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Feb 08, 2006

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» an open letter to blizzard entertainment from Many-to-Many
[Editorial Note: The following letter, which is also being posted on the Terra Nova weblog, is not intended to be seen as an official stance of either TerraNova or Many-to-Many. It is simply an open letter authored by a group... [Read More]

» Academia Joins Burning Cusade from Darth Pixel
This comes as a follow-up on the story I posted yesterday. After Blizzard reversed their decision to punish a World of Warcraft player who attempted to recruit for a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transexual-friendly guild, a group of academicians joined ... [Read More]

» Im Gonna Sit Right Down from Man Bytes Blog
..and write myself a letter! It looks like Im not the only one writing letters to Blizzard over the GLBT issue (Blizzard Gets Dear Johned). Terra Nova is hosting a letter to them as well. Admittedly, its a more professionally wor... [Read More]

» TN Boffins Ask Blizzard for Public Statement on Harassment Policy from Acid for Blood
Several of the Terra Nova folk have written an open letter to Blizzard. They ask the publisher of World of Warcraft for a formal statement saying that their Game Master was wrong to sanction player Sara Andrews for recruiting for her gay-friendly guild... [Read More]

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Comments

1.

Games are meant to be an escape from reality, not a place to bring all that is real life into it. Not allowing a GBLT guild to exist in WoW is one thing, but allowing a GBLT guild to actively and openly advertise in the game not only breaks the immersion, but sets a bad precedent.

If you allow a GBLT friendly guild to actively promote themselves ingame, then by the same logic you should allow "christian friendly", "satanist friendly", "Old men who like little boys friendly", and any other political/religious/whatever group to form their own group ingame.

Again i have nothing against GBLT, but what i am against is bringing the real world into the game when escaping the real world was exactly my reason for entering the game in the first place.

The guilds should be based on ingame things such as "orc killing squad" or "Band of Elves" not "GBLT friendly" or "Democrats who like to play Tauren".

Keep the realworld where it belongs. Leave our games as games.

don

2.

Just to be devil's advocate for a while, should there be mention of any kind of sexuality in an MMO, whether homo, hetro or anything else you can dream up? Is sexual orientation a reasonable foundation on which to build a guild? Does the game's demographic have any bearing on this issue? I'm not denying that humans are sexual creatures, and tend to enjoy expressing themselves as such whenever possible, but is it wrong to create a world in which such issues are irrelevant and have no place? If not, is it wrong to try and inforce those intentions? I'm sure that people do express themselves sexually within the game, but I'd hope that is mostly in private chat. Is broadcasting messages of a sexual nature vulgur? Is homosexuality non-sexual? Is it merely a useful label for like minded people to identify each other and so meet? Are there too many question marks in this post?

NB: I've got to say, I'm quite confused about all these issues, and totally don't know where I stand. Please don't acuse me of gay bashing, that's not my intention at all, I'm merely trying to be open minded about issues which people seem to take for granted these days.

3.

Where do you draw the line? At guilds which recruit exclusively Democrats or Republicans? What about guilds which exclude women? Or guilds which exclude certain ethnicities or religions?

4.

I think people should respect blizzards attempt to create and uphold a fantasy world. I don't think there is any reason for a guild to be created with the express intention of a political, sexual, religious, or racial motivation derived from pressures in the "real world". The game is created with the intention of leaving those pressures behind and to bring them into the game only undermines it and turns into an extension of real-life. Perhaps thats inevitable with the success of something like WoW

5.

"It would be deeply regrettable if incidents such as this were ignored, when they might be used to explore how we can live together within the virtual worlds."

Just another thought, how is living in a virtual world going to be any different if you just replicate all the baggage from the real world? The thing about WoW is that there is no arbitrary labels with which to distinguish people or set them apart unless you willfully impose them upon yourself. And if there are labels its within the context of the game.

6.

People bring their real-world sexuality into many aspects of the game already--as a WoW tailor, I can make wedding dresses, for example. Heterosexual couples are part of the game itself (I can think of a couple of quests where you're dealing with husband/wife issues), and in-game romances are common. Should we ban all mentions of wives and husbands? Of girlfriends and boyfriends? Of marriage? Of course not. But to say that there is no "advertising" of heterosexual preferences is naive. It's part of the very fabric of the game.

Also, the guild in question is not "GLBT-only"--there was no exclusion involved in the group at all. Simply an advertisement that the guild would be a place where one might be less likely to find the kind of virulently homophobic language that runs rampant in many of the lower-level chat areas like The Barrens.

7.

> Just to be devil's advocate for a while, should
> there be mention of any kind of sexuality in an
> MMO, whether homo, hetro or anything else you can
> dream up? Is sexual orientation a reasonable
> foundation on which to build a guild?

That's sort of like trying to imagine an internally self-consistent world in which there is no sex, period. Doesn't make sense on the surface-- if you don't wan sex, why design male and female avatars to look sexy? You'd think WoW was populated by asexual dwarves walking around in Communist Chinese pajamas.

And the thing is, isn't it possible to create guilds that roleplay around a political/sexual/religious affiliation, but still have those elements
subsumed within the WoW universe? Christians could create "Covenant of the Trinity: guild of healers and paladins devoted to serving the Three Deities Who Are One", gay players could start "Two Heart Warriors: a guild of duo warrior princes who share a special bond", and so on. It's obvious to everyone what the larger intent of the guild is, but it still doesn't clash with the world's culture. *Then* what would Blizzard's objection be?

8.

Liz wrote:
>People bring their real-world sexuality into many aspects of the game already--as a
>WoW tailor, I can make wedding dresses, for example. Heterosexual couples are part of
>the game itself (I can think of a couple of quests where you're dealing with
>husband/wife issues), and in-game romances are common. Should we ban all mentions of
>wives and husbands? Of girlfriends and boyfriends? Of marriage? Of course not. But to
>say that there is no "advertising" of heterosexual preferences is naive. It's part of
>the very fabric of the game.

>Also, the guild in question is not "GLBT-only"--there was no exclusion involved in
>the group at all. Simply an advertisement that the guild would be a place where one
>might be less likely to find the kind of virulently homophobic language that runs
>rampant in many of the lower-level chat areas like The Barrens.

Of course there is sexuality in games. That isn't the point. The question here is whether guilds should be able to advertise their real-world political/religious/sexual orientations in game. Heterosexual marriage and a guild openly advertising as GLBT friendly are not the same. The same would be two guilds one advertising as GLBT and the other as Heterosexual.

The problem comes in that if you allow 1 sexual/religious/political group -- note that there are no inherent free speech rights in a private world such as WoW -- then you must allow all of them.

That means that if you want GLBT friendly guild descriptions then you are going to get some "good, moral, christian, god-loving, non-gay" ones from someone else. You don't get one without the other. You are opening Pandora's box.

We can take this to absurb extremes.

Say I want to create a clan. Oh, i dunno, let's call it "Killer Knights of the Kindom". That's kind of a long name, so that's make it KKK for short. Maybe i'm some lonely white kid from Mississippi, and would like to play WoW with other lonely white kids from Mississippi. So i advertise KKK as a place for white kids to play WoW.

Now nothing i've done is illegal here. I'm not making my guild "white" kids only, much like the GLBT guild isn't "GLBT-only". Nevertheless i'm sure my "clan" would generate a lot of complaints to Blizzard and rightfully so.

Clearly under the old WoW policy, my KKK guild would not be permitted. Under the new GLBT-inspired policy, this would be viewed as acceptable using the same standards. Not everyone will like it, but hey we allowed one group of people to advertise their real-world sex/political/religious beliefs ingame, so we must allow the others to be fair.

No one at Blizzard is making a value judgement about the GLBT guild, they are merely trying to keep WoW what it is, a GAME.

