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Jan 27, 2006

Comments

101.

Artheos I certainly am not suggesting that we should hide from it, and I agree that Blizzard could, with the right intentionality, address the homophobia in WOW. I think that for me it is a knee jerk reaction after years of working as an activist attempting to get companies and other such institutions to modify their policies. They seldomly do so without a lot of pressure. However I have found that within my own guild as long as a few of the higher levels make it clear that certain language isn't ok it stops. Additionally often especially younger members want to know why you feel that way and a dialogue occurs. Having said all that though, on my server there are at least 3 specifically christian guilds, and I have witnessed them advertising as such on the channels. That's my biggest problem with Blizz on this, they are absolutely not being consistent and it reveals their bias. One last example, I rolled an undead priest and named her "PopeJoan" for the legendary female pope. I had to change the name, and I did so to Bodhichica to see if they would say anything, and they never have.

102.

Artheos, in terms of educating. It's not segregation, it's SOME safe space. I don't group entirely within my guild. In fact, I belong to more than one.

But being in a GLBT guild gives me a community to talk about things without having to educate every single minute of my life. Some friends who understand to commisserate about idiots screaming ghey this and ghey that.

And maybe people in pickup groups think I'm a nice person and a good groupmate and sometime they find out that the tag I'm wearing is a gay friendly guild. Or they know it's a GLBT guild and notice the guildtag when I show up and then realize I'm just a normal player like everyone else. That's really the best way to educate.

F. Nostrum -- The only time I've ever had an environment that immersive was in Shadowclan. Other than that, even on RP servers, generally speaking it's 99% out of character.

103.

This just goes to show you can't separate the real world from the virtual world when the participants are based in the physical one. It's never going to happen. It's the same with RMT. The funny thing is I would be willing to bet that those people who are against RMT and state "It's their game and their rules. If you don't like it, don't play" would not be touting that same line in this instance.

104.

alan>The funny thing is I would be willing to bet that those people who are against RMT and state "It's their game and their rules. If you don't like it, don't play" would not be touting that same line in this instance.

How much do you wish to bet? I'd like to know how much I stand to win before I go on to explain why this does indeed apply here. It all depends on how you define "their rules".

Richard

105.

Sorry Richard, you're not allowed to play. Your viewpoint on the topic is too skewed to be relevant to the people whom I am referring. I have no doubt your allegiance would always reside with the designer.

106.

Slashdot has noted that a Blizzard GM has now gone on record saying that anything someone finds offensive in-game can be reported as a violation of their policy. For instance, the GM said (in a logged conversation that two female characters getting married would not be allowed, even if they players were a heterosexual husband and wife. Meanwhile Kotaku has been talking with gay rights organization Lambda Legal which is apparently looking into the issue.

107.

alan>Your viewpoint on the topic is too skewed to be relevant to the people whom I am referring.

Ah, it's always refreshing to be dismissed so authoritatively.

>I have no doubt your allegiance would always reside with the designer.

That's right, it would, and there's a reason for that: someone has to design these worlds. If it's not "the" designer then it's someone else (or some group of people). If politicians impose too many laws, at some point they become the designer and the designer is effectively just a level designer - creating content to someone else's overarching design. The same applies if players get the right to overrule what a designer designs - the designer's role then becomes similar to that of a programmer, dealing with higher-level design requirements but not getting to set those requirements, and the players are the new designers.

The thing is, in both these cases - politicians or players as de facto designers - neither know how to design. They take on the role of designer without the designer's craft or art.

Designers must be free to design whatever they wish. If those designs are unplayable or unpalatable, then the players won't play it. If the designs break real-life laws constraining free speech, then the police will prosecute. If a virtual world is used as a conduit for a real-world crime (eg. fraud), then likewise, we can reasonably expect the criminals to be called to account.

