The Boundaries of Diversity

I ran across this WoW message thread because of a referrer link from my site. It’s commentary on a newly proposed gay-friendly guild on the Sunstrider (Europe) server.

There were the overtly homophobic comments:

  •  “this is a game. with children. hello?” (#11)

But I think the most intriguing comments were those that claimed to be non-homophobic but argued for suppression of minorities:

  •  You guys are free to do what you want of course, but I think two gay guilds on the same server (and same faction too) is overkill.” (#5)
  •  If you're upset by the homophobic comments on the site then why support the forming of a guild that's a magnet for homophobes? (#20) Calling a guild Loud and Queer is an invitation for homophobes to poke fun and be offensive. (#22)

It’s interesting that someone argued that you can’t have more than one gay-friendly guild on a server - partly implying that there is a single gay identity and one affiliation would suffice and also implying that there is only a certain quota of gay men that can be tolerated. The second comment is even more intriguing in that it suggests victims should censor their own identities and have only themselves to blame.

Lisa Nakamura wrote about this with regards to race in LambdaMOO - articulating how minority identities were blamed for their own victimization:

This petition, entitled "Hate-Crime," was intended to impose penalties upon characters who harassed other characters on the basis of race. The players' publicly posted response to this petition, which failed by a narrow margin, reveals a great deal about the particular variety of utopianism common to real-time textual on-line social interaction. The petition's detractors argued that legislation or discourse designed to prevent or penalize racist "hate speech" were unnecessary since those offended in this way had the option to "hide" their race by removing it from their descriptions. A character named "Taffy" writes "Well, who knows my race unless I tell them? If race isn't important than why mention it? If you want to get in somebody's face with your race then perhaps you deserve a bit of flak. Either way I don't see why we need extra rules to deal with this." "Taffy," who signs himself "proud to be a sort of greyish pinky color with bloches" [sic] recommends a strategy of both blaming the victim and suppressing race, an issue which "isn't important" and shouldn't be mentioned because doing so gets in "somebody's face."

There is a very strange and twisted message in virtual environments like WoW. By showing a pageant of races and intentionally-balanced classes, one message is that diversity is welcomed and valued. But the real message seems to be this - If you’re a minority, you can be anything you want … except who you really are.


Comments on The Boundaries of Diversity:

Tobold says:

I think the general reaction is based on people not wanting to have real life issues invade too much into their virtual worlds. Escapism is one of the main drivers of this form of entertainment, so you don't want to have the same old "gay marriage" discussion continued in the game. The characters in the game aren't gay, and they aren't heterosexual either, the terms simply don't make sense in a world which has no sexual acts and no procreation.

The same is true for race. "Race" in the game is orc or elf, not black or white. The race of the player behind the avatar has no relevance in the context of the game. WoW players are often racist, but that usually just means that they hate gnomes. :)

Posted Mar 31, 2005 3:54:20 AM | link

ren reynolds says:

Nick,
Computer Mediated Communications seem to have a bunch of interesting modifying effects on everyday behaviour.

We’ve noted some of these in the past e.g. http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2003/10/love_in_reverse.html>Love in Reverse and http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2004/03/virtual_honesty.html>Virtual Honesty.

One thing with these and other studies is that people tend to be more ‘honest’ when put behind a screen.

The other effect is that VWs (and other virtual communities) seem to norm in all kinds of ways very rapidly.

If we put these things together, what does it say?

Far from being an elegant mask play do VWs actually remove our masks of political correctness and show that society, or at least a self selected group of gamers, are in fact highly homo-phobic and racist? Or do you think that we are seeing other skewing effects?

Posted Mar 31, 2005 4:10:39 AM | link

Ola Fosheim Grøstad says:

Disinhibition is not the same as honesty. It just offsets taboos.

Anyway, I think any world which has gender implies an erotic dimension. If WoW has gender, then sex is basically implied at some level. Surely, any communication system with some level of privacy encourage erotic acts by the nature of the human condition!!

Anyway, there is nothing wrong with banning groups formed based on a RL sexual identity in a _roleplaying_ game, or RL identities and movements in general. But having in-game marriages and discouraging IC homosexual groups is a bit problematic (Imagine The Banshees, The Amazones or whatever). Being upset about OOC group formation is quite appropriate. For instance: I expect all-female guilds to accept all female _characters_ irrespective of RL gender in a roleplaying game.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 5:58:54 AM | link

Jeffool says:

I once saw a dwarf ask for a (human) tailor to make him something, and the tailor agreed saying "Stay where you are, I'll be right there." The human tailor came from across the map and swam across a lake to get to him. When he got there the dwarf started thanking him and then the human said "You're a dwarf?! Man come on. I don't deal with your kind!" And the human turned around and swam off.

The dwarf just typed "?!" and "What?! Are you serious?!" Then the human came back and said "Nah, just joking. What can I do for you man?" and proceeded to make whatever it was for free.

While initially appalled, as a whole I find that little story kinda funny. I share because it perfectly shows how ridiculous racism is. Two races, cooperating to exist, and one of them completely writes the other off for no reason at all. Of course if you want to hear real racist and homophobic slurs thrown every other sentence, try playing Halo 2 on XBox Live.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 7:17:46 AM | link

Darius Kazemi says:

Jeffool; you seem to overlook the fact that a large part of racism (or any kind of minority suppression) is the fact that some people feel the need to dominate and repress another person in order to feel comfortable with who they are. Not a good thing at all, I'm just pointing out that racism has a twisted rationality behind it and isn't just people being silly for no reason.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 7:29:15 AM | link

Jeffool says:

Oh I didn't mean to imply that racism was just being silly for no reason. My bad if I did. I understand that there are many reasons for such things. It's just that my not agreeing with any of those rationales leads me to believe that they are stupid and pointless in addition to be twisted. Not instead of.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 8:11:07 AM | link

Edward Castronova says:

This makes you realize another aspect of the online dynamic that will become more salient as MMORPG's become more mainstream: many of the markers we use to segregate ourselves usefully have not yet been established. Driving through Indiana, a gay person would have a fairly clear sense of where it is dangerous, and where it is comparatively safe, to reveal orientation cues. Online, today, everyone is present. It's the whole society, not some elite slice. More accurately, in 1990, LambdaMOO was a very thin slice of the population, but in 2005 WoW is much closer to the population median, on any dimension. And we are learning how ugly that population is, in many of its attitudes. Those of us who have worked very hard to make sure we travel in circles where certain things go absolutely unchallenged - such as the right of gay people to express themselves comfortably - are shocked (at least I am) at how uncommon, how narrow, these circles are. The person you're on a dragon raid with might be a gun-toting nuthead from Texas or an 8-year-old girl from Berlin. The latter doesn't even know what 'gay' means, the former might hunt you down.

Rough waters to navigate.

I anticipate that we will begin erecting barriers soon enough, for the benefit of everyone. I long for age restrictions on servers, for example.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 9:03:21 AM | link

Richard Bartle says:

Ah, importation of Reality. I guess some things are just so important to one's sense of identity that they even have to be brought into imaginary worlds.

I'm going to have to set up a guild called Eehbahgum for people who are from Yorkshire.

Richard

Posted Mar 31, 2005 9:24:27 AM | link

ren reynolds says:

Looks like I might have to set up the “bieck” guild for Lancastrians then. Erm, didn’t we do the wars of the roses already though.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 9:51:31 AM | link

That Chip Guy says:

Following Mr. Castronova's comment: In the mass-market MMOs I play, I see almost no investment in the notion of "imaginary worlds" on players' behalf. The roleplayers are hopelessly outnumbered by the justagamers. Out of character chat and behavior is the rule, not the exception -- which evidences itself in not only the importation of RL stereotypes but also powergaming, instancing, and all the other world-vs.-game sore points.

The boundary between virtual and real identities is entirely artificial, IMO. It must be actively raised, and can be easily and passively dropped. There is no natural barrier to the entry of homophobia and other biases or antisocial behavior.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 10:05:55 AM | link

Tony Hoyt says:

Comments to the effect of questioning the need for multiple gay guilds shouldn't be that shocking if taken into the perspective that, people often don't see a need for multiple orginizations that are intent on promoting a specific adjenda in the same area.

For instance, I wouldn't be that supprising if people questioned multiple Italian/American Clubs in one town, or multiple Republican Party Chapter houses in one town. Now bigger cities, yes you can argue they may have multiple chapters (Or in this case, larger servers) and I'm not promoting that viewpoint that such guild/clubs/orginizations should consolidate, but it shouldn't be as shocking when read I feel. It's not homophobic in my mind personaly, I don't know how to classify it other then a typical responce from people on such a subject as orientation based groups (Ethnic, sexual, political).

Tony

Posted Mar 31, 2005 10:22:45 AM | link

Ola Fosheim Grøstad says:

That Chip Guy> The roleplayers are hopelessly outnumbered by the justagamers.

Yeah, but many (older) "justagamers" dislike political/religious/etc discussions ingame that might cause disagreement over non-gaming issues. Especially americans, in my experience.

I am not a great fan of the "magic circle" hype, but this is one of them: keep OOC disagreements out of the public game-space.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 10:50:49 AM | link

Staarkhand says:

Numerous guilds have been forced to change names (or at the beginning were simply disbanded) because their guild name contained religous, or even merely real life, themes.

Tao. Cali Compton. My guild's real name, The Amazon Basin, would have been disallowed. That just a few I'm aware of from my server.

With this precedent set by Blizzard, it's entirely resonable to question why Loud and Queer is an acceptable guild tag. Straight and Proud would be equally unacceptable.

Additionally, it is considered incredibly impolite to discuss religion or politics in a public channel. This is a player rule, not a DM rule, because no one wants that crap when they're playing.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 11:11:15 AM | link

iamblichos says:

Richard said:
"I'm going to have to set up a guild called Eehbahgum for people who are from Yorkshire."

Ee, na thart's summat! :)

As I said on another thread, I don't understand the drive to perpetrate this-world identity politics into another virtual realm where they simply don't apply. My character is DEAD. He has no sexuality, because his adrenals and endocrines aren't functioning. How can he be gay, straight, or whatever? His idea of a hot date is to go out and kill and eat the living - which orientation is that? Perhaps a Lecterphile - my character would admire ol' Hannibal. This game has no sex, no children of any race, and very few (if any) references to childhood of any sort. What role could sexual identity politics possibly play in the formation of immersivity within a stringently sexless world?

Posted Mar 31, 2005 11:12:06 AM | link

magicback says:

It's easier for a smaller group to keep "house" rules that governs play.

So, is customer segmentation via servers and instances the new trend?

With this event, it seems that even this method of keeping the peace around the playground is not working.

It's easier for a smaller group to keep "house" rules that governs play.

Is customer segmentation via servers and instances the new trend?

It seems that even this method of keeping the peace around the playground is not working.

What happens when a gay-hater sign on to this gay-friendly server to annoy, right below the threshold of "griefing"?

