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Virtual worlds' selective reflections of reality

Jennie Lees

The announcement of Valentine's Day events for both City of Heroes and World of Warcraft comes hot on the heels of a debate around virtual identity sparked off by a LGBT-friendly guild. The creation of in-game events that reflect popular world holidays is increasingly fashionable; it seems no week goes by without some new festival being celebrated in WoW's capital cities.

However, by first stamping out discussions of sexuality, and then opening up the floodgates by theming an event around love, what are Blizzard thinking? Will players be able to flirt with same-sex NPCs or will they be instantly banned for even venturing a hug? We hope that there will be some procedures in place to help stop harassment, as it can be difficult to throw off determined admirers at the best of times.

As for those gamers who prefer their MMOs with a dash of escapism, it seems to be a dying trend, especially amongst popular Western games.

[Image from the Alter Ego project]

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