There are plenty of people with political motivations out there. That's fine. Let them argue on CNN, Fox News, or some blog somewhere, but please leave our "escape from reality" alone!

don

9.

I agree that it's a bad practice to assume that any aknowledgement of other sexualities is offensive or will lead to verbal assaults being directed towards those GLBT players.

It almost feels like by disallowing those guilds, Blizzard is quasi-justifying that type of hostile behavior. Almost as though they're saying "We don't want any GLBT guilds here for their own good. If we allowed them, everyone would just harass them all the time and it'd ruin their fun." As if that type of behavior was excusable and couldn't be helped.

I know they're just trying to save themselves headaches, but wouldn't the real way to help those people have fun be to allow it but disallow people from gaybashing etc?

---------------

I also agree that it'd be great to keep gamespaces in character and filter out all the real world references, much like most MMOs do with their rules for avatar names.

I think Blizzard would be totally reasonable to not allow GLBT guilds because they don't allow Republican Guilds or Cincinnati-based guilds, or guilds that are for fans of the Yankees.

Do they place the same sanctions on that type of thing? I get the feeling that they don't stop that kind of thing, but it's just a guess. (I'm one of the 3 people in the game industry that still hasn't had time to play WoW yet.)

10.

"We urge Blizzard to make a public statement that the mention of homosexuality in general chat is not offensive."

What loose use of language. Do you ask them to state that it is not offensive to them? I doubt very much if anyone is suggesting that it is. Or if it is offensive to others? Because I am equally confident that Blizzard know as well as you or I that it is offensive to many of their users (perhaps, with the large far-eastern user base, the majority).

Now you and I, I hope and suspect, agree that these people are wrong to find mention of homosexuality on the public chat channels offensive. And as someone who eschews fuzzy-minded moral relativism, I have the advantage that I can say these people are morally wrong to hold such opinions. But I fail to see how Blizzard can say what you ask them to say.

Endie

P.S. This whole thing reminds me of the words of Timothy Leary, in Gila Copter:

"You're like a victim - you love to be a victim.
You love the United States prime time victim show."

11.

Pedant wrote:
P.S. This whole thing reminds me of the words of Timothy Leary, in Gila Copter:

"You're like a victim - you love to be a victim.
You love the United States prime time victim show."

This should remind of this phrase, but not because Sara's guild is playing the victim (or that we're doing it for hers and similar ones by proxy). This phrase is apt precisely because it's the 'majority' of players who find even hearing 'GLBT-friendly' offensive who were cast as the victim here, in Blizzard's twisted logic.

There is no deeper irony to me of the last twenty years than to see the (PC) rhetoric of protecting vulnerable groups from that which is offensive turned around to 'protect' the 'majority' from having its poor sznsibilities damaged. In both cases, of course, we have the fear of being uncomfortable (the worst fear of the age of consumption) overriding the public good that free speech is supposed to cultivate.

12.

Only problem that I see is that they have singled out the GLBT guild and not the religious and similar. Those have long since advertised openly. Typically the division is raider/casual/hardcore but now and again you see one for a certain region, language, race, religion and yes gender, the ever popular all female guilds. Blizzard has always been very lax about policing the system. Figures that it would be sexual orientation that would make them pop up out of their hole in the ground, judging from the avatars and the cothing sex is definitely a popular topic there.

You can have it one way or the other. Sometimes you do have to accept that there will be a KKK as long as you have an open society. Its an unfortunately byproduct of the system just like having militant organizations voted into governments by the people. It doesn't mean the system is a bad one just that it reflects the people and their desires.

I'd argue that it is fighting a losing battle to try and prevent real world distinctions being made in the virtual as people WANT to be around others just like themselves on the average. Attempting to mask the various ways people divide each other up simply forces an interaction that the participant didn't really want with the resulting unhappiness.

There is no such thing as escaping reality in a situation where there are masses of people. You can delude yourself into thinking you are but reality is people guild with people like themselves in some way and who don't offend their day to day sensibilities/value system. Sometimes one set of desires overrides other desires (for example a racist may guild and group with others he views as inferior because its the best route to a certain raidzone but he's ditching them first chance he gets if his desire to raid that area can be met without interacting with the others).

I say let folks advertise their guilds as they wish -or not at all-. Then let the chips fall as they will. It'll sort itself out without a lot of hoopla. Either expend the manpower to cut all guild advertisements or just delete any tickets resulting from 'so and so is advertising a guild I don't like' and move on.

13.

It's amazing how much these arguments repeat themselves:

"Don't bring the real world into it?" I mean seriously, get a life. You read Terra Nova and you've obviously never played an MMPORPG. Real life is all over. Pretending that everyone else is having some immersive experience is simply naive.

"Why does sexuality have to be brought up?" Because real life happens and there are a lot of bigots in games. The classic example is that one of the many GLBT guilds was formed when a guy mentioned logging out to get together with his boyfriend and never even saw a response from his guild, just the message he'd been removed from the guild. So now they belong to a GLBT guild. They didn't bring up "sexuality" the only thing brought up was a noun with gender, just as tens of thousands of players a day announce that they are logging out to do something with their opposite sex romantic partner. But straight people don't get guildremoved for it.

I'm amazed that SOE hasn't come under criticism as they have rabid anti-GLBT policies.

14.

I think your gonna find its really ugly at the bottom of the slope too. But if we're all going to take that sleigh ride, then the faster the better I guess.

15.

To echo Kathy, "Don't bring the real world into it?" You must be kidding.

Last month, in Norrath, SOE organized a Frostfell event that was a thinly disguised allegory for Christmas. The land was decorated with candy canes, NPC's wore holiday hats, and players engaged in snowball fights.

This month, in Azeroth, Blizzard has organized a lunar new year celebration. Horde and alliance players can light fireworks, commemorate their ancestors and celebrate together in Moonglade.

Last Sunday, the general chat channels of Everquest II and World of Warcraft were full of chatter about the Superbowl. A few weeks earlier, a soldier stationed in the Persian Gulf chatted with other players about his experiences overseas.

All of these conversations have a place in massively multiplayer games, as do general chat invitations to participate in GLBT guilds, Christian guilds, and GLBT Christian guilds.

16.

Another "Devil's Advocate" here: If you own a very popular club that all sorts of people flock to (say about 5 million people in total) and a group of those customers, who happen to be GLBT, decide to have a weekly "GLBT Night" AND they put their posters up on the windows of your club don't you think that there's a significant risk to lose a substantial portion of your clientele?

Forget that it's backward-thinking to be offended by people's sexual orientation. As a business you have to protect yourself and that, unfortunately, may mean making decisions that are unpopular with some customers in order to mitigate the risk of losing others. Yes, that means that you also have to extend that treatment to ANY group (religious, GLBT, political, etc.). Singling out GLBT and not applying the same rules to other potentially contentious affiliations is not fair, is not right.

Where do you draw the line? Well, as a business owner you draw the line precisely where you think you should. That's all there is to it. It may not be where others might draw the line, but it's YOUR business and you have to make a decision. If some of your customers don't like it, then there are plenty of other clubs around town to try out. That's business. And, please, don't anybody accuse me of gay-bashing because you have no idea how untrue that would be. I don't agree with Blizzard's actions here, but I also understand that it's THEIR business to run. Perhaps into the ground, if they're not careful, but that's their problem, not mine.

17.

Kathy> Pretending that everyone else is having some immersive experience is simply naive.<

In my experience its quite possible to have an immersive experience in WoW if you choose to. For example, simply walking anywhere a human would normally walk pretty much guarantees you will interact only with role-players in WoW. And of course, turn off General chat. It’s a pity Blizzard didn’t follow some other MMORPGs and have distinct in world and out of world general chat channels. Then guilds that segregate themselves by in world criteria could advertise in the in world channel, and those that use other world criteria in the other channel. That at least would remove the “its not immersive” from the discussion. An official “Rants, moans and opinions” channel might also help to segregate the more heated discussions for those who wanted to hear them.

