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Outside the Lines — Gays in MMORPGs

There was an uproar recently in the MMORPG ‘Star Wars’ game ‘The Old Republic’ when forum moderator Sean Dahlberg was questioned about “gay” and “lesbian” being on a filter of unacceptable words, and responded: “These are terms that do not exist in Star Wars. Thread closed.”

If you know the internet, at all, you can probably imagine how well people responded to that.

Yesterday, Dahlberg apologized in the most non-specific way possible by saying that “there were some words added to the filter that should not have been – we corrected this today.” But Dahlberg — and his parent company, Blizzard Entertainment, are hardly the first ones in the gaming industry to generate controversy over their poor handling of gaymers

More after the jump
There was a similar incident earlier this year with Xbox Live as well, and it brings up a question that Cory Doctorow addressed in 2006 during yet another brouhaha when World of Warcraft threatened to ban users for forming LGBT-friendly guilds (though they, too, later backed down):

“…real life has one gigantic advantage over gamelife. In real life, you can be a citizen with rights. In gamelife, you’re a customer with a license agreement. In real life, if a cop or a judge just makes up a nonsensical or capricious interpretation of the law, you can demand an appeal. In gamelife, you can cancel your contract, or suck it up.

Will a game ever give players citizenship instead of just customership?”

The issue of sexual orientation in online games appears to be something that most game companies are dealing poorly with, but one that they cannot afford to ignore. With the MMORG game ‘DC Universe Online‘ coming out next year, what policies do you expect it to have, and will similar problems arise?

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