Blizzard: We Like Gays, Just Don’t Talk About Them

GamesIndustry.biz has an official statement from Blizzard Entertainment regarding their position on the issue of in-game recruiting for gay-friendly guilds. Blizzard states that polarising issues like religion, politics, and sexuality tend to result in conversations that result in harassment. Therefore all such “sensitive real-world” topics are banned from conversation in general chat channels in the game. Apparently, openly recruiting for a guild that is aligned with any religious, political, racial, or other “sensitive” topics is not permitted. Blizzard’s statement doesn’t say that such guilds themselves are not allowed to exist, merely that advertising for them in-game, in public channels, is not allowed.

Blizzard’s actions have garnered the attention of Stonewall a well-known lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights lobbying group (named after the 1969 anti-gay riots in New York), which has called for Blizzard to review its harassment policy to see whether their actions in this case were necessary. Blizzard say that they will clarify the language in their policies in the future.

Ironically, the player was issued a warning for being in violation of the harassment policy in Blizzard’s Terms of Service — not for harassing anyone, but for being a potential target for harassment. If people aren’t allowed to advertise for gay-friendly guilds, which do not tolerate homophobic, hateful language, could Blizzard maybe do something about all the fuckwits who engage in homophobic and derogatory language as common practice? The easy answer to this would be: “Yes, they should do something about that, but they don’t.” However, as mentioned earlier, Blizzard did enforce their policy. According to them, players are not allowed to openly advertise recruitment for gay-friendly guilds in-game, and a warning was issued to the offending player. This action, disageeable though it may be, is consistent with their policy.

The issue of cracking down on players who actually do harass others is a trickier task to accomplish. Obviously, Blizzard cannot patrol the chat channels all the time for violators of the harassment policy. They rely on other players to report bad behaviour. The player who tried to recruit for her gay-friendly guild was probably reported by another player who was offended by her recruitment efforts. The fact that there is so much abusive, derogatory, and hateful language occurring on general chat channels shows that most people tolerate this behaviour. If players didn’t tolerate people using “gay” or “fag” in a derogatory sense, then we wouldn’t be seeing such widespread use of those terms. If people didn’t tolerate others being harassed if someone finds out that a player is a woman, then all the in-game sexist language wouldn’t be happening. The problem is that the players accept the use of hateful language and most of them don’t see anything wrong with it. This acceptance perpetuates an environment that is hostile to homosexual players, to women players, to Chinese players — basically to any group of players who aren’t straight, white males.

So whilst, Blizzard may put forth their best efforts to mitigate harassment, it’s the players who perpetuate and foster this nonsense. Can a few small voices here change the cultural environment of a game? If more people were less tolerant about abusive language, then perhaps it wouldn’t be such a major feature of online gaming.

  3 comments for “Blizzard: We Like Gays, Just Don’t Talk About Them

  1. Monkey Boy
    1 February 2006 at 04:34

    That is so gay

  2. 1 February 2006 at 08:20

    I don’t really go for the distinction between not banning a guild and censoring it, myself.

    Yeah, I acknowledge the distinction. I just don’t think the fundamental difference between the two is great enough to care. So you can form a GLBT friendly guild … as long as you don’t tell anyone ingame about it. Or acknowledge it ingame. Or discuss it ingame.

    It still holds up to the fact that Blizzard considers a declaration of being GLBT friendly the same as harassing other players. That’s still homophobia by virtually any definition. The fact that Blizzard’s official policy broadens this to anything potentially controversial doesn’t really change that fact either.

    As you point out, it’s ridiculous to police something like this while accepting that gay-bashing is part of the online experience. As long as Blizzard allows their harassment policy to be driven by the immature, knee-jerk, homophobes … I’ll continue to label them as such.

  3. 1 February 2006 at 10:36

    I’m thinking about making a call to their customer services department. It says on their account management page that they would like you to call if you are considering cancelling your account. Of course, I wouldn’t get the pre-paid subscription fees back, but it might be interesting to see what they say…

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