Xantia doesn’t spend a lot of time on Twitter, so she learned that California suing Activision Blizzard for years of alleged sexual harassment and discrimination a few days late. Little did she know she had become the face of discussions about Blizzard’s questionable past with women until a friend messaged her on Facebook. She said it was like the meme of Leonardo DiCaprio showing the TV screen.
“It’s really weird to see all of this getting media coverage for a question I asked 11 years ago,” Xantia, who preferred to go through her. World of warcraft manage to protect his privacy, said Kotaku during a telephone interview. “It was just surreal.”
The clip of an all-male panel of World of warcraft devs mock and patronize dismissal of Xantia question at BlizzCon 2010 resurfaced around July 23, in part in response to an email from staff sent by Blizzard President J. Allen Brack. In it, Brack called the recent allegations against the company “disturbing,” going so far as to express shock and dismay that the company may have a history of sexism. But then people started circulating the footage of the panel, where instead of calling his colleagues or fending off the audience’s boos at Xantia, he just joked and laughed with them.
While the video was new to some, to many it is emblematic of a rotten culture at the heart of Blizzard that has been around for years—otherwise proof of the ambient hostility of gaming towards women.
“It’s hard to get your voice heard when there are so many guys setting the tone,” Xantia said. “I think that’s one of the reasons this video went viral. It so illustrates what is wrong with the industry as a whole right now. There is me who is completely fired by a panel of men running the business and at the same time a small group of women in the audience applauding and then immediately drowned by booing men.
Xantia has been playing games for as long as she can remember, and some of her favorite games were made by Blizzard. She picked up the original Diablo in high school i fell in love with StarCraft, and has finally found its place in the giant online community of World of warcraft. ” I saw [Blizzard] like something apart from a lot of other major developers in that they seemed to really care about their fan base, ”she said.
In 2010, she was in graduate school and decided to go to BlizzCon not only as a fan, but also as a potential networking opportunity to find a job in the video game industry. “It was kind of like being a kid in a candy store,” Xantia said.
And so she ended up in Hall D of the Anaheim Convention Center asking a World of warcraft panel why so many of their strong female characters still seemed to come out of a Victoria’s Secret catalog.
“I spent a good 20, 30 minutes walking up the line [for fan questions] thinking, “What’s the best way to phrase this?” Like, ‘Hey, for some of the main female characters, can they at least wear pants?’ “
The most recent World of warcraft the expansion at the time, Wrath of the Lich King, had introduced a new female character named Alexstrasza, a powerful dragon queen empowered to watch over all life. Her outfit, meanwhile, was red bikini armor. “I remember doing the quest chain and my reaction was just like, ‘Oh come on, you’re kidding me,’” Xantia said.
And so with Alexstrasza in mind, she asked the Brack panel, Greg Street, Tom Chilton, Alex Afrisiabi, and others, in front of BlizzCon cameras and an audience of thousands, for more varied female character designs.
“What catalog would you like them to come out of,” replied game director Tom Chilton at the time. “I can smell you, and we absolutely want to vary our female characters, so yes, we will choose different catalogs,” said Alex Afrasiabi. The rest of the panel laughed. Brack tried to continue the joke. Xantia was finally enticed out of the queue, her question unanswered.
“I’m telling you, it’s funny, I didn’t really think about it at the time just because it’s so intimidating,” she said. Kotaku. “You go up there, you are nervous because you are filmed, you are broadcast and you are in front of an audience of easily a few thousand people. And in addition, you ask the question to the panel in front of this huge screen where you watch yourself ask this question. Therefore, it is difficult to keep your thoughts righteous. And I get to wrap it up in a coherent way, ask this question and they make a joke. I kinda like the way I laugh and then they continue. I’m like, OK, I guess I won’t have the chance to have a follow-up. OK, I’m fired, great.
She said that afterwards quite a few women and men came up to her saying that they appreciated her question. Despite Blizzard’s sacking, other players found themselves lending their support. Still, the whole experience turned her off a little.
