If you've made even the occasional pass through the Blizzard forums, you're likely to have run up on at least one of the periodic flamefests with players stomping their virtual feetsies and pointing in horror at the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender (GLBT) guilds clustered on the Proudmoore server. Never one to ignore the elephant in the room, we got curious about what these guilds are all about and how they ended up on Proudmoore.
Our interview with Venfelder, a long-time member from the rank and file of Taint, paints a picture of a mature, friendly, open community of players making the most of WoW's many opportunities for raiding, PvPing and just plain hanging out together.
<Taint> (formerly The Spreading Taint)
15 Minutes of Fame: So how did you come to get involved in the Proudmoore community and Taint? Was it because of Proudmoore's GLBT-friendly reputation?
Venfelder: I became aware of and involved with Taint in August 2005, when I started up my main 'toon, after hearing from a friend about a GLBT-rooted guild on Proudmoore. Until then, I had been strictly Alliance. But I wanted to try out the Horde and escape the usual "This instance is gay," "I wasn't ready for that pull, fag!", assaulting gaming vernacular that was common on other servers. I have an extremely thick skin -- but all that junk gets tiresome when used as a constant form of punctuation.
A lot of players just don't understand why someone's sexual orientation would have any relevance to their guild experience in an online game. What does membership in Taint offer that players can't get in another guild?
The idea of a GLBT guild is really no different than guilds formed by a core of college students at the same school, a group of hardcore PvPers, or those guilds formed on a strict diet of raiding. Taint is essentially just the same, but with its core values and purpose comprised of non-discrimination, acceptance and social interaction. Whereas the other guilds may insert "PvP guild," "raiding guild" or "late-night UCLA guild" into their descriptive headlines, Taint's simply reads differently: a casual and accepting environment for the GLBT community and the straight folk we call friends.
Are there many -- or any -- non-GLBT members of Taint?
We have a ton of straight people – who, when discovered, become semi-celebrities for a bit. Of my closest in-game friends, half are straight.
What about the male:female ratio?
Without the aid of a guild census, I'd guess that Taint hovers around 90% male, 9% female and 1% other or undecided.
Is there an age restriction for guild membership?
There is an implemented 18 and over policy for joining Taint. Casual social interaction is a tenet, if you will, of the guild; as such, conversations may become frank, open, joyous, serious, crass, sometimes vulgar -- but in a fun way -- heartwarming or enlightening. The members of the guild are quite adept at self-censoring when need be as to not offend, but guild-wide conversations always have a chance of becoming a little blue. Eighteen and over is a "better safe than sorry" implementation.
First and foremost, I consider Taint a social guild. When I joined the guild it was a singular entity, one guild. Now, we have five guilds to house both mains and alts with a level-based structure.
But with 2,000 members, scores of dedicated five-man teams, Arena teams, PvP teams, over 10 10-man teams and four or more (at my last count) 25-man teams, Taint may be considered a raiding or hybrid guild as well. There is always plenty to do. Taint has made a quick march through the current content, with the first 25-man group being less than a year old and having taking down everything and everyone past Illidan. The following 25-man groups are catching up quickly.
In my opinion, the guild is still social-centric, with most of the people looking for a friendly environment to play openly and meet new friends. But everyone is encouraged to follow their own path in determining what it is they want from the game itself -- so joining a 25-man team, etc., is made quite easy.
Is Taint in WoW part of a larger gaming community that crosses into other online games?
Taint isn't a WoW-only guild. We have a presence in the City Of games (City of Heroes, City of Villains) as well as Warhammer Online. In Warcraft, the community spans both in-game factions, as well. Within the Horde, there are several other GLBT guilds, as there are on the Alliance side.
What about RL Taint meetups?
Taint hosts several regional meetups throughout the year. Los Angeles, NYC and Atlanta are just a few of the venues, with this year's main meet happening in Vegas in early October (the same weekend as BlizzCon). I've personally met a few of my fellow local Tainters and have formed strong ties with some that I've only spoken to on Vent or met in-game.
Does Taint have alliances, events or other regular interaction with other GLBT groups on Proudmoore?
Taint is friendly with all of our like-minded comrades, but I'd say our strongest tie is with the La Familia De Stonewall on the Alliance faction, with whom we co-host the annual gay pride march from the Crossroads to Booty Bay (as pictured below).
Proudmoore as a server is very easy-going and more than generally accepting. I've seen people from other non-GLBT guilds warn and scold others in Trade chat for making demeaning remarks or for using insensitive or homophobic remarks, explaining that Proudmoore is the wrong server to be behaving that way. That's why we love where we "live" -- Proudmoore is a great place to be.
We'd imagine that belonging to a GLBT guild would provide some level of insulation from player harassment. Do you see many players transferring in to the server and guild for just that reason?
Many of our new recruits site the behavior of other players on other servers as at least one of their reasons for checking out Taint, and most stay on. But I'd say the overall feeling of acceptance within our guild is the main reason all of us are members.
Have you had any bad experiences with in-game harassment to members of your guild as a whole?
I've never been targeted personally for a homophobic attack. The guild as an entity has taken its share of lumps from those who were myopic or offended by our existence and have tried to cause problems -- but here we are, still standing and still going strong.
What has belonging to Taint brought to your gaming experience, personally?
Personally, being a member of Taint for so long has really changed my outlook on gaming and game-based online communities as a whole. So much good can be done for someone who is looking for an escape in the vein of which WoW provides, someone who may also be lucky enough to find a home like Taint provides: a haven for expression, friendship and acceptance that they may be lacking elsewhere. We all feel different for different reasons, but here at Taint, none of that matters. The guild has become a new sub-definition of the word "community."
More insider interviews with WoW players of every stripe: a guild focused on racking up Wrath achievements, that guy who 10-boxes Karazhan, a player who's lost 90 pounds playing WoW on a treadmill ... a play style for everyone in 15 Minutes of Fame.