Virtual World Accused of Discriminating Against Gays

Published February 17, 2006

| Associated Press

A gay-rights uproar in the popular "World of Warcraft" online game has spurred the game's maker to review its treatment of gay players.

The massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), which draws more than five million players worldwide, was hit by controversy last month after a player was threatened with expulsion from the virtual Warcraft world when she sought to recruit others into her gay-friendly team.

Blizzard Entertainment, the game's maker, apologized last week to the player, Sara Andrews of Nashville, Tenn.

It said the warning was a mistake and that it will make some changes to prevent a repeat, Andrews and her attorney from the Lambda Legal civil rights organization said Wednesday.

Blizzard representatives did not return phone calls for comment.

Gay-friendly teams already exist in Warcraft, but the issue here stemmed from Blizzard's enforcement of its policy banning the harassment of players based on sexual, religious or political affiliation.

According to correspondence between Andrews and game officials, the company said it does not allow such recruitment efforts on its general chat channels to help prevent harassment.

Andrews, 25, said she protested because she had done similar recruitment in the past without reprimand and noted that many others associated with a political or other affiliation have done the same.

While the harassment policy is sound, trying to silence players from stating their sexual affiliation is not, contended Brian Chase, a Lambda Legal staff attorney.

"If you want to stop harassment, you should punish the harasser, not the victim," Andrews said.

As part of its review, Blizzard this week instituted a new chat channel specifically for recruitment and told Andrews it also plans to provide sensitivity training to the employees who monitor the online play and communications forums.

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