The World Of Warcraft Community Is In Shambles At The Moment

The World Of Warcraft Community Is In Shambles At The Moment
Screenshot: Blizzard

World of Warcraft has been bleeding players since the start of the year. Add to that the drama swirling around a big-time streamer and the general toxicity that festers in just about every online gaming community and you have a recipe for bad stuff to happen. Simply put: It’s tough to look at certain corners of WoW and not feel like Community’s Donald Glover carrying pizzas into a room that’s on fire.

Even before Activision Blizzard became the centre of a California lawsuit alleging widespread sexual harassment and discrimination, the active player population of Blizzard’s flagship MMO had been falling year after year. A lot of players have been unhappy with recent expansions, and some have even tried to piggyback general complaints about the state of the game onto larger discussion of what’s wrong with Blizzard’s work culture.

The exodus appeared to fly into overdrive in early July, however, when the massively popular WoW streamer Asmongold decided to start streaming Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn instead. If community frustration over a lacklustre Chains of Domination update and generous free trials for the competing MMO supplied the tinder, Asmongold was the match, and recently he and his fans have been taking direct aim at WoW’s developers.

It began when someone on the Asmongold subreddit posted an image of a WoW developer liking a tweet that suggested Asmongold himself was in part responsible for making the WoW community so “trash.” While some content creators foster a collaborative relationship with the developers who make the game they cover, Asmongold has a reputation for being combative and hyperbolic in his criticism of WoW. The streamer, who regularly tours the r/Asmongold subreddit in his streams, went on to lambast the lone WoW developer for insinuating he was a symbol of what was wrong with the community.

“I have to read this bullshit, right, I have to read this bullshit that gets the seal of approval from the people that work at the game, who make the game this way,” he said. “Before you call me toxic, deal with your own fucking game.”

Events only escalated from there. A bunch of other posts targeting the specific WoW developer started appearing on the subreddit, many of which have now been deleted by the moderators because of failing to remain civil or encouraging harassment. One person even sent the developer a message over LinkedIn telling him to “get fucked.” The developer screenshotted this, including his harasser’s LinkedIn name, job role, and city, and shared it on Twitter. Asmongold’s fans then accused the developer of doxxing, despite the fact that no private info had been released.

“The moderation team of /r/Asmongold is made up of volunteers that act independently and our actions and comments do not necessarily reflect those of Asmongold himself,” a Asmongold subreddit moderator told Kotaku in an email. “We do not condone any sort of harassment or brigading, no matter who it’s targeted towards.”

Today, Asmongold followed up on the controversy, writing on Twitter, “Recently more than ever I’ve been accused of harassment when I’ve had the audacity to defend myself and my community. The idea that I should allow myself to be attacked is driven by narcissism and entitlement. I don’t punch down, I don’t punch up, I punch back.”

You could try to disentangle potential legitimate grievances from the shitty mob dynamics. Asmongold infamously encouraged players to spit on those in-game who spent money on fancy mounts as an act of protest against WoW’s current updates and monetisation model. Blizzard then removed the spitting emote from the game. At the same time, there’s clearly plenty of ambiently toxic behaviour in the game that has nothing to do with Asmongold. Blizzard has historically been criticised for failing to aggressively moderate hateful speech in WoW and other games. It only began finally blocking some racial slurs altogether earlier this year.

But beyond the competing counter-claims of who’s more responsible for WoW’s toxicity problem, the fact that some players have taken to doubling down on harassing developers over the latest flashpoints is just further evidence of what a bad spot the game’s in at the moment. Blizzard recently set about purging in-game references to a past developer accused of sexual harassment as part of an ongoing effort to “re-build trust” in the wake of the California lawsuit. Even so, some fans and content creators are still debating boycotting the game and other Activision Blizzard products until the company agrees to employee demands for more equal and inclusive working conditions.

There’s clearly a lot of soul-searching going on in the larger WoW community, and this latest shitstorm will likely only add to it.

Comments

  • I’m not particularly a fan of Asmongold one way or another, but he has a point.

    Certain types on social media are absolutely fantastic at dishing out their bullshit and having their mobs brigade people, but the moment someone can return the favour they cry harassment.

    It’s real simple… Don’t throw stones at people if you aren’t willing to have them picked up and thrown right fucking back at you.

    • From a reading of the article, the ones throwing stones at glass houses are Asmongold and friends, who are then getting up in arms when action is taken against them. Unless there was more evidence to the contrary, it does appear that the Dev is right about a source of toxicity in the community.

