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Is Blizzard Racist? Diablo 3

Diablo 3

My Love For Diablo 3

I grew up with the Diablo franchise (Diablo 3, YES!). The initial Diablo was one of the first- if not the first- games I ever played. At 10 years old, with my dad directing over my shoulder, I fought my way through the labyrinthine underground levels of Tristram’s cathedral and eventually defeated Diablo himself. Dad and I sat and strategized whenever I got stuck; we’d switch characters and brag about our accomplishments. He still replays it to this day, which I find adorable.

By Ghost Lily

So, of course, the release of Diablo 3 was massive for me. I was fairly disappointed by it, which is a whole ‘nother can o’ worms, but actual gameplay issues aside, I was surprised by one thing: the horrific racial misappropriation.

Now, this is a video game. THIS IS DIABLO 3. This is Blizzard, a multi-million dollar corporation that just wants to cater to as many gamers as possible. They aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel with a socially-conscious dungeon crawler, nor do I expect them to. But think critically about some of their character decisions in this game, in particular with the Witch Doctor class in Diablo 3.

Blizzard’s Diablo 3 Lore

Diablo 3 lore says that the Witch Doctor class hails from the Umbaru tribe in the Tegaze jungle. Witch Doctors are revered amongst their people – rare and powerful, they alone can contact the Unformed Land (a twist on the afterlife) to call on spirits and channel physical/psychological powers.

Blizzard Diablo 3

I find it difficult to accept that Blizzard’s Diablo 3 made one of the two non-Caucasian classes live in the jungle. While the Wizard, Barbarian, Demon Hunter, and Monk classes in Diablo 3 were all part of perfect technological towns with veritable religions and resources, Blizzard took the dark-skinned class, decided that their people lived in “tribes” in the jungle, worshiping spirits in a form of religion that has been described in unabashedly primal terms.

Their accents are an odd hybrid of African and Jamaican, their speaking style is clipped and foreign, as if English is their second language, and perhaps most questionable trait of all: the class doesn’t stand up straight.

They walk, run and fight with a hunch.

Now, why is this so horrific? Upright posture is often seen as a sign of human development – we are closely related to homo erectus (“upright man”) as a species; we have developed from the hunched posture of our Neanderthal relatives, implying that the only dark-skinned class in the game is significantly less developed than the Caucasian classes, who all walk upright and have advanced civilizations.

Everything from their speech to their culture is reminiscent of vapid Native American and African American stereotypes. Their class crest seems to have been influenced by Aztec art for absolutely no reason. It seems that Blizzard picked up the buzzword “exotic” and appropriated bits of other cultures and cultural stereotypes, threw them together, and slapped the title “Witch Doctor” on them. (Did I mention their title is equally ill-researched?)

At the end of this day, what does this mean and why is it important? The perpetuation of stereotypes is often shrugged off as harmless, but consider what this means for people of color who encounter these stereotypes while playing. We live in a world with a lot different people and just because they are using an alternative form of media does not cover up the fact that Blizzard had an opportunity to make the gaming world a less problematic place and they dropped the ball. In fact, they threw the ball. No, they set the ball on fire.

Do we really want to scare off/offend the remaining fans of color with piles of insensitive stereotypes like this that they are supposed to relate to? Are we comfortable with telling players, “hey, here’s a dark-skinned character with zero depth and racist characteristics, do you feel appropriately represented now?”

Final Thoughts On Diablo 3 and Racism In Gaming

We can only hope that other gaming companies take note of these blunders and work twice as hard to reverse the inequality and false representation in gaming to make these games more friendly for players- all players. In the final analysis, stereotyping people is something that all of us do. We’re humans and by default we are flawed, much as we may try to be considerate of others. Corporately, however, there is no room for such inequity, fallacy, and “it’s just a game” excuses. I for one call it like I see it. When it comes to Diablo 3 and racism, does Blizzard, do you?

 

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