There is no use denying that diversity is a big part of modern video games. Many progressive developers have begun striving for a diverse amount of representation for different races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities and even religions. With such a huge push for representing the diversity of the gamer communities within games, the issues that Blizzard has faced in recent years has shown that not every developer is ready or willing to move into a more diverse environment for games and gamers alike. The views that Blizzard has expressed over the years have brought down a maelstrom of criticism and disgust from gamers who are seeking to make games a welcoming environment that includes characters of all shapes and sizes.
Blizzard has recently issued statements about diversity within the games they are developing. This comes especially on the heels of a largely inappropriate “April Fool’s” joke in which a character design for a female character was adjusted to have odd facial features and large breasts. This slight against women by Blizzard did not go unnoticed, as the disproportioned and over-sexualized draeni figure made many women uncomfortable , and even caused a backlash of boycotts and a mass exodus of women from many unrelated Blizzard games. Along with this figure model which insultingly places women at the butt of a sexist “joke”, the “Warlords of Draenor” expansion was announced with the removal of largely important female characters. The bigger issue was caused not by the absence of female characters, but the reasons behind this removal of multiple strong female characters. Warlords was described as “more of a boy’s trip,” which heavily implied the exclusion of diverse representation at all in the coming expansion pack.
These issues have caused trouble for Blizzard, and Blizzard’s President Michael Morhaime himself has apologized for a multitude of issues within the Blizzard community, especially the recent issues of sexism both within and without the games that Blizzard develops. In responding to a letter by a long-time female WoW player, Morhaime writes-
We are very conscious of the issues you raise and are discussing them now more than ever, at every level of the company, in an effort to make sure that our games and stories are as epic and inclusive as possible. Blizzard’s employees form a broad and diverse group of that cares deeply about the experiences we are creating for our players. And we know that actions speak louder than words, so we are challenging ourselves to draw from more diverse voices within and outside of the company and create more diverse heroes and content. We are also actively looking at our story development and other processes to ensure our values are fully represented. We’ve always believed that positive, lasting change comes from examination, discussion, and iteration, and this applies as much to story as to gameplay. There is no reason that inclusivity should come at the expense of an amazing game experience.
While this apology does seem to address the issues, seeing the evidence that Blizzard is actually listening to it’s fan-base will have to be proven by a drastic change in the way that Blizzard makes their characters and stories. There is a vast array of female characters at Blizzard’s disposal, and a large female consumer base to draw from. There is very little reason for the company to remain as exclusive for women as it has been of late. While video games may have begun as a male-dominated hobby, the 21st Century has seen a rise in female let’s-players, female developers, female pro-gamers, and female characters that better represent the larger population of women within the game industry. Both male and female gamers are seeking a change in the sexist practices of multiple developers and publishes in the video game industry, and hopefully a change is coming soon.