Here's what an anonymous Blizzard employee who goes by the handle "Caydiem" had to say on the subject:
We encourage community building among our players with others of similar interests, and we understand that
guilds are one of the primary ways to forge these communities. However, topics related to sensitive real-world subjects
-- such as religious, sexual, or political preference, for example -- have had a tendency to result in communication
between players that often breaks down into harassment.
To promote a positive game environment for everyone and help prevent such harassment from taking place as best we
can, we prohibit mention of topics related to sensitive real-world subjects in open chat within the game, and we do our
best to take action whenever we see such topics being broadcast. This includes openly advertising a guild friendly to
players based on a particular political, sexual, or religious preference, to list a few examples. For guilds that wish
to use such topics as part of their recruiting efforts, our Guild Recruitment forum, located at our community Web site,
serves as one open avenue for doing so.
If Blizzard believes that discussion of sexual orientation "is not appropriate for the high fantasy setting of
the World of Warcraft," (as stated in an email sent to Sara Andrews) then why does the company endorse heterosexual
weddings? In an officially sponsored "Group Screenshot Contest,"
Blizzard chose this
photo of a male and female character getting married in a chapel. By endorsing the heterosexual relationships but
explicitly forbidding the mere discussion of homosexual topics, Blizzard is in fact discriminating against those who
don't march to the hetero-normal drumbeat.
There's even more evidence that Blizzard is being inconsistent. If discussion of sexual orientation does not belong
in the World of Warcraft, then Blizzard needs to explain why players who type "/silly" while playing male
characters of the Tauren race are rewarded with a pre-recorded voice that says, "Homogenized? No, I prefer the
The question is not so much whether the company is discriminating (it is), but what its motives are for doing so.
- accident: sometimes individual employees make mistakes or misapply policies. Reporting for In
Newsweekly (a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender news and entertainment weekly) Alexander Sliwinski writes, "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."
- ignorance: sometimes companies just don't really understand what it means to discriminate against a group of
minorities. Sometimes it takes a court case or two to wake a company up.
- deliberate discrimination: We can't rule out the possibility that some higher-up at Blizzard is deliberately
enforcing a policy that discriminates against the gay community.
- The guild that started it all by advertising in chat
channels about their LGBT-friendly guild, and were promptly served notice that such advertisements are not allowed.
- In Newsweekly broke the
news, from there it spread to:
Guardian Games Blog's Aleks Krotoski notes: "Eh?! This makes no sense, and perpetuates the view that the
online space is straight, thus filtering out the very diverse set of people who enjoy a virtual life. It also suggests
that they are happy to coddle those users who think it's OK to throw out homophobic epithets, of which--in their
view--there must be many"
- Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow asks,
"Will a game ever give players citizenship instead of just customership? Will players always be willing to treat
games as their online homes if they have to rely on customer service ethos instead of the Constitution to assure them
of a fair shake?"
- Law Geek asks, "So what,
Blizzard now has a 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy?"
- Terra Nova's take includes a
strong, mature discussion after a teensy little blog entry.
- WoW Insider's Jennie Lees
takes a dig at the Xbox Live service, writing, "I don't want to be discriminated against in-game for my gender or
sexuality--that's what Xbox Live is for."
CNET covers the story.
- MMorgy (warning: MMorgy's site banner is
PG13) speculates on the impact that such policies might have on the game world: "watch as the interesting people
leave due to crazy ass rules, the fun people leave due to creative stiffling, even in guild names, and see how nifty
your world is then."