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Blizzard's Morhaime: Diversity  is  in our values
Blizzard's Morhaime: Diversity is in our values
July 10, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

"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."
- Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime

Last week, a concerned Blizzard fan known as "Starcunning" posted an open letter to CEO Mike Morhaime calling for the developer to increase the diversity of its game casts, to better reflect the diversity of its fan base.

Today, Starcunning posted Morhaime's response -- in which the Blizzard CEO vows to make a concerted effort to address the issues the company has so far had with diversity and inclusion.

"I want to start by saying that we’re grateful to have such a diverse and passionate player base, and we want everyone to feel welcome, safe, and included in our games and communities," Morhaime wrote.

Fans should not worry, however, as Morhaime says that the company will not force things: "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 why inclusivity should come at the expense of an amazing game experience."

This comes as an about-face for the company; former chief creative officer Rob Pardo recently said that social progressiveness wasn't "really a value for us," and "We're not trying to bring in serious stuff, or socially relevant stuff, or actively trying to preach for diversity or do things like that."

This came after Heroes of the Storm director Dustin Browder was forced to apologize for comments defending overly sexualized female character designs in his game. "We're just making characters who look cool," Browder wrote.

The statements of both Pardo and Browder said that epic and fun were at the core of the company's values; diversity was not. Morhaime says they can co-exist, and the company is making efforts to make its "games and stories are as epic and inclusive as possible."

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Robert Carter
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"We're just making characters who look cool,"

Why should he have apologized for this comment? That is what they are trying to do and there's nothing wrong with that. With the exception of Heathstone their games really have gotten stale, and so they should be focusing more on gameplay over either what looks 'cool' or fake social inclusiveness. Honestly, Blizzard has a pretty diverse cast without going out of their way for it, simply because it worked for the story, which is the correct way to build a diverse set of characters. Otherwise you end up looking like a McDonalds commercial with a painfully forced casting.

And are we supposed to regress to where female cast has to cover up in a full gown, lest they be frowned upon by society? Its not like their guy characters are any less smoking hot, but no one ever complains about that. Why is it okay for one gender to flout its stuff, but the other shouldnt? Let Blizzard do what they want with their characters. Sure, some are designed to be sexy. Why is that an issue they should apologize for?

Kaitlyn Kaid
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"And are we supposed to regress to where female cast has to cover up in a full gown, lest they be frowned upon by society?"

I think there is a LOT of healthy middle ground between "full gown" and the chainmail bikini / boob-plate that seems to be the constant staple in many Blizzard games.

"Sure, some are designed to be sexy. Why is that an issue they should apologize for?"

It's not just "some". As I said below, I can only think of two that are not pinup, supermodel body types and dressed to make sure that everyone knows it. There is a very big difference between the power fantasy that goes into the design of their male characters ("guys want to be them") vs the very obvious appeal of their females ("guys want to be WITH them"). When their male characters are dressed to show off, what is it that they are showing? Muscle, muscle and more muscle, never the equivalent range of secondary characteristics that you see them flaunt in the females (chest, butts, thighs etc...). So while both are "skimpy", one is done so to show of their strength, the other to show off their appeal to the opposite gender.

Robert Carter
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I disagree. First, the complaints spawned not off of chainmail bikinis, but off of a legit roller derby costume that wasnt sexed up. So, you are creating a red herring there. Second, youre assuming that women dont want to be with the guy characters and/or assuming they dont want to be the female characters. I know for a fact from many friends who love to cosplay that you are wrong either way.

Yes, some women would rather dress in heavy battle armor and look more badass than sexy (not that the two are exclusive, quite the contrary in fact) and blizzard does do that too (Much high end wow armor, diablo armor, though not much on the SC front). There are guys who would rather wear skimpy armor for cosplay too, and dont want to look like a behemoth with shoulder plates the size of an SUV. Dont stereotype people either way.

Men in these games show off muscles while the women show off curves, and you say that that is a bad thing, or unrealistic? Look at how people dress the next time you go out. At the beach, at the bar, at work even. Most men try to highlight their muscles and most women try to highlight their curves. Thats what the majority like to show. Being a member of Crossfit, I know several women who would rather showcase muscle, being bi I know men who would rather showcase curves.

But there is nothing wrong with not wanting to break the mold, just like theres nothing wrong with wanting to break the mold. Let Blizzard do as they please

Kaitlyn Kaid
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Real life fashion is not exactly the best place to look for gender equality.

Robert Carter
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Forgot to mention;

"I think there is a LOT of healthy middle ground between "full gown" and the chainmail bikini / boob-plate that seems to be the constant staple in many Blizzard games."

