Sara Andrews thought it was a big misunderstanding when she received an e-mail from a game master in Blizzard Entertainment’s popular online role playing game “World of Warcraft” citing her for “Harassment – Sexual Orientation.”
Andrews had posted that she was recruiting for a “GLBT friendly” guild in a general chat channel within the game.
Believing that her notice had been accidentally flagged, she e-mailed Blizzard to correct the problem. Blizzard, to Andrews’ surprise, upheld the decision…
…In her follow-up letter to the company, Andrews explained that there was an obvious misunderstanding and that she was not insulting anyone, but merely recruiting for a “GLBT friendly” guild.
The response from Blizzard was, “While we appreciate and understand your point of view, we do feel that the advertisement of a ‘GLBT friendly’ guild is very likely to result in harassment for players that may not have existed otherwise. If you will look at our policy, you will notice the suggested penalty for violating the Sexual Orientation Harassment Policy is to ‘be temporarily suspended from the game.’ However, as there was clearly no malicious intent on your part, this penalty was reduced to a warning.”
Blizzard’s stance was clear that recruiting for a guild using “GLBT” was inappropriate as, the company said, it may “incite certain responses in other players that will allow for discussion that we feel has no place in our game.”
Apparently, Blizzard then floundered around for a bit trying to think of some better reason why they wouldn’t have to deal with the fallout of umpteen teenagers trolling GLBT groups:
“Many people are insulted just at the word ‘homosexual’ or any other word referring to sexual orientation,” Blizzard responded to Blatzheim in an e-mail. “Also to discriminate against other players, such as not allowing any heterosexuals into the guild simply because of their sexual orientation, could cause extreme offense to a large percentage of our players and should be avoided.”
but may have settled on something which doesn’t sound quite so pathetic, though is clearly just an excuse given that insulting sexual orientation seems to be quite appropriate as far as they’re concerned:
“We have determined that advertising sexual orientation is not appropriate for the high fantasy setting of the World of Warcraft and is therefore not permitted”
I wasn’t aware that Aragorn, say, ever came out with the line “omg heal me u fag” but perhaps I’m just not familiar enough with high fantasy settings.
Anyone spending any time on the internet, and particularly in any sort of gaming context, will be aware that various forms of “gay” are routinely used to mean “lame”. The idea that it’s a linguistic progression and that “gay” doesn’t actually mean “homosexual” any more, it just means “lame” – so that’s okay then – and more importantly that you can’t do anything about it so you might as well not try, is surprisingly common.
It’s balls of course. The three forums that I use most often all have quite strong positions on the practice, and, believe me, it’s really easy. If somebody turns up and calls people “faggot” because they disagree on some point of computer advocacy, you say quite clearly “that sort of homophobic language is not tolerated here” and then, if they continue, you ban them. All that’s required is posters and moderators who give a shit.
Blizzard, it appears, don’t really give a shit, or at least are more concerned about the purchasing power of stupid kids (and also perhaps any parents who wouldn’t want to hear about their offspring playing on an internet with gayers) than the concerns of people who aren’t even trying to change wider WoW society, just trying to establish a safe space not full of arseholes. Well. Perhaps some wider publicity might change their mind. I already know of one person who’s cancelled their subscription over this.
(Quick plug: said shit would absolutely not happen on Second Life.)