Blizzard Entertainment has officially reversed itself, apologizing for threatening to expel a World of Warcraft player promoting an in-game guild friendly to gay, bisexual, and transgender players.
The World of Warcraft massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) offers a feature called “guilds,” which encourage online community-building as well as providing a mechanism for players to help each other through obstacles and scenarios in the game. In late January 2006, World of Warcraft player Sara Andrews began using in-game text channels to promote a guild she runs, called “Oz,” as friendly to gay, bisexual, and transgender players. In response, an game administrator at Blizzard Entertainment threatened to expel her from the game for violating World of Warcraft’s terms of service by using such language.
Andrews responded that her actions did not violate World of Warcraft’s terms of service, that several other gay-friendly guilds are permitted to operate within the game (two wrote letters of complaint to Blizzard). Further, Andrews alleged Blizzard permits players to use homophobic language without challenge. Many other World of Warcraft players pointed out the game has a thriving in-game gay community, and game administrators have not challenged other discussion of players’ out-of-game sexuality.
Blizzard apologized to Andrews via email, saying she should not have been warned about her comments by a game administrator, but that Blizzard in general warns users not to disclose information about their personal lives to prevent out-of-game harassment. Blizzard also said it plans to create a separate chat channel in the game that guilds can use to look for new recruits.