catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Virtual Gay Rights

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Blizzard Entertainment, maker of World of Warcraft, apologised today for threatening to ban a player for advertising an in-game “guild” which was friendly towards gay, lesbian, transgender players.

The concept behind the game, and others from the genre, sounds simple – a player controls a virtual character and participates in a economic and social virtual world. I’d heard about the World of Warcraft phenomena previously from a collegue doing work on so-called “virtual economies”. There was also a spate of blogs fairly recently about “gold farming” sweatshops, where players – reportedly from Asia – are paid low wages to “earn” virtual currency which is sold by firms to other players for real currency. Also, there was an interesting article in the Herald on “couples who go to war each night” playing this game, and others.

Although the whole concept of the “online world” has been around for over 10 years, the number of World of Warcraft subscribers (5 million), seems to be a critical mass whereby real topics of social debate – such as “gaymers” and homosexual activism more generally – are prescient in a virtual context. My guess would be that previous generations of these games were largely – but by no means solely – confined to a certain demographic – largely male, 15-30, moderate to high income. No doubt, such issues were discussed and debated as fervently as the current controversy – but without the diversity and mainstream clout posessed by a discussion affecting 5 million people!

By contrast, the debate in World of Warcraft over gay and lesbian players has been intense, diverse, and lengthy – to the point where a quick Google shows that the debate has picked up an acronym, and yields some 82,100 hits. So clearly, the virtual debate rages…

With reference to the topical discussion regarding video games as art – is this art imitating life? Does a virtual world imitate, or does it create, a civil society?

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Written by Admin

February 14, 2006 at 10:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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