Will the Blues chase the Reds away? We, humans, seem to be great at that.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 11:30:38 AM | link

eric says:

it seems unlikely to me that this should be an actual issue in game for people. as for concerns about people bashing the guild or guildmembers i don't see a reason to have any sort of petition or rule--you can block anyone annoying you.

second, i don't see the problem of bringing some real-world into the game. don't like it, play on a RP server. Maybe there should be levels or grades of RP-ness, but if you are in a non-RP server you get a lot of RL, OOC and offtopic talk.

and i really doubt all this guild will do is talk about "gay" things, whatever that is. They will play the game just like others. Just forming some sort of identity shouldn't be a problem. People join guilds for all sorts of reasons, including to hang out with similarities to themselves, whether they be RL similarities or game-based ones.

anyway, one of the most popular terms for something bad in MMOs, in my experience is "gay" or "ghey." i.e., "those guys just stole our camp, how gay." I don't see why this should be acceptable in real life or in game while other discriminatory words are socially unacceptable, so maybe this will at least make a few people who think they aren't homophobic give pause when saying things like this.

and gay issues come up even without overtly RL gay themes entering the game, i.e. when characters are allowed same-sex marriages of their avatars.

personally i think everyone is probably making a bigger deal about it than they actually need to. after all, that's what message boards are for. i'll be interested to hear if there are a large number of in-game problems for this guild--that will be more informative to me than what people go on about on message boards. i have a feeling after any initial hesitation, as long as the people in the guild play the game like anyone else would, there won't be a real problem.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 11:48:05 AM | link

gus andrews says:

This is really interesting. Being in the educational quarter of gaming, I read a lot of Jim Gee. I've recently come to accept his idea that there are three "characters" involved when you take command of an avatar -- you, your avatar, and some hybrid of the two (you-avatar). (He makes this distinction based on ideas of distributed cognition -- you know some things which your avatar['s code] doesn't, and vice versa, and then there are some things you can only know in the moments you're interacting with your avatar. I hope I'm not butchering his viewpoint. Constance?)

I'd lost track of the fact that MUDders and others in the gaming tradition make a pretty clear distinction between in-character and IRL, and it sounds like many of you would dismiss the idea of a you-avatar. It seems the Loud and Proud group considers themselves to have you-avatars (although this is maybe more based on identity than cognition). Frankly, I agree that we ought to be allowed to think of things this way; part of the enjoyment of playing an avatar is projecting your own concept of life onto them. If we want to consider our characters to be gay -- whether we are gay or not (and whatever happened to those supposed legions of cross-gender players Sherry Turkle saw so many of?) -- or invest some of our own identity as gay in the character, who are you to curtail our fantasy?

The "magic circle" is a social structure, and as such, I'm afraid we're all going to have to negotiate its circumference together. As more and more people spend more and more time online, do we really want to maintain the moratorium on talking about religion and politics which has held for so long in both gameplay and fan cultures? I mean, part of the problem of mass TV culture is that it didn't foster participation in dialogue on these issues, either... if we're at the beginning of a new, more participatory culture in gaming, do we really want to keep squelching that dialogue? I know these are all leisure activities and I know people are likely to resist any encroachment on their "fun" as a result, but remember that mass media as a leisure activity to some extent displaced participation in community organizations, local governance, and churches... when are we going to get back to that kind of participation so that there's less room for people like Bush to take the wheel?

Posted Mar 31, 2005 11:59:05 AM | link

gus andrews says:

This is really interesting. Being in the educational quarter of gaming, I read a lot of Jim Gee. I've recently come to accept his idea that there are three "characters" involved when you take command of an avatar -- you, your avatar, and some hybrid of the two (you-avatar). (He makes this distinction based on ideas of distributed cognition -- you know some things which your avatar['s code] doesn't, and vice versa, and then there are some things you can only know in the moments you're interacting with your avatar. I hope I'm not butchering his viewpoint. Constance?)

I'd lost track of the fact that MUDders and others in the gaming tradition make a pretty clear distinction between in-character and IRL, and it sounds like many of you would dismiss the idea of a you-avatar. It seems the Loud and Proud group considers themselves to have you-avatars (although this is maybe more based on identity than cognition). Frankly, I agree that we ought to be allowed to think of things this way; part of the enjoyment of playing an avatar is projecting your own concept of life onto them. If we want to consider our characters to be gay -- whether we are gay or not (and whatever happened to those supposed legions of cross-gender players Sherry Turkle saw so many of?) -- or invest some of our own identity as gay in the character, who are you to curtail our fantasy?

The "magic circle" is a social structure, and as such, I'm afraid we're all going to have to negotiate its circumference together. As more and more people spend more and more time online, do we really want to maintain the moratorium on talking about religion and politics which has held for so long in both gameplay and fan cultures? I mean, part of the problem of mass TV culture is that it didn't foster participation in dialogue on these issues, either... if we're at the beginning of a new, more participatory culture in gaming, do we really want to keep squelching that dialogue? I know these are all leisure activities and I know people are likely to resist any encroachment on their "fun" as a result, but remember that mass media as a leisure activity to some extent displaced participation in community organizations, local governance, and churches... when are we going to get back to that kind of participation so that there's less room for people like Bush to take the wheel?

Posted Mar 31, 2005 12:00:53 PM | link

gus says:

oh, and iamblichos, I object to the categorization of these worlds as "stringently sexless"... As long as female avatars continue to so overwhelmingly have ridiculous body types, I'm going to continue to feel like my sexuality is constantly called up and referred to in play.

yours as ever, I remain
the straight girl with a guy's name.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 12:05:11 PM | link

iamblichos says:

Gus said:
"oh, and iamblichos, I object to the categorization of these worlds as "stringently sexless"... As long as female avatars continue to so overwhelmingly have ridiculous body types, I'm going to continue to feel like my sexuality is constantly called up and referred to in play."

So you don't distinguish between secondary sexual characteristics like breasts and your sexuality? Are gnomes, who are relatively breastless, to be perceived as less sexual in nature than humans, who are better endowed?

Note, I observed that these worlds were *sexless*, not *genderless*. While the two concepts are related, they are far from identical.

There is definitely gender in these games, right down to the /silly emotes. (e.g., the female undead: "Of course they're real... they're not mine, but they're real!") References in-game to marriage occur - there is one Barrens quest where you have to find the (now dead) wife of an orc NPC.

What there is not is sexuality, in the sense of sexual behaviors. Characters have no way to interact in a sexual manner - there is no /sex emote, for example. Even full nudity is impossible given the constraints of the avatars; the "base toon" is clothed. Although the secondary sexual characteristics are exaggerated, they are exaggerated like Barbies and Kens; under the clothes, there's no "there" there.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 1:11:30 PM | link

Samantha LeCraft says:

Gus wrote, and whatever happened to those supposed legions of cross-gender players Sherry Turkle saw so many of?

If you're referring to "virtual cross-dressing", then they're out there and going strong. I know more than a few straight, married guys who play female characters and think nothing of it. They often talk about their avatars in the third person -- "What have you been up to while I've been logged off, Kaley?" (actual quote with the character name changed) -- and say that if they have to look at a character's butt while they're playing, they'd prefer it to be a female butt.

The strange thing about it to me is that my guild, currently, consists of people I know in real life, so I know everyone's real life gender. Our guild leader is a guy who plays a female character. We refer to him with his character name, which is fairly obviously female, but then use male pronouns. Its confused more than a few people who didn't know him personally.

To take this a step further, we have several married couples in our guild, and at least one of the couples run around as two female night elves. I've never seen one without the other, and they always stand very close to each other in group situations. If they used a /kiss emote, could that be considered in-character homosexuality? If they were lovey-dovey in public, would people (who don't know them IRL) assume they were a lesbian couple? Or is virtual cross dressing so much more socially acceptable in our current virtual worlds society that people would assume that at least one of the two female night elves was really a man?

And iamblichos, female gnomes make up for it with their /dance emote. ;)

Posted Mar 31, 2005 1:23:03 PM | link

eric says:

samantha is definitely right-- it is completely acceptable for guys (in my experience, heterosexual, mostly your typical geek without a girlfriend, tho sometimes with a girlfriend) to play as female avatars (and i assume visa versa, though i don't know of any female friends who choose to play as males). In real life that would be really weird for most people--why is a guy pretending to be a girl? in game it is accepted, even if people don't really stop to consider that the person they just /kissed or gave a gold to because they were a female elf could very likely be a guy, or a grandma or whatever.

the difference here is that situation stays in-game and in-character, i think. there is a lot of weird sociology going on tho. i would bet people would not find it weird for two female avatars to /kiss, but would have something to say about two male avatars (even if in RL one were male one were female) that /kissed and didn't appear to be joking. just a thought.

i'm curious if there is a point where forcing a guild to change its name or disband would run afoul of public accomodation statutes. i'm also curious whether guilds could choose to exclude based on factors like race or religion and whether that would run afoul of the same statutes, and if it would make a difference if these were in-game distinctions or RL distinctions.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 1:45:05 PM | link

Raph says:

"People tend to think that muds alter how people perceive one another. That gender and race and handicaps cease to matter. It is a noble vision, sure, one shared in general by these frontier netters. In truth, muds reveal the self in rather disturbing ways. We all construct 'faces' and masks to deal with others... And people see specifically this: what you choose to represent yourself as, and THAT is more revealing of your true nature than gender, race, age, or anything else."

- me in an interview, circa 1994 or 1995.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 1:52:47 PM | link

joshlee says:

What there is not is sexuality, in the sense of sexual behaviors. Characters have no way to interact in a sexual manner - there is no /sex emote, for example.

WoW has "/flirt" and "/sexy" emotes. It's not intercourse or marriage, but I'd argue that it is a form of sexual behavior. Try targeting players of the same and opposing sexes while using these emotes, and see how people react.

Of course, if we accept that as sexual behavior, we then open up the possibility of players being gay either in- or out-of-character. Tricky. But Fun! Well, it's fun if you like the interplay of real-life and in-game identities more than the wholesale subsuming of the self within the character. I'll admit to enjoying the former much more than the latter.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 2:19:37 PM | link

RedWolf says:

There were the overtly homophobic comments:

“this is a game. with children. hello?”

How is that overtly homophobic? Sexual preference, whether traditional or not has no place in a game rated 12+. I think it's also against the EULA, just like guilds that express political point of views.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 2:40:01 PM | link

Neil says:

Sexuality certainly isn't defined simply by the act of having sex. The /flirt and /dance emotes in WoW aren't devoid of sexuality, for example.

I think most gay people would scoff at a guild named "Loud and Queer"... Something more subtle (that gun-toting homophobes might not understand) is always more interesting. If it could be somehow game-related, all the better. Why no allow both the "Pink-Haired Gnomes" and the "Red-Neck Lodge" guilds?

I won't be surprised if rainbow flags aren't found in Ironforge come gay pride week, but spank me if all my characters aren't a little bit gay just like the man at the keyboard! If you say "that is so gay!" don't be surprised if you get booted from my group. It's both role-playing and real-life fun.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 2:54:18 PM | link

Aaron says:

RedWolf, you must be kidding when you suggest that there are no expressions of sexual preference in the game. What about the many suggestive /emote commands?

  • "I like my beer like I like my women, stout and bitter." (Male Dwarf)
  • "I like tall men, heh heh." (Female Dwarf)
  • "I like large posteriors, and I cannot prevaricate." (Male Gnome)
  • "When enraged and in heat, a female troll can mate over 80 times, in one night. Be you prepared?" (Female Troll)
  • "Free rides for the ladies." (Male Tauren)
  • "I want a man with soft hands. Preferably four of them." (Female Tauren)
  • "I've got big soulful eyes, long eyelashes, and a wet tongue. What more could a guy want?" (Female Tauren)
These are just a few examples.

There has been little outcry about the frequent assertions of heterosexual preference that are literally hard-coded into the game. Why the double standard when a handful of players want to voice same-sex preferences?

