friend of mine once inspired great high dudgeon by posting pictures of Renaissance masters’ paintings as pornography. Many were incensed by the horror!

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jealouspirate

I find this whole situation hilarious. Blizzard is accused of having a toxic workplace and mistreating its employees. Everyone rightfully attacks them for it. They promise to do better.

They start making these changes to the game completely unannounced. They’re all just datamined changes. People immediately attack them for it. Calling them meaningless changes, deliberate distractions, desperate acts, pathetic, censorship, etc. People on this site were making these exact statements just yesterday.

Then it turns out these changes aren’t some grand corporate conspiracy. They are changes the rank and file developers wanted to make. Blizzard asked their staff, the very victims of this scandal, what they wanted to change to make the game (and the experience of working on it) a more inclusive, welcoming, and safe space. Then Blizzard allowed their staff to make these changes and take up development time, despite being well behind schedule.

Blizzard took one small step towards improving their workplace and people hated it. Congratulations to everyone hating on Blizzard for complaining about these changes, I bet the victims really feel supported.

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Dug From The Earth

its more like this:

Person 1, “I cant believe you stepped on my foot and didnt apologize”
Person 2, “Sheesh, fine, Im sorry… I guess I’ll just never go outside anymore so it doesnt happen again”

Person 2 proceeds to lock themselves off from the rest of the world.

People still expect rationality to have a role in things, regardless of what those things are. It helps keep things in proportion.

Lighthope
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Lighthope

Then it turns out these changes aren’t some grand corporate conspiracy. They are changes the rank and file developers wanted to make.

You know what, I think I’m going to call Shenanigans on that.

When the Blizzard staff was asked what they wanted coming out of the Scandals (plural), I’m betting pointless in-game changes were nowhere on that list. I think they had better, bigger, more important requests to make rather than changing a pic to a bowl of fruit.

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Arktouros

There’s nothing to call shenanigans on because they’re two entirely different asks.

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jealouspirate

Some tweets from WoW devs on this subject:

“been seeing a lot of (frankly upsetting) comments from people who follow me / ‘support devs’ about some of the updates to in-game content being a ‘smokescreen for distract from bigger issues’ when really… it’s being led from within, by people who care, a Lot. – @ScarizardPlays, World of Warcraft systems design”

“As a developer on the WoW team, when I see people say “no one was asking for this,” that feels odd to me, because yes, someone did, we as devs asked for it. If you support the devs of games, please be aware that we also have opinions on inclusion in our games. – @valentine_irl, Senior UI Engineer, World of Warcraft”

“I can say with certainty that these changes did not come from requests from the c-suite, these changes came from demands from wow devs. – @kenandstuff”

“I love this. Honestly, I love ALL the changes. Many of them I remember writing down in a list of “if I could just change things that bugged me and made feel excluded/creeped out/gross over the years, it would be these.” BUT I SUPER LOVE when it’s adjusted to just make it equal. – @EmberFirehair, currently Senior Level Designer on Star Wars Hunters, previously with Blizzard.”

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Arktouros

Haha! I love it. Never discount the personal crusade when it comes to why things get changed.

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Utakata

Then queue in the apologists and Stans who missed the point of why folks are reasonably calling them meaningless changes, deliberate distractions and desperate acts…

…it should also be deemed that “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” nonsense as a logical fallacy if it hasn’t already. It certainly isn’t helping here.

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jealouspirate

Ah, it’s been a while now since I’ve been called a Blizzard apologist and stan. Like old times. It’s such a convenient way to miss the point.

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Utakata

No point was missed though, conveniently perceived or otherwise. /shrug

And what Ms. Bree said above.

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Arktouros

It’s frankly very weird to watch in some ways. Like above you have actual Blizz Dev tweets about how meaningful these changes are to them and they’re not distractions and then you have people claiming the exact opposite but I guess it’s those devs missing the point, not them?

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jealouspirate

It is weird to watch. A month ago people were saying “Blizzard has always behaved like immature teenage boys when it comes to women and sexuality. They need to grow up and change!”

Now it’s like “What the hell, they changed the name of my homie Master Baiter? Who does Blizzard think they are, the Taliban?”

