Because apparently all the pro-Hong Kong censorship just wasn’t enough controversy for them, Blizzard has another censorship crisis on their hands. The World of WarCraft guild “Gay Boys” has been forced to change their name because it was reported as ‘inappropriate.’
It’s a bad week to be a fan of Blizzard games. A few days ago they caused a huge controversy when they suspended a Hearthstone player for making pro-Hong Kong protest statements. Then a couple of days later the gaming community re-appropriated Mei from Overwatch as a pro-democracy symbol. However, outside one of the original team leaders for World of WarCraft quitting the game in protest, WoW has managed to stay out of any direct controversy related to this issue. But, apparently feeling left out of being hated on by the gaming community and looking to get some negative attention, they decided to force a guild that went by the name ‘Gay Boys’ to change their title.
Ars Technica received word on Thursday that the “GAY BOYS” guild within the recent World of WarCraft Classic fork had its name changed late Wednesday to the machine-generated gibberish “Guild ZFXPK.” An email, apparently sent by Blizzard Customer Service, indicated that the guild’s name-change process began because “your fellow players reported your in-game name as inappropriate multiple times.” From there, the email cites “a thorough investigation” that also led to the guild’s creator receiving a temporary account suspension. The suspension was later overturned, but the guild’s name remains “Guild ZFXPK.”
Though Ars Technica updated their story to say that the guild got their name back after an appeal, this is not a good look for Blizzard. The fact that an automatic reporting system could force a guild name change means the platform can be easily abused and used to harass marginalized communities. And that’s exactly what happened here. They were targeted because they were gay and open about it.
There is nothing wrong with either the word ‘gay’ nor the word ‘boys,’ and it’s clear the context of the name is neither bigoted nor mocking. That was made clear when the moderator reviewed the situation and restored their name. But the current reporting system forced the name change first, then made the people involved jump through hoops for a manual review to finally have the guild name restored after a manual review. The guild had to prove their existence itself was appropriate. All of it feels horribly dehumanizing and horrifically offensive.
The LGBTQ+ community has enough trouble in our lives already. On Tuesday our rights to not be discriminated against in the workplace went before the Supreme Court of the United States, showing that we have a long way to go before we’re truly seen as equal. A group of gaymers coming together to have an inclusive guild while they geek out together in WoW shouldn’t have to worry about being targeted like this. They shouldn’t have their label listed as ‘inappropriate’ and have their account suspended through some automated reporting algorithm. Unless their title was filled with slurs (and it most certainly was not), it should have never been flagged as inappropriate in the first place.
Gaming, like most media, is an escape. It’s an outlet to get our minds off of our real-world woes and have some fun. This was clearly a bullying tactic against them to make them feel unwelcome on the platform, forcing members of an already marginalized community to fight for their right to exist openly and freely. It’s the exact opposite of what a gaming community should be. But here we are in 2019 and we’re still forced to fight for our right to simply be who we are. It’s all horribly depressing.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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