Homophobia seems like a plausible explanation.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 3:05:41 PM | link

Nick Yee says:

Many are using the "magic circle" or "reality infringement" arguments, but as Ola, Gus and Aaron point out - not only are gender and sexuality embedded and constantly referred to in the game, but as are norms of heterosexuality. And that's the heart of the issue - suppressing gay identities doesn't remove all references to sexuality. It simply mandates heterosexuality to be the only acceptable identity.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 3:36:45 PM | link

Jeff says:

There's a time and a place for political speech. World of Warcraft hardly represents a good forum for activism. Even if the extent of your activism is forming a gay/bi/les guild it is still activism.

Ignoring my dislike for activism inside game worlds, what is the point of identifying yourself as a minority in a game? I cannot see how it helps anyone but the bigots looking for someone to abuse.

Anyone who cares what minority group you identify with probably is not your friend. Anyone who is your friend probably will not care what minority group you identify with.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 4:08:59 PM | link

Neil says:

Jeff says: "Even if the extent of your activism is forming a gay/bi/les guild it is still activism."

Ridiculous. This is a typical homophobic response. "I have no problem with gay people as long as they aren't gay around me." Simply being open and honest about being glbt does not make someone an activist. Being offended/threatened/scared when confronted with a glbt person/organization is homophobia.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 4:18:25 PM | link

Jeremy Neal Kelly says:

Jeff wrote:

> Even if the extent of your activism is forming
> a gay/bi/les guild it is still activism.

So wanting to go on a raid without being called a ‘fag’ makes one an activist?

> ...what is the point of identifying yourself as a
> minority in a game? I cannot see how it helps
> anyone but the bigots looking for someone to abuse.

You know what really helps bigots? Telling people they should hide their identity if they aren’t just like everyone else.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 4:32:34 PM | link

iamblichos says:

Neil said:
"Ridiculous. This is a typical homophobic response."

Um... no. Not ridiculous at all, and I would ask that we not start pointing fingers and calling names. I'm a gay man and I agree with Jeff completely. If you want to tell me *I'm* homophobic, go right ahead, but prepare to be laughed at. Crying "homophobe" or "racist" is a way of saying "I can't defend my position logically so I'm resorting to calling names". Let's not make TN one of those venues.

I realize, as a gay man, that there is a stage of socializing and self-development where sexuality becomes The Burning Issue, and impinges itself on everything else in a given person's life. I also realize, as a gay man over the age of 25, that that stage does (and should!) pass fairly quickly. There is a cadre who make such things their life work, but they are professional offense-takers, and are (as Florence King so aptly put it) "more to be pitied than censured."

I have seen lots of people in-game say things like "that's so gay!" Do I get upset? No. I don't care - why should I? I don't take it as a homophobic slur, I take it as a slang term that will be (and is already becoming) passé. I have never seen anyone go on a homophobic rant (or a racist rant, FTM) in-game. If I did, I would report them to the moderators, because that (like jumping up and down demanding that people who don't even know you exist care about your sexuality) is rude, intrusive, and out of place in a game world. Of course, the reverse is also true; if I saw someone delivering an unsolicited gay activist screed to someone in-game, I would report them too. They're both completely inappropriate behavior.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 4:50:27 PM | link

Heypot Kettlehere says:

Iamblichos,

Aren't you using the same name-calling technique that you've criticized? Instead of engaging the substance of the arguments, you're simply dismissing them by terming them "immature."

I would like to see you address Nick's argument that "suppressing gay identities doesn't remove all references to sexuality. It simply mandates heterosexuality to be the only acceptable identity."

HPKH

Posted Mar 31, 2005 5:10:56 PM | link

David Wintheiser says:

As an adjunct to the conversation about race and sex, may I point out that there's also a certain amount of platform-phobia in WoW?

Whenever someone gives advice in general chat that involves the directive to 'right-click', I've often responded, "What if you don't have a right mouse button?" Everyone who responds with a variation of "Get a real computer" gets put on my /ignore list. It's a surprisingly big list.

There's even a Mac guild among the Whisperwind Alliance called "The Reservoir Dogcows" (http://www.dogcows.net), though I suspect they don't get a lot of online harassment, simply because most PC users don't recognize the entymology of the dogcow. A guild named 'MacHeroes' would likely get a lot of harassment, assuming the name would even pass the ToS muster.

I'm not going to assert that bias against Mac gamers is as bad as homophobia or race discrimination (http://archive.gamespy.com/comics/dorktower/archive.asp?nextform=viewcomic&id=535), but it certainly exists.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 7:26:01 PM | link

Thabor says:

Whenever someone gives advice in general chat that involves the directive to 'right-click', I've often responded, "What if you don't have a right mouse button?"

Being a hardcore gamer, I'm naturally biased against anyone who isn't simultanously using at least a flightstick with three hats and ten buttons, a throttle with a hat and five buttons, a virtual glove, a twenty button mouse, a two hundred button keyboard, 3d virtual glasses, and three flat-panel monitors..

Does this make me a bad person??

Oh, I forgot the rudder pedals..

Posted Mar 31, 2005 7:56:56 PM | link

Thabor says:


On a more serious note, where do you draw the line as to which preference needs to be respected?

David just pointed to a bias against Mac Users. Should we be offend by WoW marginalizing vegans and vegetarians with their emphasis on animal products for food?

Picking a guild name they did invites a shouting match. The "magic circle" doesn't want to hear shouting matches about RL issues in game. What they lack is the discipline to use the /ignore feature of the game.

As far as children being in the game, that is up to parents to understand and deal with. Any MMOG has the same potential for children to be exposed to sexuality as any un-moderated online chat. If you can't handle discussing things with your children, then you'd best not let them play the game.

I don't think its wrong for Blizzard to attempt to moderate topics that might be inappropriate for children, however they clearly have embedded sexuality in the game already as some metioned earlier so applying that moderation unequally would show an inappropraite bias.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 8:37:08 PM | link

Tom Bloodgood says:

It seems a few of you are missing the point being made by others above.

I see it like this. Noone is questioning whether or not a chosen lifestyle is appropriate or moral or anything of the sort.

Noone does this until a person identifies themselves as other than heterosexual. The identification relates to your real life preference usually, but may also reveal the roleplayed preference of your avatar. Once the player has decided to identify himself or herself as such in game then that player is inviting others to comment on that choice.

Again, until a player identifies either the character or the real life player as having that sexual orientation, generally speaking, no comments about that lifestyle are usually made.

Am I saying then that the player invites sexist bias or homophobia? That the player is responsible for the actions of others? No. I'm saying only that until the decision to identify yourself as such, noone knows.

Does establishing your identity in the game then necessarily lead to being treated differently by other people? Just as much so as it does in real life.

My question then is: when the decision to establish this identity in the game is made, is it based on a need to differentiate oneself from the other players OR is it a way to find others with the same preferences so one may have a more understanding and inclusive group to play the game with?

Posted Mar 31, 2005 9:27:41 PM | link

gus andrews says:

not to flog the oldish thread about hetero male preferences being hard-coded into the game, but...

iamblichos said,

So you don't distinguish between secondary sexual characteristics like breasts and your sexuality? Are gnomes, who are relatively breastless, to be perceived as less sexual in nature than humans, who are better endowed?

Ya know, I don't... I tend to like to demand that people think of me as a genderless walking brain with a couple of mostly functionless mammary glands attached, but since I moved to New York I've had to start thinking about my breasts and ass as part of my sexuality, since every single guy on the street seems to. So maybe I'm succumbing to reflex when I think of my female avatars that way (and I am actually a female player who would prefer to play males or genderless animals), but as other posters have pointed out, female avatars are pretty clearly rendered for the purposes of being eye candy.

ironically, being a relative n00b to RPGs, I picked a gnome as my avatar when I started playing Neverwinter Nights yesterday (and was soundly mocked by my roommate)... perhaps you're desensitized to this by now, but those boobs look proportionally pretty big to me. When I mentioned ridiculous body types earlier, I was mostly feeling residual annoyance that the only body types available to my gnome were stick-thin and obese. but like I said, I'm kind of a n00b, and I don't have much comparison.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 10:01:34 PM | link

Shaun Scott says:

I always try to apply the "other shoe" philosophy when determining whether behavior/content/affiliation is objectionable as presented in any form of media.

For instance - a cola commercial where women in an office ogle a shirtless construction worker outside. This is seen as amusing by many, but if we were to simply change the gender of the characters, there would undoubtedly be an outcry as many would see it as "sexist". If it's sexist for men to ogle women in the commercial, then it must also be so for the women ogling the man.

Which takes me to my point here - is an "all-gay" guild appropriate for an MMORPG? All we need to ask is this: Would the people promoting such a guild (or those who support the idea) be as tolerant of an "all-straight" guild that excludes gays? How about a "whites only" guild? A "he-man woman haters" guild? Where does it stop? and in what way are any of these different from one another?

If objecting to a "gay-friendly" guild is homophobic, does favoring it make one "heterophobic"? And in what way is either discriminatory behavior more valid than the other?

Self-exclusionary practices help to perpetuate discriminatory behavior. I just don't see how people who deliberately segregate themselves can't understand why others treat them differently as well. Labelling yourself as different is a sure way to be treated differently. Labelling yourself sets the stage to be labelled by others.

Tolerance is a two-way street. Why is it that people who object to derogatory slurs about their sexuality are so quick to apply terms like "homophobe" and "bigot" to others?

I have gay friends in real life. I neither know nor care about the sexuality of most of my in-game friends (with the understandable exception of those I know in real life). I simply don't CARE whether another player is straight, gay, black, white, male or female. I relate to the character they are playing. I don't go around flaunting my real-life sexuality in a GAME, as it is an inappropriate forum for real-life issues.

I don't see any more need or use for an all-gay guild than I would an all-straight guild... so why is it an issue at all?

Posted Mar 31, 2005 10:52:23 PM | link

Nick Yee says:

Shaun asked: "Would the people promoting such a guild (or those who support the idea) be as tolerant of an "all-straight" guild that excludes gays? How about a "whites only" guild?"

There's a confusion here that also appeared at the original thread. "Gay-friendly" is by definition meant to be inclusive rather than exclusive. These guilds welcome straight players. It's interesting though that you instinctively equated "gay-friendly" with "gay-only" and compared it with "white only" groups. It's a little chilling that you implied "gay-friendly" groups were comparable to white supremacist groups ...

Shaun then said: "I don't go around flaunting my real-life sexuality in a GAME, as it is an inappropriate forum for real-life issues."

You don't have to. The game flaunts heterosexuality for you and everyone else. I think the examples Aaron gave in his post illustrated this pretty well. When you bring gendered bodies into a space, you're inviting discourses of sexuality that reference real-life.

Posted Mar 31, 2005 11:21:57 PM | link

Jeremy Neal Kelly says:

Shaun Scott wrote:

> Why is it that people who object to derogatory slurs
> about their sexuality are so quick to apply terms like
> "homophobe" and "bigot" to others?

Those may be strong words, but they are hardly slurs. In fact, they are necessary; how does one talk about bigotry without the word ‘bigot’? By contrast, words like ‘faggot’ and ‘dyke’ serve only to hurt people. Of course, any word can be misapplied, but if you think that’s happened here, why not argue the point by offering an example?

> I don't see any more need or use for an all-gay guild
> than I would an all-straight guild...

As Nick Yee pointed out, that’s not quite what’s being discussed here. But even if it were, let me ask: have you ever been mocked, excluded, or physically assaulted because of your sexual orientation?

Posted Apr 1, 2005 1:02:47 AM | link

iamblichos says:

Heypot said:
> Aren't you using the same name-calling technique
> that you've criticized? Instead of engaging the
> substance of the arguments, you're simply dismissing
> them by terming them "immature."