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Utakata

Francesly it’s weird to watch posters here trip over themselves in not really getting it. These minuscule changes are fine in of themselves if it was demonstrated to be a starting point, but there needs to be far far more. Until such time, I remain skeptical and unconvinced of their motives and the will to change. And sorry bubs, that’s not an unreasonable position to take. /shrug

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Bruno Brito

Now it’s like “What the hell, they changed the name of my homie Master Baiter? Who does Blizzard think they are, the Taliban?”

I don’t know who you were witnessing with that one, but i think i can speak for Uta at least that our concerns are not in the slightest with Blizzard doing this stuff.

Our concerns is that it’s simply not enough, and it shouldn’t be. And if they only do that and don’t change their culture, then it’s a pretty empty gesture.

Personally, i don’t give a shit if Blizzard sanitizes the fuck out of their games. If the Blizzard universe becomes the island of Lost and everyone is just tossed there to fend for themselves, that…would actually be better than whatever the hell they’ve been writing for WoW these last two years.

As long as the people working there are not getting hurt and shoved aside while these small wink-winks get Blizzard even more spotlight time? I’m fine with it.

But to equate people that wants more from them ( 20 years of harassment is not something that is eraseable like NPC namers ) with the people that got pissed at Blizzard for changing to a more “PC” approach, when both these groups are the extreme opposite of each other, is pretty dishonest.

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Arktouros

when both these groups are the extreme opposite of each other, is pretty dishonest.

As dishonest as pretending like all Blizzard is doing is changing items in game and is not doing anything else at all?

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Bruno Brito

Where am i pretending they’re not doing anything else? I said it’s not enough, and it isn’t. Even MOP acknowledged that in their

WoW Factor: World of Warcraft replacing sexualized artwork misses the point

piece.

But i’m honestly not going to indulge you anymore, Ark. You’re someone who’s incapable of thinking anything but “eh, fuck it”, when it comes to these kinds of things, and while that in specific doesn’t bother me, it’s how you then goes into these sanctimonious bullshitty crusades trying to tell everyone how they’re extremists when all you are is a detached conformist prick who can’t relate to the pain of others enough to care and speak from a place of lowly privilege. And quite honestly, there’s nothing more pathetic than someone who sees this shit happening and all he can feel is “It’s not with me, so whatever”.

I look forward to start ignoring your smartassed devoid of worth long-winded corporate-fellating letters, and it took me long enough.

Bye. This won’t happen again. Ever.

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Utakata

This is a good reason to have a /kill file option here that repeatedly spams “You are being /ignored” every time they attempt to reply with their self-inflated turgid diarrhea in tedium. Just saying.

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Arktouros

They’ve already repeatedly stated multiple times they’re changing their culture. The devs who actually work there have even stated they’re given freedoms to change the products they support to reflect that new culture of theirs. The people who created and perpetrated the old culture are gone (having left or been fired). You continue to make statements like above with, “…if they don’t change their culture…” which is simply put dishonest given all factual evidence to the matter showing that they are.

I use far too many words to encapsulate my view as fuck it when it comes to these things. My “cold dispassion” puts me neatly at an objective viewpoint where I can recognize the problems and realistic, reasonable solutions. While I might not empathize with their pain I certainly recognize it and with a cooler head can see solutions to said pain. You by comparison have literally stated that you want to be angry and setup a perpetual anger loop so you can always be angry at the injustice of everything. Sounds extremely unhealthy to me, but good luck with that. Maybe in 10-20 years you’ll mature and grow exhausted being angry all the time.

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Arktouros

Oh and to be clear that reply was to you Bruno, can’t edit it at this point. My little troll likes to fantasize about me replying to them or something so wanted to be clear on that. I suppose as you say you’ll ignore me equally in turn as I do them (I do get a chuckle when they reference what I write) but I will say I largely enjoyed our conversations in the past and it’s unfortunate. It was interesting hearing about your culture and your father’s legal/union work and I feel richer as a person for it.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

There’s a difference between what they say and what they actually do. I think there’s and old proverb or some such that covers that. Most of us agree that the changes they are making in the game are small, but a step in the right direction.

However, we all know how these big corporations work, even those who have never been a cog in their works for decades like some of us. They still say one thing while doing another. Kotick shows no sign of accepting responsibility for this. Townsend is still there. They have not given any indication of separating from the union busting law firm. Nor have they given any indication that they take the concerns voiced by the workers group a serious priority. These types of things do not take an inordinate amount of time to resolve. So yes, they are making steps, but there’s a lot more that could have, and should have been done on top of that.

