Player Seeks Clarification on Blizzard’s Harassment Policies

I found a post containing a player’s commuications with Blizzard regarding the LGBT issue. The player sent emails requesting clarification on sexual orientation and role-playing situations. The gist of the communications seems to be that, if anyone in the game takes offense to the actions of a player, Blizzard may take action. Merely referring to your significant other on a role-playing server (the player was asking specifically about role-playing servers) is not a warnable offense. Blizzard wants to keep the game free of “clearly offensive” chat. The player questioned a GM in-game to clarify this point, specifically regarding in-game role-playing weddings between same-sex characters. When talking to the GM, he gave the example of two of his friends, who have female characters, and asked if action would be taken against them should their characters choose to get married in-game (emphasis mine):

GM] Once again, while it does have good intentions other players may take offense to it

[Sylveri] So if, for example they wanted to have an in game wedding, as many heterosexual couples do.

[GM] Could be reported

[Sylveri] Anything can be reported, would they be warned or suspended?

[GM] Yes if you review our policies it would be under Sexual Orientation

[Sylveri] So there’s no reference to sexual orientation ever, unless it’s heterosexual?

[GM] Once again, while you may not think there is no reference, other players on the realm might think there is

[Sylveri] Reference to what? Marriage?

[GM] Yes, two females getting married

[Sylveri] But who defines what’s “offensive”?

[GM] Our policies will state that

[GM] Anyone can report and we will take appropriate action

[GM] While it may seem ok because they are truly a heterosexual couple in real life, in game they are two females

[Sylveri] I see, well thank you for your time. I’m sorry that the world hasn’t come farter
I will admit I’m disappointed, my guild enjoyed this game immensely. Again, thanks for the clarification.

[GM] Please keep in mind, you need to worry about the other players

[GM] While I do understand where you are coming from, there are those who do not have the maturity

[Sylveri] So we suffer because of their lack of maturity

[Sylveri] I understand Blizzard’s position, but that doesn’t mean we like it, or will support it.

[GM] I am sorry you feel that way

In a follow-up post, the player writes that Blizzard has been allegedly deleting threads pertaining to this issue.

EDIT: Right. Can I just clarify that I am not the player who talked to the GM in-game? As I said before, I merely discovered the post containing the player’s email communcations and his chat transcripts, and thought it would be of enough interest to link to on my blog. If you would like more information, please direct your queries to the player himself. Cheers.

UPDATE: The player has posted the response from Blizzard.

  33 comments for “Player Seeks Clarification on Blizzard’s Harassment Policies

  1. 3 February 2006 at 06:56

    It wouldn’t surprise me if Blizzard deleted threads, Sony has used a similar strategy for years now.

    I referred to this on CT, but this definately kills the “well, this isn’t appropriate game material” defense. You can’t condone one kind of marriage and prohibit another one without discriminating against someone. Their line in the sand is definately the ridiculous “we wouldn’t want to annoy someone else’s phobia”.

    Which is the equates being gay with harassment.

    At this point, I hope they get sued.

  2. originalgeek
    3 February 2006 at 14:36

    First, fuck Blizzard. They don’t deserve anyone’s money.

    Second, as a straight man I would like to suggest that anytime you observe a heterosexual relationship being developed or displayed on a WC server, show the same outrage toward the breeders that Blizzard fears will be bestowed upon gay people. That’ll really paint them into a corner.

  3. Brian
    3 February 2006 at 15:23

    I think the policy would be in place to keep kids from calling other kids gay and such.. But, the policy doesn’t say anything about whether references to sexual orientation (like on the top 100 quote on bash.. everyone knows what he means) HAVE to be intended to offend. So, the kid could be breaking policy depending on how you interpret it.

  4. Jesse
    3 February 2006 at 15:57

    Have you gone mad?

    It’s not a democracy, that they owe your opinions any sort of consideration. There’s no social contract that says Blizzard’s right to run Warcraft is derived from your consent. They sell a product, on their terms, and you choose to give them money for it. They don’t owe you the right to express yourself however you like.

    What would they be sued for? You paid them, agreed to their AUP, and then won’t agree with their method of enforcement, and that constitutes a lawsuit? Vote with your dollars.

    Jesse.

  5. bl4h
    3 February 2006 at 16:03

    Like the GM said, i understand where theyre coming from, but you need to look out for others.

    If i had heard about two woman getting married that looked like night elves when i was of young age, my mind would have went the wrong way. I would not accept it as two people marrying because they were in love and all of that happy nice stuff. Younger people have no concept of love. They perceive the world with simple views.
    To some the situation may be disturbing, or maybe even naughty.

