Stopping the Blizzcon Bullying
Editor’s Note: I had initially started writing this the day after Blizzcon 2016, but then abandoned it because let’s face it – at the time, ragging on the Blizzcon hosting duties was like beating a dead horse. Now social media have moved on to other, uh, things. So I thought, what the Hell, why not try and revisit this and maybe get some fresh ideas flowing.
I love Blizzcon. I really do. Where else can nerds like me go and feel not only safe, but accepted? Gamers are always the brunt of jokes and ridicule. At least, those who are brave enough to let others know what they do both for fun and as a social experience. Blizzcon is like a big hug, a place where Blizzard gamers can be among their own people, and not have to worry about being judged.
You be you, boo boo. You be you.
Naturally, the socially awkward and sensitive tend to be very protective of their safe-zone. They don’t like it when outsiders come in and disrupt their happy place. This makes them critical of anyone who they feel might be disparaging them. Sensitive, you might say.
Some might say, too sensitive.
Thomas Middleditch, the host of the Contest portion of Blizzcon 2016, seemed to have little idea what he was signing up for. I’m sure he’d been briefed. I mean, dude is no slouch – Emmy-nominated actor for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for “Silicon Valley”. He clearly knows how to bring the funny. He also fits the “nerdy comedic gamer” niche that Blizzard seems to go for when it comes to booking hosts for Blizzcon.
Thomas tried. He did. Granted, even he admitted he wasn’t as prepared as he should have been. He cited being busy working 12 hour days, which is understandable given that he has a career to build on. But by the end of his set, the live attendants didn’t seem too thrilled with him, and the online crowd openly hated him. They roasted him to the point where former host Jay Mohr piped up on Twitter offering support.
Jay brought up a few interesting observations, one of which I slapped at the top of this post. He cited it as the reason that most of the people who hosted prior to this refused to return for the gig. And honestly, I don’t blame them.
Comedy is subjective. Sometimes it hits, sometimes not. I’ve seen most of the previous hosts, both live and on Youtube or Virtual Ticket. And while it is important to be able to laugh at yourself and not take things too seriously, poking fun at socially awkward gamers at Blizzcon is like going to a gun convention and cracking wise about the guy who buys the biggest guns to make up for his other shortcomings.
Penis. I’m saying he buys big guns because he has a little penis. Point being, it doesn’t go over well.
To Blizzard’s credit, they make tremendous games. Games so good that they generate passionate fans. And be it games, antique cars, or geode crystals, nobody likes it when someone takes a pot shot at something they are passionate about. They get defensive, lash out, and Jay Mohr takes his paycheck and says “Later nerds!”
And I don’t blame him. Just as I don’t blame Thomas Middleditch, Wil Wheaton, or Chris Hardwick.
I blame Blizzard… or whoever does the bookings. But since it’s Blizzcon, Blizz has to take the hit on this one. Why?
- They hire comedians that they think filled a niche – gamers, nerdy types. Problem being, especially in Middleditch’s case, the hosts break out their stock material about gamers (either out of habit or due to a lack of familiarity with Blizzard games), which is only funny when it’s not entirely true. But let’s be real here – sometimes stereotypes exist for a reason. Some of those jokes hit a little close to home for many, and while some may laugh at the jokes, others may feel like they are the ones being laughed at.
- Why must the contest host be a comedian at all? They start the set off with ten minutes of jokes, which is a great warm up if you’re setting up for more comedy. Sitcoms do this when they shoot in front of a live audience by having a comedian come out and “warm up the crowd”. Big name comedians also do this by having warm up acts perform before them. But at Blizzcon, the only comedy that happens once the competition starts is whatever jokes the comedian says. Those jokes tend to be at the expense of the performers. (Okay, the talent competition might be yuk yuk-worthy but you don’t need a warm-up act for that.)
Every Blizzcon it seems like it becomes harder and harder to fill that hosting spot. As Jay Mohr pointed out, there’s a reason for that. After what happened at Blizzcon 2016, I think it might be time to veer off the path a little.
- Get a celebrity who plays Warcraft. Blizzard obviously likes to have a celebrity in that hosting spot. This year, while Thomas Middleditch was an Emmy-nominated actor, he just wasn’t as well-known as many other hosts had been. But people know Hodor. Kristian Nairn plays Warcraft, and he DJ’d the afterparty event at Blizzcon this year. Felecia Day? She’s appeared at Blizzcon before. Dominic Monaghan? He threw down with Elijah Wood (Battle of the Hobbits, yo!) defending World of Warcraft. He makes appearances at SDCC. There are other celebrities who could come out and host the contest who are WoW fans (Vin Diesel, Mila Kunis, and obviously Jamie Lee Curtis) but the price tag on them might be more than Blizzard can afford. Still, it doesn’t hurt to try… and Jamie Lee Curtis already has her own Orc costume.
- Pull from the fan base. Since this is a hosting gig for the competition portion of the show, why not have a competition to select the host? There are talented Youtubers, Twitchers, and other media-savvy people amongst the MILLIONS and MILLIONS of Blizzard gamers. I’m sure if Blizzard dangled a competitive carrot out there, they’d get a number of suitable entries. And with all the heat that the very same fan base threw at hosts in the past, anyone who entered the competition would be very aware of what kind of potential shit-storm could be waiting for them.
Blizzcon 2017 is only about 340 days away. Clock’s ticking… and I doubt there will be a lineup of people knocking on Blizzard’s door looking for the hosting gig this time around.