As to the specific topic, I haven’t much to say. It raises too many conflicting impulses in my mind. But I will say, that my brief experiences of General chat is that it is a cesspit. Drawing this particular line seems an inept way of starting a cleanup.

18.

We've had this discussion before, with much the same results. Blizzard's GMs advised the guild to advertise on the forums, not in the General channel, because of the sensitive nature of their character (GLBT-friendly), which along with religion and politics is considered inappropriate to WoW chat. The explanation offered to the guild was flawed, and could have been handled better, but the principle is still sound.

More to the point - if you are trying to recruit people friendly to a certain RL lifestyle, why on Azeroth would you do it in General chat, which everyone agrees is crawling with immature people quick to abuse "queers"? It wasn't the message that was the problem, it was the medium (General Chat).

19.

Chip wrote:
Where do you draw the line? Well, as a business owner you draw the line precisely where you think you should. That's all there is to it. It may not be where others might draw the line, but it's YOUR business and you have to make a decision...I don't agree with Blizzard's actions here, but I also understand that it's THEIR business to run. Perhaps into the ground, if they're not careful, but that's their problem, not mine.

So this insulates them from criticism? I always find it strange when someone argues that a company can do whatever it wants in the marketplace when it comes to issues like these. Sure, in some sense of course it can. But you seem to be implying that just because they can, by rights, do whatever they want in policing chat, that this makes criticisms of their handling of it off-limits. I don't understand this at all. If they're free to try something and fail, we're free to criticize them for it.

20.

Perhaps Blizzard is just trying to "hug the middle" in a public perception sense. I'm sure their strategic planners read the Economist and are quite conscious of the queue of "liberal" Democrats lining up to sacrifice the gaming industry at the alter of "family decency". The last thing they need is yet another easy soundbite for the media to latch onto ala GTA pixelated sex scenes. Hell, there was already a miniblitz on "blogs" here in the Bay Area because of "what your kids can read and see". The picture they kept showing was a splash graphic of some random B&D-focused blog, but they were talking about MySpace and its assorted evils.

21.

Thomas wrote: If they're free to try something and fail, we're free to criticize them for it.

Absolutely, we're free to criticize, and by all means we should. I didn't mean to suggest that criticism should be off-limits, though in re-reading my post I can see how it seems that way.

On the other hand, I do feel that a business can (to a certain extent) do whatever it pleases in the marketplace. If whatever that action is leads to their demise, then it was clearly a bad business decision. If, however, the business continues to succeed in part because of that action, then (no matter how much the rest of us dislike that action) it turns out to be a good business decision for that company.

How we feel about it will only matter if we all stop paying the company AND if "we" amount to a sizeable number of customers. If we turn out to be a pissed-off few, then our action will, unfortunately, have little impact.

22.

Clearly under the old WoW policy, my KKK guild would not be permitted. Under the new GLBT-inspired policy, this would be viewed as acceptable using the same standards. Not everyone will like it, but hey we allowed one group of people to advertise their real-world sex/political/religious beliefs ingame, so we must allow the others to be fair.

You could not create a guild advertised as KKK because the very label is harrassment to a specific race of people. Running around Azeroth saying, "Hey, we're the KKK!" will get your ass banned quite easily and rightfully, because you are harrassing others. That fact has not changed and will not change.

The difference between a KKK branded guild and saying, "We're GLBT friendly" is that the latter wasn't warned off for harrassing ... but to keep people from harrassing them. So the equivalent would be saying "Our guild has black and white players" would be warned because it might invite racsism.

Blizzard was essentially trying to pre-emptively stop harrasment, however tromping all over the players they were supposedly protecting, basically punishing them for being potentially "harrassable".

The whole "you can't let people talk about being gay because it's a slippery slope" is pure nonsense. Nice try, though.

And, to be frank, I find this whole "don't get your real life in my fantasy world" dishonest nonsense the more I see it. So ... you NEVER talk about the real world in WoW? Never? Everyone is a serious RPer and always in character? Is that what you're saying. If someone mentioned the Super Bowl, you would respond "For what is this odd bowl of which you speak?" Bull. And everyone knows it.

What is really meant is "keep things I don't like out of my fantasy world". Which hey, would be great if it could ever happen. But it won't I've played online games since 300 baud was a standard and I gotta tell you - things you don't like or don't agree with will always be around. Deal with it.

More to the point - if you are trying to recruit people friendly to a certain RL lifestyle, why on Azeroth would you do it in General chat, which everyone agrees is crawling with immature people quick to abuse "queers"? It wasn't the message that was the problem, it was the medium (General Chat).

Hm. Trying to recruit players into a guild where they don't have be harrassed by immature jerks? A place crawling with immature jerks sounds like the perfect place to me. If General chat is the domain only of people harrasing and not the proper place for people trying to give an alternative, doesn't sound very General to me. Homophobia ok, but tolerance not?

23.

I'm amused at how many arguments have arisen around this subject concerning immersion. The specific communications channel that was involved here was the general chat channel on a non-roleplaying server of World of Warcraft, and those chat channels are almost always teeming with "out of character" discussions that break immersion in sixteen different ways. Blizzard has explicitly set up servers where only "in character" conversation is allowed, even in general chat channels, so that experience is quite available to any player who wants it, but most choose to play on non-RP servers. Even on RP servers, real life constantly bleeds into gameplay in guild and group chat as people have to leave -- just for instance, to go see their girlfriends or boyfriends.

Another argument that's come up over and over, in blogs like this as well as on the message boards run by Blizzard, is the idea that you'll have to allow neo-Nazi groups and the KKK to run guilds if you're going to allow LGBT-friendly guilds. I have to say I fail to see how this is the case. There are thousands of high schools and colleges, for instance, all around the United States, that allow students to organize and advertise "gay-friendly" clubs, in part because high school can often be a difficult environment for LGBT students. The same schools are not under any obligation to allow KKK recruiting at their schools; there are plenty of places you can draw a line.

One very clear line, in fact, was already drawn by Blizzard's own policy, which prior to this incident didn't contain anything that would lead one to believe that mentioning homosexuality was forbidden. Their harassment policy specifically forbids negative, insulting, and derogatory language about someone's sexuality, about race, ethnicity, religion, etc. It also forbids references to real-life groups that promote racial hatred. That policy, just on its own, pretty clear forbids people from running around calling someone "faggot" in a derogatory manner, and forbids a KKK guild, but remains silent and non-judgemental of someone simply saying they're gay.

And finally no, the word "gay," in and of itself, does not refer to specific sex acts of any sort or to sexually explicit subjects. Can we put that offensive myth to bed once and for all? "Charles and Steven are gay" doesn't imply sex, or X-rated subject material any more than "Andy and Laura are getting married" does.

24.

On the other hand, I do feel that a business can (to a certain extent) do whatever it pleases in the marketplace.

And that extent is defined, in part, by laws about discrimination and so forth. Lambda Legal has already presented its case, with specific references to law, on why Blizzard may be in violation of law. (A MMOG falls under the definition of a public accomodation; public accomodations cannot discriminate against people on the basis of sexuality in California, where Blizzard operates; telling people not to mention that they are gay constitutes discrimination of this sort under California law.)

Another thought: it would be great to have a version of this letter that supportive players and other people from the industry and academia could sign their own names to.

25.

If General chat is the domain only of people harrasing and not the proper place for people trying to give an alternative, doesn't sound very General to me. Homophobia ok, but tolerance not?

