Due to my interest in the global aspects of MMOGs and games generally, I wound up at a really interesting session at GDC a couple of weeks ago. It was titled "Self-Censoring Potential Content Risks for Global Audiences: Why, How and When" given by Tom Edwards from Englobe. His talk went far beyond the "avoid blood in Germany, stay away from the Taiwanese flag if you want China as a market" tidbits I've seen before. He argued for something beyond localization--adequate culturalization of games, which makes increasing sense, given the emerging markets and necessities for creating games that appeal to more than one cultural/national/whatever group. Yet his talk was focused on single-player and offline multi-player games, and I began to wonder, how would MMOGs fit in?
Going back to his (great) talk, he mentioned various areas that can cause trouble when games leave their studio (and I should point out that he also mentioned the United States as a "potential hot spot" for some content, which is really no surprise). Potentially troublesome themes include religion (including borrowing from actual religions or making up religions that look suspiciously similar to real world ones), ethnicity (again, using the real, or creating fictional races that might be mistaken for real ones), history, politics and cultural systems, and particular types of content (including character design, text, images, maps, audio, packaging and marketing). Whew! Makes you wonder how games ever make it past such 'content police.'
But his main point wasn't to erase anything potentially provocative from games, but to be aware of what might cause trouble, to get rid of what you really don't need in games, and to build your arguments for content you think must or should be included. Fair enough. But again, all of the examples he drew from were not MMOGs. How might they fit in? They certainly have a global audience, and we know some elements are localized, yet I haven't seen systematic work that examines those changes or any potentially troublesome examples. So my question is-- do you know of material that has been altered for various "versions" of MMOGs (different servers/countries), or problems that have arisen because of such content? And do MMOG designers take such things into account?