      The person attacking the Dev on linked in seems to have gotten their just desserts. Looks no different of Facebook shaming, and a way to let other employers know the character of that particular thug.

      • Or it could be that consumers don’t like being called “toxic” by a bunch of rapists and deviates who’ve been hiding the molestation of their staff for over two decades. Those same rapists and deviates who seem very keen to deflect from an issue that they would’ve known about and did nothing to fix while the quality of the game suffered because of the aforementioned sex assaults and the culture of people going to work and doing no work. Maybe, just maybe, the senior systems designer should stop crying about customer feedback and deal with the actual toxicity he’s been happy to work with for however many years.

        • A lot of people work at Blizzard, including the people who have been sexually assaulted. Calling everyone there a bunch of rapists is super fucked up.

          • You think that the lead managers who worked on the project didn’t know that they were working with rapists when they’re senior managers? Those team leaders and managers were the people publicly attacking Asmongold and the customers and those are the people everyone’s talking about when the company is given shit. These same people were the ones preying on the more junior staff themselves or knew of others doing it and said nothing. They don’t get to have an opinion on “toxicity”.

          • Bunch:
            noun
            – a connected group; cluster
            – a group of things
            Informal. – a group of people

            Where did “everyone” come from again?

      • I’ve seen Asmongold bought up repeatedly as some sort of arch villain, by multiple devs at this point, in the past few weeks.

        What is common in every account I’ve seen so far is not a single one of them want to take any responsibility whatsoever for the state of the community. For a game they work on where their decisions have a direct impact on how players might feel about said game.

        No they just want to play blame the streamer because he’s talked shit about their game in the past, and so that must clearly the only reason anyone could possibly be pissed off about the state of their game and how they handle things.

        People launching personal attacks is a whole other bag of moronic fuckery that should be dealt with accordingly, but you best be absolutely willing to hold some of these devs to the same level of accountability.

        Because a number of the people who’ve opened their mouths to fight back against the ‘toxic’ streamer sure as shit haven’t been arguing about Asmongold’s criticism… They’ve been commenting on his personal life, how he looks, etc.

  • It’s not just Asmongold though, why not bring up Preach or Bellular? Whenever there’s an Ion interview all three of them provide constructive feedback about how the direction and core concepts are wrong and won’t work. But time and time again for the last three expansions they get ignored, and then proven right.
    For the developers to turn around now and say these content creators are being toxic is so hipocritical. They’ve tried time and time again to provide purely constructive, albeit heartfelt feedback, and time and time again been met with silence.
    I have no sympathy for any of the WoW developers, at least at the systems level, the art teams work magic, but the game systems are so flawed, any fun has been designed out of the game to be some token buying treadmill. Profit is all that ActiBlizz cares about.

    Critiques on Asmongolds behaviour (I don’t agree with a lot of it) should be taken up on the Twitch side of things. How he can claim using the words “big dick” as an affirmation, yet is entirely distinct from sexual harassment is beyond me. It’s so clearly obvious how that would make somebody feel uncomfortable, but his behaviour and attitudes are an entirely separate matter to his (and his colleagues) feedback provided on the game.
    Blizzards inability to seperate, and be professional about that, and rather allow its employers to resort to a Twitter slinging match further highlights their incompetence.

    • “Big dick dps” has been a thing as long as the game has existed to describe cranking up the damage or healing and anyone who feels that it’s sexual harassment directed towards them personally needs a reality check. I’m a woman and I’ve never never felt harassed when a raid leader says “go big dick”, because the meaning is self evident when you’re in a raid and the raid leader is screaming it at 20 people as you take off the last 10% of the boss HP. If people don’t want to integrate and learn the slang of the game, that’s a them problem. Blizzard don’t get to complain about “big dick” as a phrase while having a company filled with literal sex offenders.

  • The game is in shambles because the dev team is incompetent and ignores community feedback.

    The game is in shambles because the devs keep repeating the same mistakes year after year

    The game is in shambles because the devs cant keep their hands to themselves.

    The game is in shambles because blizzard wont do anything about in game harassment

    The game isn’t in shambles because of asmongold. The devs are projecting their own insecurities onto him because its easy for them. Asmongold represents a huge amount of the playerbase and they despise that. Blizzard went from a company that was for the players and run by players. Now its a company that despises its playerbase.

    I think this statement by asmongold was very apt “Its now more popular to leave WoW than it is to play WoW”

  • I used to really like Pringles. But then they changed the shape and size and they don’t seem as good anymore. Will I complain to Pringles and say they need to listen to the feedback of the Pringles community? No. It is a product and I am a consumer, and that’s all there is to our relationship.

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