Oh for crying out loud... what is "ok" and what is not "ok" in General chat is set out by Blizzard's rules, which can only be enforced if players report other players to GM's. I did not say General was off-limits to GLBT folks, only that taking their recruitment to General chat, knowing full well the maturity, tolerance and civility levels thereof, was a remarkably dumb idea. Blizzard suggested they move their recruitment to the forums, where their mention of sexual orientation would not be in violation of the TOS. Problem solved.

Oh, but is the real fuss about homosexuality being lumped with politics and religion as taboo topics? Well, given the ruckus raised over this non-issue, I would say Blizzard made that call right. Whether one is black, white, Lithuanian, hermaphrodite or idol-worshipper is entirely their own damn business, in real life, as well as WoW.

26.

"So this insulates them from criticism? I always find it strange when someone argues that a company can do whatever it wants in the marketplace when it comes to issues like these. Sure, in some sense of course it can. But you seem to be implying that just because they can, by rights, do whatever they want in policing chat, that this makes criticisms of their handling of it off-limits. I don't understand this at all. If they're free to try something and fail, we're free to criticize them for it."

Feel free to criticize. By the same token one should also feel free to offer support or reasoned analysis, which is what Mr. Hinshaw is doing.

27.

What if a guild advertised itself as "Southern Baptist friendly"? What if that same guild in its recruitment process turned away gays? Surely it's not tough to see that there might be a link between the two.

If the argument is that guilds shouldn't be allowed to advertise themselves as "white friendly" in general chat then what is the corresponding argument that makes an exception for "GLBT friendly"?

28.

/applaud Dan, Julian.

:notes the missing signatures.

29.

I think it really needs to be said again and again that the incorrect disciplining of Sara Andrews most certainly did NOT constitute business as usual for Blizzard and WOW.

GLBT guilds along with every other kind of RL special interest guild have been happily playing and recruiting in and out of game since launch.

Other than this Blizzard has been very good about understanding the difference between harrassment and self identification.

30.

Blizzard suggested they move their recruitment to the forums, where their mention of sexual orientation would not be in violation of the TOS. Problem solved.

Actually, if Blizzard had just issued this as a suggestion (and I agree, it may have been a smarter choice on Sara's part) there may not have been a story at all. But there's a big difference between "hey... we're concerned you might encounter a lot of harassment this way, so we suggest you advertise over here instead" and "you are in violation of the harassment policy and a warning is being placed on your account. You may be banned if this happens again."

Was the latter just a GM interpreting things wrong? Signs from Blizzard are a bit mixed; on one hand there was an apology and removal of the warning, but on the other hand a community manager posted that they intend to disallow any mention of "controversial" topics in public chat, which discriminates far more against anyone who happens to encounter societal disapproval for some basic aspect of their existence that is supposed to be protected from harassment and might be perfectly reasonable to mention to other players. And I would count religion in there too; I think it would be a very bad idea for Blizzard to declare that nobody is ever allowed to mention being a Baptist or a Muslim or a Jew in public chat. Because Blizzard has been sending out mixed signals, many people are waiting to see what revisions to their policy end up looking like.

31.

I did not say General was off-limits to GLBT folks, only that taking their recruitment to General chat, knowing full well the maturity, tolerance and civility levels thereof, was a remarkably dumb idea. Blizzard suggested they move their recruitment to the forums, where their mention of sexual orientation would not be in violation of the TOS.

Way to contradict yourself in such a short span. You say the chat shouldn't be off-limits, and then defend Blizzard for removing them. If someone else wants to risk being harassed to help out those already being harassed, I say all power to them. Do you have some reason why they shouldn't?

If the argument is that guilds shouldn't be allowed to advertise themselves as "white friendly" in general chat then what is the corresponding argument that makes an exception for "GLBT friendly"?

From what I've seen, nobody is making the argument that somebody couldn't advertise being "white friendly".

"White only" ... now that would get you in trouble.

32.

That letter is factually incorrect when it states that "Blizzard does not sanction the routine use of homophobic and misogynistic insults, nor does it sanction all manner of vulgar and abusive trash talk."

They actually do sanction people using gay as a slur or the word fag (as well as people making offensively sexist statements). It just takes someone reporting it to a GM. I've reported several such individuals and had the GMs confirm to me that such language is unacceptable and that they would deal with the offending parties.

Yes, there's too much of that talk in the general channels, but Blizzard can't station a GM in every zone to watch all of it and they do punish it.

33.

These comment threads are getting too long to read all the way through... wish we had better threading.

To make a modest proposal -- yes, leave Real Life out of the game world entirely! I want NPC horses and sheep to speak English to me! I want to be able to fly, even though I don't have wings! I want there to be no violence whatsoever! And most of all, I want players with male avatars to stop leering at and molesting my female avatars! I get enough of that on the streets of New York!

When you say "leave real life out of it," Don, you appear to be supporting a fantasy world in which everyone is straight and enjoys random sexual advances. I suppose the problem with any world, real or fantasy, is everyone has their own conception of it. I just don't see eye to eye with you.

I fully support the statement in the post -- I have to, I keep talking about starting a guild to discuss schools, which I'd have to advertise -- but I do think Ms. Andrews (any relation? I don't know) might have engaged in the game's fantasy while saying it. Don't know how. How does one represent fantasy-medieval homosexuality? Brokeback Mountain did it for cowboys; now we need our (more overt) queering of LOTR...

34.

Wait, I need to apologize -- LOTR has been queered, I forget about the contributions of fanfic writers. Although, of course, slash generally owes its heritage to straight female writers -- meaning that it's less about creating new spaces for onesself and more about, as a friend of mine put it, having your cake and watching it eat itself.

35.

A lot of people seem to be taking this as somehow being exclusionary, i.e. a GLBT-only guild. First of all I'm not sure that this would be that bad and I certainly know it already happens for other demographics. But secondly, that isn't what this was about. It was about a GLBT "friendly" guild. There's a difference between a democrat-only guild and a guild that likes to discuss the politics of the democratic party. And any republican who wants to join such a guild should probably know that its members are big John Kerry fans and like to talk about that before joining just as a homophobe is actually served by knowing that are joining a guild that welcomes homosexual members and frank discussion of homosexuality.

36.

Wait. Blizzard has apologized, and they are ordering sensitivity training for their 1,000 GMs on staff in Europe, North America and Korea.

For those who have been upset about the ban on LGBT recruitment, we won. Blizzard's apology is a public statement to this effect.

Can't we just celebrate the fact that Blizzard revised their policy without insisting that they grovel?

37.

Nice. It's got to be a scary thing, knowing that GMs are one of the big ways that your company interfaces with your customers. The marketing people must hate it.

38.

Brent Michael Krupp wrote:

They actually do sanction people using gay as a slur or the word fag (as well as people making offensively sexist statements). It just takes someone reporting it to a GM. I've reported several such individuals and had the GMs confirm to me that such language is unacceptable and that they would deal with the offending parties.

The counter-argument is that they may CLAIM to punish it, but that there is little (if any) concrete evidence that they do actually punish it in a meaningful fraction of cases, and with appropriate levels of sanctions.

There have been numerous reported cases where people have filed complaints, received reports that "it will be dealt with", and the offender is still present and online every day for the next ten days or so.

I've personally opened tickets on such matters, received a response as much as a week later, and after getting the form reply, seen the same player online and engaging in precisely the same behavior for the next several days. I even once opened a subsequent ticket pointing this out, and I was warned that repeated submissions on the same player constituted harrassment on my part!

It also doesn't help that it can (in my experience) take as much as a week or more to get a response to a ticket, and you are allowed to have only ONE ticket open at a time. What are you supposed to do if you observe fifty other players engaging in the behavior in the time it takes to get one ticket responded to?

From what I saw while I was still playing, Blizzard only ever TALKED a good game regarding punishing people for violations of the stated policy against harrassing language ("fag", "so gay", "queer", etc.)