“Honestly, the sound of being booed by so many guys, in some ways it bothered me more than being fired, ”she said. “You had that initial cheer from the women in the crowd, then just a flurry of boos.”
But while the clip has become a signifier of what’s wrong with Blizzard and the gaming industry as a whole, it hasn’t necessarily stuck with Xantia in the months and years since.
“I haven’t given it much thought because there has always been a certain amount of sexism in the gaming industry for a very long time that’s right there and you’re learning to roll your eyes and do your best to ignore it and just try to enjoy the things you like about it, ”Xantia said.
“I loved Diablo II at the time. Did I like the character model for the Amazon? Not really. Hell, one of my earliest memories of playing was getting excited about the first one Grave robber playing and thinking, “It’s so cool that there is a female protagonist.” And then you see the first model of Lara Croft in the game and you’re like, oh, cool, awesome, awesome… ”
There is audible exhaustion in her voice when she recalls this memory. The BlizzCon 2010 panel was not an anomaly. It was not the mask that slipped in front of thousands of people on video. This was what she expected from a male dominated space with no regard for others, and as confirmed by the California lawsuit and new reports, which were at times explicitly dangerous for the women around them. .
Afrasiabi is one of the few people named in the California lawsuit, accused of sexually harassing and tampering with Blizzard employees. He also accused him of having a “Cosby Suite” at BlizzCon where he would also prey on women.
Based on images obtained by Kotaku, the “Cosby Suite” was a veritable party room filled with alcohol at BlizzCon 2013 in which Afrasiabi and others posed with a giant portrait of the actor. Activision Blizzard confirmed Kotaku that Afrasiabi was fired last year for “misconduct”. Brack, the only other person named in the California lawsuit for failing to address sexual harassment complaints against Afrasiabi, is still currently in charge of Blizzard.
Despite the panel’s experience, Xantia said she tried to get a job at Blizzard in its strategic initiatives department around 2012 and was in contention for a while before she was ultimately rejected. “I was heartbroken at the time, but man, talk about being lucky in your failures,” she said. “I now feel like I dodged a bullet over there.”
Following the resurfacing at the time of BlizzCon 2010, the old World of warcraft lead designer Greg Street, currently at Riot Games, went to twitter to apologize in a somewhat curvy tweet thread. He initially called the “crap answer” saying that it can be difficult to see who is asking the questions. He also mentioned that the developers are nervous up there in front of the crowds lest they say the wrong thing. Finally, he decided: “I find the video embarrassing and I apologize to the player who asked the question and all the others who were disappointed with our ‘answer’.”
Xantia said that part of what was so strange about seeing the video reappeared over a decade later was seeing responses like Street’s.
“I guess Greg Street now knows who I am now. Cool. OKAY. And also it wasn’t really an apology, but of course you do. Anything that gets you to sleep at night, ”she said. “I was joking with a friend when I saw him, when I saw everything he wrote about it, just, you know, ‘Oh, I couldn’t see her react, I couldn’t see her. face ‘and how disappointed he is in all of these things. Yes, but your ears were working great. Haven’t you heard hundreds of people booing at me? What would it have taken to say: “Hey guys come on, isn’t that cool?” “Every time you start explaining yourself to that degree, it stops being an excuse.”
Xantia thinks Blizzard needs to be more outspoken as well.
“One of the most important things they can do is be honest and that this kind of ‘boys club’ is not above reproach,” she said. “It must be more than just a show of ‘We did these two acts of penance and now we are all better.’ I think there actually has to be a fundamental reassessment.
Xantia has learned about recent actions from other Activision Blizzard developers, including an open letter and a walkout, to be a cause for optimism. And despite how bizarre it has been to play such a visible role in the public outcry that is now unfolding after all these years, she hopes the negative experience now makes a positive contribution.
“I’ve received a moderate amount of attention for all of this while I’m only tangentially connected to it,” she said. “I think the important voices are for the women who were actually at Blizzard and who had to endure a lot more than just being fired at a convention.”
“There are worse reasons to go viral. And if that actually helps bring about changes, then it would be something deeply good that came out of a pretty small, but still shitty moment. ”