Homophobia at Blizzcon and Beyond

Trigger warning: Homophobic language. I also use “queer” occasionally to describe people across the GSM (Gender and Sexuality Minority) spectrum.

I’m sure by now, by way of either the forums or various other blogs on the subject, you’ve all heard about the Blizzcon incident with Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain and Corpsegrinder from Cannibal Corpse. For those of you who have been outside the reach of social media this entire time, the summation is this – during the L90ETC opening act, Blizzard showed a video of Corpsegrinder talking about Alliance calling us “homo” and “cocksuckers.”  He goes on to call blood elves “queers” and “faggots.” Corpsegrinder then took the stage with the band and proceeded to call out the Alliance again before going into the set. There’s some contention as to whether the video was bleeped out or not, but despite any editing or not, Blizzard made a really horrible decision to give this person both a platform and audience for this homophobic grossness. What is deeply ironic is what was going on with me during Blizzcon when this all went down, hence why I don’t remember this very well.  As Mythrai wrote at her own blog:

Strangely, when the Corpsegrinder incident occurred, I was taking advantage of the (supposedly) shorter lines for the Diablo III demo with Apple Cider Mage and sucksmybrain about the Lore Q&A discussion around explicit LGBT characters in upcoming WoW stories, and how excited we’d all be if that came true.   We tossed around cheery ideas about Quae and Kinelory, Koltira and Thassarian, Sassy Hardwrench (come on, with a name like that, you know Sassy is an enterprising young gay goblin.)  To come out from that discussion to find that degrading homophobia was being played, promoted and even implicitly supported by the Blizzard team at the same time we were feeling hopeful about being represented by a major gaming company we loved and supported… saying it was a crushing blow is putting it mildly.

Coming back to the hotel that night to start reading Tweets and forum posts about what occurred was shocking and hurtful. How could Blizzcon support this? Over a Horde/Alliance conflict no less? People were jumping up to make it about some stupid video game faction dispute when the larger problem was looming there. Homophobia should never be a part of a company’s public face, especially at an event that features many, many fans that are queer, gay, or transgendered. Some of whom I hung out with a majority of my weekend and had great times with. Some of whom are me, even. Allowing someone like Corpsegrinder to express the same bigoted language and slurs that we hear in battlegrounds, trade chat, and even in our guilds and raids is damaging. It means Blizzard is condoning that language as a company, despite having rules in their TOS against it.

People started writing letters to the company post-haste, posts were written, petitions were created. A forum threads was eventually made (with a lackluster blue response), and L90ETC apologized. To some people, all it read as was “I’m sorry you are offended” which to some of us this is never an apology, merely a dismissal of the audience’s feelings.  It wasn’t until Mike Morhaime himself (president of Blizzard, also member of the band) stepped up to offer the more sincere of the apologies. My hope is that Blizzard really takes this incident to heart and forever changes their public face in regards to what kind of language they support out of their company, as well as a harsher look at their audience. My deepest desire is that maybe they even make good on their Q&A panel admission that they might see fit to include more LGBT characters in their game should they fit. Unfortunately, regardless of what Blizzard does, a situation still remains looming over our heads.

Because, really, the problem here on a more daily basis is not the giant company. It is society and nerd culture. Blizzard fucked up but the people we play this video game do not even see the error of their ways, despite playing with queer people on a regular basis. Rising numbers of social minorities of all stripes are playing World of Warcraft, and yet the audience still talks and reads unspeakably cis-gendered, straight, white male. This was never more evident than by watching the live raid that also took place at Blizzcon and seeing Blood Legion using racial slurs against a well-known priest called Kinaesthesia (of Learn2Raid fame) from Vodka as well as other inflammatory language and unsportsmanlike conduct. If these are the “leaders” of the raiding community, why does the rank and file have to act better than them?

It galls me and makes me incredibly angry that this is still what we have to deal with every day in the nerdy community and I am set on calling it out wherever I see it. I hope the rest of you have the strength to as well (but I can understand if you don’t.) We need guilds that uphold these things as policy, reports to GMs whenever we see it in-game, and a larger community presence. Because nerd culture needs to wake up to the smell of its own manure that it has been wallowing in all these years and realize that the time of the pervasive racism, homophobia, rape jokes and general disgusting-ness is over. I want an Azeroth where all of us feel safe to be ourselves, to see our stories and strife reflected in the characters we play and interact with, and people to get over their ignorance.

Some other blogs that wrote on the subject:

The ‘mental Shaman – Blizzcon: This is about homophobia not Horde v Alliance

MMO Melting Pot – The homophobic Corpsegrinder rant at Blizzcon explodes

Apple Cider Goes to Blizzcon, Part 2

Cosplayers from Blizzcon. A blood elf is helping a hunter with her helm.

Hello, faithful readers! I hope you didn’t miss me too much when I was in California. Between Blizzcon, Hallow’s Eve (in-game), and working, I’ve been a busy little gnome. I didn’t forget you guys though. Here’s my breakdown of everything I did while I was at the convention last weekend.

