It can take but a moment for a clip to go from zero views to millions on the internet. As the repost counter starts to whir and the likes begin to flow, the comments start to roll in. For every few positives, there’s a negative, then another one, and another one. That’s exactly what happened with Diablo 4 and World of Warcraft streamer Ashlyn ‘Actually Arcane,’ whose commentary on the game’s Druid model went viral for all the right – and wrong – reasons.
If you choose to run the Diablo 4 Druid, you’re greeted by a broad, grizzled figure clad in various different animal furs. The RPG’s character models are customizable, of course, but their constitution isn’t – if you want to play as a Druid, you’ll be playing as a plus-size character. For some, this ‘ruined’ Diablo 4. For Arcane, this Druid “looked like [her].”
On Friday, March 24, 2023, the clip of her reacting to the model went live. It pulled 19 thousand likes, and over 1.5 million views. On March 26, another Diablo streamer made a parody of it; the floodgates opened, a tsunami of hate ensued. A genuine, positive moment of celebration became mired in controversy – a spark of excitement engulfed in pointless darkness.
But that excitement wasn’t snuffed out – indeed, Arcane went on to attend BlizzCon as one of the featured Diablo streamers, scoring a guest spot from Diablo GM Rod Fergusson on the show floor. “I think in the long term, the positives outweigh the negatives,” she tells me. “I quickly realised ‘okay, this is getting a lot of comments,’ and the more comments I let sit here, the worse it’s going to be, so I started blocking people really quickly – my blocklist grew by 2,000 people in a day, and that was on all platforms. I just had to protect my space as best I could.
“I knew that my experience was not good,” she laments, “but I knew it wasn’t uncommon for women who go viral. My tweet kind of hit the trifecta – it was emotional, and it was a bigger woman, and that made people mad for some reason. I did have that logical understanding, but it was hard to deal with the hate; after reading hundreds of thousands of comments about your appearance it gets to you a little bit.
“The other part that has been a little difficult is the fact that that clip is what a lot of people know me for. I work very, very hard, but [sometimes it feels like] everyone knows me not for what I’ve done, but for what I look like and the fact that I’m fat.
“But at the same time, my ten second clip got me all of these different things because I was showing a moment of joy,” she says, the ghost of a smile forming on her lips. “I’m still a small content creator, but I was able to have that amount of reach with just a ten-second clip – imagine how much reach I could have if I continue to do things like that. The people who were being mean about it could never, ever, ever hope to have that reach.”
In the wake of Arcane’s comments and the Druid reveal, I remember attending a press conference where one of the most common questions asked was whether or not the Druid model will change in future updates. When I asked how Blizzard felt about the backlash to the grizzled, ‘strong man’ body archetype, lead class designer Adam Jackson readily defended the decision and, to be honest, it made me smile.
When I tell Arcane this, she does too. “I think Blizzard did a really good job of doing the ‘strong man’ body type; that’s what the strongest people in the world look like – and I’m not saying I’m the strongest person in the world, I just have a bigger body type!” However, she does think that “opening up the customization options” to allow players to play as a plus-size Sorceress or Rogue “is a goal.”
“One of the important things about plus-size representation that’s important to recognize is that, even if there is a plus-size character in a game, they’re often associated with brutality, beastliness, animalistic qualities; and that in itself is a stereotype. It’s the idea that you’re really big, you can’t be anything but brutish; a big person would never be able to be sneaky like a Rogue or graceful like a Sorceress. While I am very happy with the Druid model, keeping it at only the Druid model does play into that stereotype a bit.
“I don’t think there’s any harm in opening [body shape] up into a slider. If Diablo 4’s character customization is about choice, I would really love to play a Sorceress with the Druid body type.”
Returning to my original point, she also acknowledges that “many people have made it very clear they want to play the Druid with a different body type as well – and why not, right? If I can play it with a bigger body type, and you can play it with a smaller body type, we can all be happy. More choices are never going to hurt anyone’s immersion; in fact, it’ll just continue to spread the message that these are viable options for all of the available classes.”
There’s something magical (pun entirely intended) about Arcane. Whether it be her adorable little black cat (Indiana Jones) who decided that I was, in fact, supposed to be interviewing him instead, or her boundless positivity – she’s someone that I could have talked to for hours and hours. If you’re a World of Warcraft fan, or you’re waiting intently for the Diablo 4 Vessel of Hatred release date, I’d wholeheartedly urge you to drop her a follow on Twitch.