Designers need freedom to design. They could design anything they want. They don't, however, because they self-censor: they adapt their virtual world so as to fit societal norms, or to target particular demographics, or to raise particular issues. If they were not to do this, they wouldn't get the players: they are constrained by the "if you don't like it, don't play" position that you mock. This gives them a set of rules rules to which they conform - unwritten rules, but rules none the less. Whether particular rules concern RMT or GLBT is irrelevant.

So yes, I would say that "it's their game, it's their rules, if you don't like it don't play" in this instance. If it weren't their game and it weren't their rules, it just passes the mantle on to someone else whom I'd trust even less than I trust most designers.

Richard

108.

Richard,

I can clearly understand your viewpoint and I even agree with it to an extent. It's not that I am trying to dismiss your argument that the game designer has the final say, as I do beleive this to be true. If he designs a game that no one wants to play he only has himself to blame. The people I am referring to are the ones who say this who aren't designers but players. I don't think it's always a black and white issue with most players, i.e. most players like some aspects of a game and not others(yes, I know you can't satisfy everyone all the time). Certainly you have to listen to some negative feedback to improve your game. A lot of players(fanbois) immediate response to a disagreement with a rule is the familiar "don't like it don't play" or some similar version. My opinion is that the rules belong to the gaming company but player's opinion is important. Rules can change. Personally I have no opinion on this particular issue (the gay/lesbian guild names) but I don't think it should be so easily dismissed with a "don't like it don't play."

Afterthought.. is this really a designer issue or simply a corporate policy type thing?

109.

alan>The people I am referring to are the ones who say this who aren't designers but players.

Ah. Well if you're saying that a player who makes some kind of anti-gay remark and then tries to hind behind the excuse of "if you don't like it, play elsewhere", then yes, I would certainly agree with you. This is akin to telling foreigners to "go home" if they don't like the way they are treated by the inhabitants (rather than the law) of the land.

>most players like some aspects of a game and not others(yes, I know you can't satisfy everyone all the time).

It's worse than that. Many like some aspects but dislike other aspects which indirectly give rise to what they do like.

>My opinion is that the rules belong to the gaming company but player's opinion is important.

That's true. A wise designer listens to their players. An unwise designer either doesn't listen, or listens but doesn't edit what they hear. Many of the holes the industry finds itself in at the moment are as a result of knee-jerk reactions by non-designers (eg. marketing departments) leading to ill-conceived programming changes to address PR failures.

>Personally I have no opinion on this particular issue (the gay/lesbian guild names) but I don't think it should be so easily dismissed with a "don't like it don't play."

"Don't like it, don't play" is the last line. Before then, there are channels to follow which can mean it's unnecessary. If your virtual world allows protest, for example, then you can protest; people who object to your protests, well, if they don't like it then they shouldn't play...

>Afterthought.. is this really a designer issue or simply a corporate policy type thing?

The underlying artistic (and therefore, I would hope, legal) framework is the idealised notion of its being a designer issue. This is because in some cases it really is this pure, ATITD being the classic example for graphical worlds. In most cases, though, it's adulterated somewhat by business requirements, and designers find themselves overruled by company high-ups.

Richard

110.

Most of the discussion on this issue seems to focus on how players identify, and whether they're allowed to identify as gay or straight. Sara, the person who initially got into trouble, is a friend of mine, and her intent was not to create an identity based guild for LGBT people.

It was to create a guild with behavioral standards, being that people in the guild would have agreement to be LGBT friendly.

Everyone seems to confuse this with being about sex, or about adult content. It's not, it's about simply being able to enjoy a game without ones own identity being used as an insult.

Honestly, the entire WoW universe should be LGBT friendly, but Blizzard doesn't seem to be able to enforce that, so they've taken the "don't ask, don't tell" policy to heart, targeting controversial identities such as "LGBT" but basically ignoring the incessant banter of "dude, that's so gay" or "god, that guy was such a fag".

Even their manual contains terms such as
'twink', for which real world definitions are:
From Jargon FIle 4.2.0
/twink/ n. 1. [Berkeley] A clue-repellant user; the next
step beyond a clueless one. 2. [UCSC] A read-only user. Also
reported on the Usenet group soc.motss; may derive from gay slang
for a cute young thing with nothing upstairs (compare mainstream
`chick').