Socializing

I got to meet a lot of really awesome people briefly or for long amounts of time during Blizzcon. I didn’t get to meet every single person I wanted to though, I had that little time there. The first night I got there, I went to the WoW Insider/Wowhead meetup. It was a lot of fun – they were giving out tons of prizes at the door. I got several booster packs of the newest TCG cards, Monster swag, and a couple imps of Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs perfume! (I managed to get a “Gnome” one, too!) The WI staff at the party were all very wonderful and nice. Bunch of them were live-casting at a table with some of the guys from Wowhead. I also got to meet Kinaesthesia from Vodka/Learn2Raid (a personal hero of mine, I watch all his videos), Pewter from Mental Shaman, Perculia from Wowhead, O from Stories of O, Trade Chat (I chased a couple of gross guys off of her when she was hanging out with her lady-friend), as well as hanging out with the Flavor Text Lore ladies quite a bit. I also got to see a few people from my guild too. I briefly saw Felicia Day and Robin Thorsen from The Guild. I wanted to say hi to Robin, as she’s my favorite actress from when I still watched the show, but they were being guarded by guys just to get through the party. The rest of the weekend was a blur of guildmates, Flavor Text Lore ladies, my server meetup (got to meet another mage I raided with), and some Elitist Jerks people. I met Dysmorphia from Games and Trips and shared some amazing Polish liquor called nalewka. Dysmorphia is my sister-in-feminism, and her blog is amazing. The crown jewel of my weekend was meeting some of the Blizzard staff – last year it was Ghostcrawler, but this year I got to have long conversations with both Nethaera (who is very cool) and Zarhym. I thanked Nethaera a lot for being a woman inside of the gaming industry (as she’s been in it for a very long time) and giving me hope that you can be a public face for a gaming company and still survive. As for Zarhym, he’s a real sweetie, along with the rest of the staff manning the “Ask Blizzard” booth. I didn’t get a picture with either of them, but I’ll have fond memories of getting to speak with them face-to-face.

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria

I was sitting with Mythrai (who writes at her own personal blog) as we got a good seat for both the opening ceremonies, as well as the World of Warcraft preview and when they finally announced the new expansion, I felt a little funny. How could it possibly, actually be true? As the preview rolled out, I accepted it a little more. Sure, the world had been fleshed out. Pandas seem feasible. I’m still more excited about the amount of casual content, but I’m still coming to grips with Pandaria as a reality. It didn’t hurt that it was explained by Cory Stockton, my favorite developer at Blizzard. My pet collecting habit seems to make me think I’ll love the “World of Pokemon” aspect with the pet battling system or at least financially when I level and sell off my rare pets. The talent revamp is something I’m a lot more edgy about, admittedly. It feels TOO simple at this point, especially for mages. I’ll go into greater. detail about my feelings on that in a later post this week.  Challenge dungeons as well as expanded non-raid PVE content and exploration is what I’m most excited about. I got to play through the starting zone on a pandaren monk and I have to say that even at this early stage, they really knocked questing and fighting out of the park. The environments look great and the feel of the monk class feels pretty intuitive at this point. I might have to roll a gnome monk!

My only real hesitation about this newest expansion is that most of my raid team seems to want to quit over it, and the subject of cultural sensitivity. Blizzard messed up the original Pandaren Monk pet by dressing it in Japanese attire. I hope this doesn’t turn into a mish-mash of Asian cultures and alienates their audience because of it; ape-ing (or is it “panda-ing”) most of someone’s cultural dress, attitudes and beliefs into a game made by mostly white developers for a predominantly white audience just doesn’t sit right with me in the end. I am white myself, but I know friends of mine that play World of Warcraft that have already been hurt by this expansion decision and that bothers me greatly.

I also hope that Blizzard does the right thing and properly develops the female Pandaren models. I’m tired of women being an afterthought when it comes to their art direction and design.

World of Warcraft’s Annual Pass

I admit, I already bought this. For those who don’t know – the annual pass is something they rolled out at Blizzcon and made available immediately to everyone. It is essentially a cell-phone contract for World of Warcraft; you agree to pay for 12 months with whatever payment plan you currently use (game time cards, 1 month-1 year subscriptions, etc.) and you receive a free Tyrael’s mount in-game, access to WoW’s next beta, as well as a free copy of Diablo III added to your account. It was explained that this is because they don’t want their WoW subscribers to feel torn between two games. I definitely smell a little bit of fresh revenue (I mean who doesn’t) but I still got it anyways. You can get me to do anything if you involve a sparkly horse. And for those curious, yes you can buy the Diablo III collector’s edition and add it to your account, even if you get it for free via the annual pass. What it will do is simply add 4 months WoW game-time to your subscription to offset the cost.

