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.

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.  

About the author

Sam Yoo

I'm here, I'm queer, and I'm very tired.