There were no adequate tools (or adequate enforcement) that served to actually CURTAIL the behavior. If there were, we wouldn't have seen this Broken-Windows degeneration of the chat channel contents, and likely significantly less need to form a guild in hopes of escaping that kind of environment.

39.

Could we please, for the love of all that is holy in gaming, give this issue a rest? This whole thing has been blown out of proportion, hyped by people with an agenda to push, and misreported by people who should know better. Blizzard said you can't advertise a guild sexually-charged name in the General Chat channel. In fact, you can't talk about anything racially, sexually, politically charged in that channel. That's it. There's nothing discriminatory about it. Cut the crap and grow up.

40.

So if people "can't talk about" any of those things, that means there's absolutely none of that taking place today on the General Chat channel in WoW?

Are you serious?

41.

I think the open letter is wonderful, and this settlement may be something of a milestone for online gaming.

This is a good thread, with a lot of interesting points being raised. I'm enjoying following it.

Jonas, I can't resist adding that if you want the flames to die down, then don't throw gasoline at them.

42.

""Don't bring the real world into it?" I mean seriously, get a life. You read Terra Nova and you've obviously never played an MMPORPG. Real life is all over. Pretending that everyone else is having some immersive experience is simply naive.

"Why does sexuality have to be brought up?" Because real life happens and there are a lot of bigots in games."

Just because bigots and homosexuals exist in the same space does not mean it needs to be made a focal point for their interaction. Half the joy of MMO's is that you can interact without that level of spasticity.

There are plenty of mediums for those two to duke it out without encroaching on the entertainment of an MMO. I dont think anyones trying to claim its a completely immersive experience being ruined by real life, but rather that its a game and a form of entertainment which is ruined by the interjection of.... this.

43.

"So if people "can't talk about" any of those things, that means there's absolutely none of that taking place today on the General Chat channel in WoW?

"Are you serious?"

The question isn't whether or not that type of discussion is taking place in General Chat. The question is whether or not Blizzard drops the hammer uniformly when it's reported to them (via their GM's) that that type of discussion is taking place in general chat.

44.

":notes the missing signatures."

If I was Blizzard, or any other type of game company I wouldn't want to touch this issue with a ten foot pole. What if someone advertises a "whites only" guild, or even just a "white friendly" guild? What if someone decided to sue the company which hosted the game patronized by said "white friendly" guild?

45.

Stop players from saying things like "this boss is gay" and "learn to play ur class, fag" and then there will be no need for GLBT players to find a GLBT-friendly environment within the game.

Those phrases are "harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene".

Fix both problems, not just one. It's easier to ban the few GLBT-friendly folks, but impossible to ban all the "you're gay" talkers. Blizzard should not have touched this issue at all.

46.

Agreed- there are a bunch of ways this was just a bad call... among them:

1) confusion of a group with the potential harassers of that group. When did this country stop respecting diversity of opinion and belief? (rhetorical question...)

2) huge hypocrisy regarding sexual content- there's no shortage of that in WoW (which I rather like, but then:)

3) lack of credibility as an immersive experience- at least on non-RP servers... I'm actually, I find, inclined to look for a gamer category not on any of the old lists, as it were, to describe myself: I find the immersiveness of WoW threadbare at best. I want a myth I can believe (and kudos to Ted for his unceasing efforts to keep such belief possible). I find it odd that the concept of nobility in Aragorn is a far more radical notion than making him yet another standard modern flawed hero. But I digress. I don't find much case for WoW as a true role-playing experience.

4) from the community management perspective: it's all about expectations. Communities, on the whole, over the long-run, respond to the cues they are given. Sending the message that you expect your community to be abusive is just... not a good idea. It's sometimes necessary, but this was not one of those times.

5) from the community management perspective: effectively telling your community that you won't stand by your own TOS is worse than not a good idea. Ideally that document works as part of, for lack of a better word, a covenant between host and community, and half of what guides the community is some implicit belief that it's meaningful. For the host to ignore it is really counter-productive.

6) what happened was the last thing Blizzard wanted (presumably): it flared into a noisy unpleasant mess. There's a certain amount of hindsight here, but in general, the initial issue was trivial- why douse it with gasoline?

7) and lastly... guess I'll have to reinstate my account...

47.

The problem with allowing a guild to recruit based on homosexual preferences is that the door is open to recruit on heterosexual preferences. Exclusion is exclusion, irrespective of which faction is mainstream and which one is PC. Blizzard had the correct original position. Now they must weigh in on one side of what is ultimately perceived a moral issue. Bad political move.

48.

I am intrigued by the positions of those who can hold the following three thoughts in their head and see no contradiction:

"I support the right to free speech. Newspapers should be able to print cartoons of Mohammed if they want"

"I support the right to free speech, people should be able to openly discuss their sexuality"

"I believe that people with opinions that I find unnacceptable, for instance on homosexuality, should be punished for expressing them in-game"

Let me say I do not hold the opinions mentioned in the third statement. But my desire to defend the rights of those in the first two statements means I must hold my nose and support the third, also.

Endie

49.

Thomas Malaby > This should remind of this phrase, but not because Sara's guild is playing the victim (or that we're doing it for hers and similar ones by proxy). This phrase is apt precisely because it's the 'majority' of players who find even hearing 'GLBT-friendly' offensive who were cast as the victim here, in Blizzard's twisted logic.

Actually, my interpretation is that Blizzard is saying that the bystanders of the highly likely conflict as the result of the GLBT-friendly advertising and their opponents are the victims.

The people who are playing the game as intended without referencing or desiring to be involved in a meta debate about a real world topic when they've paid for nothing more or less than a specific entertainment medium.

50.

xaldin > Only problem that I see is that they have singled out the GLBT guild and not the religious and similar.

I don't think so, and certainly not in their statements

51.

Josh> And, to be frank, I find this whole "don't get your real life in my fantasy world" dishonest nonsense the more I see it. So ... you NEVER talk about the real world in WoW? Never?

I certainly don't. In fact I sought out a guild that had an enforced in character chat, and I turn off /general and avoid ventrilo/team speak. Doing out of character is the first step in breaking the fourth wall, and it turns the game itself into a mechanical effort related to level gain and item gain. Which is incredibly boring.

52.

Endie said, incompetently:
Let me say I do not hold the opinions mentioned in the third statement. But my desire to defend the rights of those in the first two statements means I must hold my nose and support the third, also.

By which I mean that I feel forced to disagree with the third statement, and instead to support the rights of people to express views on, say, a GBLT guild that I disagree with.

I do not, however, see an MMO as a suitable place for *any* of those discussions. I wish Blizzard could stick to its guns and ban *all* such real-world pronouncements on general.

My grammar, of course, was terrible. Hey, it was still early...

53.

Endie > I wish Blizzard could stick to its guns and ban *all* such real-world pronouncements on general.

So would I.

That's the rub, people make references to role-play realms and non-role-play realms, but forget that the game is a role-playing game!

I think thus far, every one of these companies has got it backwards. There should be role-play on all servers, and ooc servers should be the special rules servers.

54.

hikaru>:notes the missing signatures.

Good. You'll perhaps note that some of those missing signatures are from people who are G, L, B or T?

We discussed this post before it was made. It's not for me to note why GLBT TNers didn't sign it, but here's why I didn't sign it:

1) I'm not a WoW fanboy.
2) We never did anything like this in the past, eg. the Trader Malaki incident. We're pro-GLBT but not pro-women?
3) We'll have to do this every time in the future now, or it'll imply that everything we fail to post on we're in favour of.
4) There are always counter-examples of when a virtual world should be allowed to exhibit even taboo subjects. While I agree that Blizzard's being patronisingly paternalistic over GLBT guilds was stupid, I disagree that it should be a "general principle of policy for WoW and other virtual worlds.
5) The document itself mirrors the mistakes that Blizzard made. It concentrates on a single issue, it makes no account of having ignored similar issues in the past, it couches its pronouncements as being in the best interests of those it is pronouncing against, and it's out of all proportion to the incident.