Now, not only do I see insulting references in the manual, not only must I be pummled by endless homophobic chatter, I also have to worry about some dork calling a GM every time my male alt winks at another male character.

Maybe the fallout from this will result in sensitivity training for the Blizzard staff...*shrug*

Somehow, I doubt that.

111.

Latest update, the head of Blizzard customer service has sent an apology to Sara, reported on Kotaku. Blizzard is apparently still going to be revising its policy, unknown exactly what form that will take. Lambda Legal, interestingly, has taken the stance that as a business in California operating a public accomodation, Blizzard has to run that public accomodation according to non-discrimination laws, including allowing mention of being gay, etc. Final tidbit: I also hear that the attorney who sent the letter is an avid player of City of Heroes, which interestingly enough allows unfettered recruitment by gay guilds, which are pretty numerous in many servers of that game.

112.

Naomi Clark>Lambda Legal, interestingly, has taken the stance that as a business in California operating a public accomodation, Blizzard has to run that public accomodation according to non-discrimination laws, including allowing mention of being gay, etc.

So they'll be adding wheelchair ramps to WoW, too?

Richard

113.

Actually... the answer is yes, Richard. If you do a quick survey of the subject then you will find that increasingly, online businesses are being expected to ensure that they're reasonably accessible to everyone regardless of disability. In the United States, I believe the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been held to apply to online businesses as well. Of course, wheelchairs are not the issue, but other things like vision certainly are. So far, this stuff has centered around the web and making sure that vital services (getting online, getting your tax forms, accessing information about the government) are usable even by blind people. AOL was sued by the National Federation of the Blind in 1999, for instance, But with MMOGs becoming so huge, it's only a matter of time before someone devises a way for blind people to play. Heck, I would be very surprised if it hasn't happened already; I know it has for MUDs a long time ago, I remember meeting a blind person who was using text-to-speech software to play a LP Mud very slowly.

The good news might be that just as businesses aren't responsible for buying everyone wheelchairs, the software that lets blind people (as one example) use internet services does not have to be built by web page authors or MMOG developers. All businesses have to do is make sure they don't block such efforts and do what's needed to support them (such as code web pages with accessibility in mind). Most small businesses can get away without worrying about this at the present time, but in the US at least, you can't build a new hunting club or neighborhood store without wheelchair ramps, and I'd be surprised if the day was too far off for digital businesses either. I used to bristle at this kind of stuff, but if you think about it, online services are incredibly important to a lot of people with various kinds of disability. There was some hubbub a few months ago about players with weird behavior resembling bots running around low-level areas in WOW; it turned out that at least one of them was a mostly-paralyzed guy who was running a system that someone had devised for him which let him play WOW while pressing single keys with a pen held in his mouth. (If I am recalling correctly.) So through a little ingenuity, he was able to run around the Barrens and other big outdoor areas. And whomp rats and things, of course. I don't know what happened to that case (which you'd think would get snagged by Warden and similar barriers) but it's an interesting subject. As far as blind users, I can't help but wonder if we'll one day see a "text-only" layer of MMOGs re-emerging from the hindbrain of the map grid to be exposed, like some kind of latter-day Battletech MUSE that can be fed into devices for the blind. Wacky.

114.

Thanks, Naomi, for the link to Kotaku's report. I've added it to the OP.

115.

I know the disabilities issue came up with the SWG debacle. Among their other disgruntled users were players with physical disabilities who were angry that the game had gone from playable to unplayble for them in its switch from MMPORPG to MMPOFPS.

Next on the gay issue I am guessing will be SOE who routinely censors gay guilds attempts to recruit.

116.

One of the things that struck me from the full text of the letter sent by Lambda Legal was the following:

"Online environments are public accommodations, subject to regulation as such. Butler v. Adoption Media, L.L.C., 2005 WL 1513142 (N.D.Cal.)."

