To Boldly Nerd…

Video games, pen&paper RPGs and other nerdery

When companies disappoint you


May has not been a good month for blogging around Casa Kadomi and Schmitt. Our cat Jenny has AIHA/IMHA which means that her own body is destroying her red blood cells. She’s been treated for this since November with prednisone, but she recently crashed, and crashed hard. Her hematocrit was down to 16%, a normal value is 30-45%. Our vet didn’t give us much hope, there aren’t many options left, and the past two weeks, she clearly was incredibly miserable. But she’s getting Atopica along with her prednisone now, and for the past two days has been a lot livelier and more her normal self. We are very cautiously optimistic now. Send good thoughts.

A lot has happened since I last blogged. Wildstar’s open beta has come and gone, and I personally felt that the open beta had so much more polish than it had in closed beta that I am really looking forward to launch. I really think they can pull off a success if they play it right. I really want them to be successful, because what’s standing out so much is how the Carbine devs are eager to communicate with their community and learn from it too.

How to play it wrong

Another thing that happened was that Rob Pardo, Chief Creative Officer at Blizzard Entertainment gave a talk at MIT Media Lab and Todd Harper from Polygon asked a few questions.

There are some that say Todd Harper misrepresented Rob Pardo in his article, after having watched the video, but I don’t feel that way. I read the words, I listen to the talk, and all I feel is disappointment at the lack of trying that I see.

My friend Jen above sums it up for me. I expect better from the companies that I love and have supported by buying their games for many years. I don’t feel that diversity in games is an insurmountable task. Those who care about it are not demanding that all male characters of power get ousted in favor of women. We just want more diversity. More inclusiveness. More female characters that actually matter. No boys’ trip with the noble savages of Draenor where females are supposed to take off their armor to be with a REAL man. More female villains along with female heroes. Armor that looks the same on both genders. Proof that 12-year old comic-loving boys can grow up and their mindset grows along with them, instead of forever being trapped in adolescence. Not simply acknowledging that it’s a problem for them, but actively trying to fix it. Don’t perpetuate that you cannot hire female devs because there are no applicants. Don’t listen to clueless guys who think just because they don’t care or are not affected, the industry should revolve around them.

I have friends who work at Blizzard, including my lovely friend Becca, and I know they’re really happy to work there. I bet it’s an amazing workplace. But to know that a company that’s entertained us for so many hours has such a company culture coming from the top down, it’s incredibly disappointing.

I don’t know how this will affect people’s reactions towards WoD. I just know I am one step closer to not going back this time, with this stuff on top of the noble savages/Azeroth Choppers nonsense. But when a really notable blogger of the WoW community like Cynwise bows out in response, it makes you wonder. I applaud Cyn for his principles and will miss his words about the game.

Don’t be a bully

When I am not playing games, I read a lot, and review books over at Goodreads which incidentally belongs to Amazon these days. Just a week ago I replaced my 3 year old Kindle 3 with a Paperwhite. I buy all my books at Amazon, mostly Kindle versions, and I buy just about everything else there. We just bought a Roomba there. Whatever I need, I check Amazon first. Sometimes I feel guilty, because Amazon has a ridiculously shitty work environment here in Germany (and probably the rest of the world) and they don’t even pay full taxes here. But they’re so easy to use, and let me support authors I love. Or so I thought.

On Twitter, I follow Elizabeth Bear who a) writes amazing books (pick up Range of Ghosts now!) and b) is a friend of my friend Jules. I had heard vague rumors of Amazon trying to force a deal with some publisher, but I hadn’t followed it closely.

Well, that doesn’t make me feel good about owning a Kindle anymore. 😛 I mean, I know that I will continue using it as reading advice, because it’s fantastic. But now I am tempted to check out other German book stores like Thalia or BOL to see if they have DRM-free epubs that I could possibly convert to mobi with Calibre. So not only is Amazon a monopolistic bully, but they’re using the same practices on both sides of the pond, with Hachette in the US and Bonnier over here.

It makes me feel very uncomfortable and I will be watching this very carefully. When some of my favorite authors in the world like N.K. Jemisin or J.K. Rowling get delayed, so that Amazon can sell more e-books or get a better contract, this is a rather worrisome development.


  1. Woah I hadn’t seen the video of Rob Pardo’s comments.. I did read the article thinking, “There is a chance here that he’s taking these words out of context, blowing them out of proportion.” But watching that video, wow. No. He didn’t. Rob Pardo just could not give a shit about anything outside of the boys club that is Blizzard.. I only VAGUELY wanted to come back to see WoD anyway and was in two minds about it sooo this has tipped me over the edge into nope land.

    And as for Amazon? Sheesh. I’d somewhat heard about that but didn’t really see the details. Sadly I’ll still be using Amazon but I do on occasion use The Book Depository and others if the prices are good enough. It’s just so tough to dodge Amazon and their monopoly these days.

  2. You may want to see a dissenting viewpoint on the whole Amazon/Hachette thing,

    To me, it just sounds like to two big corporations (Amazon and the publishers) having a fight. Picking sides feels like picking between Malak and the Emperor. Whoever wins is going to fry me in the end.

    • Interesting posts there! Thanks for sharing.

      I still feel meh about Amazon, because they do suck as employer over here.

  3. When I first saw the Pardo comments and blow back to them, my initial reaction was that the whole thing was being overblown. But the more I thought about, the more I realized that people are right to talk Blizzard to task over this.

    Full disclosure, I’m a child of the 80s HWM (hetronormative white male). For most of my life, when I consumed media, I’ve gotten to choose which character, who looked liked me, I was more like or wanted to be like. Did I feel more Han Solo or Luke Skywalker? Was I more Harry or Ron Weasley?

    I’ve never known what it’s like to be unrepresented or even underrepresented. As I tried to put myself in those shoes (to the best of my limited ability), I got the briefest taste of what might be like.

    I didn’t like it. I hope Blizzard (and all developers, movie makers, book writers, etc.) learn from these comments and become more inclusive.

  4. First about Amazon – I still prefer holding a good old, real book. My wife uses a kindle so I can see the convenience though =)

    About Blizzard and diversity – it was interesting in that video watching him try to answer it and play it safe – but at a certain size and audience your actions (or inactions) become a social narrative on their own for the company he represents.

    They either don’t understand the core issues (and to be honest, that question was pretty convoluted and confusing (and ultimately longer than the answer)) or they are confident enough in their core customer that they don’t feel like they need to have a proper response and plan to address diversity issues. Neither one of those is okay.

    This has been brought up enough now that Blizzard should be prepared with proper answers and visible actions

  5. I just sat there in stunned silence when said the line about “no applicants” for female designer. I had the distinct impression this dude 1) does not go out much and has not heard other men give this same lame excuse and fall on their face 2) does not go out much and marinates in the blizzard culture, insulated by millons of dollars, a surefire retirement and and literally ZERO reason to give a damn.

    I’ve said it before: Blizzard is too rich to care.

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