As Activision Blizzard prepares to face a lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the company’s many teams are taking time to reflect on the communities and culture that define them. Unfortunately for the World of Warcraft team, this means facing down an all-new controversy of their own design.
In a statement posted on July 27th, 2021, the World of Warcraft team tweeted a message about the current state of affairs. This included introspection of both their team and community culture as Activision Blizzard moves to address complaints of systemic sexual harassment within the company. The statement announces that the World of Warcraft team is dedicated to protecting marginalized communities, and that the player base will be seeing changes to both WoW Shadowlands and WoW classic in the coming days.
— World of Warcraft (@Warcraft) July 27, 2021
The first of these changes has arrived, and fans have a lot to say. With the launch of the Public Test Realm for WoW Classic: Overlords of Outland, many players helping to test the content have noticed something strange. /spit, an in-game chat command that allows one player to spit at another, no longer works on the test realm. Players can still use the command to spit on the ground or at NPCs, but not other players. It goes without saying that World of Warcraft players have strong opinions on this change, and not all of them are supportive.
On the official Blizzard forums, WoW players have been quick to criticize the decision. Some worry that WoW Classic will continue to deviate from its inspiration, while others criticize the move for being performative in nature. On the official Blizzard forums, the community was quick to demand more meaningful change, or no change at all. A plethora of genuine issues plaguing the game have been raised. From high-level players targeting and killing off low-level groups, experienced players attempting to scam unfamiliar players out of their in-game currency. Some racial slurs are still not censored in global chat, a fact controversial YouTube and Twitch personality Asmongold was quick to point out.
The ban likely came about as a response to the use of the command on players who purchased the Deluxe Edition of the game. This would award a special in-game mount, making these players a target for potential harassment. Players affected by this harassment have called for action from Blizzard for some time, and their cries may finally be answered. Some claim their ignore list, which allows them to hide another player’s messages in chat, have been maxed out. For these players, the change represents a brief respite from uncontrolled chat spam.
The World of Warcraft team has not yet responded to the conflict amongst their players. Thus far, the change to /spit has not been implemented on any of World of Warcraft’s main servers. As players wait to see if the change will see a larger rollout, conversation about the nature of the decision continues in every corner of the Warcraft community. In the end, only time will tell how the World of Warcraft team and Activision Blizzard will handle incidents like this going forward, both in and outside of their company.