I do agree with this statement. Though I dont mind a little creative freedom for what constitutes as functioning armor, but its hard to keep the suspension of disbelief when a warrior is wearing a protective garment covering less than my underwear, unless it is specifically worked into the story or character (Conan running into battle shirtless, for example, since he is a reckless barbarian who would enjoy the increased danger of the fight)

Robert Carter
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Someone elses videogame is not the best place to look for gender equality. Its also about as bad as forcing real life fashion to change by forcing your view upon others.

They put in multiple years of their lives into a game, let them make it the way they want.

Kaitlyn Kaid
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Who's forcing? Pointing out a flaw in something isn't forcing someone to fix it, they are totally open to choose to leave things as they are but they would have to live with the fallout that choice brings.

As they say, freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom of the consequences of that speech. They are totally welcome to make a sexist game, but they need to accept that people are going to call them on that.

No game is perfect, and no game (nor the industry as a whole) will ever get better if every time someone has a criticism they are shot down with people screaming over them with "LET THEM MAKE THE GAME THEIR WAY!" from the peanut gallery. Blizzards gender balance is a fair criticism of their writing, if you have any argument against that criticism, please bring it... but blanket excuses have no place in a critique.

Robert Carter
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"Whos forcing?"

The director was forced to apologize for the comment "We're just making characters who look cool," when talking about a character wearing a legitimate roller derby costume with no added sex appeal. ->Forced<- to apologize. And I dont believe there was a flaw with the costumes or characters.

"They are totally welcome to make a sexist game..."

Red herring, as they have NOT made a sexist game. Having sexy characters does not make your game sexist. No one told Kerrigan she cant run the zerg army due to her gender, no one told Diablo that he is a lesser evil now that he possessed a woman, and Blizzard has not had strong characters like Proudmore give in to weak characters like Arthas because he is a man. You are either misunderstanding the definition of that word or are slandering the games creators because they have NOT made a sexist game.

"No game will ever get better if every time someone has a criticism they are shot down with people screaming over them with "LET THEM MAKE THE GAME THEIR WAY!" from the peanut gallery."

I am not shooting down your criticism because it is a criticism. In fact, I have supplied several of my own in these posts. What I am saying is your criticism of how their characters look is off the mark. That is not to say it is legitimate, if the blizzard cast does not appeal to you that is fine. But saying that their games are sexist is false, incredibly so. The costume in question was not the bikini chainmail so many are mentioning, and that is because the costume in question was fine.

And even if there was an alternate costume with bikini chainmail, why is that so bad? What if Raynor wears a speedo? who cares, its an alternate costume made to be humorous in the context of the battle royale the character is participating in!

Robert Carter
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"if you have any argument against that criticism, please bring it... "

I have listed several arguments against that exact point in our discussions. They were largely ignored in most of your responses. Ill list a few more.

* Kerrigan, Jaina, Sylvanas, and several other main characters are strong women who deal with incredibly difficult situations in their life. Most every female character overcomes that towering hurdle, each in their own way. These characters were not developed because someone wanted to meet a quota of fake inclusiveness, they were created organically as the story formed.

*There are a ton of female characters in Blizzard games that are actively affecting the world on a grand scale. Kerrigan is a bigger name than Raynor. Nova was originally going to have her own game. Magitha planned the assassination of a world leader, and duped one of the strongest characters into doing the dirty work. Jaina is doing more than any to guide a King with unstable emotions and unite the races under one banner.

* On that note, the King of Stormwind (forget his name) is an emotionally unstable, violent, bloodthirsty man whereas Jaina is a calm, understanding, intelligent leader. Both are great at leading their people in their own way, but the King would have been lost without Jaina many times. This relationship alone proves the exact opposite of your point.

* Some of the female cast are one note (Looking at you Nova), but so are many of the male cast. Mengsk is a boring one note villain who is only somewhat cool to watch due to an amazing voice actor. Arthas had such potential in WC3 and I felt they just turned him into a one note derp. Even Garrosh, who was very intricate and struggled with the guilt of cheating Carine of a fair match, has become a boring villain. Blizzard should focus more on character development than character wardrobe

* Deciding that your character would dress in an appealing way isnt sexist. Its realistic. The costume being questioned here wasnt even outlandish, it was perfectly normal. And deciding to dress sexy isnt something to be shamed anyway, especially when you are dressing up for fun (going out, cosplay, etc), which is essentially what an alternate costume is!

Im not saying they shouldnt expand their cast. Im saying it should happen organically, not due to people demanding something as opposed to doing it themselves. There are PLENTY of criticisms of Blizzard I wish they would listen to, and painfully unrealistic outfits, as well as generic done-a-thousand-times outfits are one of those.

But saying that their games are sexist because they feature an 'unbalanced cast' is false, as the cast is quite diverse (as my examples show). Saying that they should change their character design because an alternate costume looks attractive is wrong. I have listed many arguments against your criticism, in this post and in others. Please do not act like I have just been saying "blanket excuses" as you put it.

Troy Walker
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I'm not buying this at all...