Some Blizzard GM screwed up. Initially, Blizzard's customer service team rallied round that GM to protect GM authority, but it rapidly became clear that the GM had made a mistake. The player pack saw a wounded animal and pounced; terrier-like, they wouldn't let go. Blizzard is now atoning by sending its GMs to sensitivity training to sate the blood lust of those hounding it, in the full knowledge that if they ever fully acted on said training the general chat channel would be completely unused. Those who have decided to be offended by the original actions can feel satisfied that they've protected their own corner, and life can go on exactly as it did before.

Some people felt strongly enough to sign the open letter. Others didn't, or felt more strongly that they shouldn't sign it. I'm one of the latter. That doesn't mean I think Blizzard acted properly or that I think anyone professing GLBT sympathies should burn in the fiery pits of hell. Neither does it mean I disrespect the people who did sign the document.

Of course, if your reason for noting the missing signatures was nothing to do with drawing such false implications, I've needlessly reignited a heated discussion I've already had with the people who signed the document. Still, in that case I'd like to know why you did note the missing names...

Richard

55.

"The player pack saw a wounded animal and pounced; terrier-like, they wouldn't let go."

You must be joking. The "pack" has mostly commented on this in mainstream gaming forums with a huge torrent of homophobic idiocy.

The largest number of people protesting this have not been a pack of jaded gamers out to get the company. It's been those of us who are gay, bi, lesbian or transgendered protecting guilds where we don't have to lie about our lives.

56.

I see a bit of a problem with those who wish to have a guild that acts as a sanctuary from "hostile" attacks yet insist on putting up a neon sign saying "kick me, I'm gay." If you know the community of the mmorpg is largely homophobic then you are only encouraging more attacks by announcing it. So, if that is indeed the real intention here, I think it will fail.

57.

The problem with that take on it, alan, is that taken to its logical extreme you wind up with what Tocqueville called the "tyranny of the majority," where any views that depart from the "mainstream" are isolated and delegitimized. Not a recipe for liberty (or innovation, for that matter).

58.

"I support the right to free speech. Newspapers should be able to print cartoons of Mohammed if they want"

"I support the right to free speech, people should be able to openly discuss their sexuality"

"I believe that people with opinions that I find unnacceptable, for instance on homosexuality, should be punished for expressing them in-game"

The error I find in this logic is that the first two statements are related to constitutional interpretations of liberties and rights. The third is related to private-sector, corporate policy and action. Since a corporation in the US is also an individual with most of the same rights, this issue is not so simplisticly paradoxical as you imply.

This slides down the slippery slope of corporate social responsibility (CSR), which often starts with well-intention, liberal and libertarian minded minorities fighting for fair corporate behavior, but ends with corporate "tyranny of the majority" as the unwashed masses make their perpetual bigotry felt on the bottom line.

59.

Randolfe,

Remember that, however clumsily expressed the post was, I did not say that those were the opinions I held: I was pointing out how bemused I was by those who could claim to hold all three.

Endie

60.

"I see a bit of a problem with those who wish to have a guild that acts as a sanctuary from "hostile" attacks yet insist on putting up a neon sign saying "kick me, I'm gay." If you know the community of the mmorpg is largely homophobic then you are only encouraging more attacks by announcing it. So, if that is indeed the real intention here, I think it will fail."

You don't have to speculate. These guilds exist and have existed for quite some time. What you speculate about has met the test of reality. It simply doesn't happen.

61.

Endie,

Fair enough. I do hold all three opinions except for the should be punished for expressing them in-game, I would substitute may be punished in-game, at the company's discretion within the law.

I'm really not interested in having social policy dictated or guided from the corporate board room, be it Blizzard, Exxon, or Proctor & Gamble. Today, it may be to the end of getting companies to behave like we want them to; but tomorrow it will be my mother-in-law getting companies to behave like she wants them to. I like the old fashioned market solution of voting with your feet.

62.

I think a few of the people posting every 4 posts need to step back from the keyboard, calm down, and stop attacking others with very aggressive posts. Even better, go do something else you enjoy and stop hitting refresh waiting for something you disagree with for a day.

There's a lot of discussion here that's focussing on Blizzard's lack of total monitoring of the chat channels, and from personal experience with IRC, I think a lot of people are forgetting that content filtering live chat (with context) is ridiculously labour intensive since automated chat filters don't work (anyone that wants to, will get around them). 24 hour a day live chat monitoring with an infallibly sensitive GM across every area / general chat channel in the game isn't practical.

So, why the issue with someone posting about an LBG friendly guild in general chat?

No matter how many people WoW ban for legitimate, intentional harassement (and I don't expect them to post a list of people banned for being homophobic), all it takes is a single mistake (and possbible miscommunication) to bring down the Wrath of God (tm, no personal insult intended) and an internet call to arms over discrimination.

There's also the observation that among many people, the word "gay" as a pejorative term is no longer used with the intention of insult to anyone. That doesn't make it right, but there's a definate difference between insensitivity and harassment that's being ignored there.

The GM in question MAY have felt that given the nature of general chat channels as frequently hostile, nasty places (for everyone, not just any one group), an advert for an LBG friendly guild could constitute something that would bait some people into a highly negative responses that would have been far more harassing to LBG players, and on that basis wished to discourage it. In particular, the responses in this thread would seem to bear out that this sort of discussion often results in more than a little tension on BOTH sides, even among usually reasonable, educated and mature people who generally prefer to discuss rather than argue topics.

I think I'm generally in agreement with Richard on this (but don't put my words in his mouth), and I don't think there's any need for a witchhunt over people who didn't agree to sign that letter for various reasons.

63.

Daniel Speed wrote:

24 hour a day live chat monitoring with an infallibly sensitive GM across every area / general chat channel in the game isn't practical.

Nor is it even remotely necessary to achieve the goal of "draining the swamp" with respect to routine non-compliance and non-enforcement of the stated rules of conduct. As it stands, I believe that players have figured out that they can generally violate these rules with relative impunity. They don't stop themselves because they see no meaningful risk.

To change that, I'm of the opinion that Blizzard should implement some changes to ramp up enforcement and publicize not only that the rules are going to be more stringently enforced, but to generate some hard data to prove it. Spend 1% or so of GM work time reviewing chat logs from the most virulent of public channels (to begin with).. say General Chat and Barrens as an example. They don't need to review them real-time, it's more time-efficient to grab a block of the logs for the most recent N hours.

Have them go through and flag the account names that they see violating the policy, along with the excerpt and the time stamp. Auto-generate an account warning for each user with flagged items (along with the excerpt), and pull the stats from that exercise. Then publicly let people know through MOTD and periodic channel messages that this is unacceptable behavior. Cite the number of warnings issued as evidence that they are actually taking the problem seriously.

Then actually make the meaningful follow-up. Repeat the exercise, and give multiple repeat offenders a 24-72 hour suspension. Again, publicize how many accounts received suspensions so that people know they can't just ignore the rules without risk. Repeat it again, and start banning the hardcore recidivists that continue the behavior despite receiving suspensions. And close the loop by letting people know how many folks are losing their accounts for failing to follow the rules.

They could probably go a long way towards changing the scofflaw attitude regarding these rules if they'd simply make it abundantly clear through meaningful action and hard numbers they are serious about enforcing the rule. And if they aren't actually serious about it, they need to eliminate the rule and stop pretending that they are serious about it.

64.

"These guilds exist and have existed for quite some time. What you speculate about has met the test of reality. It simply doesn't happen."