    Stop being selfish. Keep the event to yourself. I have no problem with the same sex marriage issue, but no one owes you anything. The fact that you people demand public acceptance turns many off from the idea

  6. Gamer
    3 February 2006 at 16:07

    So, if I complain that all the models of nearly-naked/giant-breasted women are offensive, will Blizzard remove them from the game? Will they change the clothing options to ensure that women are all properly covered? Doubtful. Every game company draws their own line in the sand as to what they consider to be “offensive” material. If they think that tolereance for homosexuality is “offensive” then that is their own personal homophobia talking. You can’t claim to be upholding some “high standard” of “non-offensive” morality in a game full of scantily-clad females who look like this: http://wow.stratics.com/content/features/E3/art/ss06_b.jpg

  7. Agitator
    3 February 2006 at 16:12

    To look at a different, but I would think related issue:

    I wonder what would happen if a character had the name ‘Mohammed’ or ‘Allah’?

  8. AIM(Obsideus)
    3 February 2006 at 16:36

    Well, Brian, that would be nice if Blizzard took action on those that call others “fags” and such. They clearly don’t, and in one group during the night I see the word “fag” said over 10 times in five minutes!

  9. 3 February 2006 at 17:19

    when blizzard says “not offensive”, they clearly mean “results in more paying subscribers”. whereas large breasted female models sell well, the fear of homosexuality sold the entire country to the current regime, and blizzard takes the cue….

    way to fucking disappoint me though, fuck blizzard.

  10. Spoonfed
    3 February 2006 at 17:34

    Gay couples represent less than 2% of couples in North America and probably an even smaller percentage in-game. Why the rest of us are being forced to accept someone else’s way of life is completely beyond me.

    What do you want next, a gay pride parade in Halo 3?

  11. Paul
    3 February 2006 at 17:42

    I’m deeply offended by game avatars that wear clothes. Please join me in reporting the extremely offensive behavior of any clothed players you see.

  12. Jhome
    3 February 2006 at 18:48

    I’ve witnessed players on general chat use Christianity guild advertising. It would be interesting to know whether these guilds have allowed to continue.

  13. systmcrash
    3 February 2006 at 22:45

    So as long as it’s a female and a male char getting married it’sok?
    Regardless of the fact that its possibly a male person masquarading as a female char. And this is supposed to uphold this high standard of non-offensive morality. Atleast by allowing same sex mariages ppl wouldnt have to pretend and then have incidents like that talk show where the gay guy was killed because he pretend to be a woman.

    Anyways marriage should not be part of online gaming period iv always found the practice to be ridicoulous. Large companies are using those few ppl that found true love online to make even more money. A new low for them but then again when is low money grabing tactics to low?

    When they stop making money.

  14. Pandakun
    3 February 2006 at 23:01

    First off…

    About the “forcing to accept” someone’s way of life – that’s a classic majority argument that really doesn’t make any sense. Unless you’re willing to deem public expressions of affection obscene/patently offensive (and let’s not get into nearly-naked Night Elf pole dancing), then you should be willing to accept that same-sex marriage on a RPG game server is just as tame as most other emotive actions you can accomplish on WoW. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to watch or read the text. They’re not forcing you to come and watch a happy ceremony that doesn’t end in blood, gore, torture, etc…

    It should be reasonably expected – at least in countries where same-sex domestic parterships or better are legal – that such activity is not considered obscene. They shouldn’t be denyed the ability to have a marriage in public should they want to.

    Ahh, but yes, it’s Blizzard’s game, whatever. Like it was said earlier, vote with your dollars. Any sort of legal battle isn’t going to have any positive effect on the server itself – people are going to be miserable at social interaction, immature, offensive, high-strung, obnoxious, sleazy, hyperactive, emotionally abusive, etc. no matter what the policies state. It sucks to have to bow to the lowest common denominator, so do it anyway. If you get booted, lodge your complaint and game on. If no one reports you, great! :)

    Also, to those who thing “breeder” is a clever slang term to throw around, please know that its implications and history make it a very insulting term. I’m heterosexual and sterile. Even before I was sterile, I had no intention on having children. Two lesbian friends of mine decided to adopt two children, and thought it was cute to call me a breeder. I’m fairly sure most people don’t want to be thought of by their capacity to create offspring…

    The next part is that the history of the term “breeder” – it starts, as many offensive slang terms, in the US slavery days where farm slave women were offered the deal that if they had ten children, they could be elevated to house worker status. I know several women who would react quite violently to being called a breeder.

