Blizzard Entertainment says "#LoveWins" after years of homophobia and transmisogyny

Blizzard Entertainment tries to gain public favor by posting a hashtag in support of same-sex marriage on twitter, conveniently 'forgetting' about their long history of intolerance and discrimination.

On June 26th, the Supreme Court finally legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.  

In response, Blizzard Entertainment's Hearthstone twitter posted a picture of a disembodied titan fist with rainbow colors and the hashtag '#LoveWins'.

This is all well and good, but it seems relevant to point out that Blizzard Entertainment has a truly horrible history with LGBTQ related issues.  

Blizzard Entertainment tried to ban LGBTQ-friendly guilds

In 2006, a World of Warcraft player named Sara Andrews attempted to form a LGBTQ-friendly guild that was meant to be a safe space, free intolerance.  Blizzard responded to her extremely negatively, citing their anti-harassment policy of all things and asserting that:

Advertising sexual orientation is not appropriate for the high fantasy setting of theWorld of Warcraft.

They went on to inform her that her account would be banned if she did not cease and desist.  

Sara went public with her story and soon Blizzard was on the receiving end of a good deal of backlash from both the general public and also from legal standpoint.  Eventually, Blizzard crumbled and formally apologized to Sara and allowed her to create her guild.  However, the fact that they had to be publicly shamed into doing so does not reflect very well on them.

There has not been a single LGBTQ character in a Blizzard game.  

During a Q&A session at Blizzcon 2011, a lesbian gamer asked the head of creative development if they would ever include an LGBTQ character in any Blizzard property or media.  Blizzard’s creative director, Chris Metzen, responded with the open-ended:

It’s certainly a possibility.

While heavily implying that this “possibility” would only be realized in the form of an LGBTQ minor non-player character in a quest section of the game.  Afterwards, the lesbian gamer was harassed extensively and flamed on Blizzard’s online forums.

In the four years that have followed, the only follow-up to this “possibility” has been the inclusion of an in-game book featuring a male homosexual couple called “A Steamy Romance Novel: Savage Passions” as a part of Patch 6.0.2 from 2014.  However, considering that this couple exists solely in a novel that is just an item existing in game’s universe, they arguably can’t even be considered “characters."  A fictional-fictional person isn’t even at the level of a minor NPC.    

Repeated insensitivity about homophobic slurs

In another incident from Blizzcon 2011, a video interview with George Fisher (the lead singer of Cannibal Corpse) using numerous homophobic slurs was broadcast to the Blizzcon crowds. 

While the content was loosely censored for the audience, the complete interview includes phrases such as:

Go fucking cry in a river and tell me about how you’re going to slit your wrists you Night Elf f*****. 

Blizzard’s art director, Sam Didier, endorsed the video and then invited the band to play on stage as a part of the convention’s closing ceremony. 

A week later, due to the negative feedback from Blizzard fans, president Mike Morhaime submitted a letter of apology for how insensitive it was to show the video.

Blizzard has stated that diversity "is just not a priority."

In 2014, in an MIT Media Lab event, the then-chief creative officer Rob Pardo, when asked specifically about diversity in Blizzard games, responded:

I wouldn’t say that’s really a value for us. It’s not something that we’re against either, but it’s just not … something we’re trying to actively do.

At the same event, Game Director Dustin Browder added, when questioned about the sexualization of the female hero characters:

We’re not sending a message. Nobody should look to our game for that.

"Trying to do better."

Two months after the MIT Media Lab event, a fan posted an open letter to Blizzard Entertainment's president, Mike Morhaime, stating that after almost 10 years of playing Blizzard's games, they could no longer continue supporting a company that seemed to devalue them so extensively.  

The comments made by Mr. Pardo and Mr. Browder, speaking as employees of Blizzard Entertainment, seem to imply that representing people like me will never be a priority to the company. They seem to be suggesting I go elsewhere. 

Mike Morhaime responded to this letter with a personal apology and a promise that the company would try to change for the better.

There is no reason why inclusivity should come at the expense of an amazing game experience.

I speak for everyone at Blizzard when I say that we will always remain open to feedback and discussions to help us improve. This will be an ongoing process for us—it’s likely that we will make mistakes again in the future, but we will continue to listen, learn, and grow. 