Not at all; I never called anyone immature. I gave what I think is integral to an argument, i.e., my own bias and source of "knowledge" (insofar as there can be "knowledge" about such subjects, which partake more of the nature of a religion).

> I would like to see you address Nick's argument that
> "suppressing gay identities doesn't remove all
> references to sexuality. It simply mandates
> heterosexuality to be the only acceptable identity."

I actually addressed this several posts higher; I don't feel this argument has validity because its premise is flawed. I argued (and I maintain) that game worlds are an inappropriate space for real-world politics of sexuality and orientation. They simply don't apply there, any more than they would in Monopoly or poker. What does the sexual orientation of the player have to do with the game?

At any rate, we can go round and round on this. As I said above, this is more in the nature of a religious debate than anything objective - unfair social discrimination, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Since this is turning from discussion of virtual world social structures into a referendum on minority politics, I think I'll step out of the debate. Feel free to burn me in effigy.

Posted Apr 1, 2005 6:07:02 AM | link

Endie says:

"Loud and Queer"? Oh puh-lease. If I, a Scot, formed a guild called "Kilted Jockos" then I would expect a bit of taunting about mean Scotsmen. And you know what, that would be why I did it. If such a confrontational approach to proclaiming one's identity is adopted as is the case with "Loud and Queer", it is clearly in order to provoke responses. If one wishes to provoke responses just in order to whine about them, then perhaps it's time to stop being such trolling drama queens...

And let me make it clear I have no sympathy for those that wish to stop this group forming or being called what they want, either. If that's what they want to be called, live with it. If it offends your pretty, breeder eyes, change server.

A plague on just about all houses involved.

Posted Apr 1, 2005 6:35:50 AM | link

Aaron says:

As it doesn't seem to have been mentioned, and today being a good day to link to it, here is an article entitled Winning Souls to Christ in The World of Warcraft.

Posted Apr 1, 2005 9:35:46 AM | link

Jeremy Neal Kelly says:

Endie wrote:

> If I, a Scot, formed a guild called "Kilted Jockos"
> then I would expect a bit of taunting about mean
> Scotsmen.

Should we blame the victims of homophobia, or the homophobes themselves? If a woman walks down a dark alley, should she ‘expect’ to be raped?

> If one wishes to provoke responses just in order to
> whine about them, then perhaps it's time to stop
> being such trolling drama queens...

And if she was raped, should she not go to the police, since she ‘provoked’ the attack?

It looks to me like one group wants to stop homophobia, while the other wants merely to hide from it.

Posted Apr 1, 2005 10:08:32 AM | link

RedWolf says:

If a woman walks down a dark alley, should she ‘expect’ to be raped?

If she walked naked down a dark alley with a sign over her head saying "please rape me", I think her case would be a little difficult to prove. She'd probably be arrested for indecent exposure.

Posted Apr 1, 2005 10:22:20 AM | link

Jeremy Neal Kelly says:

RedWolf wrote:

> If she walked naked down a dark alley with a sign over her head
> saying "please rape me"...

Even if that's true -- and recall, I asked 'should', not 'will' -- is that really what's happening here?

Posted Apr 1, 2005 11:31:46 AM | link

Yaka St.Aise says:

Can't we simply agree it's usenet and people (any people) with an agenda (any agenda) will use _any_ means to steal the light for a minute ?

...up to and including means that could expose them to ridicule ?

American Idol, anyone ?

PS: I kinda like the tag, personally. Loud and Queer could make for a nice records label, too.

Posted Apr 1, 2005 12:12:24 PM | link

Mister Rabbit says:

Equating rape with verbal abuse is a bit of a stretch. It's like comparing bad people to Hitler, it weakens the argument.

If you put a sign over your head that blatantly states that you are part of a minority, you can expect (rightly or wrongly) that those who have a problem with your minority will give you a hard time. WoW (or any other fantasy mmorpg) is not the place for REAL LIFE gender politics, it's simply not part of the story, and unless you're ROLE PLAYING (are you now, really?) the sexual preferences of your avatar are irrelevant becuase unless you RP, it doesn't have one. Since 99.99% of the people bringing RL gender politics into the game are NOT seriously roleplaying, I'd say it simply has no place.

There are other, better, and more effective places to be politically active. Starting a RL politically motivated guild in WoW just makes you an attention whore.

On the other hand - if you want to roleplay and develop the story of Joey the Big Gay Orc, that's another matter entirely....

Posted Apr 1, 2005 12:25:52 PM | link

Jeremy Neal Kelly says:

Mister Rabbit wrote:

> Equating rape with verbal abuse is a bit of a stretch.
> It's like comparing bad people to Hitler, it weakens the
> argument.

No, no, and no. Read the post again. I equated the post facto ‘blame the victim’ treatment of rape victims with some of the attitudes expressed here. Obviously, I did not compare verbal homophobia with rape itself.

> WoW (or any other fantasy mmorpg) is not the place for
> REAL LIFE gender politics, it's simply not part of the
> story...

Did you read Aaron’s excellent list of overt expressions of heterosexuality in WoW?

Posted Apr 1, 2005 12:42:57 PM | link

Neil says:

Like it or not, WoW and other MMORPG game worlds are made up of diverse players. If Blizzard starts defining groups that must censor themselves, they're in trouble. Trying to define the line between role-playing and real-life "activism" is difficult.

In-game marriages are a celebrated event in MMORPG's. You'll find screenshots of them on most official MMORPG web pages. So these worlds aren't genderless/sexless realms.

"Loud and Queer" is both bad role-playing and ineffective activism. (And it's embarassing for the rest of us queers...) But there are far worse examples of guild names.

Posted Apr 1, 2005 1:31:19 PM | link

Adam Miller says:

"...gun-toting nuthead from Texas..."
"...might hunt you down."

Edward, that was a rude stereotypical comment. A clearly intelligent person such as yourself should know better than that.

Signed,
Offended non-nuthead Texan.


Posted Apr 1, 2005 2:08:18 PM | link

Richard Bartle says:

Nick Yee>Many are using the "magic circle" or "reality infringement" arguments, but as Ola, Gus and Aaron point out - not only are gender and sexuality embedded and constantly referred to in the game, but as are norms of heterosexuality.

You're misrepresenting the "reality infringement" arguments. What these say is that the sexuality of the character need have nothing to do with the sexuality of the player. A gay player can play a straight or bi character, and a straight or bi player can play a gay character. It's when the rules of the guild are based on the player's sexuality, rather than the character's, that the "reality infringement" complaints arise.

>And that's the heart of the issue - suppressing gay identities doesn't remove all references to sexuality.

Suppressing (or at least adapting) real-world identities are what virtual worlds are essentially about. The objection from the "reality infringement" side is that if they want to role-play a gay character (in the same way that they can role-play an opposite-biological gender character) they should be allowed to. However, a "gays only" guild is based on real-world criteria, not virtual-world criteria.

>It simply mandates heterosexuality to be the only acceptable identity

If characters had a visible marker of their sexuality (eg. symbols next to their name - male, female, both or neither) I wonder how many would choose to be unstraight? At a guess, I'd say a fairly high proportion of the female-presenting male characters would at least give it a go.

As a side issue, what would be your attitude to a guild that proclaimed "No Queers!" as an entrance criterion?

Richard

Posted Apr 1, 2005 2:25:28 PM | link

Shaun Scott says:

Nick > "Gay-friendly" is by definition meant to be inclusive rather than exclusive. These guilds welcome straight players. It's interesting though that you instinctively equated "gay-friendly" with "gay-only" and compared it with "white only" groups. It's a little chilling that you implied "gay-friendly" groups were comparable to white supremacist groups ..." <

I don't think a "gay-friendly" group is 'inclusionary' of anyone except those who don't mind their guild mates talking about their personal lives in the context of the game.

*Any* group that defines and organizes itself by an arbitrary label is, by nature, exclusionary. The Young Republicans, the Girl Scouts, you name it.

As I said before, my issue isn't with the sexual orientation, it's with people who lack the discretion to keep their private lives *private*. Anyone who finds such expression distasteful is automatically labeled a "hopmophobe" rather than recognized as someone who simply understands how one should comport oneself among people one does not know intimately.

Were I to go into work Monday morning and regale my coworkers with tales of my sexual exploits, I'd likely lose my job. It wouldn't be because my employers are "heterophobes", it would simply be because there is a proper way to behave in public - and calling attention to behavior that should be a private matter is *not* the proper way to behave in such a setting.

Nick >"The game flaunts heterosexuality for you and everyone else. I think the examples Aaron gave in his post illustrated this pretty well. When you bring gendered bodies into a space, you're inviting discourses of sexuality that reference real-life."<

Nick, you surely should know that those "gendered bodies" in the game are not necessarily referential to the genders of the *actual* bodies playing the game. The alleged in-game heterosexual references only apply to the gender of the *characters*, not the players. When a male player of a female character that uses the /flirt command to interact with a male character played by a male player, is that really a "heterosexual" interaction? If so, then you must concede that the sexuality of the interaction is utterly independent of the gender of the players themselves.

Since we can easily grasp the concept that a female orc may not be played by a female player, and *certainly* not by an actual orc, why do so many people have a difficulty separating the sexuality of the character from that of the player? To me, it doesn't matter what the actual characteristics of the player are - as their own ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation are utterly *irrelevant* to the role they play. Plenty of straight actors have played gay roles on stage and screen, and vice versa. It's no different here.

Posted Apr 1, 2005 10:40:19 PM | link

William Huber says:

Shaun, I think gay-friendly means just that: it indicates that you accept homosexuality and consider it as unproblematic and natural as heterosexuality. You may not be sensitive to it, but heteronormativity is so pervasive that you may not recognize it. In MMORPGs, it gets set into the mechanics. That there is some "cross dressing" - playing across gender from player to avatar - doesn't diminish that.

It is clear that there is substantial hostility to gay people among many (particularly male adolescent) players. Despite the insistence of those who believe that "ghey" has be divested of any reference to sexual orientation, I have now seen people describe inadequately macho behavior as "ghey", not just "gay."

And one thing is becoming clear to me: there is substantial "bleed through" between virtual worlds and the real one, and not just in economics. People talk about their personal lives all the time, even if its just "I have to go, class is starting" or "AFK, my kid needs to be changed." Those remarks, that you might get in parties, aren't accidental - in my experience, many people very much like to represent their actual positions (often performing class-establishing gestures, alluding to their levels of education, the nature of their leisure, etc.) And one of the most ubiquitous oblique references to "the real" is about significant others.

Because people aren't simply playing roles. They are interacting with each other - friends and strangers - through relatively persistent roles. MMORPGs are not so cleanly and unproblematically mapped onto theater.

Particulary in an environment in which homosexuality is so casually vilified, it is particularly important that it be made clear and explicit that there are real gay people playing the game. Many gamers, frankly, are young and relatively sheltered from difference: they assume, quite wrongly, that others in the game are just like them. I have encountered this in my group, from the young in particular, and from those who generally live in relatively homogenous parts of the country. I have had to so much as announce, "you know those remarks you just made? Well, person A. is gay, person B. is French, person C. is Asian, and they've just been helping you for the past 3 hours. You probably should apologize." You think that not bringing up the personal leaves a blank, creates a totally neutral space; in fact, it creates the illusion of universal typicality, the assumption that everyone is the same.

Incidentally, I suspect that if your female-gendered avatar starts /flirting with a male-gendered avatar played by a male player, that he may very well consider your "real" gender important enough that he freaks out when he discovers the gender of the player behind the flirt. I've seen it happen plenty of times.

