We ran a report last week about the extended racist abuse faced by Hearthstone pro Terrence "TerrenceM" Miller at the recent Dreamhack Austin event. He had a great run, ultimately finishing second behind Keaton “Chakki” Gill, but his performance was marred by incessant slurs directed at him by viewers on Twitch chat. It was nothing short of appalling, both because of the behavior of so many spectators, and the failure of the moderation team, which went largely unsupported by event organizers, to control the situation. In a statement released today, Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime called upon gamers to do better, and pledged that Blizzard will as well.
Morhaime's statement in full:
"We’re extremely disappointed by the hateful, offensive language used by some of the online viewers during the DreamHack Austin event the weekend before last. One of our company values is “Play Nice; Play Fair”; we feel there’s no place for racism, sexism, harassment, or other discriminatory behavior, in or outside of the gaming community. This is obviously a larger, societal problem that affects us on many levels. We can only hope that when instances like this come to light it encourages people to be more thoughtful and positive, and to fully reject mean-spirited commentary, whether within themselves or from their fellow gamers.
To help combat this type of behavior during live events, we’ve reached out to players, streamers, and moderators, along with partners like Twitch, DreamHack, and others, to get consensus and collaborate on what to do differently moving forward. To that end, we’re investigating a pilot program that Twitch has in the works to streamline moderation and combat ban evasion. We’re also updating our esports tournament partner policies with a stronger system of checks, balances, and repercussions to provide a better chat experience around our content.
We believe these are important steps to take to help address the related issues, but we acknowledge that they only address part of the problem. This is ultimately an industry-wide issue, and it will take all of us to make a real impact."
It's tremendously sad that this sort of intervention is required—doubly so because the Bob Ross marathon demonstrated how much sheer joy and fun a streaming audience can share—but the grotesque treatment of TerrenceM at Dreamhack leaves no doubt that it's necessary. If game publishers, streaming platforms, and sponsors are serious about giving esports mainstream legitimacy, then this kind of thing simply cannot be tolerated. And for the sake of human decency, must not be. Morhaime is correct to note that the entire gaming scene, which has largely ignored the excesses of chat so far, needs to take the issue seriously. Hopefully this will be a good step in that direction.