World of Warcraft players are gathering by the hundreds in an organized in-game protest following recent allegations made against the game’s developer Blizzard Entertainment and its parent company Activision Blizzard.
This week, the state of California filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for a “frat boy” workplace culture that created a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women. In response, World of Warcraft players have gathered at in-game social hubs such as Oribos, an in-game sanctuary with disabled player-versus-player combat, to hold sit-in protests, as reported by Polygon. In addition, players from both factions gathered at Idyllia Steps, where hundreds were sitting quietly on the steps leading to the city inn, discussing the lawsuit or expressing anger at the allegations against Activision Blizzard.
The protests were initially organized by a faction-neutral role-playing guild, Fence Macabre, which operates on Moon Guard and Wyrmrest Accord servers, and saw no decrease in the number of players. As some players were logging off, others were logging on seeking to take part in an organized protest. Naturally, having large groups of people in a single space can cause stability issues with the game, which is why World of Warcraft dynamically controls the population visible in crowded spaces by automatically phasing players out. To those unfamiliar with the concept, the players are still able to use the chat and communicate, though they can’t see each other, despite being in each other’s vicinity.
Fence Macabre used the game’s raid mechanics, which circumvents the phasing and dynamic population control, allowing up to 40 players to remain visible to each other. But why not just cancel the subscription to the game, and make Blizzard suffer financially? Well, most protesters, not all, were sub-locked, which means that they purchased a six-month subscription that the developer can’t refund. So, why not use what remaining World of Warcraft time they have, take up server space, and make some in-game noise while raising awareness.
But Fence Macabre did more than just organizing protests in World of Warcraft – the guild used this opportunity to raise money for Black Girls CODE, a nonprofit organization that helps women of color gain skills in computer programing and technology, helping them break into tech industries. So far, Fence Macabre has raised over $8000, and that number might continue to rise as the protests keep happening. According to the lawsuit filed against Activision Blizzard, women of color were allegedly criticized for their body language, for taking breaks or asking for help, and were forced to document days spent off work – something their colleagues didn’t have to do.
World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game set in the Warcraft universe and one of the best MMORPG games of all time, reaching a peak of 12 million subscribers in 2010. At its current state, the game now has approximately 7 million subscribers, 36% of which is comprised of female gamers – a population Activision Blizzard is at risk of losing if the situation within the company remains toxic and akin to a “frat house.” It’s worth noting that Activision Blizzard’s case is the most recent in a string of sexual misconduct and discrimination charges against gaming companies. Ubisoft is still in court, while Vertagear issued an apology for its misconduct on social media.