Posted Apr 2, 2005 3:27:10 AM | link

Shaun Scott says:

I understand what you're trying to say, William.

I guess maybe it's a different issue for those who don't simply have the discretion to conduct themselves in a way that will not be offensive to others - personally, I try to keep in mind that I don't know these people personally and therefore I must take care not to utter something that might be misconstrued.

But my big issue comes back to one thing: Why do some people feel the need to *advertise* their real-life sexual orientation? Do they expect to be treated differently on account of this revelation? The game doesn't play any differently for knowing an irrelevant detail like that.

I think that the originators are hoping that this knowledge will somehow prevent future indiscretions - but I must note that anyone who is going to utter homophobic remarks will not in any way be discouraged by knowing that they are speaking in the presence of a member of a "gay friendly" guild. If anything, homophobes will use it as ammunition.

Does this mean that people should have to hide their orientation when playing? I'd say Yes! Why not? It simply doesn't matter - nor does one's gender, ethnicity, political affiliation or religion. We are playing roles, just like actors in a movie.

Posted Apr 2, 2005 10:33:28 AM | link

Jeremy Neal Kelly says:

Shaun Scott wrote:

Why do some people feel the need to *advertise* their real-life sexual orientation?
I can think of two reasons immediately:
1) to let other gay players know they are not alone;

2) to let such players know who they can group with to avoid hearing homophobic slurs.
I’m sure there are many others.
Anyone who finds such expression distasteful is automatically labeled a "hopmophobe"...
By the way, I haven’t seen this happen here. I’ve seen certain ideas described as homophobic, but I haven't seen anyone here called a 'homophobe'.

Posted Apr 2, 2005 10:59:08 AM | link

William Huber says:

As others have pointed out, expressions of heterosexuality are ubiquitous, such as simply holding hands when walking down the street, or a peck on the cheek for a good-bye. All those casual gestures of affection become "advertising" when they are between people of the same sex.

If someone simply find all public displays of affection equally distasteful, they may be excused from a charge of homophobia. When that distaste is selective, though, the charge may stick.

Posted Apr 2, 2005 11:28:25 AM | link

Matt Mihaly says:

Iamblichos wrote:

My character is DEAD. He has no sexuality, because his adrenals and endocrines aren't functioning. How can he be gay, straight, or whatever? His idea of a hot date is to go out and kill and eat the living - which orientation is that?

That's your interpretation of the undead. On the other hand, I play a gay undead. (I'm serious.) He's in love with Deathguard Phillip (NPC) and often follows him around pining after him and wondering aloud why Phillip spurns him. His persona (which has a written background, as does any character I play) is heavily influenced by the fact that he's gay but can't actually do anything about it due to non-working equipment. It increases his frustration level immensely and makes him prone to fits of sudden, uncontrollable rage when he sees characters doing anything sexy (flirting, etc).

I'm not gay irl, I just play a gay character. Is this allowed in your worldview? Is it ok to play a gay character if I'm not gay irl, because then I'm not bringing real-world politics into it?


I argued (and I maintain) that game worlds are an inappropriate space for real-world politics of sexuality and orientation.

I'd buy this if 99% of people playing WoW made anything more than the most marginal attempts at roleplaying. If the magic circle wasn't constantly broken by people asking about the details of abilities, talking about their real-life, and so on. I see no difference between saying, "I've gotta go to class." and saying, "I'm queer." The only difference is that one apparently makes YOU uncomfortable and one doesn't.

Shaun Scott wrote:

But my big issue comes back to one thing: Why do some people feel the need to *advertise* their real-life sexual orientation? Do they expect to be treated differently on account of this revelation? The game doesn't play any differently for knowing an irrelevant detail like that.

To some of us, the idea of roleplaying (you know, mmoRPG) isn't foreign I guess. The game plays differently to me as an undead warlock obsessed with Deathguard Phillip. If Petey wasn't obsessed with him, he'd have left the area already. The essence of roleplaying is that it is its own reward. Who cares if the game doesn't reward you for it?

--matt

Posted Apr 2, 2005 1:27:55 PM | link

Neil Lalonde says:

Shaun said:
"Does this mean that people should have to hide their orientation when playing? I'd say Yes! Why not? It simply doesn't matter - nor does one's gender, ethnicity, political affiliation or religion. We are playing roles, just like actors in a movie."

But as mentioned earlier (maybe not in this discussion), it's most common that people role-play their characters as some hybrid of their RL selves and fictional character identities. I play two characters in WoW most of the time: A night elf man and a human man. I play the night elf solo, and his personality is more like my own. After all, I don't tend to socialize with other players much when I play him, so I don't go out of my way to invent a new personality for him. So he's more like me (ie, gay).

My human male is always played in a group with one woman and one other man. The woman likes to emote /flirt and /kiss at him, so I'm going with that. He isn't gay and may often emote back at her. It's fun, so that's who he is. He's closer to a pure role-played character, whereas my night elf is closer in personality to myself.

So, if someone one day find my night elf man dancing with another man in the game and says, "Please keep your real-life orientation out of the game," I can argue that I'm role-playing my character.

If don't expect to hear complaints from other players when my human man /kisses with his adoring woman.

I expect that many players are turned off by /kiss in all forms (not to mention naked dancing), which I can sympathize with.

But how can you (or a game company) draw the line between real-life and role-playing? Good role-playing and bad role-playing?

An interpretation of "harassment" as outlined in the EULA might come into play. Is the player who /kisses other players (whether they be same sex or oppositie sex) the one considered to be harassing other players? Or is it the one telling him to stop exhibiting his orientation? Both can claim they are just role-playing their characters. Kisser: "My character is lonely!" Complainer: "My character is religious and abhors public displays of affection!"

Or should there be a 60 second cooldown on /kiss? (joking)

Posted Apr 2, 2005 3:08:24 PM | link

Matt Mihaly says:

Neil Lalonde wrote:

But how can you (or a game company) draw the line between real-life and role-playing? Good role-playing and bad role-playing?

Slightly off-topic, but you can try, certainly. A number of text MMOs are downright draconian about it and require that you roleplay consistently. They tend to be hobbyist though and I'm not aware of any particularly successful MMOs (either text or graphical) that manage this. It doesn't scale well at all and tends to alienate most people.

--matt

Posted Apr 2, 2005 3:28:14 PM | link

Eric Random says:

"the real message seems to be this - If you’re a minority, you can be anything you want … except who you really are." - Nick Yee

What Nick Yee is ultimately criticizing is not unique to MMORPG's, but occurs in public forums, and moreso in pseudo-anonymous public forums, and further moreso in forums which allow for the creation of character personas which actually fosters social exploration, both positive and negative.

Is an online fantasy world an appropriate forum for reality? Yes. The experience of a fantasy world is enhanced by the extent it is analogous to the real world. This holds true when the real world is expressed through the fantasy world, and not necessarily when it is expressed in lieu of the fantasy world. This allows the illusion of self-containment. This illusion is yet another analogy to a characteristic of the real world.

How disjointed does reality have to be from the fantasy world before it is considered inappropriate for inclusion? Normally, when such topics are not expressed within the fictional framework of the fantasy world., such as discussing topics that are disjoint between the personae of the character and the player. Note that I am not making a judgement on whether this is inappropriate, but merely stating when it is normally observed to be considered inappropriate by others, which is largely dependent upon the popular culture of players within the fantasy world. Discussion of sports may be seen as appropriate in an online forum in Tribes 2, but inappropriate in an online forum like an RP MUD such as Armageddon MUD.

Is homosexuality disjoint from a fantasy world, such as World of Warcraft? No. Gender can be expressed through the fantasy world as sexually dimorphic avatars (the big one without the chest bumps is male, the small one without the chest bumps is female). Since one has an analog for gender, such topics of gender identity, gender roles and sexual identity can be explored. This provides the framework for the inclusion of real controversial topics through the fiction of the fantasy world.

Whether a homosexual player is playing a homosexual character or a heterosexual player is playing a homosexual character, is there a difference on the effect it has on the fantasy world? No. Although the authenticity of the portrayal may be affected, homosexuality has been expressed through the fantasy world, nonetheless.

If someone roleplays a homosexual character, how might it complicate the role of a moderator if someone roleplays a homophobe? In MUDs, moderators tend to find that personal attacks on characters are appropriate (some only when RP'd effectively), but inappropriate when it is a personal attack on the player. If a player makes the choice to invest their own idenity into the persona of their character, who is to blame if the player is offended by an attack on the character? Is the attack against the character or the player? Is the attacker roleplaying, or is this a genuine expression of the attacking player's identity? Such judgements may be very difficult for intermittent observers, such as moderators and administrators.

Can one expect to find individuals in a public forum who do not support the views or lives of others? Yes.
Can one expect to find players roleplaying characters who do not support the views or lives of other characters? Yes.
Are players less inhibited in sharing their opinions through pseudo-anonymous proxies? Yes.

Is World of Warcraft an appropriate forum to attempt to resolve conflicts between the views of characters? Yes. That is what enriches the game. But, it is the reserved right of the moderator to determine what subject matter of expression is appropriate for the forum. Dialogue of any sexual nature is not allowed in ToonTown, for example.

Is World of Warcraft an appropriate forum to attempt to resolve conflicts between the views of players? It is the reserved right of the moderator to control the forum in which they operate upon the terms they find acceptable. They may find that disjointed controversial topics such as those originating from the identity of the player may distract customers from enjoying the service.

Is there a difference between character conflicts and players conflicts? Yes, and it is this phenomenon which makes these fantasy worlds socially interesting. Part of this phenomenon may be that pseudo-anonymous proxies decrease our inhibitions toward social exploration. Is this difference altered when the player becomes the character, and vice versa? It can, but just as one takes the explorative risk of subjecting their identity to the online forum, they must also be aware that others may be taking an explorative risk in confronting them about it.

Posted Apr 2, 2005 6:31:04 PM | link

Eric Random says:

On the side, gay-friendly guilds in World of Warcraft seem to be created as a reaction to expected behavior in the public forum. In this respect, the creation of these guilds seem most parallel to RP-friendly guilds. That is, they expect the public to not be open to their style of play, and rather than expecting the public to change, they group together to surround themselves with like-minded individuals. In it's simplest sense, like-mindedness tends to be the driver of guild formation.

The creation of gay-friendly guilds seems to be a direct consequence of objectionable patterns of speech exhibited in the public forum. Those that join the guild seem to do so to avoid the "deliberately or unintentionally homophobic" language, which is considered as disjointed and distracting from the fantasy world. This may further strengthen it's analogous formation to that of an RP-friendly guild, as they too seek to avoid disjointed chatter.

Some of these guilds, though, have names like the "Outlander Enclave" and "Rough Trade" which are well within the name selection guidelines outlined in the Terms of Use. The term "queer" may be considered as offensive slang, regardless of referential usage, and the guild name "Loud and Queer" may perhaps be parallel to a guild name such as "The Hook Street Niggaz" which may seem equally offensive although self-referential. The guild name "Rainbow Flag Brotherhood" may be considered by others as inappropriate since it references a symbol that is disjoint from the fantasy world. Although not parallel in spirit, but parallel in their reference of an external symbol, the "Confederate Flag Brotherhood" may seem equally inappropriate on those grounds. Whether these guilds names stand or not, though, is within the rights of the operators of the service.

I do disagree with the characterization of the original comments quoted by Nick Yee as homophobic, but perhaps that is neither here nor there. I think we would both agree that they were unsupportive.

