World of Warcraft developers pledge to remove in-game references that are 'not appropriate' following sexual harassment lawsuit

World of Warcraft
(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

In the wake of Activision Blizzard's lawsuit for alleged widespread sexual harassment and discrimination, World of Warcraft's developers issued a statement that said it will be stripping out in-game references that are "not appropriate for [the game]"—most likely meaning NPCs and items related to former creative director Alex Afrasiabi who was directly named in the lawsuit as an alleged sexual abuser. Since the lawsuit became public, other women have also come forward to accuse Afrasiabi, who left the company in 2020, of sexual assault and harassment.

The message, which was posted on WoW's social media channels and forums, is the first time the development team has officially addressed the community since the allegations were made public last week.

"The past days have been a time of reflection for the World of Warcraft team, spent in conversation and contemplation, full of sadness, pain, and anger, but also hope and resolve," the statement reads. "As we heed the brave women who have come forward to share their experiences, we stand committed to taking the actions necessary to ensure we are providing an inclusive, welcoming, and safe environment both for our team and for our players in Azeroth. Those of us in leadership understand that it is not our place to judge when we have achieved our goals, but rather for our team and our community to let us know when we still have more to do."

Over the "coming days" players will see various references removed from the game that the developers deem no longer acceptable. Blizzard did not specify which, but two NPCs related to Afrasiabi are likely candidates. Over the past week players have also highlighted other troubling areas of the game, including a quest where players capture and torture a harpy (sentient half-women, half-bird creatures) for information before deciding to either release or murder her.

"We know that in order to rebuild trust, we must earn it with our actions in the weeks and months to come," Blizzard said. "But we go forward knowing that we share the same vision as our community about creating a place where people of all genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and backgrounds can thrive and proudly call home."

Last week, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing announced it was suing Activision Blizzard over widespread sexual abuse and discrimination faced by its female and minority employees. Though Activision Blizzard publicly dismissed the lawsuit, claiming it presents "distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard's past," employees feel otherwise. Over 2,500 have now signed an open letter condemning the official response by the executive team, and employees are also staging a walkout on Wednesday in protest

Steven Messner

With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.