Given the almost daily news about Blizzard losing veteran talent, it comes as no surprise that wokester and game designer Jeff Kaplan has finally had enough and resigned from Blizzard Entertainment. In a terse message (he has a college degree in English literature but doesn’t seem to care enough about the English language to capitalize his sentences) he announced his resignation:
There’s really not much else to say at this point that I have not already said about Jeffrey Kaplan in numerous articles.
Kaplan broke into the video game industry in an unlikely fashion. He was once a high ranking member of an EverQuest MMORPG guild called Legacy of Steel. A fellow guild member named Rob Pardo worked at Blizzard and via the magic of cronyism managed to create a job listing that only Kaplan could fill and he got a game design position at Blizzard working on quests for World of Warcraft.
At the beginning of his game design career with Blizzard, Kaplan was hitting his stride and used the acumen he gleaned from raiding with his guild in EverQuest to help make WoW into a MMORPG juggernaut and a cultural phenomenon.
Kaplan played an active part in the design of WoW until the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. It was then that his interest in WoW began to wane and it was evident that he was running out of ideas that he managed to borrow achievements from XBox Live and crudely grafted them into WoW via that expansion. Achievements were all the rage back then and Kaplan figured he would capitalize on that trend. Luckily, Kaplan was no longer working on WoW when the Facebook game Farmville became trendy, as he would certainly made sure that every WoW player could grow crops.
After Wrath of the Lich King was released, he was transferred to a new team at Blizzard that would work on the ill-fated Project Titan MMO. Years later in 2014 and after $50 million spent, Titan was cancelled. Then it was clear to anyone with eyes that the Blizzard team that brought us WoW could not duplicate their success with a new MMO. Suddenly, the halo of infallibility was snuffed out from the reputation of the WoW devs assigned to Titan.
After that embarrassing failure, repurposing assets from Titan, they created Overwatch — a garish Disneyesque EPCOT Center amusement park ride first person shooter game. It was at this moment, Kaplan, Metzen, Pardo, and Afrasiabi redeemed themselves and Blizzard 2.0 was worn. No longer would Blizzard make hardcore games for males, instead they embraced a new philosophy of diversity and inclusion that would see them adding in token LGBTQ characters to appease the social justice warriors and woke video games journalists that were hijacking popular culture at the time and still are. Blizzard games were no longer for males but for females too and they wanted the whole world to know that.
I have feeling that Blizzard used wokeness as a redemptive smokescreen to repair their damaged egos caused by their failure with Titan.
Kaplan was put in charge of Overwatch and become like a father figure to the Overwatch community complete with bizarre fireside chat videos and Steve Jobs cult-like adoration from the fans.
Jeff Kaplan is a person who happened to be at the right place at the right time who leveraged his experience playing EverQuest to secure employment with Blizzard. He and Rob Pardo copied most of EverQuest’s mechanics and used them as the basis for World of Warcraft.
Up until Wrath of the Lich King, Kaplan did a lot of good work in WoW and was rightfully promoted along the way. But what happens in many companies is that people get promoted to the level of their incompetence. This problem is called the PETER principle. At his current level of responsibility, Kaplan’s ego was writing checks that his talent could not cash.
Why he left is anyone’s guess. Given that Kaplan is one of the few remaining members of the original WoW dev team, we can assume that he could no longer stomach the awful company that Blizzard has become in the past few years.
Blizzard 1.0 was the envy of the video game world. They were admired for their video games and their devotion to quality. Blizzard 2.0 is the exact opposite: a soulless company that uses identity politics as a diversion but in reality cares only about the bottom line. Blizzard used to have the best reputation in the industry, now they have one of the worst reputations — even with their own employees. Mike Morhaime with all his faults had a 96% CEO rating on Glassdoor while the new pony-tailed President J. Allen Brack has a 47% CEO rating on Glassdoor. The numbers don’t lie.
The newly woke Blizzard 2.0 became that way partly because of Jeff Kaplan. Kaplan like Morhaime and Brack, did nothing to stop the pernicious identity politics ideology from consuming their studio culture and he promoted it constantly with pious virtue signaling. Now that Blizzard is in ruins, Kaplan is leaving others to clean up the mess he created.
We can only speculate where Jeff will end up. My guess is that he’ll end up at Dreamhaven studio where he will continue to be protected by his long-time benefactor and fellow traveller Mike Morhaime. I doubt he will end up at another studio, because then he would have to prove he can create something of value instead of just trading on the Blizzard name and the fumes of his long expired EverQuest guild and WoW street cred. Instead of copying an existing game, it would be refreshing to see Kaplan create something original. That way we could see if he’s got any design chops left.
I never got the sense that Kaplan deeply cared about virtual worlds or their potential or had any semblance of passion for them. It seemed he was just along for the bandwagon ride because MMORPGs like EverQuest were very popular back then. Contrast this with Brad McQuaid who could talk for hours about MMORPGs and make you believe in their magic too.
My problem with Kaplan is that he threw male gamers that supported Blizzard all these years under the bus and traded them in for people that will never play his games, the fleeting praise of the world, and some shiny DICE and GLAAD awards. If your going to sell your soul, why do it for a few worthless trinkets?
Thanks to Kaplan’s reckless and self-indulgent virtue signaling, Blizzard 2.0 is now infested with pinked haired intersectional feminists, LGBTQ types, and diversity and inclusion HR hucksters. This is a recipe for a self-inflicted disaster that will kill the studio sooner than later. Perhaps it’s delicious poetic justice that Kaplan is fleeing the Frankenstein monster he helped to create.