You can have gay guilds, as you say, because they have existed for some time. And at the same time harrassment hasn't been a problem. So it's not really sanctuary or the ability to have a gay guild that you are looking for, because you already have that. That of course is at odds with what many others have been saying.

65.

Alternatively, you'd create an oppressive orwellian atmosphere where players could be reported for any any slip of the tongue that contravenes increasingly complex and arbitrary rules of conduct.

This might work if you were out to create 'Equilibrium' the MMOG movie tie in, but I suspect it wouldn't make very many people happy, despite the attempt to defend everyone's sensibilities with an ironclad truncheon of doom (+5) that will still lead to things resulting in warnings against people who we might later agree (or disagree in part, or not agree at all, or agree with caveats...) don't deserve it. You'll still be running your CSRs ragged trying to enforce this, if my experience of forum moderation is anything to go by (which makes for a more direct comparison for char logs, and forums tend to be even lower bandwidth communication methods than chat).

"Libria...
Awake. Awaken to triumph again in the face of yet another day, another step in our unified march into the unwavering purpose...move ahead together into the certainty of our collective destiny."

I think the moral of the story was that you can never eliminate the bad parts of human nature through authoritarianism without big sacrifices, and I think the US constitution recognises that tradeoff.

On the other hand, the reason that everyone puts these rules in their EULA is that so they CAN enforce them when they feel they need to, like if someone is clearly and intentionally harassing you by sending you a tell saying 'leave, fag' every five minutes. What's happened is that someone made a bad call, and it's taken a bit of time for them to step back and realise it, which is somewhat natural, and I note, human.

66.

I personally don't mind Blizzard's initial actions because the very idea of an all gay guild is, let me try and find a good term... stupid. It's like saying "Here, we want to cause controversy, hatred, disgust, and generally try and get ourselves noticed!"

My words are harsh and of course an exaggeration but I think one of the problems in the world right now is not gay people themselves, but the fact that so many of them go out of their way to be noticed. They want you to fight them. They want the attention. So, my personal opinion on this specific case is that no one should have cared in the first place. Blizzard shouldn't have cared and neither should any players. It's not offensive, it's just stupid.

First of all, advertising for an all gay guild in general chat is simply (to happily use the term again) stupid. Do you actually think that people who see that message will say: "Oh, just what I've always wanted, an all-gay guild. Let me join right now." No. Instead, many people (knowing how fickle children are on the internet) will respond with hatred and malice, or join the guild under the pretense of being gay only to mock and ridicule the players in it, assuming very many of them were actually gay to begin with.

And also, assuming this guild could even get underway, who the hell wants to be publicly known as the GBLT guild? Do you know how many people won't accept that? Do you know you'll spend more time trying to fight off everyone who is opposed to it?

The guild could actually be a serious WoW guild if it: Advertised in a WAY more discrete way (such as, following Blizzard's suggestion, posting on the forums) and wasn't a guild that primarily is looking for the attention and acceptance of the masses. Which seems to be what it is, so I'll go back to my first point: It's stupid.

If you're a homosexual, and make this kind of statement by making the guild and actually advertising it, then do you have any reason to be shocked and outraged when other players don't like it? Nope. Oh, and I also agree with the idea that bringing real life issues into a game that chiefly acts as escapism is a hindrance to players that needs not be tolerated.

67.

Anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes in Barrens chat on the Horde side of things knows that a) the climate can be viciously homophobic, b) that there is absolutely no effort made to keep a separation between the virtual and real worlds, and c) that mentioning that a guild is GBLT friendly is no different than what dozens of other guilds do when advertising. The guild was not "all gay" nor did it appear to be trolling or trying to be controversial. The message was that they were GLBT friendly, which to many of us speaks to issues of tolerance and a shared worldview. Apart from that, this is a climate that is extremely hostile to gays and lesbians, so the idea of a gay friendly guild seems like a reasonable thing, and a thing made necessary by the climate of the game (whether Bilzzard has or should have control over it or not).

The most important thing to note about this is that Blizzard did not say you couldn't have a GLBT guild or even that you couldn't advertise it, only that you can't do it in a public in game forum. Why? Because other players are so badly behaved they might do something harassing.

The issue for me is that *everyone* else is allowed to say whatever the hell they want in that forum. But the mere mention of the word "homosexual" qualifies as harassment. /boggle And that is the *sole* grounds for which Blizzard threatened to ban someone from the game. Not because this was RP, not because this was just a game, not because world should be kept apart. It was because that bad word offends the straights and harasses them.

There are obviously an enormous number of issues here that are worth discussing, but the reason why I felt it was important to sign this letter was that there was a clear case of selective and unfair discrimination on the part of a Blizzard GM. I think they should be called to account for it.

For me the calculus is pretty simple. Blizzard screwed up.

They screwed up on an issue that I think mattered. A lot. Therefore. . . . /sign

68.

Kathy>The "pack" has mostly commented on this in mainstream gaming forums with a huge torrent of homophobic idiocy.
>The largest number of people protesting this have not been a pack of jaded gamers out to get the company. It's been those of us who are gay, bi, lesbian or transgendered protecting guilds where we don't have to lie about our lives.

These two statements seem to be contradicting each other.

What I meant by "the pack" was the GBLT-led coalition of people who objected to Blizzard's actions and wanted the company to retract. They scented blood and they got their way. I happen to believe that in this case that was the right result, although of course the situation should never have arisen in the first place.

If Blizzard had done this on a RP server, they would have been on firmer ground. Implicit in the phrase "guilds where we don't have to lie about our lives" is the suggestion that in situations where you (and everyone else) do have to lie about your lives, it would be out of place. However, I doubt that Blizzard polices its RP servers with the degree of fascism normally required to keep everything firmly within RP bounds, so they'd probably have lost the argument there, too, on the grounds of patchy implementation of their EULA.

Richard

69.

"If Blizzard had done this on a RP server, they would have been on firmer ground."

See, this simply isn't true. In-game content points to the existence of gender issues within the confines of the fictional world. I specifically refer to the Tauren /silly emote which states, "Homogenized? I don't think so, I like the ladies."

Clearly gender identity, as well as bigotry, is an issue in Azeroth as well the the "real world."

70.

There is more policing of "real world discussion" on RP servers than on other servers, to be sure. Blizzard doesn't (and probably can't) maintain an airtight policy of 100% immersive conversation, of course. But yeah, some of the GM comments after the original incident suggested that entirely in-character RP of two same-gender toons getting married could also be reported as "harassment." Of course that may all be moot now, what with Blizzard apparently ordering sensitivity training for its GMs (anyone know if this is really true?) and the latest holiday in-game holiday event, where players basically have to flirt with and give valentine's pledges of adoration to NPCs of both sexes in order to comlpete a quest. (It's possible to avoid this and only interact with NPCs of one sex, but a huge pain in the neck.)

71.

"I support the right to free speech. Newspapers should be able to print cartoons of Mohammed if they want"

"I support the right to free speech, people should be able to openly discuss their sexuality"

"I believe that people with opinions that I find unnacceptable, for instance on homosexuality, should be punished for expressing them in-game"

But who is arguing for that? I think the point a lot of people have been making is that the "right to free speech" isn't absolute. There was an NBA player a few years ago who refused to stand during the national anthem. Numerous pundits pointed out that while his right to dissent was protected from things like jail time if the NBA had decided to can his ass there would have been virtually no repercussions against the league. Similarly if Blizzard decided to suspend the accounts of individuals who insist on discussing politics, or religion, or whatever in game it's doubtful in my opinion that they would be vulnerable to legal action.

72.

CorvusE>In-game content points to the existence of gender issues within the confines of the fictional world. I specifically refer to the Tauren /silly emote which states, "Homogenized? I don't think so, I like the ladies."

This would actually put Blizzard on yet firmer ground. They could say that the game was intended to be played with non-GLBT characters, and look, here's the evidence.