If they permit their IP "Hearthstone" to be used in a tournament in which women are not allowed to compete, I just don't buy this crap about diversity at all... a completely meaningless gesture related to "imaginary" characters in an imaginary game. How about getting REAL about diversity, and pull the plug for use of your product in an environment that discriminates against women...

whomever is complainng about "imaginary" characters in an imaginary world as being a lack of "diversity".. someone needs to get the hell of their ass and go outside into the real world, and look at real discrimination instead of crying about it on the intardweb.. like I am, right now doing. see, even I can be a hypocrite.

stupid intardweb.

Justin Kovac
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You must have missed their response to that tournament, which came less than 24 hours when the story broke:

Blizzard has been in contact with the organization about the segregation imposed upon tournaments of its card game Hearthstone and understood that it updated the rules "to make it clear that their Hearthstone tournament will be open to all players."

"One of our goals with eSports is to ensure that there's a vibrant and also inclusive community around our games," Blizzard said in a statement provided to Polygon. "We do not allow the use of our games in tournaments that do not support this, and are working with our partners to ensure they share the same goal."

I really do not think their eSports team knew about it. Really no one knew about it until someone posted a picture of the rules of the qualifier.

Mark Velthuis
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"Fans should not worry, however, as Morhaime says that the company will not force things"
"Heroes of the Storm director Dustin Browder was forced to apologize"

Am I the only one seeing 2 conflicting statements here ?
Even if you were to make a distinction between forcing things in games and forcing things in community management, forcing Browder to apologize sets certain expectations with fans. If they don't do anything about the issue, the apology holds no value. If they do act on it, it will be seen by many as forced, since the catalyst could have been his forced apology.

Matthew Doyle
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LOL. More diversity in a Blizzard game? Ha ha! That really made me laugh. You can play zombies, orcs, minotaurs, gnomes, males and females, any shade of skin color you want.... Wow. Will this never end? Stop the madness. You're playing a cartoon orc.

I laughed myself silly when I read this line from Starcunning's open letter - and I quote:

"...the characters in World of Warcraft who are black are black dragons and often turn out to be villainous."

Really? OMG. Black dragons are rascists symbols of white oppression apparently. If it weren't for all those nasty black dragons in WoW, we'd finally have racial harmony in this world. Time for a protest sign. I'll be out on the corner of the street later today if anyone wants to join me.

Kaitlyn Kaid
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can you name a single human in the warcraft series who wasn't white?

Robert Carter
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Why focus on the humans? Can you play a troll whos not blue? A Night Elf whos not purple? A goblin whos not green? In the WC world, humans were based off of medieval Europe, and there are such a plethora of races that it makes sense to simplify each.

You also stated WarCraft specifically, because the other two games, which have less races overall, have a much wider range of humans.

That said, I dont think it matters how diverse the humans are. If you cant relate to a character that doesnt look like you, thats your problem not Blizzards. I relate to characters based on their personality and traits, not their race, so it is irrelevant to me whether or not the character is white (which I am not).

Kaitlyn Kaid
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"Can you play a troll whos not blue? A Night Elf whos not purple? A goblin whos not green?"

Is there any indication that breaking those skin tones are even possible in the lore? Orcs come in green and brown, there are both as playable skintones and both feature MAJORLY in the lore.

This has never been about "can't relate", it's about a lore with a mono-culture problem. The story could be so much BETTER without every hero, villain and nearly 100% of the supporting cast being male.

If it is as irrelevant to you as you say, why do you oppose expanding the cast of characters to include a broader selection of archetypes?

Robert Carter
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"... every hero, villain and nearly 100% of the supporting cast being male. "

Yeah, that Kerrigan, the main antagonist and then main protagonist sure is the perfect example of every character being male. And Jaina Proudmore. And Sylvanas. And Leah Cain. And Adria. And Azshara. And Onyxia. And Magatha Grimtotem. The list goes on. If you think that "nearly 100%" of the supporting cast is male, you really arent paying attention.

"if it is as irrelevant to you as you say, why do you oppose expanding the cast of characters to include a broader selection of archetypes?"

I dont. I oppose people forcing them to do so. Brower was forced to apologize for creating characters he wanted to create, and his team wanted to create, and that isnt right.

Jakub Majewski
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Kaitlyn - what makes you think humans in the Warcraft universe actually exist in any other colours than white?

Now, granted, people of other ethnicities could well complain about that - but it would be a valid choice, wouldn't it? I mean, there's no reason why every fantasy universe should include ethnic diversity amongst its human population.

Katy Smith
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The Heroes of the Storm controversy reminds me of something my friends and I say at Halloween: I can be anything that I want as long as it's sexxxy!

I'm glad Blizzard is realizing they have an audience that is tired of the overuse of chain mail bikinis.

Katy Smith
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Oh grumblecakes! Double post :(