Blizzard president and CEO Mike Morhaime is the latest major figure to call for an end to the vitriol that has infused the world of gaming since August. At the BlizzCon 2014 opening ceremony, Morhaime condemned harassment that has taken place against the backdrop of Gamergate, a long-running "consumer revolt" against progressive politics and close relationships within the games industry.
"Over the past couple of months, there's been a small group of people who have been doing really awful things. They have been making some people's lives miserable, and they are tarnishing our reputation as gamers. It's not right," said Morhaime. "Let's carry the good vibes from this weekend out into the world all year round. There is another person on the other end of the chatscreen. They're our friends, our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters. Let's take a stand to reject hate and harassment. And let's redouble our efforts to be kind and respectful to one another. And let's remind the world what the gaming community is really all about."
"It's not right."
Morhaime didn't condemn Gamergate or its members, but he's clearly talking about problems that have been going on since the movement gained steam over two months ago, including death threats that drove at least three women out of their homes and forced one of them — feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian — to cancel a speaking engagement after an angry email promised a "massacre" at the venue. Host Geoff Keighley later mentioned the group by name in an after-keynote discussion. Though Gamergate's stated goal is improving ethics in games journalism, it's also thrown new fuel onto a long-running harassment problem within the industry, beginning largely as a vendetta against developer Zoe Quinn, whose nontraditional text game Depression Quest has inspired surprising fury in parts of the gaming world for not being a "real game."
Developers, journalists, and others have received persistent threats for doing something as minor as rebalancing a game, and the problem has been especially pronounced for people like Sarkeesian, who are hated among a small group of gamers for critiquing the industry. Well before Gamergate, the Game Developers Choice Awards were threatened with a bombing if they did not rescind an award they had given Sarkeesian. The problem has become so pronounced that the FBI approached the International Game Developers Association to discuss harassment this summer, and the ESA trade organization spoke out against threats last month. Unfortunately, while things are looking better in some ways, they problem shows no sign of abating: a Bungie executive was woken by police this morning after an anonymous caller falsely claimed he was holding a family hostage.
Update November 7th, 2014 3:50pm ET: Updated to add mention of Gamergate by Geoff Keighley.