Tuesday, 28 April 2009

No Homosexuals in The Old Republic?

Or are there?

Kotaku reports the following:
BioWare take their Star Wars role-playing seriously. So seriously that the developers are shutting down talk on Old Republic's message boards about homosexuality, because it's a term that does "not exist in Star Wars".

Yes, if you care to trawl around the site, there are a few threads that either began as, or devolved into, discussion of how the game - or the game's future player base - would handle gay relationships. And those threads are now locked. A thread complaining about those threads being locked (along with the words "homosexual", "lesbian" and "gay" being censored on the boards) has now also been locked, with BioWare's community manager Sean Dahlberg posting succinctly:
As I have stated before, these are terms that do not exist in Star Wars.

Thread closed.
OK, but...they do, uh, realise that the people actually playing the game do not exist in Star Wars either, right? They're real people?

GLBT discrimination in forums? [SWTOR]
NOw, I was ready to get all up-in-arms about this and start a big rant (here on my blog) about the wrongness of this. And I still disagree with Sean's quoted comment above, because they do. But then I checked the filter myself and noticed that the words "gay", "lesbian" and "homosexual" at least aren't filtered anymore. And when I checked the thread (again) I noticed that Sean has re-opened it.

So crisis averted before it really had a change to talk hold? I hope so.

Also, I just have to post some of durasteel's comments from that thread because I was quite impressed with them and agree completely:
Maybe one of the reason that an overwhelming majority of the usage of words like g-a-y and l-e-s-b-i-a-n are negative has everything to do with circumstances like 'language filters' blocking positive, or even neutral, use.

This is a public message board for an MMO game, meaning that it is inevitable and very desirable for groups of like-minded individuals to align themselves based upon their common interests and experiences within the community as a whole. I have, from time to time, been an active member of a meta-guild called "The Older Gamers" which is exactly what it sounds like. Our age is completely unrelated to any of the games I've played with these guys, but it is a distinguishing characteristic that we all have in common, and it is relevant within a certain context.

We have a mechanism to report offensive posts and forum moderators quite capable of responding. If I want to insult people of a particular sexual orientation, you may be certain that I can do so without using any of the words on the prohibited list.

It is sadly the case that, at various times within the past decade, words like 'French' and 'Moslem' have been used in predominantly derogatory ways in the USA. Banning those words would be foolish and ignorant, and I think the same standard should apply to the words by which same-sex couples are described in polite society.

Our melanin enriched chief executive's Attorney General, Eric Holder, commented that, with regard to race issues, we are a nation of cowards because we prefer to act like racial divides do not exist. I agree with this statement, and with your call to become unified under the banner of humanity. I think your goal requires frank, honest, and open discussion of the things that set groups apart, so that we can get past them.

From my perspective, prohibiting the use of the word g-a-y because it might be used offensively is walking on eggshells. It is a policy created, with good intentions, in an effort to keep someone from being offended by someone else.

I say we should quit treating the "GLBT" crowd like delicate flowers, and start treating them like everyone else.
Now, of course, the only question left is: will there be homosexual romances in Star Wars: The Old Republic?

[EDIT 20090429]

As reported by Kotaku as well BioWare has removed the filter (as I mentioned above) and Sean has issued an apology. To quote the apology:
I would like to personally apologize to “Elikal” and anyone I may have offended. My intention was not to demean anyone but simply to help promote a community that could discuss topics in a mature fashion. When I first built the word filter list, I added a variety of terms to the word filter that have been used numerous times in derogatory messaging. There were some words added to the filter that should not have been – we corrected this today.

I apologize for the confusion that this has created but I would like to be clear that there was never any intent to limit discussion. That said, I have overstepped my boundaries in my original statement and I sincerely apologize for doing so.

So again BioWare continues to impress me. Not because of the mistake they made as anyone can make mistakes. But because admitting and quickly correcting it. Not everyone is capable, or willing, to do that. Very good of you BioWare, and Sean in particular.

On a side-note, I think that the "gay pride lightsaber" modified picture that Kotaku posted is quite amusing:

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