Quote #11 may have been an assumption that a guild based on sexual orientation may be construed to be sexual in nature. I could accept that as a reasonable potential misunderstanding regardless of the sexual orientation. Without further probing the intentions and beliefs of the poster, I would be unable to characterize the comment as "overtly homophobic".

Quote #5 could be more in consideration of competition and not "suppressing minorities." It seemed to me, it was a counter invitation to another gay-friendly guild. This consideration could be based on low membership in the pre-existing guild and that could be why two guilds were considered "overkill".

Quote #20 and #22 seemed to be reasonable arguments challenging the guild name in the context of the reason for guild formation. If the guild formation was, indeed, to avoid homophobic behavior, is it reasonable to assume that a particular name may attract the very behavior one is attempting to avoid? This could have reasonably been asked by someone in another gay-friendly guild in reference to an observation made during their own guild naming process.

Deliberate and unintentional homophobic expressions do occur, though, in public forums such as the one these quotes were taken from.

I wonder if perhaps the real underlying question of this discussion is: Should MMORPG's, as large public online forums, be used as a vehicle for social change? Should it make a difference whether the developers intend them to be or not?

Sorry for the second long post...

Posted Apr 3, 2005 12:57:20 AM | link

Ola Fosheim Grøstad says:

Matt wrote:
I see no difference between saying, "I've gotta go to class." and saying, "I'm queer."

No, but there is a difference when you create guilds for players with a given biological or other OCC characteristics. I see no principal difference between a guild that "celebrate" a OOC homosexual lifestyle and a guild that "celebrate" white rich male players. I am not sure if such a foundation for a gaming-group can be justified even though gay pride type activities are easily justified in a homophobic society. It detracts a bit too much from the "we are equal" and "it is just a game" ideas that are particular to how players perceive social gaming (not the same as magic circles, players are different).

And, I am not so sure about the effectiveness of having such groups. One of the great things about MUDs is that your stereotypes about "the others" are challenged as you get such information after you have formed an opinion about the person. "I would never have guessed you were male/female/black/white/homosexual/young/old whatever". Having groups named "loud and queer" are more likely to amplify existing stereotypes. As others have pointed out, why label yourself as an out-group when there are plenty of people who are inclusive or would be inclusive ones they had their stereotypes challenged?

It is less problematic if you create an guild for open-minded people and which allows such discussions to take place on guild-chat. I don't think it is that difficult to create or find mature social guilds which are supportive and would throw out members who are nurturing homophobic ideas. By creating a guild for homosexual players it is very difficult to not interpret that as a statement about heterosexuals being somehow lesser, close-minded etc, even if that is not the intent of those who created the guild. Why not just have a free-spirited guild?

I think there is a difference between a group of homosexual players starting a guild (no problem), and a single individual starting a guild for homosexual players basically indicating that other members aren't on the same levels as the others.

Another question: would it be wrong to crucify charcters that admitted to having a homosexual practice (or some other "criminal activities) in a RPG set in the dark ages? Are we allowed to simulate the horrors of the past?

Posted Apr 3, 2005 9:48:47 AM | link

William Huber says:

As for the last question: if your goal is simulation, rather than the pleasures of gaming and escape, then of course, you'll want to do that.

The most incongruent aspect of medieval-type fantasy games isn't its relative tolerance of difference (there was tolerance of difference, including difference in sexual behavior, in varying degrees throughout history): it's the complete commitment to meritocratic egalitarianism. I find it ironic that people will play to level themselves up in whatever jobs and crafts they want, from nothings to Gods-On-Earth, in a milieu that historically was associated with aristocratic sovereignty, a completely immobile class structure, and the absence of significant career options. They want to move the dynamics of modern, capitalist society into a "re-sacralized" setting: all the consumerism and productivism, none of the alienation. If a designer wanted to get "real," I'd like to see them to start with that.

Posted Apr 3, 2005 11:47:24 AM | link

Ola Fosheim Grøstad says:

William Huber: As for the last question: if your goal is simulation, rather than the pleasures of gaming and escape, then of course, you'll want to do that.

What if you do it for pleasure and escape? Horrormovies are created for "pleasure" and escape, aren't they?

What if you create a fascist third reich as an artistic expression? I can buy books like that so I should be able to make MMOs like that too?

Posted Apr 3, 2005 12:19:48 PM | link

William Huber says:

This is becoming a digression, but yes, I believe that games are capable of things that are not just entertainment. I would refer you to the work of Gonza Frasca and Ian Bogost, et al for some theory. Not just "artistic expression," but also education, persuasion, etc. And in some circumstances, games designed for those ends will have some sort of simulation integrity as a design goal. A game that is simply designed for the mass entertainment market does not have that constraint.

Kurt Squire's Games-To-Teach group at MIT created an MMORPG set during the American Colonial period that did something much like I described: players would have characters with realistic social and class positions (could even be slaves) and had to deal with the situation at hand from the constraints of those positions. More information available here.

This drifts beyond the scope of the original post. In fact there is a difference between simulating something and trivializing it. I would not approve of a game that trivialized the 3rd Reich - or the history of oppression of gays or analogous barbarities. There are, in fact, multiplayer games set in the 3rd Reich: they happen to be largely tactical first-person shooters. These do not trivialize the war or the holocaust. We can, as a mental exercise, easily imagine games that would

But yes, if someone were trivializing an atrocity by making it a pleasure and an escape, then you may be fairly criticized for using the game as a rhetoric of hate. The magic circle is never air-tight, and the very act of refering to history at all makes that straightforward.

Posted Apr 3, 2005 1:56:11 PM | link

Ola Fosheim Grøstad says:

I wasn't really clear. I didn't mean to ask if games can be art or educational. It is quite obvious that they can be, although most are crappy at both...

I meant to ask if it is possible to defend that a multi-user society-like game (MMO) provides a fictional gaming world where all kinds of horrible things happen. I should have said 3rd reich-like scenarios. You can put just about anything you want in a novel, can you the same thing in a MMO? Or are there settings and mechanics which are unthinkable in a social multi-user game?

If so, why?

(Sidenote: I think ALL war games trivialize warfare. Movies too.)

Posted Apr 3, 2005 8:17:18 PM | link

Neil Lalonde says:

Ola wrote:
"I see no principal difference between a guild that "celebrate" a OOC homosexual lifestyle and a guild that "celebrate" white rich male players. I am not sure if such a foundation for a gaming-group can be justified even though gay pride type activities are easily justified in a homophobic society."

Are gay pride celebrations only justified in homophobic societies? Do you claim that Canada is a homophobic society? I live in Canada and am "out of the closet" and certainly don't feel that this country is homophobic (if you can possibly make such a black-and-white distinction about a country so large). Canada doesn't "need" gay pride parades, but people gay and straight turn out in large numbers every year, so we keep doing it.

The social climate in World of Warcraft is far more homophobic than anything I have to deal with in my real life. I don't think that justifies having an in-game gay pride event.

Being part of a guild which is gay-friendly or gay-only is an attractive idea to me because it would help to avoid grouping with people who say things like "This instance is so gay!" and "That armor makes you look like a fag!" Whether you think I should consider that homophobic or not doesn't matter. I find it hard to respect such people, and would rather not spend my recreational time playing with them. (I also don't choose to be an activist in my recreational time either...)

Eric said it best:
"In it's simplest sense, like-mindedness tends to be the driver of guild formation."

However, I personally would not join a guild named "Loud and Queer". This is a Warcraft game! Can't it be somehow connected to the game world? I would join a guild with a much more subtle name, or a name that has nothing to do with sexuality. The like-mindedness is more important.

That being said, I'm already in a guild which is only open to my group of real-life friends. However, we did not name ourselves "Real Life Friends Only".

Posted Apr 5, 2005 4:48:26 PM | link

Ola Fosheim Grøstad says:

I think homophobic fears/insecurities/attitudes are pretty widespread. Don't know about Canada, but doubt it is all that different from Scandinavia. Just because expressing certain views is taboo doesn't mean they don't exist below the surface. I strongly suspect that many people would "understand" a man that is violent against another man that made a flirty move on him, but they would condemn a man that was violent towards a flirty woman... :-/

So yeah, in societies where churches and other organisation try define homsexuality as an illness (should not exist) you need those kind of parades and similiar activities (to make the statement that they should indeed exist and are having good lives). There are other reasons to have them too, of course, such as fun.

Are you suggesting that people are like-minded because they are gay/hetero/white/black? And if they are then it must be due to some kind of cultural segregation.

Posted Apr 5, 2005 7:23:50 PM | link

Yaka St.Aise says:

> Ola Fosheim Grøstad wrote:
"Are you suggesting that people are like-minded because they are gay/hetero/white/black? And if they are then it must be due to some kind of cultural segregation."

Hmm. Is that a joke or something ?
Unless I missed some recent breakthrough in science, being gay or straight isn't known to be hardwired at the genetical level.
(If it were, one could actually argue homosexuality is a disease, btw.)
So there is something of a like-mindedness among straight or gay people, in the loose sense of a 'commonality of preferences' (like I prefer strawberry to vanilla).

I don't think that it automatically is ground to speak of 'like mindedness' in a stronger sense of sub-culture or community, but you can expect the people who chose to rally themselves under the "Strawberry Lovers" banner to have more in common than a liking for said fruit.

There's obviously such a thing as a Queer Culture (and a lot of churches within), which doesn't mean all queers have to identify themselves with it.

BTW, I happen to be straight, lately, so feel free to find any amount of homophobic subtext in the above. :P

Cheers,
-- Yaka.

Posted Apr 5, 2005 10:06:09 PM | link

Eric Ramsey says:

As my previous post said, the like-mindedness is based on a shared experience and not on the basis of sexual preference.

This shared experience is the avoidance of behavior which distracts from immersion. This is much like an RP guild, but instead of avoiding non-RP players, it is avoiding players which are actively disrespectful on a particular topic, which is homosexuality.

If you go to the guild web sites, they just want to group with someone who will not call people a "fag", or call something "gay" when it is lame, or complain about being "assraped" when they lose. In a way, they just want to look for other mature players, but particularly those that are respectful of the homosexual lifestyle. This is considered gay-friendly, and not gay. One does not need to be homosexual to be in this guild.

In short, the like-mindedness is not being gay. The like-mindedness is avoiding a particular characteristic of the public forum.

Being surrounded by people who are respectful of others? What a novel idea! Let's discuss...

Posted Apr 5, 2005 11:11:59 PM | link

Yaka St.Aise says:

> Eric Ramsey wrote:

"In short, the like-mindedness is not being gay. The like-mindedness is avoiding a particular characteristic of the public forum.

Being surrounded by people who are respectful of others? What a novel idea! Let's discuss..."

I tried to spin it into a non-exclusionary thing, but you're probably closer to the mark, here.
Same reason why we're having this conversation here and not on /.

Cheers,
-- Yaka.

Posted Apr 6, 2005 4:49:57 AM | link

Ola Fosheim Grøstad says:

Eric Ramsey: In short, the like-mindedness is not being gay. The like-mindedness is avoiding a particular characteristic of the public forum.

But then you have a guild based on a set of norms for behaviour (not allowed to make homophobic/sexist/racist remarks). That is quite different from having a guild segregating the player base based on sexuality and other biological characteristics is a goal.

I personally think it is quite cool that players create guilds called "The Pink Triangle". I believe I even made a temporary webpage for a guild with that name in Meridian59 beta (and yes IIRC the guild was created becuase of the homophobic comments on public chat etc, nothing new there). The problem is that you cannot make this a general principle without ending up with what I view as an undesirable situation. (segregation of the playerbase based on non-game relevant characteristics)

Posted Apr 6, 2005 11:00:10 AM | link

Michael Van Wie says:

It seems that most of the opposition to having gay-friendly guilds comes from two places.

