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World of Warcraft players are hosting sit-in protests after Blizzard allegations

If you can’t protest in California, try Oribos

World of Warcraft - a shot of dozens of players sitting together in the Shadowlands city of Oribos for an in-game sit-in protest Image: Blizzard Entertainment via Polygon
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

World of Warcraft’s current social hub of Oribos is packed with players, but it’s not due to a new raid or update. Hundreds of players are participating in an in-game protest against Activision Blizzard after a lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The court documents include allegations of a “frat boy culture” that subjected female employees to “constant sexual harassment.”

The protest was organized by Fence Macabre, a role-play guild that runs faction neutral stories on the Wyrmrest Accord and Moon Guard servers. In addition, the group is running a fundraising campaign for the charity Black Girls Code, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching girls ages 7-17 about computer programming and digital technology.

The lawsuit was widely publicized on Wednesday night. Many players were horrified to hear about the alleged culture surrounding a game that’s meaningful to so many people.

As players log off from the protest, new faces show up to join the group. Many of their accounts are “sub locked,” which means that they have pre-paid active game time on their account. I sat among the protests for a while, watching the conversation ebb and flow. Some showed up to say goodbye and wish their fellow role-players good luck, like an elf who said he had been looking for a reason to return to Final Fantasy 14. Others at the sit-in used the opportunity to vent anger and frustration with specific Blizzard employees named in the suit, speculating in in-game chat as to which executive wrote the company’s immediate response.

Hinahina Gray, a deputy with Fence Macabre and an authenticity reader who provides a Native Hawaiian perspective for media, spoke to Polygon about the protest. “Some people who have joined us are still undecided, debating leaving communities they’ve curated,” she wrote in a Discord message. “It’s never an easy decision to leave such a big emotional investment behind. Most of the people here have cancelled their sub. We wanted to do an in-game protest as it would allow people from all over to sit and join with us. Since we still have the game time, we might as well try to do something with it.”

She also acknowledges that for some players, the decision is difficult.

“In saying that, it is an emotional loss, a lot of people in our extended communities are struggling, especially people who are also marginalized who have been able to find others like themselves and cultivate a sense of belonging,” Gray said. “As a queer indigenous person, I definitely feel it. While I have external real-life support systems and resources, finding those communities in a shared hobby is especially meaningful.”