Monday, October 31, 2011

Blizzard in a Teacup?

Blizzard is one of the world's leading computer game companies responsible for World of Warcraft, the world's most successful subscription-based game of all time. Cannibal Corpse is a death metal band from New York.

I used to play World of Warcraft for years and enjoy it a lot until I realized that playing it properly required treating it as a part-time job. When a computer game becomes more demanding than a husband, baby and two dogs combined you know there's a problem. Cannibal Corpse is a band I was very very vaguely aware of other than the fact that they make dreadful music.

The two were involved in a little scandal recently at a Blizzard Convention where the band played and the organizers aired an edited version of a clip showing George Fisher, a member of the band, ranting against players from the opposite faction with plenty of homophobic slurs and wishing to see them commit suicide. Wonderful stuff.

Here's the video: You have a much higher stamina for douchebaggery than me if you can watch this video to the end.

There was obviously lots of fuss in internet forums and apologies were issued by both the president of Blizzard, Mike Morhaime, as well as George Fisher.

Morhaime's apology:

Dear members of the Blizzard community,

I have read your feedback and comments about this year’s BlizzCon, and I have also read the feedback to the apology from Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain. I’d like to respond to some of your feedback here.

As president of Blizzard, I take full responsibility for everything that occurs at BlizzCon.

It was shortsighted and insensitive to use the video at all, even in censored form. The language used in the original version, including the slurs and use of sexual orientation as an insult, is not acceptable, period. We realize now that having even an edited version at the show was counter to the standards we try to maintain in our forums and in our games. Doing so was an error in judgment, and we regret it.

The bottom line is we deeply apologize for our mistakes and for hurting or offending anyone. We want you to have fun at our events, and we want everyone to feel welcome. We’re proud to be part of a huge and diverse community, and I am proud that so many aspects of the community are represented within Blizzard itself.

As a leader of Blizzard, and a member of the band, I truly hope you will accept my humblest apology.

- Mike Morhaime President, Blizzard Entertainment

Fisher's apology:

Hey guys, we read and heard all the feedback from BlizzCon this year. The Corpsegrinder bit was never intended to be taken seriously. We are sorry that we offended anyone; everything at our shows is just meant in fun. Thank you all for speaking up. We’ll definitely keep this in mind for future shows. Our humblest apologies, Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain

I frequently visit The Chaos Engine, a forum for video game industry professionals and a discussion started there where many of the posters didn't see what the big deal was. The main arguements were that the video was edited so you had to look up the original video to be offended by the words and that there was no actual intention to hurt gay people and the slurs weren't aimed at anyone directly.

Lets start with the fact that this man is married and a father. He's not some 14 year old boy who doesn't know better and repeats words he heard from his peers without fully understanding them. With that in mind, possible homophobia aside, one must wonder what is wrong with that man to make him talk like a mentally challenged moron in the first place and then wonder what is wrong with whoever it was at Blizzard to think that this video was worth showing, beeped or not. Is that how little they think of their own fan-base: that they would find any entertainment value in some old dirty slob cursing and ranting?

The beeped up excuse is weak. Obviously when Blizzard showed the video it made curious people look up the original video to hear what was really said. If the beeped out words were slurs against blacks, Jews or Muslims Blizzard wouldn't have touched it with a five feet pole. It would have been PR radioactive waste. But the person who picked up that video thought that anti-gay slurs were not really that bad and somehow less offensive.

Here's the thing: Treating homophobia as a lesser bigotry contributes to a homophobic culture, especially among young impressionable people. This fuels homophobic bullying which ends up in suicide at worst and at "just" misery at best. It's the same homophobic culture that allows gay rights to be a political issue that is discussed openly when no political party will ever dream to openly discuss laws that affect the rights of other minority groups such as blacks or Jews. The message to young people right now is that being a homophobe is a perfectly acceptable and socially accepted position.

The battle against homophobia is waged on many fronts. As well as spreading a positive messages to young gay people it's also important to curb stomp any intentional or unintentional negative messages.

As a closeted gay teenager no one attacked me personally because not one single soul in the world knew and I planned to carry that secret to the grave. Yet it was so painful to hear gay slurs used as pejoratives, especially from family and friends - Even when it wasn't aimed at me. If 15 year old me was a Blizzard fan it would've been very painful. I'm 33, married and with a kid now, so I can shrug it off with mild annoyance, but I know how many people in a more fragile place in their life feel. When I put myself in their place, which is quite easy based on past experience, I get angry.

Hearing all of these homophobic slurs that weren't meant to hurt me personally hurt a lot. It reinforced my feeling that something was very wrong with me, that people like me were defected and that the best thing we can ever become is the butt of a joke - pun intended. Did it make me consider suicide? Yep, a couple of times. But I guess you go for it when you are more afraid of living than you are afraid of dying. Fortunately back then I was afraid of living, but I was far more afraid of dying so it was never an option I seriously considered. If it wasn't for my friends, family, hobbies and imagination it might have been a different matter.

It's not the end of the world. If I was still playing World of Warcraft this would have not made me stop playing. It won't kill Blizzard to put some money into a relevant charity like The Trevor Project to show they are truly sorry. They make mountains of money (probably a couple of millions since you started reading this blog post) and won't miss it and it will be a much better use for the PR budget than airing beeped videos of ranting morons. It might make their apology feel more sincere and at the very least something positive will come out of all of this.



Mark said...

Ah, Mick, I don't know what to tell you. I never knew that you went through such a rough time coming out.
To tell you the truth, I could only listen to about two minutes of that recording. But that's because I got bored with it and I can't stand people being loud and trashy like that. Sadly though, I don't get so offended by his words. I know, I probably should be. I suppose if I put them on the same level as insulting race and religion as you had mentioned, then I guess I could get upset.
Unless one calls someone a Faggot or a Nigger directly, it doesn't move me.
Don't hate me, it's just how I think.
Look, the guy's douche-bag, no two ways around it. But at the same time, I don't think that he's a Gay hater and I'm not sure that young impressionable kids will take that as license to hate Gays.
I think I'll be done now.
Did I let you down?

Mickey said...

I explained my position in quite a bit of detail, so there's no point to repeat it. We obviously strongly disagree and we can leave it at that.

We're allowed to do that.

I don't know if you watch Harry's Law, but episode 4 in series 2 which aired a couple of weeks ago makes almost exactly the same arguments I do. Maybe Kathy Bates will make my points sound more convincing.

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