Which brings me to my next point…

Diablo III

After what seemed like an interminably long line (thankfully I was waiting with Mythrai and sucksmybrain), we finally got to sit down in front of the demo. Part of me had waved my hands at it, not wanting to stand in a long line. “Oh, it’ll just be out in a couple months.” “Oh, I’ll just grab someone’s beta account!” It was definitely worth the wait. Some background on Diablo III though – I’ve never played it before Blizzcon. I’ve just had the strange coincidence of managing to go a ton of the panels for the game, been friends with other Diablo fiends. Everywhere I look, there’s talk about Diablo. But I’ve never gotten into myself. That didn’t stop me from getting excited about it and once I had been seated in front of my own demo station, I immediately got squee-ish.   The graphics are amazing and despite never have played a game in 3/4ths view or that uses click-to-move/click-to-cast, I rolled up a sorceress and went off on my merry way, killing undead and doing quests. The only downside was only have 2 spells available to me at any one time. However, if you have the benefit of getting the beta (PASS ME A KEY, OKAY?), definitely try this. I think all of you won’t be disappointed.

Psst! Also, there’s a great article up at WoW Insider about why people new to the Diablo franchise should play it.

Murkablo belches fire onto Apple Cider.

…Everything Else

After those things, most of Blizzcon was a blur of parties, hanging out, meeting people, catching glimpses of GSL, World of Warcraft arena tournaments, standing in lines for things I wasn’t sure of, and eating tons of delicious food. After a while I got a little tired of walking everywhere and just flopped on my hotel bed to rest and have some peace and quiet. Blizzcon always tires me out and puts me into debt, but it is worth it every year. The cosplay was amazing, the people were amazing, the panels and events were amazing. Travelling home made me sad but I’ll always have the memories I make every time I go to keep me company.

The only blot on my experience was something I’ll go into in my next post. Tell me about your Blizzcon experience (whether via the DirectTV stream, online stream or in-person) in the comments!

Apple Cider Mage Does Blizzcon 2011

Business cards with the blog's header image on them.
Sorry about the quality of the image today – I had to take it with my phone’s camera in low light. If you can’t tell what they are, those are my business cards. I’m taking a cute white box full of them with me to Blizzcon this week. Oh, wait, I didn’t mention I was going to Blizzcon? How silly of me! Then let’s back it up a bit and start from the beginning.

The Convention

Blizzcon, for you World of Warcraft devotees, is Blizzard’s annual convention that celebrates all of their game properties – most notably World of Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo. It takes place in Anaheim, CA, in the city’s multi-hall convention center, right near Disneyland. I’ve personally been going every year since 2008 and I always have a ton of fun. This year should be no exception – not only does their promise to be some juicy unveilings (new Warcraft expansion, possible DLC for Starcraft II and maybe even a whiff of Blizzard’s secret project, Titan) but a lot of talk about next year’s hot release, Diablo III.

The schedule of events for the convention has been posted (sort of) via their mobile phone app, as well as various Warcraft news sites, but not on their actual event page. I’m using their Android app to figure out where I’m going each day and what I want to see. A rough plan of things I want to hit looks like this:

Friday

  • Opening Ceremony  11 AM-12 PM, Main Stage
  • World of Warcraft Preview 12:30-2:00 PM, Main Stage
  • World of Warcraft Class Talent Systems 2:15-3:15, Main Stage
  • World of Warcraft Dungeons & Raids 3:30-4:30 PM, Main Stage
  • World of Warcraft: 4.3 Raid and Deathwing 5:00 PM-5:50 PM, BlizzChat: Live Forums
Saturday
  • World of Warcraft Lore and Story Q&A, 4:15PM-5:15 PM
Items that are bolded are ones I’m definitely not missing, hopefully, as I go to them every year. You can also see that my schedule is fairly Warcraft-oriented. I tend to keep my schedule fairly loose though and allow myself to wander or go elsewhere as necessary.

Meetups and Parties

Besides just attending panels and trying out demos of the new games, I also go to a couple of social events in and around the convention. Most notably is the WoW Insider party at 5 PM on Thursday, October 20th, at the Annabella hotel, which is right around the corner from the east entrance of the convention center and up the block. It’s an amazingly gorgeous mission-style hotel and I’ve had a blast every year I’ve attended this party. The WoW Insider staff are always fun people to hang out with, with lots of MCing, podcasting and prizes/swag. Just don’t get pushed into the pool. This year the party is being jointly sponsored by WoW Insider and  Wowhead and should promise to be the biggest party yet. Don’t be late and get stuck outside because there’s no room! I heard that this year there’s even going to be faction-inspired cocktails so everyone can imbibe for the Horde or the Alliance.

I also go to my server’s meetup every year but since Blizzard doesn’t display the times for that until the day of the convention, I have no idea when that will be. In past years, I’ve taken part in the Elitist Jerk’s /flex picture outside, as well as hanging out with some of the fine ladies at WoW_ladies.

This blog doesn’t have a ton of fans (yet) but hopefully if any of you guys are going to Blizzcon, that maybe we’ll get to say hi. If anyone wants to hang out or get in touch, you can send me an e-mail at my address from my contact page. Also if anyone wants to invite me to anything, just let me know as well.

Hope to see some of you there!