Blizzard disbands extreme erotic roleplaying guild

I've been sidestepping writing about this issue for some time, since it's bound to generate some controversy here and I hate bringing publicity to bad people. But as the topic keeps popping up again and again, particularly on roleplaying servers, it might be time to bring it out into the open.

An erotic roleplaying guild that now spans two realms has been accused of defending pedophiles and engaging in extreme sexual situations without any way to verify that their members are above the age of 18. While the guild in question says it has been reported many times and is not violating policy, and that minors joining an ERP guild are being poorly parented, Blizzard has forcibly disbanded the guild -- only to have it reform under a new name. There might be some disturbing content following the cut, so click at your own risk.

Abhorrent Taboo was mainly a Hordeside RP guild on Ravenholdt, but recently expanded to an Alliance auxillary on Blackwater Raiders. The guild leader posted a somewhat hostile "welcome message" on the BWR forums: "Role-playing is legal. Even if you are role-playing something that would be considered deplorable and highly illegal IRL, it's still just role-playing and isn't subject to any form of disciplinary action. Negative publicity is still publicity. Make a Digg or website about how sick we are. Report us to PervertedJustice. All it does is bring in more members. In fact, the Digg the guy on Ravenholdt made about us was so effective, several people signed up for WoW just to be in our guild. The bottom line is: We're allowed to do what we do on any server we please and no one can do anything about it."

Now, most RP servers are okay with ERP, if a little squicked out by it -- serious roleplayers tend not to like being thought of as cyberers. But AT has a history. As reported by TenTonHammer and then Dugg, AT's leader has talked about pedophilia in a positive way in guild chat. The exact quote is "I want to defend us, but I also want to defend the pedosexual community." The guild leader notes that she was talking about pedophiles who don't actually molest children and that she hates kids herself.

After AT opened their BWR auxillary, a 25-page thread sprung up and was deleted about AT's intentions. AT's recruitment policy, which was reposted onto the BWR forums from elsewhere, stated: "NOTE: Be advised that we frequently ERP in guild chat and often engage in even potentially offensive kinks such as (Extreme) Ageplay, Bestiality, Child Birth, [something that is censored by the WoW forums so I can't tell what it is], Watersports, or any other kink those playing may wish to explore. If you are easily offended or upset by others using kinks you may not personally enjoy, this is not the guild for you. Furthermore, we are a guild based on freedom of love and sex. Monogamy of any kind runs counter to this, and so, all sexually exclusive relationships are prohibited." They add that officers should enjoy ageplay and bestiality. There have also been insinuations, denied by the guild leader, that AT is purposefully lax in checking up on the ages of applicants, and a poster from Ravenholdt says that the guild solicits new players in chat channels without informing them of the purpose of the guild.

As a result, there have been several posts in the Customer Service and Suggestions forums asking that Blizzard do something about extreme ERP. Basically, the opponents say that since Blizzard lets minors in the game, they are responsible for protecting them from unsafe environments, and that AT is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Supporters, or at least non-opponents, say that AT is only engaging in fantasies, that ERP doesn't actually hurt people, and that it's close to impossible to keep minors from joining a guild if they really, really want to.

It looks like Blizzard has come down on the side of the opponents, as Abhorrent Taboo has been forcibly gdisbanded. "This matter is not one Blizzard takes lightly in any way, shape or form, and we do not wish to have this topic continue circulation," wrote Blizzard employee Verrith. " ... Let it finally be said that we appreciate those of you who brought this particular issue to our attention and that we will continue to follow up with this matter in the future to ensure the safety of all parties concerned." However, the members have reformed as Vile Anathema.

I'm torn on what side of the fence to fall on about Blizzard's actions. I'm highly creeped out by "ageplay" in a video game where it's impossible to verify actual age, and the guild leader's posts do seem like they're actively seeking out controversy. But fantasy isn't reality, and I'm not entirely comfortable about the precedent this sets. What do you think about this situation?