Real World Matters In-Game

There has been much heated discussion about the recent Blizzard PR debacle stemming from an incident in which a player was reprimanded by a GM for advertising for her gay-friendly guild in a general chat channel. The discussion expanded to debate the “visibility” of a player’s and/or a character’s sexual orientation in-game.

The debate has been frustrating at times. Particularly aggravating are those in the the “Stop overreacting, it’s only a game” camp. Some of these people say that “real world issues” have no place in online games. I would challenge anyone to find a player who has not commented about a real world event, whether personal or not, whilst they were online. I woud challenge anyone to find a player who’s character they have created has not been informed or influenced in any way by that player’s worldview. Whether someone is playing a “good” or a “bad” character, the player got their ideas from somewhere.

“Real world” experiences impact how one sees that world, and how one behaves in it. I argue that this extends to the virtual world. As such, how can one say that a social space such as an MMORPG should not be held to similar standards of behaviour as other social spaces? For example, the usage of “gay” and “fag” pejoratively in “real life” is offensive. Why should this standard be less valid in the virtual world?

As Corvus writes:

Everything that happens within the MMOG’s environment has an emotional impact upon the people who chose to inhabit it. That makes it real. Polluting an environment with intolerance is polluting, whether it happens in a newspaper, a book store, a television broadcast, a mall, or a MMOG.