One, the idea that all groups should be equal. (Where "group" just means a self-identified collection of people, probably sharing some trait like sexuality, or race, or gender.) So these people expect that all groups should behave the same, have the same set of rights, the same responsibilities, etc. This is the line of argument that leads to complaints like "If there's an African American student union then why can't there be a Caucasian student union?" (There can...it just won't mean very much.) It's also the reasoning behind the fake "bake sales" where prices vary by race, which I guess is supposed to be making some sort of point about affirmative action.

The problem with this whole line of argument is that it assumes all groups are not just equal, but equivalent, with equivalent needs, backgrounds, etc. Obviously, groups related to different races have *different* needs and come from *different* backgrounds. Many groups are persecuted. There is a special need for them to form, because there is both strength and safety in numbers, and also because together they will be noticed and heard, while separately they can be ignored.

So no, minority groups are *not* like non-minority groups, and you *can't* say "Making an all-straight guild would be offensive, therefore an all-gay guild is offensive." The analogy doesn't hold, because the two groups are simply not alike.

Two, people object to game guilds being formed around real-world politics. The only problem with this is that it's not realistic. People want to be with who they want to be with, for their own reasons. You can't stop them. You definitely can't make them form groups based on *your* priorities. So, forget it...it's just a game, after all, and their existence certainly isn't hurting you. Letting people do what they want is much better for your blood pressure than trying to force them to bend to your will.

Posted Apr 6, 2005 4:17:14 PM | link

Ola Fosheim Grøstad says:

Michael, I don't see how one can compare a union with a gaming-guild. Players don't form unions to change the game rules (well, some might). Special interest groups have a function in a democracy. Most games aren't democratic. So yes, I think the symmetry principle should hold in game spaces. If players can form a guild based on characteristic X, then others should be able to form a guild based comparable characteristics. Offensive or not.

I believe that developers are better off encouraging group formation based on factors that affect the gaming-experience: norms, play-styles (cybersex inclusive), language, time-zone etc.

Sure, players should do whatever they feel like, but that doesn't mean that what players do have no impact on the community. It also doesn't mean that developers shouldn't be concerned about the structure and relations between groups of players.

1. Segregation of the player space into insular overly cohesive groups might not be good for the community. You want good inter-group communication and shared values that cross groups. It IS a shared social space. If you want segregation, do it on the server level. I can't see why you would want to emphasize RL player differences within the same server.

2. Vocal special interest groups tends to be started by players who feel very strongly about some issue and attract similar players. You risk that these groups become forces that put their own interests before the well-being of the system as a whole. Transference from RL into gamespace can make this problematic. It can escalate to unpleasant OOC confrontations, cross-fire slander wars, mischaracterization of other players, backstabbing and a heap of uneccessary grief including black-listing and outing in web forums.

It is in the interest of the system owner to discourage RL tension. RL tension hits a lot harder than in-game conflicts (which can be stressful enough).

Posted Apr 6, 2005 4:52:19 PM | link

Sebastian (Paolo C.) says:

Nick, I used to be GM of Loud And Queer, the EU GLBT guild on Sunstrider you mention in this thread.

I left the guild several months ago for personal reasons, just before Blizzard asked L&Q to change its name (they don't want anything referring to sexual identity in guild names). I know the L&Q guys and girls kept going for a while after I left, but I lost touch with them since then.

In retrospect, I have mixed feelings about that experience. I still like the idea of a guild-friendly guild, and surprisingly we were not the target of a high degree of in-game harassment on a PvP server, but the hostility from people on the forums was a constant strain. I also think the maturity of the playerbase on most WoW PvP realms is not yet ready for a GLBT guild: basically, even the ones who claimed they didn't have anything against us thought we were a bunch of harmless freaks, at best.

I have some good memories though, like the march we run through Stormwind (all wearing our pink-on-white tabard, with a heart symbol), and the regular naked dance parties we threw on the stairs of the AH in Ironforge.

One thing about your thread: I am responsible for the second comment you quoted, the one about us being the only Alliance gay-friendly guild on the realm. I think that - by taking my comment out of contest - you completely misunderstood it.

My comment had nothing to do with the "suppression of minorities", as you stated. I simply didn't see the point of another gay Alliance guild on a low pop realm (as Sunstrider was, back then). Let me clarify this: L&Q was a very small guild, and we struggled because of it. Some members left because there were simply not enough guildmates to group with, with us being few and spread on different levels. It was difficult.

When someone else came up on the forums with a recruting thread for another Alliance GLBT guild on Sunstrider I simply suggested to join us instead, to grow in number. I would have loved to have a different faction gay-friendly guild to organize regular battles with on that realm, but there were simply no reason for a second Alliance gay guild on Sunstrider, for a purely numerical issue.

I didn't write that comment with the thought of "a single gay identity" in mind as you mention, and it certainly was not dictated by the fact that "only a certain quota of gay men can be tolerated".

I regularly visit your weblog and I love your work on the Daedalus Project, and I am also responsible for your referrer link in that thread.

Sorry about the lengh of my comment, but as an open gay man who runs a multi-author weblog about the gay community in Italy, I resent being suspected of anything homophobic or anti-gay.

Posted Dec 6, 2005 10:59:55 AM | link

glen says:

Re Shaun's comment on 4/1/05 (see above) that includes this sentence: "As I said before, my issue isn't with the sexual orientation, it's with people who lack the discretion to keep their private lives *private*"; and this one: "Were I to go into work Monday morning and regale my coworkers with tales of my sexual exploits, I'd likely lose my job."

Shaun: I saw merit in a couple of your other comments, but I wanted to point out an apparent misunderstanding.

You say that one's sexual orientation is "private," and you suggest it is limited to one's "sexual exploits." Maybe you're very, very young and that's all it is to you at this point, but I find that hard to believe. You sound more mature.

You must realize that talking about your wife/husband/partner/relationship/family/home life in purely non-sexual terms is NOT private, right? E.g., "How're things going?" "Oh, my wife and I are going to her family's for Christmas, she's had a cold all week so I've been helping her with her work, sorry I've been so tired." Is that something you should keep "private"? Obviously not. It's no different from me making the same comment about my partner [read: same-sex spouse] of 11 years.

I'm not sure if you actually think that the only relevant aspect of one's sexual orientation is sex, but since you say it's a "private matter" and the only example you give is to "regale my coworkers with tales of my sexual exploits," I must conclude that's what you think. If so, I wonder if you've ever been in a relationship? Or do you only have sexual exploits? If you've never been in a relationship, have you at least listened to others -- say, your parents -- speak casually in public about each other? Have they ever revealed they're in a relationship, or do they keep that secret and private? "How's your wife/husband/partner?" "Oh, that's *private*, I don't speak about my sexual exploits, please don't bring up my sexual orientation in public!"

That is ridiculous.

(By the way: sexual stuff isn't necessarily private either. How often are you at the proverbial water cooler and some hot actor or actress or acquaintance comes up in conversation? Don't people normally make some comment? Not in bad taste, just an honest comment. Should ONLY heterosexual people do this? That's also ridiculous. Or even a personal comment, such as, "I met this great woman at your party, she's hilarious, and gorgeous." Straights only? Ridiculous.)

In terms of WoW, who knows? I'm just responding to your broader point here, which I felt was worth correcting. Could be you didn't mean to imply all this, but many other folks do think through such a limited prism.

G

Posted Dec 14, 2005 4:36:29 PM | link

Sara Andrews says:

I have recently had a bout with the GMs of World of Warcraft about my glbt friendly guild! I was very appalled to find that Blizzard is NOT glbt friendly!!! Below are our email correspondences, after I was reported for sexual harrassment (for advertising for a glbt friendly guild in general chat). The first email is at the bottom, so start there and read up. If anyone has any connections with any type of press, please send them my email. This story needs to be told!

I have reported this incident to the ACLU, along with copies of these emails, and requested their legal assistance with this matter. Furthermore, I will no longer be renewing my account with World of Warcraft, due to your lack of support for a glbt friendly environment. It seems to be ok for general chat to be flooded with, "That's so gay!" and "I just got ganked! What a fag!", yet advertising for a glbt friendly environment where we don't have to deal with such language is deemed "inappropriate". Hopefully you'll be hearing from my ACLU appointed attourny soon.

~
Cordially,
Sara Andrews

From:
To:
Subject: World of Warcraft - Account Issue
Date: Sun, 15 Jan 2006 21:39:10 -0800

Hello,

Thank you for taking the time to write in. While I respect your position and understand your perspective in this matter, please keep in mind, that according to our Terms of Use (http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/legal/termsofuse.html), you may not:

(i) Transmit or post any content or language which, in the sole and absolute discretion of Blizzard Entertainment, is deemed to be offensive, including without limitation content or language that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, hateful, sexually explicit, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable, nor may you use a misspelling or an alternative spelling to circumvent the content and language restrictions listed above;

Please remember that it is up to our sole and absolute discretion whether or not to allow certain types of language in the game. While some language in and of itself may not be offensive, it may incite certain responses in other players that will allow for discussion that we feel has no place in our game. As such, I am afraid that I am unable to reduce, reverse or otherwise amend our previous decision.

Thank you again for your time and consideration in this issue.

Regards,

Stawl
Senior Account Administration
Blizzard Entertainment
http://www.worldofwarcraft.com


-----Original Message-----
From: [email protected] sara andrews
To: [email protected]
Sent: 1/14/2006 7:18:56 PM
Subject: ATTENTION MANAGER!!!

I have been advised to contact the ACLU on this matter if this action is not
reversed on my account, as I have clearly NOT violated the Terms of Use as
they are stated. The terms CLEARLY state:

Offense: Harassment - Sexual Orientation
This category includes both clear and masked language which:
"Insultingly" refers to any aspect of sexual orientation pertaining to
themselves or other players.

Again, I said:
1/12/2006 8:50 (GMT) Shimmre General - Stormwind City
"OZ is recruiting all levels, but especially 50-60s! We are working on our
Onyxia Chains and will be doing UBRS and hopefully Onyxia soon! We are not
"glbt only", but we are "glbt friendly"! http://guilduniverse.com/oz"

That is in NO way violating the Terms of Use, as I have not insulting
refered to sexual orientation. I was obviously reported by someone who has
a problems with homosexuals. I certainly hope that Blizzard doesn't promote
this type of bigotry, yet it appears that you do as you don't seem to be
reading what I've said OR your own policy. I would like a phone number
where someone can be reached, so that I can discuss this matter in person.
My next step will be to contact the ACLU and have them assist me with this
situation.