If there is one unalienable truth in the actions of a corporation, it’s to do the bare minimum possible and only after duress in situations such as this. And Blizzard still continues to follow that to a “T.” That is not deserving of any leeway, benefit of the doubt, praise, or any thing else of the kind. It only means that more effort and determination should be put forth to hold their feet to the fire.

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Utakata

The term I heard often used is “band aid solutions”, which addresses some of the wounds we see on the surface, but does not deal with the rot within that causes those wounds within. While giving the PR appearance the wound inflictors are doing something “positive” about it…

…it’s amazing how some folks are gullible enough that they can’t see this for it obviously is…and buying it, despite all their intellectual mumbo jumbo, posturing and anecdotes here.

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Arktouros

There’s a difference between what they say and what they actually do.

The issue I continue to take with this is that we can observe what actions they are actively taking. They fired people responsible for the toxic workplace atmosphere. They are allowing their employees the freedom to change the game in a way that better reflects the workplace environment they want. Further measures are certainly still in the discussion phase but so far what we’ve seen reported all things are looking like they are working towards the direction they should be going.

As someone who actively has been employed as a cog in a big corporation for many years lets be clear that you’re never going to achieve 100% transparency and visibility at a customer/consumer level. Just like these allegations and accusations came as a shock to us we likely in the future won’t hear about things both bad and good unless a developer feels like sharing their experiences. Also saying these things don’t take a great deal of time to implement is a completely dead wrong statement. I honestly don’t know where to begin without writing a novel, which I will write if you want it, but holy shit the wheels of a huge corporation move slow.

I don’t disagree that most corporations do the bare minimum as possible, but that also means when they’re caught on something they still have to do something. That means when Blizz was caught having a good-ol-boys club gutting most of the middle management there, leaving openings for new people to take over, and ultimately change to take place. Something we can verify from literal employee testimonials on Twitter talking about being able to make changes to products they always wanted to do. The assumption that nothing will change when the people who created that environment are literally gone is baffling. That doesn’t mean things will be better, either, as change is never guaranteed to be better, but like the implication of no change is just weird.

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DJ Meowth

TIL that male Tauren saying “Free rides for the ladies!” created an unsafe space for WoW’s developers.

I empathize with anyone at Blizzard right now who was subject to harassment, and I fully support their efforts to seek some form of restitution from the company – in the real world. But trying to scrub Azeroth of as much risque humor as possible? I think they’re being incredibly stupid.

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Bhagpuss Bhagpuss

“occasional mature innuendos ” – that’s the ironic use of “mature”, presumably?

EmberStar
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EmberStar

It’s the Internet use of it. Such as “I should be able to swear and make tasteless, vaguely racist jokes in general chat! This game is rated mature, anyone here should be adult enough to deal with it!” IE, “M for Mature is license to act completely immature.”

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Bruno Brito

Being honest with you, the only moment i’ve actually offended anyone by “being true to my identity” was when my identity was actually TO offend someone.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

Same here. And I’ve had an online identity since the original AOL chat room days.

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HawkeWar

The old culture at Blizzard is the current culture at Blizzard… they are basically doing what they do every time people complain about anything…offer a reskinned mount in the cash shop, this is slightly worse so “Here is the incubus you have been wanting since 2006. “

The toxic culture with the employees and the ever dwindling player base isn’t going anywhere.

Stefan
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Stefan

This is corporate speak through and through, one part states that things will stay as they were as they are part of the game identity the other part speaks of how they will be mindful so they feel non offensive to all players.

Anyone who has been online recently knows it is very much impossible to be true to an identity and not offend anyone.

Those things they state that ”probably always will be”, well the probably in there is a give away that it wont.
So they will still have a rather toxic culture and management but it is all good now because cleavages are being covered up in the name of coming across more sensitive.

Eliot Lefebvre
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Eliot Lefebvre

Anyone who has been online recently knows it is very much impossible to be true to an identity and not offend anyone.

Funny, I’ve been doing this job with a visible online presence for more than eleven years and it hasn’t ever been a problem.

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Estranged

Perhaps the “offended” just left the website unannounced.