At the end of BlizzCon there was a concert, in the way that there usually is. During this concert, Samwise invited a man named George Fisher up on stage to sing that metal song about being in the horde. George Fisher's stage name, by the by, is "Corpsegrinder" and he sings in the metal band Cannibal Corpse.
So far so good! Celeb plays WoW, wants to sing (probably for free) at BlizzCon, great! Then, to introduce him to the crowd, they play this video snippet of an interview he gave at some point presumably during BC:
This is substantially less awesome. It was pretty clear to me what lived in those beeps, but in case you're in any doubt, here's the unedited version (skip to 1:01):
Then a thread gets posted to the official forums about it. You can find that thread here. It is really weird. The thread is - for the most part - not about how Blizzard just put a really bigoted rant on the screen because they thought it was funny. The thread is mostly about how Alliance players feel marginalized.
Basically this whole situation is screwed in twelve different directions. It's honestly pretty difficult to know where to begin, but it's easiest for me to start with the totally weird faction focus that has characterized things thus far. Let's all be clear about this: there is nothing inherently Horde or Alliance about any of us. We're all human beings that may or may not have a preference to play one faction or another for any of a zillion reasons. If you're insulted by Mr. Fisher's diatribe because you play Alliance, you are honestly being kind of silly.
There are some folks in that thread talking about how, soon, there could be soccer-style riots with jackbooted Horde thugs stomping on fragile Alliance skulls. I guess I'll just say that if that day comes I will eat my hat. Hats. I've got a few of different sorts, and I'll eat all of them. The factions are not real, we do not really owe allegiance to them, and insulting your faction can never be equivalent to insulting you as a person.
The actual problem here isn't even that this guy used unequivocally, completely, unapologetically bigoted language.
The problem is that Blizzard put him on their big stage at their event and then deliberately played the video of him using that language. What this looks like, to me, is Blizzard as a company have said loud and clearly that they think his little rant was hilarious. That the Blizzard company culture is one that considers LGBTQ people of every description sad, disgusting little jokes. That the official Blizzard nomenclature for a homosexual man is "cocksucker". That Blizzard thinks jokes like
"Go fucking cry a river and tell me how you're gonna slit your wrists you night elf faggot."are especially funny in light of the gay teens who have committed suicide, often after being urged to do so by their bullies.
That they chose to do this says to me that Blizzard thinks that everything I just pointed out is so common sense, so truly and obviously funny, that it's a proper way to make a gag about faction rivalry.
I can almost guarantee that there were queer people in the audience at that concert. A lot of them probably play Horde. After all, Horde is the faction of the castoffs and the rejects, the marginalized and the despised. It's not surprising that it's home to the largest LGBT guild network in the game.
It must've felt pretty awesome for those players to hear that video and hear the cheers that it was met with.
I say again: sigh.
WoW is a hobby for me. It's not my only hobby, but I like it. Mostly I like my guild. We have representatives for every letter in the LGBTQ initialism, most of whom are regular raiders, as well as a few just regular old straight folks. I log in, in part, because hanging out with these people is a fun way to get away from everything else. To get away from the George Fishers of the world. To get away from having to explain my DADT discharge at every job interview and then, now that I've gotten hired, coming out to coworkers. Wondering each time if this will be the one that has an issue with it (so far so good!).
I don't live every day with the crushing chains of oppression hung around my neck or anything. I've had an easier time of things than probably most gay guys out there, or most women or people of color or any other minority, for that matter. Even for me, though, it gets wearying. Listening to the things our politicians say. Having to mute or /ignore at least one person any time I play any videogame online ever. It gets old. I like being able to log into WoW for raid time, hang out with my guild, and know that I won't have to bother with any of that. We just spend a few hours killing pretend monsters and taking their stuff.
Except now even that is just a little bit poisoned. A little ruined. Not totally, not even majorly. But wouldn't it be nice if it hadn't happened? Wouldn't it be nice if we felt welcomed by the game's makers, not just by the people we play with?
Wouldn't it be nice if we hadn't been totally blown off at the open Q&A? In case you don't know what I mean, here's the only queer-related question they got the in entire con and its response:
Where are the LGBT characters in WoW Lore?
Everything is gravy as long as its just a great character. There is the possiblity of adding them, as long as the story is compelling, might see it in the future.
Translated, this is pretty much "yeah yeah whatever, next?"
I suppose it's worth mentioning that Bashiok kind of apologized for the concert thing on the forums. Although a little later on he made this post, kind of nullifying it. Yes, we know he was joking, Bashiok. That's why it sucks: because we're the butt of the joke. The joke's not funny if you don't think a gay man is a grotesque parody of a "real" man, debased and degraded by any expression of his own sexuality. If you think that queers are just people, then his rant lacks any humor.
This kind of stuff makes me so tired. Misogyny, racism, homophobia. It's all so old, and so evil, and the defenses are always the same. Just thinking about it makes me feel as if I'm 97, rickety and exhausted, standing at the bottom of a stairwell that I have to get up to get home. Writing this whole long post is the equivalent of shuffling my left foot a few inches forward so that it nudges against the first riser.
This is why reading this essay was so tense for me. Most of the time, you just don't want to deal with the bigots on the net. They're just these endless turds of varying sizes scattered along the sidewalk, making it harder to get where you're going. And a lot of the time you can't win, anyway. Sometimes the racists have better aim than you, or they've been playing longer, or you screw something up because you're shaking with emotion, or whatever. To put one in his place is positively ambrosial.
Heh. I wish I'd found out about this whole debacle before I signed up for a year of WoW, damn it.
Addendum: I may as well preempt a few likely responses. There's a whole swath of "it's just a joke," "it's death metal, what do you expect," "but they beeped it out," and similar defenses. They take different tacks, but they're all sailing for the same port: "it doesn't actually matter that he said those things."
My response to that is to ask you to imagine if he'd said "I don't play Horde because it's full of niggers and kikes," or "go kill yourself, you downsy cow."
Did those sound different to you? Worse, more shocking? Because they shouldn't.
Update: online petitions are often of dubious efficacy, but there is one up at Change.org. I signed it - it's something, right?