Blizzard’s Chris Metzen retired from the video game industry earlier this year at the age of 42, which came as a surprise for someone who had helped create so many beloved franchises, including Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo. When he retired, Metzen was the senior vice president of story and franchise development and, to many, the face of Blizzard.
In an episode of The Instance (via Eurogamer), Metzen spoke to podcaster Scott Johnson about why he left the company he had been with for more than two decades.
“Leaving Blizzard was an incredibly difficult thing,” Metzen explained. “I’d been there since, essentially, I was a kid. I think I was 19 when I got hired and it was my whole life, it was my identity. And it was in many ways, all-consuming. It was just incredible, but there can be a cost sometimes to running that hard.”
Metzen also talked about the years leading up to the release of Blizzard’s first-person shooter Overwatch, which like a phoenix, rose from the ashes of a cancelled game known as Project Titan. It was supposed to be the next big thing in the MMO space, but after seven years in development, it was cancelled. Metzen says he “burned out really hard” during those years.
“I think in my heart, I needed a change in my life,” he said. “I wanted to slow down, I wanted to just not carry the weight of it all. But when you’ve been at a company like Blizzard for as long as I have, I think about Shawshank Redemption: I’m an institutional man now. I’m a Blizzard guy, through and through. I love that place. I love the people. It made me feel schizophrenic.”
Unfortunately, even after Overwatch launched and became a huge success, Metzen felt the lasting impact of his stress.
“I started having panic attacks left and right and just non-stop anxiety,” he explained. “Before I finally retired, I think I had been having panic attacks all the time, but I didn’t know what they were. Kat [Metzen’s wife] and I would go on dates to go to a movie and almost all the time, I would start panicking in the middle of a movie. I had no idea what was going on.”
The panic attacks coupled with his newborn daughter pushed Metzen to make the difficult choice of retiring. The full interview is excellent and definitely worth listening to, even if you’re not a Blizzard fan. You can do so here.