Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Gamer Grrl Slammed by Warcraft For Harrassment

(Link) Her shocking crime: trying to start an online World of Warcraft guild for queer-friendly players. Still okay to call your opponent a fag, though.

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
From In Newsweekly

Sara Andrews thought it was a big misunderstanding when she received an e-mail from a game master in Blizzard Entertainment's popular online role playing game "World of Warcraft" citing her for "Harassment - Sexual Orientation."

Andrews had posted that she was recruiting for a "GLBT friendly" guild in a general chat channel within the game.

Believing that her notice had been accidentally flagged, she e-mailed Blizzard to correct the problem. Blizzard, to Andrews' surprise, upheld the decision.

Other gay guilds have been alerted and are planning to request clarification on the policy from Blizzard.

Blizzard's policy on "Harassment - Sexual Orientation," which is set forth in the games' "Terms of Use" and cited in the e-mail to Andrews reads, "This category includes both clear and masked language which insultingly refers to any aspect of sexual orientation pertaining to themselves or other players."

A series of e-mails back and forth concerning the incident, seems to make it clear that Blizzard may be inadvertently using a policy meant to protect GLBT people as a way to discriminate against them.

In Newsweekly obtained all of Andrews' e-mails between herself and Blizzard. Numerous requests for comment from Blizzard were not returned. Here's the sequence of events:

Andrews' original posting read: "OZ [the name of her guild] is recruiting all levels ¦ We are not 'GLBT only,' but we are 'GLBT friendly'! (guilduniverse.com/oz)"

In her follow-up letter to the company, Andrews explained that there was an obvious misunderstanding and that she was not insulting anyone, but merely recruiting for a "GLBT friendly" guild.

The response from Blizzard was, "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."

Blizzard's stance was clear that recruiting for a guild using "GLBT" was inappropriate as, the company said, it may "incite certain responses in other players that will allow for discussion that we feel has no place in our game."

Gamer John Blatzheim, who heard of Andrews' situation, e-mailed Blizzard to express his concern of a double standard that game masters would send her a warning that she could not use "GLBT" as an advertisement to express a safe place for gay gamers after an incident a few months ago where a plague occurred within the game and players yelled in general chat, "Don't get the AIDS!"

"Many people are insulted just at the word 'homosexual' or any other word referring to sexual orientation," Blizzard responded to Blatzheim in an e-mail. "Also to discriminate against other players, such as not allowing any heterosexuals into the guild simply because of their sexual orientation, could cause extreme offense to a large percentage of our players and should be avoided."

Stonewall Champions and The Spreading Taint, two large gay guilds are currently formulating a letter they plan to submit to Blizzard requesting a more detailed explanation as to the intent of this reinterpretation and execution of the sexual harassment rule. As the spirit of the harassment rule seems to have been reinterpreted from protecting GLBT players, to keeping them silent.

There are various types of servers that players can experience the game on. One of the options is to play on a role-playing server where players actually play as their characters, rather than through their characters. "We have determined that advertising sexual orientation is not appropriate for the high fantasy setting of the World of Warcraft and is therefore not permitted" was another of Blizzard's responses. Does this mean that if a player has a character on a role-playing server that they play as gay that would be violating the policy?

Sara Andrews has stated that she will not be renewing her World of Warcraft account due to Blizzards lack of support for a GLBT friendly environment, "It seems to be OK for general chat to be flooded with, 'That's so gay!' and 'I just got ganked! What a fag!' yet advertising for a GLBT friendly environment where we don't have to deal with such language is deemed inappropriate."

Is the player's character an extension of themselves in the game world or an entirely new character? Although Blizzard has made their policy regarding recruiting based on a player's real world orientation clear, what does it mean for in-game orientations within a role playing environment? Should men only play as males in the game? Should gender identity be enforced as sexual orientation is? We look forward to exploring these questions and others in a future article. •