During a recent MIT Media Lab Q&A session, Blizzard’s Chief Creative Officer, Rob Pardo, made a few comments about social commentary, diversity, and Blizzard’s treatment of women in games, leading to a backlash on social media. Other places have covered his comments and the backlash more extensively than I will here, but for a deeper dive into specifics, check out Blizzlist’s Storify of the goings-on.
Regardless of how one feels about Pardo’s statements, I haven’t seen anyone, including Pardo himself, disagree with this point: Blizzard struggles with the portrayal of women and other minorities in its games. What is unfortunate to me is how the rest of his comments about that point read – that they try, but they’re subject to forces out of their control. Between the hiring pool and the background of their current workforce, all they can do is “actively catch [themselves].” This throwing up of the hands doesn’t cut it. Blizzard is a company who has the project management skills to put out some of the richest gaming experiences ever produced. They are able to meet the organizational demands of hosting a wildly successful convention on a regular basis. If they put their collective minds to it, they have the organizational fortitude to make whatever they feel needs to happen happen. It’s their job – what they do best. The intent of this post is to posit some ideas about what they could do to make it less of a struggle to portray women and minorities appropriately – if they put the effort in.
Two caveats before I get started – First, I’ve never worked at Blizzard. Some of these suggestions may already be underway/in place, and some may be infeasible for reasons I’m unaware of. I hope that doesn’t distract from the primary point: Blizzard could do more. Second, none of these suggestions concern the subject matter itself. For a great article on what Blizzard could do in that vein, read Matthew Rossi’s excellent WoW Insider post on this topic.