Blizzard is removing unspecified inappropriate references from World of Warcraft

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The World of Warcraft team has vowed to remove “references that are not appropriate for our world” in “the coming days” following California’s major sexual harassment and workplace discrimination lawsuit filed against World of Warcraft developer Activision Blizzard last week.

The World of Warcraft team’s statement Tuesday didn’t specify what “references” they would remove. But it seems possible that NPCs and items named for former World of Warcraft senior creative director Alex Afrasiabi may be taken out of the game — although Afrasiabi seemingly left Blizzard in June 2020, his stamp on the game remains, as Kotaku reported Thursday.

Afrasiabi was singled out in the lawsuit for his horrible behavior, which the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) says included “blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions.” The complaint provides more detail, which I am prefacing with a content warning for descriptions of sexual harassment:

In a blatant example of Defendants’ refusal to deal with a harasser because of his seniority/position, Alex Afrasiabi, the former Senior Creative Director of World of Warcraft at Blizzard Entertainment, was permitted to engage in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions. During a company event (an annual convention called Blizz Con) Afrasiabi would hit on female employees, telling him he wanted to marry them, attempting to kiss them, and putting, his arms around them. This was in plain view of other male employees, including supervisors, who had to intervene and pull him off female employees. Afrasiabi was so known to engage in harassment of females that his suite was nicknamed the “Crosby Suite” after alleged rapist Bill Crosby. Afrasiabi would also call females derogatory names at company events. Afrasiabi’s conduct was known to Blizzard Entertainment’s executives, who took no effective remedial measures. J. Allen Brack, President of Blizzard Entertainment, allegedly had multiple conversations with Afrasiabi about his drinking and that he had been “too friendly” towards female employees at company events but gave Afrasiabi a slap on the wrist (i.e. verbal counseling) in response to these incidents. Subsequently, Afrasiabi continued to make unwanted advances towards female employees, including grabbing a female employee’s hand and inviting her to his hotel room and groping another woman.

The lawsuit also alleges that the World of Warcraft team allowed and encouraged extremely troubling behavior toward women. “Female employees working for the World of Warcraft team noted that male employees and supervisors would hit on them, make derogatory comments about rape, and otherwise engage in demeaning behavior,” according to the complaint.

Here is the full statement published by the World of Warcraft team, which was also posted on Twitter:

It was clear from our team conversations that we wanted to put forth a statement that was representative of the World of Warcraft team’s sentiments. We asked all members of our team to send us their suggestions and feedback on how best to address the community and this is the result.

The past days have been a time of reflection for the World of Warcraft team, spent in conversation and contemplation, full of sadness, pain, and anger, but also hope and resolve. As we heed the brave women who have come forward to share their experiences, we stand committed to taking the actions necessary to ensure we are providing an inclusive, welcoming, and safe environment both for our team and for our players in Azeroth. Those of us in leadership understand that it is not our place to judge when we have achieved our goals, but rather for our team and our community to let us know when we still have more to do.

While we turn to our team for guidance in our internal work to protect marginalized groups and hold accountable those who threaten them, we also want to take immediate action in Azeroth to remove references that are not appropriate for our world. This work has been underway, and you will be seeing several such changes to both Shadowlands and WoW Classic in the coming days.

We know that in order to rebuild trust, we must earn it with our actions in the weeks and months to come. But we go forward knowing that we share the same vision as our community about creating a place where people of all genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and backgrounds can thrive and proudly call home.

—The World of Warcraft Team