Blizzard Entertainment, WandaVision and the ship of Theseus

Blizzard Entertainment, WandaVision and the ship of Theseus

Blizzard Entertainment

Change is part of our existence. As a species, the human being evolves to adapt to the world around him, developing traits that allow him a life in ever better conditions. Our habits change, our daily routine changes, our body is constantly changing, cells die and are constantly reborn.

But in all this becoming and changing does our "I" remain the same? Are we still the same person, despite our bodies being continually replaced by new parts?

Let's take a step back, precisely towards the ancient Greece of Heraclitus, Plato and Plutarch, the first three philosophers who tried to analyze a metaphysical enigma that is still a matter of discussion today.

The legends narrate that the wooden ship of the hero Theseus was preserved intact over the years, constantly being repaired by replacing every part deteriorated by the passage of time. It came to a point where none of the original parts were part of the ship that sailed the seas in legendary adventures, despite the shape and appearance of the boat having remained unchanged.

At the foot of the famous statue at the entrance to the Blizzard offices we can find this plaque. We hope it will also be valid tomorrow. This reasoning (the ship is always the same but at the same time it has been completely replaced) inevitably leads to the question: Was the ship of Theseus preserved or not? Here of course we are talking about the ship entity and not the physical object in front of us.

This concept, used excellently in the Marvel produced TV series, WandaVision (we avoid spoilers for those who have not had the pleasure to look at it), has been analyzed over the centuries by numerous philosophers and still finds application today.

A restorer of a vintage car, for example, to what extent can he still consider the Cadillac he is working on original after each part has been replaced? Is it still a vintage car, or a replica?

The essence of the people who used it no longer exists, it is no longer traceable. A concept that is applied to the most varied fields, such as a football team that changes formation every year or like a musical band that changes the lineup sometimes entirely, but keeping the original name.

Jeff Kaplan is just the last of the excellent names that have left the Irvine home. How much will this departure affect the already troubled development of Overwatch 2? Now let's move on to the world of gaming and the title of this article. The year 2014 runs and within Blizzard Entertainment a first shock is given by Rob Pardo, Blizzard's Chief Creative Officer, who after 17 years of honorable career decides to leave the company for which he contributed to the creation of a title such as Diablo, Warcraft and Starcraft.

Two years later, Josh Mosqueira, Lead Director of Diablo 3, follows in Pardo's footsteps; the same year, more for personal than business reasons, Chris Metzen, beloved voice actor of the character Thrall and Blizzard's narrative pivot, decides to leave. Three people in two years can seem like a drop in the ocean, perhaps something that we can define as physiological in the life of a company. Except that these cuts have turned into a haemorrhage of increasingly high-sounding names.

In 2018, Ben Brode, the mind behind Hearthstone, leaves after 15 years of career to found his studio, followed in the space of a few days by Hamilton Chu, executive producer of the same game. An impact that has been seen in subsequent expansions of the digital card game set in the world of Warcraft, which has lost its originality and bite.

But for all fans of Irvine's company, the blow to the heart has arrived by Michael Morhaime, co-founder of Blizzard, when he announced his farewell as CEO during Blizzcon in 2018, leaving the company permanently in April 2019.

If the entire management of a company teleports elsewhere, are we not faced with another application of the paradox of the ship of Theseus? We would like to be able to close the list of escapes here but unfortunately other key figures in the Blizzard world have left in the following years, including Dave Kosak, another key figure for Hearthstone, and news a few days ago, Jeff Kaplan, Overwatch's father and legendary figure for World of Warcraft.

Which is not normal. We are out of that generational change that usually occurs in such important companies, and the fact that none of the refugees have given reasons for their resignation makes that of the loss of identity and ethos seem a more than justified accusation.

Our ship of Theseus to be examined is right here, in front of our eyes. Blizzard Entertainment of 2021, at least for the sum of its members, is no longer the same company that has dominated the gaming market with titles that have made history. More and more parts are being replaced (and here we are not judging whether these parts are better. or worse is clear), and that dominant position of study "loved by those who work there" is crumbling more and more.

If we add to this the numerous mass layoffs, the exorbitant bonuses to CEO Bobby Kotick, increasingly rich in an almost outrageous way, and the closed studios including the historic one in Paris, can we still call it Blizzard Entertainment?

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Unfortunately, the spirit of Blizzard has dispersed, dissipated. Or at least it hangs on a thin thread, like the one woven by the parking lots of Greek mythology, in control of our destiny and our fate, ready to sever it when it's our time.

The time has come for Blizzard to to surrender to the evidence that that name is, in fact, an empty shell painted to look like what it isn't?

Blizzard's ship, once legendary for its exploits, seems to have gotten lost in an ocean upset by the storm; every maneuver to try to re-establish the course seems to bring more problems than solutions, and one by one the lifeboats are moving away.

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