In the wake of California's sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit (opens in new tab) against Blizzard, an upsetting developer Q&A video recorded at BlizzCon 2010 resurfaced on social media.
In the clip, a World of Warcraft player asks a panel of senior figures, including current Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, former World of Warcraft senior creative director Alex Afrasiabi, and former WoW lead systems designer Greg Street, if Blizzard could add some female characters to the game "who don't look like they've stepped out of a Victoria's Secret catalog."
The audience initially applauds the question, but is soon drowned out by booing. Worse, however, are the responses from the panel. The group of Blizzard developers feign confusion, playing to the crowd in an attempt to make humor out of the question. "Which catalog would you like them to step out of," asks Afrasiabi. "Could you see Sylvanas looking any other way?"
Afrasiabi then jokingly agrees, saying that the studio wants to vary female characters in the game by promising to "pick more catalogs," a thought that Brack continues by saying a new Tauren female character is drawn from "Sexy Sexy Cow Business," a catalog that obviously doesn't exist.
It is, on the whole, exactly the kind of "frat boy" response that Activision Blizzard is accused of. The woman who asked the question attempts to laugh off the awkward situation of being booed by hundreds of people, but seems unhappy with the answers.
Street, one of the figures on that panel who is now head of creative development at Riot Games, acknowledged and apologized for the "shitty answer" in a recent Twitter thread, though he did not respond to the question in the above clip.
You can’t really see the people asking the questions well from the stage, and I feel terrible now seeing the look on her face. I have more experience now answering questions live, but no doubt that won’t be my last shitty answer. I apologize for those as well as for this one.July 24, 2021
"There’s a 10 year old BlizzCon video going around of players doing a Q&A with a panel of devs of which I was a member," Street tweeted. "Look, it was a shitty answer at the time and it certainly hasn’t aged well. I wish I had said something better then."
Street added in the thread: "You can’t really see the people asking the questions well from the stage, and I feel terrible now seeing the look on her face. I have more experience now answering questions live, but no doubt that won’t be my last shitty answer. I apologize for those as well as for this one."
Street clarified that his prediction of future bad answers isn't meant to reflect a "blasé attitude" toward the treatment of women in gaming, but that interactions with players can be inherently risky—although, he believes, still important for developers to engage in. He also emphasized that he was not trying to speak on behalf of Blizzard, or the women or people of color who work there.
"I do believe men in leadership roles have a responsibility, a duty, to make sure women and other marginalized folks feel welcome, happy, and successful at our studios," he continued. "I mean really all men at a studio do, but especially the leaders of the studio. I take that very seriously at Riot, and we have worked very hard to make our company a better place to work."
I find the video embarrassing and I apologize to the player who asked the question and all others who were disappointed with our “answer.” I think there are more important voices that we need to hear right now. But the video can be a reminder that we can be better. GC outJuly 25, 2021
Riot faced its own allegations of pervasive sexism and workplace misconduct, and a gender discrimination lawsuit, following an in-depth Kotaku report in 2018. Riot settled the suit and issued a denial of "systemic" sexism in August 2019. In February 2021, Riot and CEO Nicolo Laurent were sued by a former employee over allegations of sexual harassment. A Riot internal committee reported in March that it had found no evidence to support the allegations.
"I find the video embarrassing and I apologize to the player who asked the question and all others who were disappointed with our 'answer'," Street concluded. "I think there are more important voices that we need to hear right now. But the video can be a reminder that we can be better."
Street's apology comes after similar public statements from other ex-Blizzard leaders in the last week, co-founder and former president Mike Morhaime and former senior vice president Chris Metzen, who in separate posts said that leadership "failed" to support women at Blizzard. Metzen worked at Blizzard for more than two decades.
I've reached out to Street for comment and will update if I receive a reply.