Making significantly offensive and hurtful mistakes and then apologizing for them after the fact has consistently been Blizzard's preferred mode of operation.  Unfortunately, apologies only mean something if they are followed by honest attempts to improve.  Morhaime made this apology and promise a year ago and there have been thus far no results from Blizzard to show for it. 

As it is, claiming that they are now supportive of LGBTQ rights in light of the recent shift in legislative priorities does not seem earned as they have repeatedly failed to be supportive in the past.

Such a diluted endorsement just looks like a poorly disguised attempt to jump on a PR bandwagon.  

Published Jul. 3rd 2015
View Comments
  • Durinn McFurren
    It may be a PR thing, or hopefully, it is an indication that they will try to change their handling of these topics.
  • Tom_8662
    This article hits the head on the nail. As far as LGBT progress goes, Blizzard has had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the present. Blizzard dug their heels into the ground, so to speak, with regards to every situation and infraction that involved the LGBT community. They stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that there is ever a problem and never admit to any wrongdoing until they're backed into a corner and even then they never act on their words of apology unless they are forced. (See the above situation with Sara Andrews as per example)

    Here's the line in the sand: Most straight folks don't see that there's a problem because, to them, there is no problem. Human beings, by default, view the world from their own perspective, first and foremost. Well, from a heterosexual perspective, there is no problem. Everything is well within parameters and everything is okey-dokey. Heteronormativism is the law of the land and every single character is heterosexual because we are living in a "hetero until proven homo" society. (This is further complicated by the fact that simply being "homo" is seen as an extreme negative and worthy of derision and hate) So, by hetero standards, there is no problem. They are represented and feel vindicated through their media.

    However, from an LGBT point of view, this couldn't be farther from the truth. They are invisible and are treated as if their representation is something vulgar and unseemly... And so the back and forth goes on...

    I also thought it was quite interesting (in my opinion, TELLING) that it wasn't the MAIN Blizzard/Warcraft Twitter/Facebook account that posted it's support for Marriage Equality... it was Hearthstone. It was almost as if it were a measured PR stunt.

    "Okay, now we know that the gays can finally get married and all the companies are showing their support... Now, we don't want anything to do with that but if we don't say something, someone will get pissed and say we're homophobic. What do we do?"

    "How about this... we don't say anything on our 'main' accounts and just have the 'Hearthstone' FB account post a #LoveWins picture! That way we can minimize the amount of people who would see it so as to not upset our anti-gay players yet we can can also argue that we did support the SCOTUS ruling because we DID post something!"

    "Good idea! Show the least amount of support that we can possibly get away with so as to avoid being associated with homosexuality ... yet by showing the minimum amount of support, we avoid being branded as homophobes! Excellent! What an ingenious PR damage control maneuver to sidestep the problem! Bah... it's getting harder and harder to ignore those queers and keep them out of our games! I mean... yes, we want their money but we don't want them in our games. I mean, c'mon!"
  • phelix_4117
    "we don't want them in our games".

    Please see my post below. Both you and the original author of the article are being intellectually dishonest by ignoring (or being intellectually lazy by not researching) facts, while making statements contrary to those facts.
  • phelix_4117
    There have been homosexual characters in World of Warcraft. Please do your research. There have been flirting and quite blatant hints in the past, but a little under a year ago they added an in-game book called "A Steamy Romance Novel: Savage Passions", which explicitly describes (with an illustration to boot!) two men having romantic relations. Please correct your article, as the statement "There has not been a single LGBTQ character in a Blizzard game." is utterly false.
  • Sam Yoo
    Featured Contributor
    This may be a matter of opinion, but I don't believe that characters that exist only in a fictional book that exists within the fictional universe of a game count as representation. That's two layers of abstraction from reality. Maybe you think that should be sufficient, but I personally (and quite a lot of other people in the queer community) would respectfully disagree with you.
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    I can't think of a better company on this planet. Blizzard is made up of some of the nicest people, look at Mike Morhaime, he's like the mascot of the timid, kind hearted geek culture. Oh, but there isn't an obviously gay character in their game, they must hate gay people, burn them to the ground!
  • Fiskal
    I feel the need to point this out that George Fisher of Cannibal Corpse was merely joking and was not serious about his wow rant that was shown at Blizzcon. Despite the band and the first impression, George is a really nice and friendly guy and is not homophobic. The video shown at blizzcon was recorded at a metal festival in around 2006-2007 and was not produced NOR endorsed by Blizzard. Blizzard recognized it after it went around the web and decided to endorse George, not his video.

