Link to the opinion piece about the talk that started the incident
The general rundown is that Dustin Browder (one of the Starcraft devs) is asked about oversexualization of female characters in games, and his response is basically that he thinks it's fine because they aren't trying to send a message (though "we don't want to send a message" is itself a message). The guy who wrote the linked article asked Pardo to clarify, who then puts his foot in his mouth with a badly worded response. He acknowledges that they do not portray women well, but seems to indicate that they are also not really interested in fixing the problem.Blizzard's Dustin Browder, much like Nintendo in its statement regarding Tomodachi Life, positions "gameplay" and "fun" in direct opposition to producing socially-conscious content.
When pressed on the sexualization of women characters in MOBA games, Browder argued "We're not sending a message. Nobody should look to our game for that." The message just below the surface here is: why can't we just have fun? Why do we have to be responsible for being respectful?
After his talk, I asked Pardo to talk about how Blizzard's values — "epic entertainment experiences," emphasizing the Blizzard brand, focus on gameplay and de-emphasizing narrative — and the company's perception of their audience might impact how they portray socially progressive content.
His answer was disappointing. "I wouldn't say that's really a value for us. It's not something that we're against either, but it's just not something that's ... something we're trying to actively do."
His subsequent list of justifications, reasons and examples became increasingly problematic. Pardo argued that Blizzard works primarily in sci-fi and fantasy because they're "kids at heart," reinforcing the idea that games — specifically Blizzard games — are not a place for "real world issues" to be discussed:
"We're not trying to bring in serious stuff, or socially relevant stuff, or actively trying to preach for diversity or do things like that," he said. His example of a place where Blizzard struggles is portrayal of women.
Pardo notes that "because most of our developers are guys who grew up reading comics books," Blizzard games often present women characters as a sexualized comic book ideal that "is offensive to, I think, some women."
Morhaime ended up apologizing for the comments last month.