WoW’s lead deveoper on how to manage community – lessons for LLs

A short one today.

We all know how bad its been around Second Life regarding Linden Lab’s non-communicative stance. There’s general agreement that this silence does a lot of harm to the viability of the platform, though disagreement on the specifics and degree.

So how about a very different stance’s POV.

Ghostcrawler of World of Warcraft – a developer who posts so much to his game’s forums that its easy to thing he’s just a guy in the community service / customer support section with no real authority… yet he is also the game’s lead designer. As in; the buck stops at his desk.

He’s just done an interview and given some of his thoughts. Its an article that everyone at Linden Labs ought to be required to read:

Q&A: Greg Street, ‘World of Warcraft’ Lead Systems Designer (Pt. 1)

Q&A: Greg Street, ‘World of Warcraft’ Lead Systems Designer (Pt. 2)

Biggest point:

“World of Warcraft” fans might know you as “Ghostcrawler” on the message boards. How did you get into engaging directly with players in that way?
That started back at Ensemble, just as a way to try and simply communicate directly with players. So often the players and the designers are separated by layers of PR people and community managers and everything gets diluted and filtered. Players want to give us feedback, and social media is a great way to have a conversation with normal people. Us being on there and interacting is how we get insight into our players. A single passionate user can steer the direction of the forums in a certain direction, but no one player can represent all 10 million. So it’s great for us to actually ask questions when someone posts something and find out why they feel how they do.

From the gamer’s point of view they like to know that they’re being taken care of and that all the time and energy they invest is taken seriously and and not for granted. They’re happy to pay a monthly subscription to play the game as long as we’re going to continue polishing things, making new content, and recognizing the value of the customers.

Blizzard, the company behind World of Warcraft, takes open anti-gay stance in gay-bashing video at Blizzcon

EDIT: Updated news at end, CEO issues apology.

Long title.

This needs to reach beyond the Warcraft community into the larger media and in particular needs to be seen by the LGBT community.

Blizzard is the company behind the very successful online game, World of Warcraft. Second Life fans, that might not be your thing, but it -is- a leader in online virtual worlds.

Every year they have a convention where they invite their fans around the world to come by, meet up, hear about community news and upcoming products. At this years convention they ended with a closing ceremony that had the band ‘Foo Fighters’ play. The opening act for Foo Fighters was an in house ‘band’ made up of Blizzard employees, known as L90TE, or Level 90 Tauren Elite – a game reference as ‘Tauren’ is the ‘noble Minotaur’ race of WoW, and level 90 is 5 levels above the game’s current limit (the band changes its name every time a new expansion comes out to up the number).

L90TE, at one point in their act, aired a bleeped version of this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW_Lv0r-l4c
(original interview uncensored)

The concert version they aired:
http://youtu.be/pGsNsSX-iO0
(footage from concert)

This was also streamed on Blizzard’s ‘Virtual Ticket’ stream to fans around the world.

The video goes on a rant that is inspired by player rivalry between the two ‘sides’ in the game. Players either play on the ‘Alliance’ side of Humans, Elves and Dwarves, or the ‘Horde’ side of traditionally monsters but done more as tragic heroes: Trolls, Undead Zombies, Minotaurs, Orcs, Goblins, etc.

So the video is one player talking smack to the opposing side – a typical sort of ‘smackdown’ challenge speech, common in sports rivalries.

However in this case the video includes a series of anti-gay references by talking the other side down via accusing them of being gay (using less polite wording) or of certain ‘gay-like acts’ the repetition of which on WordPress might not be good for the health of my blog’s account access…

Important things to note here is that L90TE is composed of key ‘community figures’ among Blizzard employees; people the fans have long admired. For years they’ve been making music themed for game events and fandom ‘service’. The person in the video is -NOT- a Blizzard employee, but a regular player.

Like it or not, people are entitled to be hate-mongers. The transgression here then is not the video speaker, but that Blizzard aired his video, and in particular aired it in so public a way, as something put up by their community leaders in front of hundreds of thousands of fans; adults, children, straight, and LGBT. Fans all over the world.

There’s a petition to get some kind of on-point response:
http://www.change.org/petitions/blizzard-entertainment-apologize-for-homophobic-statements-made-at-blizzcon-2011

Since that started Blizzard has issued a sort of vague half-apology that admits no blame, no error in judgement, and holds no one accountable:
http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/3424906852

They need to be held to further task.

Media companies, and online gaming and virtual world companies in particular; have a responsibility over the messages they put out. And this kind of hate-speech has no place in those messages.

Spread the word.

Blizzard’s CEO, who was in the band in question, finally issued a more direct on point apology:
http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/3424798330
The post is by a Blizzard staffer, but is a letter ‘signed’ by the CEO.

Dear members of the Blizzard community,

I have read your feedback and comments about this year’s BlizzCon, and I have also read the feedback to the apology from Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain. I’d like to respond to some of your feedback here.

As president of Blizzard, I take full responsibility for everything that occurs at BlizzCon.

It was shortsighted and insensitive to use the video at all, even in censored form. The language used in the original version, including the slurs and use of sexual orientation as an insult, is not acceptable, period. We realize now that having even an edited version at the show was counter to the standards we try to maintain in our forums and in our games. Doing so was an error in judgment, and we regret it.

The bottom line is we deeply apologize for our mistakes and for hurting or offending anyone. We want you to have fun at our events, and we want everyone to feel welcome. We’re proud to be part of a huge and diverse community, and I am proud that so many aspects of the community are represented within Blizzard itself.

As a leader of Blizzard, and a member of the band, I truly hope you will accept my humblest apology.

– Mike Morhaime
President, Blizzard Entertainment

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