Last week, a clip from a developer Q&A session at Blizzcon 2010 went viral. In the video, a woman stepped up to a panel of men from Blizzard to point out that nearly all the female characters in World of Warcraft look like they have “stepped out of a Victoria’s Secret catalog.” The group’s flippant response, which included a joke about picking “different catalogs,” induced industry-wide cringe and anger. One of the men involved in that panel, former Blizzard lead designer Greg Street, has since apologized.
On July 23, Chris Bratt of People Make Games posted a clip from Blizzcon 2010 where a woman asked Blizzard about the lack of variety among World of Warcraft’s body types. A vast majority of famous Blizzard characters look like sexy supermodels, she noted.
“I love what you guys have done with World of Warcraft,” the woman in the video said. “I love the fact that you have a lot of strong female characters. However, I was wondering if we can have some that don’t look like they stepped out of a Victoria’s Secret catalog?”
After some cheers and some embarrassing boos from the audience, the devs at the table expressed confusion. “What do you mean?” one said, only to sarcastically follow that up with, “Which catalog would you like them to step out of?” The group of Blizzard men, which included J. Allen Brack and Alex Afrasiabi (outright named in the lawsuit), continued to defensively joke about her question instead of giving a sincere answer. Even after the woman walked away from the mic, the devs at the panel continued to joke about her question. With the video pertains to an incident that occurred over a decade ago, the video is hard to watch now that the State of California is spearheading a lawsuit at the company and its alleged “frat boy” culture.
On July 23, former World of Warcraft lead designer Greg Street—who was at the original panel— responded to the controversy. In it, he tries to explain what happened while also admitting he made a mistake in a long series of tweets that eventually led to an apology. Street left Blizzard in 2013 and joined Riot Games the following year.
“Look, it was a shitty answer at the time and it certainly hasn’t aged well,” Street said. “I wish I had said something better then.” Street did not respond in time for press.
Street said in follow-up posts that at the time, he was inexperienced at this sort of exchange with fan questions. He also said that from the stage, you can’t really see somebody’s face clearly, meaning that the woman’s uncomfortable response may not have been evident to the developers. When he saw the look on her face in that viral clip years after the fact, he claimed, it made him feel terrible. He also went on to say that his Blizzcon answer is unlikely to be his last shitty answer and weirdly then apologized in advance for potential future bad responses.
“I’m not trying to speak for Blizzard,” he tweeted. “And I’m certainly not trying to speak for the women or POCs at Blizzard. I do believe men in leadership roles have a responsibility, a duty, to make sure women and other marginalized folks feel welcome, happy, and successful at our studios. I mean really all men at a studio do, but especially the leaders of the studio.”
Hours later after posting the original thread, along with a number of follow-ups about the company itself, Street apologized to the woman in the Blizzcon 2010 clip.
“I find the video embarrassing,” Street wrote. “I apologize to the player who asked the question and all others who were disappointed with our ‘answer.’ I think there are more important voices that we need to hear right now. But the video can be a reminder that we can be better.”
Diablo Co-Creator Chris Metzen, who retired in 2016, issued his own public statement, admitting that he and others at the company had “failed.” Ex Blizzard Boss Mike Morhaime also released a Twitlonger statement that said he “failed” the women of Blizzard. Both of these were in response to widespread allegations that current and former women workers at Blizzard suffered sexism, sexual harassment, and more.
While the apology and most of the thread appears sincere, this—along with other recent ex-Blizzard head honcho apologies—does little for the women who were harassed endlessly while they worked at the company. Many of them tried to speak up and were ignored or punished for doing so. Other former and current workers are questioning whether or not the men in power truly couldn’t have known what was going on at the time, and the degree of culpability for everyone involved.
If you know who the woman in that viral Blizzcon clip is (or happen to be her!) please feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.