You may not like it and I may not like it, but they're within their rights to do it. I put change-sex spells in my games, and I'm sure there are plenty of people who don't like that (GLBT and non-GLBT alike), but I'm not going to take the feature out.

>Clearly gender identity, as well as bigotry, is an issue in Azeroth as well the the "real world."

Virtual worlds are all about identity. Gender identity is just one aspect of it. Annoyed though I am with the general treatment of gender and sexuality in virtual worlds, I'm more annoyed by the general treatment of race.

If Blizzard wants to play up to the bigots (and those who don't even realise they're bigots), well, OK, that's their choice. It's a bad choice in my view, but I wasn't consulted on the matter. That they build it into their code makes it even more unfortunate, especially as it seems to have been done through unthinkingness rather than deliberately (ie. they didn't consider that the tauren dance thing might be offensive; if they'd sone so, there may have been some political or artistic point they were raising, which is excusable on freedom of speech grounds).

They have enough real-world references in their virtual world to make RP less than satisfactory anyway, so you could argue that adding one more (guild selection advertised by player-centric criteria rather than character-centric criteria) won't make much difference. I don't suppose anyone has created a guild for gay characters, as opposed to gay players, but you never know.

Richard

73.

"Anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes in Barrens chat on the Horde side of things"

I think barrens chat is a cultural phenomenon that needs to be studied by some serious sociologist. Its an atomic chain reaction of pre-pubescent retards.

74.

>This would actually put Blizzard on yet firmer ground. They could say that the game was intended to be played with non-GLBT characters, and look, here's the evidence.

Can you be saying what I think you're saying, Richard? Blizzard has (intentionally or not) structured their game to support gender and sexual orientation bias and that they're well withing their rights because of it?

75.

How can anyone say that we're bringing sexuality into a game where "it doesn't already exist" after seeing this:

http://worldofwarcraft.com/info/events/loveisintheair

76.

"I see a bit of a problem with those who wish to have a guild that acts as a sanctuary from "hostile" attacks yet insist on putting up a neon sign saying "kick me, I'm gay."

I personally don't mind Blizzard's initial actions because the very idea of an all gay guild is, let me try and find a good term... stupid. It's like saying "Here, we want to cause controversy, hatred, disgust, and generally try and get ourselves noticed!"

I think these reactions are kind of removed from the reality of what was happening with the specific guild incident that started this discussion, and with GLBT friendly guilds in general. I don't believe they generally have guild names that make it in any way obvious that they're a "gay guild". The one this woman tried to promot certainly didn't have such a name.

It's a matter of BRIEFLY bringing up that information about the guild when recruiting, which presumably results in a short-lived flurry of a few people responding with insults, and possible a few new people joining the guild. The insults will die down quickly, whereas the new members may stay in the guild for a long time. With a guild name appearing over their heads that in NO way suggests "kick me I'm gay". And a guild chat channel to talk freely and comfortably to other guild members in without anyone outside the guild hearing one word of what's said there.

The idea that these people are running around trying to get a huge amount of attention is just not supported by what I've seen and heard. If this particular woman hadn't run into trouble with the GMs, I suspect hardly anybody would have ever heard of her or known that she was in a "gay guild" - even including most of the WoW players on her own server. Granted, there are a few activists in any group that can, will and do wear the metaphorical "kick me I'm gay" t-shirt, or "kick me I'm republican/democratic/muslim/baptist/pro-abortion/anti-abortion/atheist/black/jewish/whatever", but I think they're a small minority in most groups, they're a small minority amongst GLBT people, and Miss Andrews (the person in question) does not appear to be such a person. So I find this somewhat of a straw man argument, to be honest.


Another comment that caught my eye:

decide to have a weekly "GLBT Night" AND they put their posters up on the windows of your club don't you think that there's a significant risk to lose a substantial portion of your clientele?

Personally, I think a small local business in certain highly anti-gay parts of the USA might stand to make more profit by being strongly, visibly anti-gay than they might by allowing gay customers to frequent the place and talk freely about whatever. But a nationwide business like this one, in the USA and possibly in many other countries, I think might stand to lose more business from being too anti-gay than they would gain. We've certainly seen various levels of "gay tolerance" from companies like Disney, ABC, Intel, IBM, Apple, etc., most of them things that exceed the simple matter of "not cracking down on people for talking openly about it". (Extending health insurance benefits to partners of gay employees, airing shows like the Ellen DeGeneres show, etc.) I suspect Blizzard hasn't lost any significant amount of business thus far to "letting gay people talk about their gayness somewhat without cracking down on it more than they have to date".

Don't get me wrong here - I think if there were an alternative between cracking down on it more, or running your business with a huge banner on every advertisement, web page, box cover and opening screen saying "This game is gay friendly and you'll hear gay players talking about their gayness here!"... THAT level of perceived presence of gayness and support of gayness might, possibly, lose a business more money than it might gain from getting a few extra gay customers. But we're not talking about them doing anything that would alienate the "not comfortable with homosexuality portion of the potential customer base" that strongly, obviously. The reality is more like "allowing .01% of public conversation to continue to consist of gay people mentioning that they're gay". Which I think most customers will continue to blow off, or not blame Blizzard for so much as they blame the gay people for it.

And as mentioned before, there's a much, much huger problem with hearing rude people trash talking, whether it's "so-and-so ninjaed my loot, he is such a fag" or some non-gay-related trash talking. This is something that I think bothers people on both "sides" of the spectrum on the gay issue and everywhere in the middle, and that degrades the quality of the conversational, social, and roleplaying environment much, much more than that .01% of "flaunting of one's homosexuality in public" one might hear on occasion. (Note that my .01% is a made-up number and is surely way off from whatever the actual number is.)

I think in the USA (and probably in many other nations), you might lose more business by being strongly ant

77.

I think it's unfortunate but inevitable that topics like this find their way into virtual worlds. VWs are social environments in which people are encouraged to form groups. You can't have social environments without encountering the same social issues of acceptance and persecution we encounter in the real world.

I honestly pity the administrators of virtual worlds for having to establish policies about this kind of thing. You want to keep the game environment friendly to everyone, but it turns out that's a pretty tall order.

78.

I agree with Naomi Clark and would sign an 'open' Open Letter to Blizzard like the one above. A clear statement from them after all the attention this has received would be nice and would help clarify where they stand. They made an error in judgement, a biggoted error really, that resulted in deserved bad publicity. Some type of statement would be nice.

79.

I don't think it's fair to call their decision "bigoted". I think they were just trying to keep a volatile subject a non-issue in the game environment, not deliberately persecute anyone for their sexual preference. Unfortunately, like it or not running a virtual world full of real people means you're going to be forced to address these social issues sooner or later. I'm surprised how few game developers seem prepared for it when it happens. It clearly caught Blizzard off guard.

80.

Blizzard said - "You can advertise your guild however you want in the forums, just don't do it in public chat".

Why is this so hard to understand and follow? If you are gay and want gay rights, go get some in the real world before coming to a game, beating your big brass drum and demanding some rediculous incarnation of "equality".

No one asked you. Seriously.

81.

>Why is this so hard to understand and follow? If you are gay and >want gay rights, go get some in the real world before coming to a >game, beating your big brass drum and demanding some >rediculous incarnation of "equality".

I would like to state unequivocally and for the record, I neither own nor beat a brass drum of any size, big or small. Further, let the record show that I can spell the world ridiculous.

It may have escaped the keen intellect of Glave, but people (gay or otherwise) already have those rights. They come from the Constitution. They are a matter of case law. We all have the same rights. That is the point. The objection comes when they are enforced differently for one group than for another. That is my "rediculous incarnation of equality" as you so eloquently put it.

>No one asked you. Seriously.

Asked me what?

This post is, to me, reason enough to sign a letter . . .

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