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Gay rights group speaks out

On Blizzard's WOW policy.

A spokesperson for gay equality organisation Stonewall has told our sister site, GamesIndustry.biz, that attempts to set up lesbian, gay and bisexual-friendly guilds in World of Warcraft should be "welcomed, not blocked."

Stonewall, founded in 1989, is a professional lobbying group which campaigns for the rights of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals. The organisation's comments come after Blizzard issued WOW player Sara Andrews with an official warning for inviting players to join a guild billed as "LGBT friendly".

Speaking exclusively to GamesIndustry.biz, Stonewall spokesperson Jonathan Finney said: "This attempt to create a safe, gay-friendly environment should be welcomed, not blocked."

"Hopefully this is just a misunderstanding. Stonewall would encourage Blizzard to review their policy, to make sure it has effect where it’s actually needed.’

According to Andrews, as detailed on the Gamers.Experimentations forum, Blizzard said that by inviting players to join the guild she was in breach of the game's terms of use under the 'Harassment - Sexual Orientation' category.

"This category includes both clear and masked language which... Insultingly refers to any aspect of sexual orientation pertaining to themselves or other players," the warning read.

Andrews contacted Blizzard to contest the decision, but was told: "While some language in and of itself may not be offensive, it may incite certain responses in other players that will allow for discussion that we feel has no place in our game."

The story was picked up by website InNewsWeekly.com and began to attract the attention of WOW players around the globe. According to INW, gamer John Blatzheim contacted Blizzard to express concern and received a reply which read: "Many people are insulted just at the word 'homosexual' or any other word referring to sexual orientation."

"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."

However, Andrews' original invite assured players that whilst the guild was "LGBT friendly", it was "not LGBT only."

Andrews said that she planned to cancel her World of Warcraft subscription as a result of Blizzard's refusal to reverse their decision, arguing that the word "gay" is often used as a term of abuse by players along with more offensive slang words.

"It seems to be okay for general chat to be flooded with [these terms], yet advertising for a GLBT friendly environment where we don't have to deal with such language is deemed inappropriate," Andrews stated.

In an official statement issued to GamesIndustry.biz, Blizzard said: "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."

The statement goes on to say that in order to "promote a positive game environment... 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 website, serves as one open avenue for doing so."

The statement concludes by confirming that Blizzard "Will be clarifying some of the language in our game policies in order to help avoid such confusion in the future."