If that finding holds, does this change the landscape for VWs and MMOs with respect to EULA provisions regarding RMT, and the determination of the status of "virtual property"?

As an aside, I would have joined either of the LGBT-friendly guilds as a straight man, if only because I deplore the rampant use of "fag", "gay" and "rape" in derisive terms in the WoW general population. I grew tired of the choice of:

1) dropping out of random pickup groups where the participants insisted on the practice

2) causing a fight when I asked them to stop or

3) just putting up with it and gritting my teeth.


It's a shame when people feel the need to form a guild just to escape this kind of abusive/corrosive language... when all of this could have been avoided if Blizzard had actually been highly public about enforcing the already-existing insulting/abusive language provisions.

Instead, we ended up with a Broken Windows environment where this kind of behavior was tolerated and encouraged to the point of being repressive.

If it's too much to ask for the general population to behave in a civilized fashion, then it at least shouldn't be "too much" to ask that people be able to form guilds where that kind of behavior isn't accepted, and to advertise that as a feature of their guild.

It's good to see progress in this regard (Blizzard backing away from their PR-nightmare stance of "mentioning tolerance is incitement to harrass").

117.

I've seen a couple of comments here from truly insecure people, the kind of folks who tend to like their females naked and their guys dressed up in several layers of clothing ("including gloves, kthxbai!"). Considering that alone, ask yourself why anyone would want to create such a Guild.

It's simple really, logic dictates that if one is surrounded by violent xenophobes, one is going to seek a bastion from them. A Guild advertising itself as LGB, D/s, furry, Trek, black, Mexican or whatever the hell you like won't nessescarily have anything to do with sex.

It's basically so these people (who're generally good and decent) won't have to listen to people slandering them. For example, I have my own orientations and I wouldn't bring them up in a Guild. However, if they were to be slandered by another I would demand an apology and failing that, I'd propose that either I or they should leave the Guild entirely. For xenophobic tendencies should have [i]no place in gaming[/i] but sadly folks, it does.

In fact, there are people who'll probably post after I've left my thoughts saying it's their "God-given right" to take the piss out of a person just because of the way they choose to be or live. I ask you, think about how pathetic that is. If you were of such a culture, one that was openly mocked then wouldn't you want to get away from that?

It's for this reason I see clearly why western countries have such difficulty with terrorism. If a peoples are continually attacked in such an immoral and disrespectful manner and they have no way of avoiding it then eventually they're going to bite back and that just makes the World less pleasant for everyone because of course, the xenophobes just can't let people be.

If a person is of a specific culture or orientation then such a xenophobe would have to eradicate them in order to feel comfortable. This is called racism the last time I checked and it's also what made Hitler so hated. Think about it, really, just spend a few moments and think about it.

However, you won't stop the chibi-Hitlers from parading their xenophobia around, it can't be done. Free speech and all that. It doesn't mean however that we shouldn't be allowed to make bastions and institutions which are free of this narcissistic, perfectionist, totalitarian nonsense. If you don't agree with me then just ask yourself what kind of person you are. It's not asking for a fight, it's just asking for peace of mind.

Now think about this situation again, if you would. If a Guild advertises to be something, perhaps they're nog toing to create a depraved pit of immorality as the oft dirty-minded xenophobes would perceive but instead, they just want to get away from all the slander and name-calling. They just want to be amongst their own where they won't have fear of persecution.

In fact, from a marketing perspective, if a company doesn't want to alienate the minorities (and I'm not just talking cultures here, I'm talking races too, there's still a hell of a lot of anti-minority thought prevelant in today's society and it's not pleasant to deal with, not at all) they're going to just allow it because everyone deserves to have fun with games.

Not everyone enjoys putting up with xenophobic dicks. Q.E.D. They can have their women naked and their men dressed in many layers of clothing in their own little Worlds, I wouldn't deny them that. However, they should be open and willing to allow this same freedom to everyone else, to each their own and their own kin.

Now then ... with that said, I'm sure the reason and logic will give way to flaming and racist/cultural slurs.

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