The Blizzard Dumpster Fire

Somebody’s prolly gonna ask about my opinion on the current Blizzard… whatever it is. “Clusterfuckalypse” seems inadequate. I’ve worked at a lot of companies, but the stories — stories that have yet to be proven in court, but which are highly credible — out of that place are BEYOND THE PALE. Far, far worse than stuff that would get you insta-fired at even the shadiest places I’ve ever worked. There is absolutely no explanation for the insanity that was going on at Blizzard that does not include negligent and incompetent leadership.

As creepy as I think J. Allen Brack is, Blizzard is Mike Morhaime’s baby. He set up a culture that valued sycophancy more than talent. He built the company that allowed a government torture advocate (or, if you like, a specialist in helping the powerful evade accountability for their crimes) to be hired as chief compliance officer even if he didn’t sign the paper himself. Now Brack is out the door, no doubt accompanied by millions of tiny golden parachutes, and it’s very likely that the Activision side of the company is going to exercise much more authority over Blizzard moving forward. There was a point at which that would have been considered a bad thing, but while I doubt Activision is a paradise, it’s hard to imagine “worse” than a company in which there are gangs of drunks wandering through the corridors and in which employees are harassed into suicide.

Incidental to the damage that’s been done to the actual humans working for Blizzard is the obvious impact on their games (and most evident in World of Warcraft because it’s an ongoing thing that people check into every day). It has long been obvious (and pointed out by many) that at least the people making major development decisions are cluelessly disconnected from the game and the gameplay, and the game’s not getting the best out of the people in the trenches because they’re working in a toxic hellhole. Maybe I’ll riff on this more in another post; right now it seems trivial.

Now, does all this mean “we should boycott Blizzard?” Well… that’s complicated. You can’t boycott everybody. And there are demonstrably worse companies (remember when Union Carbide killed almost 4,000 and injured over half a million when they released deadly gas in a residential area?) People get more out of MMORPGs than just being consumers of a product; they get community, they get friendship, they get escape from the turbulent shittiness that may comprise their lives. I’m not going to tell them to give all that up, nor is it just about “sunk cost”. Me, I wasn’t giving Blizzard any money right now anyway (though I was a few months back). But I can certainly say that I do not feel any need to start giving them money again unless meaningful steps are taken to address the problems. But I’m not telling you what to do; follow your own conscience. I’m not holding anyone’s feet to the fire should they choose differently.

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