    They showed the video at Blizzcon to introduce George as a huge nerd who likes wow, not as a homophobic and offensive person. It's honestly part of the joke: He plays horde and he really hates the alliance. That's it.

    Another thing that confuses me, especially regarding the comment by Ford James in terms of representation, is that there has been many homosexual and possibly transgendered characters in the game. The point is, is that it doesn't matter if they're gay, straight, trans, whatever you want to say, it doesn't matter in the big picture because the label does not define the character themselves. Taking chromie for example, she has a male dragon's name, but appears female and uses feminine pronouns and is rumoured to be trans. Being trans or not would change nothing about her at all. Absolutely nothing.

    Labels don't mean shit. No one cares if they're gay or straight, I believe that Azeroth has more important things to do than worry about social issues that possibly do not exist in their universe. I don't think a character's sexual orientation has ever been shoved in my face too much, and I couldn't care less.

    I know that representation is important but in all honesty I do not believe that a game where most people focus on pumping out numbers and pvp needs to focus on social issues. It's a game and it shouldn't have to. LGBTQ guilds have no place, just as straight guilds, race-specific guilds, and any other such guilds have no place. It's not because they should not be allowed, but those who are homophobic, racist, transphobic, etc will have a hard time harassing people if it wasn't thrown in their face like a carrot on a stick. I don't know why people cannot realize that obvious fact.

    There are far more important things in the world to fight for in terms of gay rights and trans rights than worrying about a videogame and spreading misinformation on a public news forum.
  • Ford James
    Featured Contributor
    I take a lot of issues with this article, because I side with Blizzard.

    1. Blizzard Entertainment tried to ban LGBTQ-friendly guilds

    And so they should. I am in full support of same sex marriage and am fully behind the LGBTQ movement, however there's a time and a place for things like that. While I disagree with the people that disagree with same sex marriage, I respect their opinion and people with that belief undoubtedly play WoW. Would a guild purely in support of heterosexual people fly with the community? No, probably not. The WoW LGBTQ community shouldn't get special privileges just because there's less of them.

    2. There has not been a single LGBTQ character in a Blizzard game.

    Who the fuck cares? I'll use the same argument for this that I use against SJW's who are furious about story driven games not being given a female protagonist: The developer has a vision for the story and the game, if that doesn't include an LGBTQ character then so be it. Nobody would be furious about a book or a film not including a character with a specific sexual orientation, so why should a game?

    3. Repeated insensitivity about homophobic slurs

    I can't defend the fact the video was endorsed by Blizzard themselves, because I can see how some people may be offended by it. However, realistically, thick skin is just needed in that scenario. The guy in the video is pretty obviously quite tipsy, if not more drunk. And it was pretty hilarious. But, again, the fact a Blizzard employee endorsed it isn't too defendable.

    4. Blizzard has stated that diversity "is just not a priority."

    That's fair enough. Diversity not being a priority isn't a problem; just because it's the hot topic in this day and age doesn't mean Blizzard have to go out of their way to defend it. If people are really offended by Blizzard saying they'd prefer to focus on other aspects of their game rather than pandering to the LGBTQ community, then simply boycott their games.

    5. "Trying to do better."

    I disagree with the fan's letter. 'They seem to be suggesting I go elsewhere.' No, they're not suggesting that at all. The fact they have other priorities isn't discriminating against the LGBTQ community as it's simply something that isn't relevant to their games.

    The image posted by may well be jumping on a PR bandwagon but there isn't anything wrong with that. Legalisation of same sex marriages in the US is huge news and was all over Twitter all day. They're not an outspoken homophobic company, they'd be stupid NOT to post #LoveWins.
  • The Soapbox Lord
    Featured Contributor
    Well-stated. Mad props for a triple post to boot!

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