World Of Warcraft Turmoil Around Sudden Appearance Of People Of Colour Is Surprisingly Complex

World Of Warcraft Turmoil Around Sudden Appearance Of People Of Colour Is Surprisingly Complex
Hey, you, BIPOC vendor! How'd you get here? (Screenshot: Blizzard Entertainment)

An unofficial World of Warcraft Discord server has been lit ablaze in recent days. Right now, Twitter is full of screenshots showing people decrying Blizzard adding people of colour to the MMORPG, with one particular comment complaining about how there are “too many Black humans in Stormwind.” This caused an expected community backlash, but the discussion around the addition of BIPOC NPCs to the high-fantasy game requires more explanation.

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In November, Blizzard went out of its way to create a community council with the goal of soliciting player feedback for detailed ways to improve World of Warcraft. The community then splintered off on its own, creating an unofficial Discord server called Seat of the Council. This new community was partially populated with members of the official one, and also home to the two protagonists of this story.

So, WoW players recently began noticing that NPC humans in the city of Stormwind appeared to suddenly become BIPOC. Characters who were white when the update originally dropped back in 2020 had their skin change, now appearing to be Asian or Black sometime around September of this year. This apparent BIPOC-washing pissed people off. The Seat of the Council Discord server blew up in outrage at the time. While that was a couple of months ago, for whatever reason one member has kept the fight going into December. According to a member present at the time the comment was made this week, a user called chamomile said on Discord that there were “too many” Black people in the game. Now that comment is all over social media.

I get the anger from the community. Saying there are “too many” of any one identity or ethnicity is an exclusionary and separatist ideology–unless you’re of the majority, which makes you par for the course. Since the spread of the hateful comment, the Discord server has since been closed, scrubbed clean, and reopened with a new name (Vacant Seat of the Council), but the arguing continues.

Much of that ongoing discussion appears to be spearheaded by another user named Asjon, who has been arguing on Discord that it’s “lazy” and “pandering” for Blizzard to just Blackface/Blackwash a bunch of white NPCs and call it diversity and inclusion. Asjon’s expectation is for Blizzard to create “cool lore” around how and why BIPOC NPCs get added to the game. The Discord community appears to vehemently disagree with this thinking, which makes sense.

We’re reached out to Blizzard for comment and will update if we hear back.

My mind is torn in a few different directions, though. First, it’s egregious to say there are “too many Black humans,” whether trolling or not. That specific person got banned from the old and newly reopened server — as they should! It’s racist. I also happen to agree with Asjon, kind of. To Blackface/Blackwash white NPCs as if that’s a diversity solution is mere appropriation. But I don’t subscribe to Asjon’s desire for there to be some explanation or “cool lore” that justifies BIPOC inclusion.

As a Black person, I shouldn’t have to explain myself. I shouldn’t have to provide context and reasoning for why I am where I am. I just am and that’s enough! Black people get tired of constantly justifying themselves as it’s what we’ve always done. Explaining why racism is bad, explaining how BIPOC writers are important, explaining why cultural appropriation is harmful. It’s unnecessary for there to be an explanation for how more BIPOC NPCs showed up in Stormwind, and if you need a rationale, you can chalk it up to migration. We live in the real world, after all!

You probably see people of colour all the time, and their existence just makes sense because people of colour are real. Besides, World of Warcraft is a high-fantasy game with elves and orcs. Do we need to explain why green-skinned people walk around any of the game’s cities? If not, then we certainly don’t need to justify why BIPOC NPCs are more noticeable.

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The topic is a complex one, to be sure. There’s a lot to be said about what Asjon is arguing for. I would love to see more BIPOC NPCs written into the game from the get-go, with thoughtful consideration for aesthetics and background. But at the same token, there isn’t an explanation for white people — other than that the game is coded “eurocentric.” Still, this is a high-fantasy game with limitless possibilities. Justifications aren’t required.

 

Comments

  • The problem is that WoW’s writing is shit across the board and having lore added for any reason, whether justifying demographics in this situation or not, is still adding more lore than what’s in there right now. Right now they’re putting all of their lore in books that no one reads (until a Twitter crazy reads it and chases the author’s wife off Twitter), then they complain that no one cares about or understands the lore. They’re making a RPG, it should be in the RPG that people are already paying for. Unless they overhaul the writing team’s attitude to doing to their job, these issues will keep cropping up and wasting everyone’s time.

  • They should just remove the skin from all NPCs, leaving them walking talking monstrosities of muscle and sinew. Problem solved.

  • That is sad, but not unexpected the Trolls are a vicious frenzy of teeth that bite onto any small thing.

    Deathloop before launch had a massive hate campaign against it, all because they hated the main characters skin colour, the community channels and discord was a moderation nightmare.

  • Honestly, I can kinda see there is a reasonable point that could be associated with the fuss these guys are making (though whether that is the actual point they are arguing or not I have no idea). Historically, all the NPCs in the game have been white. To suddenly introduce ethnic variance to the game without any plausible in-game explanation is a combination of lazy writing and to whitewash their own past actions (“they were always there, we just didn’t draw them that way, honest!”). I would not mind the introduction of ethnic diversity to the game provided they gave some sort of credible plot-related reasoning to it. After all, the reason we have so much diversity in our own world is the result of centuries of travel and migration (both forced and unforced) between the various population centres. We haven’t seen that in Azeroth, nor have we seen any plausible population centres that this diversity could plausibly have resulted from. So to suddenly introduce this level of diversity with absolutely no in-game historical explanation for it comes across as an extremely weak attempt to have diversity for the sake of diversity without any understanding or apparent care for how such diversity occurs.

  • Every time a character is black or gay or whatever, there is suddenly an extreme focus from a certain crowd on the story for that character. Black people can’t just exist, they have to be justified and then executed perfectly. Critics of diversity in gaming are all suddenly concerned experts regarding deficiencies in narrative and plot, script. Dissecting any nuance in a hunt for a reason to declare this example of representation invalid.

    And even if they do that, there is always just the pandering argument. Sure, you did the right thing… but did you have perfect and pure motivation? Or is it just virtue signaling?

    Simple reality is it’s about money and audience, and representation helps that. Yet when it comes to diversity, companies are expected to have some moral reason to do so?

    • “Every time a character is black or gay or whatever, there is suddenly an extreme focus from a certain crowd on the story for that character.”

      Allow me to fix it for you… “Everytime a character, who has been white or straight for over a decade, suddenly becomes black or gay or whatever….”

      Has nothing to do with them being that… It’s because, instead of just adding new characters, they skin swapped them in the name of “diversity”… That’s the issue… I know it’s a difficult concept…

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