  15. Mr.Omigosh
    4 February 2006 at 04:19

    Some of you seem to think this only affects the US. It doesn’t. World of Warcraft has, what, over one million subscribers? That’s worldwide subscribers. Laws in US versus other countries can differ alot and some do allow same sex marriages. Heck, when laws forbid same sex marriages due to “because it says so in the holy book” then democracy and freedom has been thrown out of the window.
    Blizzard has their own agenda. World of Warcraft is their game. So they set the standards they want. But these standards are based on their customers views. Mostly in the US. Even if customers in other countries or continents (like “Yurop”, read Europe) differ quite alot from those of the US.
    Oh, and this happened on a role-play server. If people take RL antics into a roleplay specific game then they shouldn’t be playing there. When one roleplays one must roleplay completely.

  16. Shard
    4 February 2006 at 05:28

    Well, Blizzard tends to delete posts that are trolling, redundant, or insulting in nature. Since there have been some five hundred identical posts, usually with titles like ‘Blizzard hates queers’ or ‘BLIZZARD DISCRIMINATES,’ I’m not surprised that they’ve decided to clean up the forums a bit. Yes, the person who said the policy exists to make it a violation to call somebody ‘gay’ is correct. The idea behind Blizzard’s policies is that if someone is insulting you, defaming you, or harassing you verbally in any way, their policies should apply to what that person is saying.

  17. Blitzkrieg
    4 February 2006 at 05:54

    Anyone who finds gay marriage offensive is a moron. The reason ppl find it offensive is because they have not learnt to deal with it, seeing it either in real life or online. It is something they fear because they do not understand it. Hiding it like Blizzard is attempting to do only furthers in keeping these backwards attitudes around longer. Shame on you Blizzard.

  18. Mr.Omigosh
    4 February 2006 at 06:36

    Gay once meant the same thing as happy. In Flintstones’s theme song the words “…have a gay old time…” do in no way have a homosexual meaning.

  19. Dan
    4 February 2006 at 10:40

    Hallo.

    I am the aforementioned poster. I do now have the GM name, and if people are curious, I have screenshots of the deleted threads. I do not, unfortunately, have screenshots of the GM discussion, as it didn’t occur to me to figure out how until the conversation was in full swing. I never expected it to balloon so.

  20. Ruinia
    4 February 2006 at 11:10

    I have sent the following email to [email protected]:

    Subject: In-game same-sex mairrage

    Your prohibition of same-sex mairrage, in the absence of a similar
    prohibition against heterosexual mairrage, constitutes
    discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. While I
    appreciate the reasons for your decision, I believe that it would
    ultimately be in your best interests to instead target those who
    would take offense toward such in-game mairrage (since outspoken
    offense against same-sex relationships constitutes a Highly
    Inappropriate viiolation of the Code of Conduct, according to
    http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/policy/forum-cocp2.html#Sexual). I
    believe that if you do not change your stance on this issue
    according to this advice, then the issue is likely to develop into
    litigation.

    Sincerely,
    Ruinia.

    I encourage those who support in-game same-sex mairrage to send similar (not identical!) messages to the address listed above. If the GMs do not comply, I encourage you to contact [email protected] to report their immoral, unethical, and illegal behavior.

    [email protected]

  21. 5 February 2006 at 11:03

    What would they be sued for? You paid them, agreed to their AUP, and then won’t agree with their method of enforcement, and that constitutes a lawsuit? Vote with your dollars.

    Well, I certainly believe in people voting with their dollars, but it’s not like everything which occurs in Azeroth is above the law. Azeroth isn’t a world, it’s a service provided to people with legal contracts and obligations that go along with it.

    Blizzard could be sued for violating their own TOS policies, once for punishing a player for something which is quite possibly not against any obligation that player’s part. Also, for violating their own TOS in terms of content which is condoned and what isn’t condoned. If they operate within the state of California, they might also be legally reponsible pursuant to laws of that state which protects people based on sexual orientation.

    Just because WoW is Blizzard’s product does not, by an means, give them complete autonomy over that product. Every business has plenty of rules and regulations that they have to adhere to … and an MMO is no different.

  22. broken bottle
    6 February 2006 at 07:02

    While I’m not in favor of Blizzard’s handling and / or creation of this sexual preference predicament, I don’t blame them for deleting the posts started on the subject. It’s not possible to have a rational discussion of the situation on their message boards for more than 5 posts before it degenerates into chaos. Positions for and against are vigorously defended but no one is really open to a change of mind. Then the rabble rousers enter and start polluting an already bad situation with intentionally inflametory statements and it goes to hell. There’s no sense in letting that kind of thing germinate further on their boards. It seems at this point, speaking directly to Blizzard would be the best option. the topic is much too serious to be left to message board debate.

