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Blizzard Entertainment are in hot water yet again, after changing the name of two guilds in Word of Warcraft: Classic on the grounds of them being offensive. One guild a parody on President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, the other an LGBT-based group.
On October 9th, guild “GAY BOYS” had their name changed to “Guild ZFXPK”. Ars Technica reports Blizzard Customer Service informed the guild that their name change was because “your fellow players reported your in-game name as inappropriate multiple times.”
The email also stated that “a thorough investigation” led to the guild’s creator being temporarily suspended. While the suspension was overturned, the guild’s name remained Guild ZFXPK.
One member of the guild Ahmil Jilani emailed Ars Technica, feeling that the name change was due to reports from those harassing the guild.
“If you reviewed my chat logs, you would see multiple messages from individuals through my recruitment process of getting us to where we are today, with individuals messaging “Fuck the gays, reported,” amongst other extremely hateful and discriminating comments… These are the individuals that find our name inappropriate. Giving in to their demands only means that you are siding with them as a company, which, after a decade of playing your games, is a surprise to me.
To say there is anything inappropriate about the words GAY or BOYS is, in and of itself, inappropriate, childish, and discriminatory. Individuals that found the name inappropriate should be the ones taking a good look at themselves in the mirror, because this is 2019, and we have a right to exist as a community.”
While the guild awaits a response to their appeal, the group aims to stage an in-game protest by marching through Blaumeux. While it is unclear whether this march ever took place, the guild name was eventually restored. Jilani sent a copy of an email from Blizzard customer service to Ars Technica, stating “I too would hate to lose my account if the account was caught up in something some [sic] thought was violating the TOS/EULA and got the guild renamed, and I’m bummed yours was.”
After a “careful investigation of your account warning,” the guild name was restored. However, the email warned this kind of abuse could happen again. “There isn’t a way to stop people from reporting this name, as some find the way the term is used offensive. If you get actioned again, you can appeal like this, and we can look at it once more. For now, though, you have your guild name back!”
Another guild with the name GAY BOYS had its name changed in 2006. The guild’s leader asked on the World of Warcraft forums why the guild name was changed, when the guild was intended as “a safe place for those who wish to partake in PvP on Tichondrius without having to be surrounded by homophobic and racist people.” A forum agent replied:
“A guild still can be, but a name isn’t considered a safe haven, the guild itself is. Picking a name that you can identify with without also using words that would illicit a reaction from other players would be far more beneficial. Maybe something historical like a “Stonewall” reference. It can fit within the genre of the game as well as an identifier from gay culture.
I am sorry if you felt that the actions taken were meant to silence or otherwise discriminate against you. I can assure you it wasn’t.”
“Cogblast” explained how his guild “Make Azeroth Great Again” was forced to change its name, and even when they got it back, it was changed again within 12 hours.
“[Blizzard] did the same thing to my WoW Classic guild ‘Make Azeroth Great Again,’ which was just a tongue-in-cheek name for what was really just a social guild. We got it changed back, and then twelve hours later it was force-changed again,”
According to an email from Blizzard, the violation was due to an “Inappropriate Name”, and were also reported by others “multiple times.” Another email from a Blizzard Game Master disagreed with the decision, saying “I took a look here and I am very sorry this happened. I fixed your name and removed the penalty from your account here. […] You are correct that the name does not break our [Terms of Service].”
Despite the Game Master’s involvement as “a short time later”, the guild’s name was changed once again. Cogblast stated to Gamebyte:
“[A Blizzard rep] contacted me in-game [and] he basically told me that the name was not ‘RP friendly,’ and that this standard was at least partially based on the opinions of the server. It was just meant to be a fun theme that allowed us to flex our creativity while joking around with each other.
[…] “This was on a server designated ‘RP-PVP.’ This means that the server focuses on roleplaying and player versus player combat. My guild recruitment messages were satirical parodies of Republican talking points using the in-game lore in place of real places and peoples.
For instance, instead of promising a southern border wall to keep out Mexican immigrants, we would promise a northern border wall to keep out the neighbouring troll civilisation. Trolls are playable, and Blizzard routinely makes references to real people using all of the available playable races, so this was never meant to be a slight against anybody.”
[…] “I do want to make clear that while the bulk of the original members of ‘Make Azeroth Great Again’ are conservative, it was never a requirement for the guild. We even kicked out several members that were too aggressive with their right-wing politics, because the guild was a social guild and we welcomed all sorts, so political arguments from either side were not allowed.”
Due to the inconsistencies with the game’s Terms of Service, Cogblast also stated he has stopped playing World of Warcraft Classic. “I’ve since quit playing WoW Classic, for now at least, in large part thanks to this stupid scandal. When I was playing on that server we were the only guild not specifically dedicated to RP that was recruiting without breaking character, and yet it was deemed ‘not RP friendly,’ which largely is typically meant to be like saying ‘not lore friendly’.”
“It’s really crazy to think that even obliquely referencing support for the president through satire is too political in a game where historically you could do almost anything with guild names as long as it wasn’t outright racist or something.”
Blizzard’s Terms of Service are kept rather wide open, and gives them the right to remove any content at their discretion.
“You further represent and warrant that you will not use or contribute User Content that is unlawful, tortious, defamatory, obscene, invasive of the privacy of another person, threatening, harassing, abusive, hateful, racist or otherwise objectionable or inappropriate. Blizzard may remove any User Content and any related content or elements from the Platform at its sole discretion.”
Blizzard have had a terrible month due to an ongoing PR nightmare. Following the pro-Hong Kong protest statements from professional Hearthstone player Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai and Blizzard’s suspension of the player, the internet exploded in condemnation of Blizzard.
This was only made worse when Blizzard’s Chinese social media further condemned Blitzchung and stated “We will always respect and defend the pride of our country.” In addition Overwatch Esports Assistant Coach Justin “Jayne” Conroy was forced to delete a tweet condemning Blizzard’s actions.
Fans turned Overwatch character Mei into a symbol of the Hong Kong protests, Hearthstone caster Brian Kibler quit the tournament, former Blizzard Producer Mark Kern joined the Boycott Blizzard movement, Blizzard employees walked out in protest, a collegiate tournament team was banned for conducting a similar protest (after the team complained they were not banned initially), and even US Senators condemned Blizzard’s actions in an open letter to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick.
Blizzard finally released a statement, revealing they had returned Blitzchung’s confiscated prize money and reduced his suspension time. The statement also claimed that “relationships in China had no influence on our decision.” We recently looked into Blizzard’s financials to see if that was the case.