WoW Players Call For Removal Of NPCs Named After Ex-Director Identified In New Lawsuit
Alex Afrasiabi, a former creative director on World of Warcraft, was explicitly named in California's lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, citing the company's "frat boy" culture.
World of Warcraft players are calling for two NPCs named after former WoW creative director Alex Afrasiabi to be removed from the game, following explicit mention of Afrasiabi's alleged pattern of harassment against female employees in a recent lawsuit filed by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing against Activision Blizzard.
Afrasiabi, who unceremoniously left Blizzard in the summer of 2020, is the only person named directly in the State of California's lawsuit in reference to sexual harassment allegations. The lawsuit claims he would frequently hit on female employees by attempting to kiss them and put his arms around them. One portion of the lawsuit that is particularly telling is the claim that Afrasiabi's suite was nicknamed the "Crosby Suite," an apparent mispelled reference to alleged rapist Bill Cosby, who in 2018 was sentenced to 10 years in jail for sexual assault charges, charges which were recently overturned by the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court.
The lawsuit states Afrasiabi's alleged pattern of harassment was known to Blizzard executives, but that no corrective measures were taken due to his seniority, with Blizzard president J. Allen Brack allegedly only giving Afrasiabi a metaphorical slap on the wrist in response to his behavior. Afrasiabi joined Blizzard in 2004 as a quest designer on vanilla WoW. He would go on to serve as creative director for the game's Warlords of Draenor and Legion expansions.
Now, players on the game's forums and Reddit are calling for two human NPCs named after Afrasiabi to be removed from the game. The two NPCs in question are Field Marshal Afrasiabi, found in the Alliance capital city of Stormwind, and Lord Afrasastrasz, found in Wrymwrest Temple in Northrend. As of writing, both NPCs are still present in-game, with Field Marshal Afrasiabi able to be found in both WoW Classic and the game's most recent expansion, Shadowlands. Field Marshal Afrasiabi appears to be phasing in and out of existence in the Shadowlands version of the game, though the reason for this is currently unclear. Players are currently using an in-game toy to post warning signs around the Stormwind NPC, with some Horde players even taking matters into their own hands, invading the Alliance city to dispose of Field Marshal Afrasiabi personally.
Other players are calling for even more drastic measures, requesting that quests created by Afrasiabi be reworked or removed entirely. Numerous in-game items are named in reference to Afrasiabi as well, and his influence on the game as a whole is a big one. As a quest designer in the game's early days, he designed some of WoW's most iconic quest lines and areas, including the quest chain for the legendary weapon Thunderfury and the Death Knight starting zone in Wrath of the Lich King.
There is precedent for Blizzard removing NPCs from the game. Two NPCs named after popular WoW streamer Swifty were quietly removed last summer. Blizzard gave no official reason for the change, but the removal of the NPCs came after allegations of sexual misconduct. Voice actor Quinton Flynn, who voiced the character Kael'thas Sunstrider in Warcraft 3 and WoW's Burning Crusade expansion, saw his voice removed from the game earlier this year. Once again, no explicit reason was given for the change, but it is assumed to be due to sexual misconduct allegations brought against Flynn around the same time.
But even if Afrasiabi's NPCs are removed and his quests reworked, fans are wondering if any action on Blizzard's part would be symbolic enough, given allegations that Afrasiabi's actions were said to be well-known to management, including Brack himself. Players have begun to stage in-game protests in response to the lawsuit's allegations, with many saying they've canceled their game subscriptions and are using the game-time remaining on their accounts to encourage others to do the same.
Blizzard has yet comment on the matter publicly, but an Activision Blizzard spokesperson's response to California's lawsuit claims that the picture painted by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing is "not the Blizzard workplace of today," and that the company has made "significant changes to address company culture" over the past several years, despite Afrasiabi continuing to be employed by the company in a senior role as recently as last year. An internal Blizzard email from Brack obtained by Bloomberg's Jason Schreier call the lawsuit allegations "extremely troubling" and the behavior outlined within it "completely unacceptable."
Blizzard has recently seen an exodus of talent away from the studio in favor of going independent. Many ex-Blizzard developers are forming their own studios, looking to make new games in genres, like RTS, that Blizzard hasn't recently shown an interest in creating. A new Bloomberg report also recently documented the struggles behind the making of Warcraft 3: Reforged, the remake of Blizzard's classic RTS that released in 2020 to lackluster reviews and fan reception, with internal Blizzard documents stating developers on the project suffered from depression, exhaustion, and anxiety over the course of development.
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