  23. Jack
    6 February 2006 at 10:42

    I’m sorry, but I think everyone is being a bunch of toolbags about this subject. I’m sorry, but you’re talking about a freaking video game. In-game marriage is just a ludicrous idea to begin with. You can’t make discrimination arguments about an mmorpg world. It’s not real life, people. No court is going to rule in your favor just because you and your friend’s female characters can’t get married. If you don’t like the policies, then find something else that will provide the same-sex marriage option that you need so much.

    You’re playing a game owned by a corporation, and that corporation will do whatever is in THEIR best interest to keep its subscribers happy. That means anything that could cause large groups of people to unsubscribe from their service is not something they’re going to consider. Obviously, Blizzard has realized that society is way too homophobic to make same-sex marriage a lucrative option. It’s unfortunate that we’re not as advanced as we would like, but it’s the truth. If you don’t like it, you can find another game, and I’m sure Blizzard will be glad not to hear your whining about it. Or, better yet, make your own mmorpg. I’m sure I’ll play it if it’s as good as WoW and has no monthly fee.

    I think the amount of subscribers that are lost as a result of this issue are going to be few and far between. You’re talking about over a million subscribers. You think a few hundred people who quit over this are going to mean a damn to them? Don’t delude yourselves, they don’t owe you anything, and they don’t care if you feel discriminated against. Majority rules, people, and money talks.

  24. Roxanne
    6 February 2006 at 13:35

    Blizzard doesn’t ‘owe’ us anything beyond what we paid for as specified by our sales contract. However, I think Blizzard doesn’t have an accurate view of the gaming community and their views on issues like this.

    Most gaming companies still view their prime demographic as teen and 20-something boys. Why? Because that’s who they hire to make the games. That’s who the gaming companies are.

    The truth? Women constitute a pretty fair component of the online gaming community. As do people outside that age range. As do racial, ethnic, cultural minority members.

    They’re endangering a potential future market share by showing they’re insensitive to the needs of minorities.
    And you know, women, LGBT, ethnic, racial, and cultural minorities make up the vast majority of people, so in this case,
    Minority rules.

  25. 6 February 2006 at 14:33

    Blizzard’s position — the possibility of warning players for their characters having same-sex marriages in-game if it offends another players sensibilities, when Blizzard allow heterosexual marriages between characters — is hypocritical and untenable.

    The Europeans and others make a good point about many of the Amercian players’ self-centred approach to the issue. WOW is played in many countries that are more progressive/advanced when it comes to the acceptance of homosexuality both in society and legally. There is a question of which laws Blizzard is subject to when it comes to discriminatory policies.

    From the language in their Code of Conduct, they have made a definite effort to dsicourage hateful behaviour, but in so doing, they have gone to the extreme — taking a position that “protects” everyone from offense by limiting what people can say in such an extreme way that it places responsibility for policing actions with the possible victims of hateful and derogatory language, rather than pro-actively discouraging the perpetrators of such immature behaviour.

    In one of my previous posts, I also note that the players aren’t exactly helping either, because they tolerate an anti-gay environment with their common usage of derogatory anti-gay language. However, it is Blizzard that must set the standard of behaviour, and they seem to be very firmly on the side of pandering to the majority rather than protecting the minority.

  26. Clash
    7 February 2006 at 04:13

    Lads this is a computer game, lets not say played majorly by kids but plenty of them in it. Like it or lump it, agree with it or not but imo and in many other peoples opinions, kids shouldn’t be exposed to this. I realise of course that at a certain age they should be actively encouraged to accept people for whoever they are and whoever they choose to be with but you can’t attack Blizzard for taking into account the many kids that play the game now and many of them could be quite young.

    Maybe you think i’m a bad guy or whatever (i really don’t care) but i wouldn’t want my kids introduced to that type of thinking until they were a suitable age to understand it. I have a gay couple as friends and they get on with my son (12) but i asked them not to act certain ways in front of him and they understand and didn’t take any offense at all. Maybe they took offense privately (I don’t think so) but again, i don’t care. I don’t want them to (for example) kiss in front of my kid, as far as he knows they’re “friends”.

    This isn’t a homophobic issue, this is a video game which kids play.

    If theres even one kid in the game thats too young to be exposed to this stuff (I’d say 16 and younger) then it shouldn’t be allowed.

    You either have to ban kids (U16) or ban certain types of behaviour. One or the other.

  27. 7 February 2006 at 05:58

    Clash: This is an online game. It says right on the package that actual play experience may vary from the rating listed on the box. As much as Blizzard tried to prevent harassment and abuse from happening, like parents, they cannot be everywhere to police the chat channels. FYI, abusive and harassing speech and behaviour are banned from the game, but that doesn’t stop people from engaging in it.