~
Cordially,
Sara E Andrews

>From:
>To:
>Subject: World of Warcraft - Account Issue
>Date: Sat, 14 Jan 2006 17:38:07 -0800
>
>Greetings Sara,
>
>Thank you again for your follow up e-mails regarding this issue. We have
>reviewed this case and have determined that advertising for a guild based
>on Sexual Orientation is not appropriate for the World of Warcraft. As
>such, any further violations will affect your account as described in our
>"Penalty Volcano" located at:
>http://www.blizzard.com/support/wowgm/?id=agm01714p.
>
>We thank you for your time and anticipated cooperation with our position.
>Please feel free to contact us again should you have any further questions
>or concerns.
>
>
>Regards,
>Karliss
>Account Administration
>Blizzard Entertainment
><http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/>
>
>
>-----Original Message-----
>From: [email protected] sara andrews
>To: [email protected]
>Sent: 1/13/2006 9:50:08 PM
>Subject: RE: World of Warcraft - Account Issue - ATTENTION SUPERVISOR
>
>Yes, but I willl continue to advertise for my glbt friendly guild because
>it's NOT against the policy. . . and if I get reported again by some bigot
>that doesn't like seeing a glbt friendly guild advertised, and I get my
>account suspend. . . we'll have SERIOUS problems. Therefore, I need to be
>assured that this will not happen. . . so that I can reassure my guildmates
>that they will not be in trouble for recruiting for my glbt friendly guild.
>I refuse to recruit any other way, because there are WAY too many people on
>WoW that use REAL anti-gay terms and I do not want those people in my
>guild.
> If we cannot settle this via email, I would like a phone number so that
>I
>can speak to someone in person. Thank you.
>
>~
>Sara Andrews
>
>
> >From:
> >To:
> >Subject: World of Warcraft - Account Issue
> >Date: Fri, 13 Jan 2006 21:43:00 -0800
> >
> >Greetings Sara,
> >
> >Thank you for your follow up e-mail regarding the warning issued to your
> >account. 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. As
>previously
> >communicated, a warning on an account has very few, if any, long-term
> >repercussions.
> >
> >Thank you for your time and patience in this matter.
> >
> >
> >
> >Regards,
> >Karliss
> >Account Administration
> >Blizzard Entertainment
> ><http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/>
> >
> >
> >-----Original Message-----
> >From: [email protected] sara andrews
> >To: [email protected]
> >Sent: 1/12/2006 7:23:22 PM
> >Subject: RE: World of Warcraft - Account Issue
> >
> >The offense reads: This category includes both clear and masked language
> >which: INSULTINGLY
> >refers to any aspect of sexual orientation. . .
> >
> >Yes, GLBT is a known abbreviation for gay lesbian bisexual transgendered,
> >but I am NOT refering to GLBT in an insulting manor. The offense states
> >that you cannot use language that refers to sexual orientation
>INSULTINGLY!
> >It does NOT state anywhere that you cannot refer to sexual orientation
> >period. We do mention that we are GLBT FRIENDLY, which is NOT against the
> >rules and regulations because we are not insulting anyone for their
>sexual
> >orientation.
> >
> >I suggest that someone speak with a manager or someone with authority
>about
> >this matter, because this situation can and will be taken before a court
>of
> >law. My guild members are now afraid to recruit because of YOUR
> >misunderstanding of the offense which you've given. If you can show me
> >where it says that we can't mention sexual orientation at ALL (not just
> >"insultingly"), I will agree to this offense. Until then, I would like
>the
> >situation handled properly and a reply when this is done.
> >
> >~
> >Sara E Andrews
> >
> >
> > >From:
> > >To:
> > >Subject: World of Warcraft - Account Issue
> > >Date: Thu, 12 Jan 2006 17:26:06 -0800
> > >
> > >Hello,
> > >
> > >Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding the World of
> >Warcraft
> > >account you are using. We appreciate and understand your point of view,
> >yet
> > >have to reiterate that all players participating in the World of
>Warcraft
> > >environment are required to adhere to the Terms of Use
> > >(http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/legal/termsofuse.html) at all times.
> > >
> > >Account Name: PRISMATICECHO1
> > >Realm: Shadow Moon
> > >Offense: Harassment Policy Violation - Sexual Orientation
> > >Details (Note - Times are listed in Greenwich Mean Time, GMT):
> > >1/12/2006 8:50 (GMT) Shimmre General - Stormwind City "OZ is recruiting
> >all
> > >levels, but especially 50-60s! We are working on our Onyxia Chains and
> >will
> > >be doing UBRS and hopefully Onyxia soon! We are not "glbt only", but we
> >are
> > >"glbt friendly"! http://guilduniverse.com/oz"
> > >
> > >GBLT is a known abbreviation for Gay Bi Lesbian Transsexual.
> > >
> > >With regards to the above account action, please review the World of
> > >Warcraft Harassment Policy at
> > >http://www.blizzard.com/support/wowgm/?id=agm01719p. As you can see
>from
> > >the above information, using such language falls into the Sexual
> > >Orientation category. You will also notice that the suggested penalty
> >for
> > >such actions is to "Be temporarily suspended from the game"; however,
>you
> > >were given a warning. Receiving a warning is nothing more than an
> > >education in policy for minor issues and a tool our in-game support
>team
> > >uses to track player behavior. While it is not a good idea to ignore a
> > >warning and continue the inappropriate action(s), warnings on an
>account
> > >have very few, if any, long-term repercussions.
> > >
> > >We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and hope this
>has
> > >resolved any concerns you may have had. Please let us know if we can be
> >of
> > >further assistance to you.
> > >
> > >Thank you for your time and patience in this matter.
> > >
> > >Regards,
> > >
> > >Gorido
> > >Account Administration
> > >Blizzard Entertainment
> > >www.worldofwarcraft.com
> > >
> > >
> > >-----Original Message-----
> > >From: [email protected] sara andrews
> > >To: [email protected]
> > >Sent: 1/12/2006 3:45:35 AM
> > >Subject: RE: World of Warcraft - Account Action Notification
> > >
> > >I'm sorry, but what was my offense here? My email stated that I
>violated
> > >this policy:
> > >
> > >Offense: Harassment - Sexual Orientation
> > >This category includes both clear and masked language which:
>Insultingly
> > >refers to any aspect of sexual orientation pertaining to themselves or
> > >other
> > >players
> > >
> > >I beg to differ. My guild recruitment message states:
> > >
> > >"OZ is recruiting all levels, but especially 50-60s! We are working on
> >our
> > >Onyxia Chains and will be doing UBRS and hopefully Onyxia soon! We are
> >not
> > >"glbt only", but we are "glbt friendly"! http://guilduniverse.com/oz"
> > >
> > >As you can clearly see, I'm not "insultingly refering" to any aspect of
> > >sexual orientation. I'm WELCOMING anyone and everyone to join my guild,
> > >REGARDLESS of sexual orientation. My guild is glbt (gay les bi trans)
> > >FRIENDLY! It is a place where glbt members can come without being
> >harassed
> > >or insulted for their sexual orientation with phrases that are used ALL
> >too
> > >often, such as "That's so gay" and "That horde just ganked me! What a
> > >fag!".
> > > I also state that we are "NOT GLBT ONLY", but we "ARE GLBT
>FRIENDLY".
> >.
> > >.
> > >meaning that we do not exclude those who are heterosexual. We simply
> > >insist
> > >that everyone who joins be friendly to everyone else, and keep
>prejudice
> > >talk (which happens all too much in Azeroth) OUT of our guild. How is
> >that
> > >insulting? I believe there has been a HUGE mistake! Whoever reported
>me
> >is
> > >the one that is apparently the one with the harrassing issue towards
> >people
> > >of a different sexual orientation. They're the people who you should
>be
> > >giving a warning to. I would like to be notified when this mistake has
> > >been
> > >resolved.
> > >
> > >Thank you,
> > >Sara E Andrews
> > >
> > >
> > > >From:
> > > >To:
> > > >Subject: World of Warcraft - Account Action Notification
> > > >Date: Thu, 12 Jan 2006 02:46:44 -0800
> > > >
> > > >Greetings Sara,
> > > >
> > > >Account Name: PRISMATICECHO1
> > > >Realm: Shadow Moon
> > > >Character Name: Shimmre
> > > >
> > > >Account Action: Warning
> > > >
> > > >Offense: Harassment - Sexual Orientation
> > > >This category includes both clear and masked language which:
> > > >.. Insultingly refers to any aspect of sexual orientation pertaining
>to
> > > >themselves or other players
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >Details (Note - Times are listed in Greenwich Mean Time, GMT):
> > > >1/12/2006 8:50 (GMT) Shimmre General - Stormwind City "OZ is
>recruiting
> > >all
> > > >levels, but especially 50-60s! We are working on our Onyxia Chains
>and
> > >will
> > > >be doing UBRS and hopefully Onyxia soon! We are not "glbt only", but
>we
> > >are
> > > >"glbt friendly"! http://guilduniverse.com/oz"
> > > >
> > > >The actions detailed above have been deemed inappropriate for the
>World
> > >of
> > > >Warcraft by the In-Game Support staff of Blizzard Entertainment. For
> > > >further information, please view the World of Warcraft Policies and
> >Terms
> > > >of Use Agreement:
>(http://www.blizzard.com/support/wowgm/?id=agm01712p)
> > >and
> > > >(<http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/termsofuse.shtml>).
> > > >
> > > >For any concerns or disputes on this matter, please E-Mail
> > > >[email protected] mailto:[email protected] and
> >our
> > > >Account Administration team will be happy to assist you.
> > > >
> > > >Be aware that additional inappropriate actions may result in further
> > > >disciplinary action, leading up to or including account closure. We
> >thank
> > > >you in advance for respecting our position.
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >If you have any concerns, praise or feedback please e-mail us at
> > > >[email protected]
> > > >
> > > >Thank you for playing. May your blade never dull and your adventure
> >never
> > > >fade.
> > > >
> > > >Regards,
> > > >
> > > >Tirauka
> > > >Game Master
> > > >Blizzard Entertainment
> > > >www.worldofwarcraft.com
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >Customer satisfaction is a top priority here at Blizzard
>Entertainment,
> > >and
> > > >we would like your feedback on the level of service you have
>received.
> > > >Please feel free to provide such feedback at the following web
>address:
> > >
> >
> >http://www.blizzard.com/support/?id=eSurvey000&i=477&d=1/12/2006%202:41:53%20AM&t=[email protected]

Posted Jan 16, 2006 6:10:15 AM | link

neintales says:

One of the comments I've seen on the various forum and blog posts springing up discussing this is that we shouldn't bring real life into the game..

But really, not too many people out there, I'd wager, will literally play just as happily with every player on their server, and not find some to have things about them that are irksome. I have never seen a guildchat, other than perhaps the really hardcore raiding guilds, that doesn't at some point delve into discussions of "real life".

There are, in fact, many guilds that are groups of "real life" friends, or contain people that live in a geographical location, or share some kind of common interest outside of the MMORPG itself. My first guild ever in WoW was myself, some cousins of mine, and their college friends/roommates. My second guild ever was a collection of people who read a certain webcomic.

If guilds can openly exist of people living in one city, one country, or who all read one webcomic, then why shouldn't there also be guilds whose way of finding and forming online community is to say "Hey, we won't freak out over what you are."?

I can see why there shouldn't be guilds that openly endorse HATRED of real life orientations, be they political, religious, sexual, or racial.. but to say that we shouldn't bring in a love of something or acceptance of something into a community based game boggles the mind.

When I have had to look beyond people I know from elsewhere for a guild or even a party, I have encountered racism, sexism, and homophobia. My not being open about who I am or what I am has not sheltered me in some way, or made the game a better place.

Looking for a guild/members that won't explode in our faces if we 'slip up' in some way and bring up what we are isn't politics, shoving our deviancy into the faces of the masses, or unjustly 'bringing reality into the game'. (Reality is already always in the game, unless you've managed to go insane and really believe you ARE your character.)

All someone who's trying to form a "something-friendly" guild is trying to do is ensure that everyone in that guild knows they'll feel at home or have common ground- which makes any social interaction or teamwork MUCH easier and more enjoyable in a world of faceless thousands.

Posted Jan 28, 2006 9:41:56 PM | link