A WoW gamer was recently reprimanded by Blizzard Enterntainment for creating a GLBT-friendly guild, Oz. The charge? “Harassment – Sexual Orientation”
Blizzard game masters quoted the following guild advertisement, claiming it to be in conflict with their EULA section on discrimination by sexual orientation:
“OZ is recruiting all levels ¦ We are not ‘GLBT only,’ but we are ‘GLBT friendly’! (guilduniverse.com/oz)”
Confused by the allegation and confident that this was a simple misunderstanding, the gamer replied to Blizzard, quoting text directly from the EULA:
“This category includes both clear and masked language which insultingly refers to any aspect of sexual orientation pertaining to themselves or other players.”
To which Blizzard replied in turn:
“While we appreciate and understand your point of view, we do feel that the advertisement of a ‘GLBT friendly’ guild is very likely to result in harassment for players that may not have existed otherwise. If you will look at our policy, you will notice the suggested penalty for violating the Sexual Orientation Harassment Policy is to ‘be temporarily suspended from the game.’ However, as there was clearly no malicious intent on your part, this penalty was reduced to a warning.”
It would appear that this young woman is being punished for attempting to make a safe haven for likeminded people from the persecution of others, simply because putting these people in the same place would make them a likely target for further ridicule.
Despite the seemingly unreasonable totalitarian ruling of the company, Blizzard does in fact reserve the right to permit or deny any action on their servers. Though they have a commitment to their paying customers, WoW players are Blizzard’s guests and must adhere to the rules and judgements made by the game’s administrators.
Though they are in the right as far as the letter of the law goes, many WoW players have cried hypocrisy, claiming that pro-Christian guilds (a topic I’ve previously discussed) can be found spamming public channels with religious-bent recruitment offers to the public at large. If true, allegations of Blizzard’s skewed intolerance may come back to haunt them.
The topic of discrimination is a multifaceted one in WoW. The epic scale of the game has birthed an entire industry of “gold farmers” – services that play your character while you’re at work or sell gold for real cash. Since the most popular and numerous gold farmers are from China, and much press has recently brought the issue to light, many of the million-plus legitimate Chinese gamers have found themselves discriminated against by groups and guilds requiring applicants to say a few sentences in proper English before being accepted.
So it would appear that WoW players are bombarded with discrimination from all fronts. As the most populous virtual world in history, WoW will set precedent in its handling of such issues. Let’s hope, for the sake of cybercivilization, that the matter can be resolved symbiotically.