    If you don’t want your child to run into the likelihood that people are going to call him or her a “fag” or “gay” in the derogatory sense, then you should not allow him or her to play online games, full stop. This is the reality of online gaming. It’s unfortunate that teenage boys are so immature to use such language, but the punishments are simply not harsh enough, and the online games culture is simply too tolerant of such behaviour — otherwise we would see less of it.

    The solution is not to punish the victims, but to pro-actively go after the offenders, and encourage a culture that has no tolerance for degrading and abusive language.

    However, a lot of people here seem to equate “revealing sexual orientation” with “discussion of sex”. Would you say that saying that you are heterosexual is equivalent to talking about sex? No. So don’t pretend that someone saying that they are gay is the same thing as discussing sex. By allowing one sexual orientation (heterosexual) to be openly stated, and not allowing other sexual orientations (gay, bi, etc.) to be stated, you marginalise non-heterosexuals. You relegate them to “other” status — effectively, you implicitly label them as abnormal, when they are not abnormal, they are simply uncommon (i.e. there are fewer of them).

    Oh, and by the way? Adults play the game too. I can’t speak for the rest of the people commenting here, but I am not a lad. News flash, women play the game as well. And so do gay people, people of other races, people of different religions, etc.

  28. Roxanne
    7 February 2006 at 13:13

    Clash, if by saying don’t expose kids to ‘LGBT’ in the game you mean don’t expose kids to any kind of sexuality in the game, then I could possibly support you in that. Including heterosexuality.

    That would, however, mean androgynous characters with no gendered identification.

    It seems you’d lose a fair number of players though. In my experience, kids discover sexuality at about the same age they start playing games like this. That includs alternate sexuality.

    If you don’t want your kids to discover sexuality, then they shouldn’t be playing games like this, or watching tv, or going to a public school….put them in a convent.

    FWIW, there are…shock of shock, kids that are LGBT as well. And they play the game.
    And they talk about sex and other related issues as often as other kids.

    But they don’t go around saying “that’s so hetro” or “you’re such a breeder” in game all the time. Why should they have to put up with the converse.

  29. Galan
    8 February 2006 at 10:55

    Clash wrote:
    “I have a gay couple as friends and they get on with my son (12) but i asked them not to act certain ways in front of him and they understand and didn’t take any offense at all.”

    Wow, by the age of 12 i already knew i was gay.. and by the age of 13 I was experimenting with boys. At the age of 15 i was dating boys. At the age of 17 I met my husband to be, now at the age of 22 I’m still with him and waiting to get married. Maybe i started off early, maybe not. Anywho, back to the point.

    Maybe kids are more stupid nowadays, but when i was old enough to understand heterosexuality i was old enough to understand homosexuality.

    BTW, Isn’t there already an age limit to this game?

  30. 8 February 2006 at 11:02

    The game is rated ‘T’ for ‘Teen’ in the United States. The box also states that because it is an online game, actual experiences may vary from the rating on the box.

  31. hordhunter
    4 June 2006 at 08:32

    try having them suspend you for challenging another player to a duel and when he rufused i used the in game taunt feature and i was reported and took a 72 hour harassement suspension. also we are in the process of looking for others who have been done wrong by blizzard for a class action suit we currently have 1300 people signed up. to state your case and to join send mail to [email protected]

  32. jonny696
    9 April 2008 at 06:08

    Clear up this first
    i dont play warcraft but i know people who do
    i’m noot homosexual but i know people who are

    From where im standing it does look like blizzard have broken their own rules of conduct as “they are discriminating people to stop discrimination.
    Also warcraft has a rating of 12+ and so any “little kids who make fun of people by calling eachother gay” should immediatly have their accounts banned and anyone who lets children under the age of 12 play on their accounts should get warnings. This is because the game has images and issues which are too serious for people of these ages to understand and so, i believe, should have to understand them before they are given permission do make judjments on others.
    I see no point in humiliating others for they way they are and i take a very bad view with those who do. An example of this is making fun of a dislexic person because they may not be able to read or calling a blind person because they wear glasses, i know these issues are not entirly the same but u get my meaning.
    What i believe the easiest way to solve this issue is, is to stop “religious festivals” (being political correct here) and weddings and funerals and the likes in game.
    Other games celebrate festivals (such as guild wars) but make sure there is minimal religious effects within them.
    It is my opinion though that weddings in game are taking role playing a bit too far and the way its going getting married in a game could probably get you sued for bigemy (sorry about spelling and for those who do not know what this is it is having more than one husband/wife or even both).
    What will blizzard let u do next let u have children so they dont offend female characters…

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