Recently returned from an inspired by the Vancouver Folk festival, today features another article, this time inspired by the open and active gay community. While not directly related to WoW, my personal connection to the topic and the concept of community building give us a unique perspective on addressing hard issues in an electronic world, and sensitivity to others. If you have a personal qualm with LGBT issues in general, read what follows with a grain of salt.
There are few more beautiful things in the world than the open affection shared between two women. Seeing partners able to acknowledge feels for each other with a gesture as simple as hand holding (something straight couples often take for granted) is a reminder that each woman in that partnership has a harder time in life only because of who she loves. Girlfriends often have a harder time developing close, platonic female friendships because off assumptions of sexual attraction. Often befriending men can be just as hard. Life creates a unique set of challenges for women in such a position, so seeing them lucky enough to have a comfortable environment for expression is rare and marvelous.
For many folks I know, WoW is a safe place for expression. I know folks of varying ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and lifestyles who can connect with like-minded people across national or international borders. I spoke recently to a friend in an all Christian guild. He gets to talk in a safe space, free of the cruel and thoughtless trolling a lot of religious folks are subjected to in game.
I’m outspoken about the use of “gay” as a pejorative. I respectfully and quietly comment on its use or whisper folks who continue. I’ve gotten into a few discussions about it, but most folks accept that it offends me and change their habits (at least around me).
Now I have a reasonably thick skin, but getting people thinking about the meaning of words is about more than my personal qualms. Its about the reflexive flinch anyone of a “non-standard” orientation makes when they hear the word used in such a way. Its about the way, in an environment that allows such terms to be used offensively, folks are less likely to want to do any “public hand holding.” Its about the culture created.
Think carefully about the culture your putting out into the Warcraft server you play on. Are you answering questions politely and informatively when asked by guild member, giving you a reputation for authority and kindness? Are you trolling the trade channel trashing folks from other countries and political leanings? How do you behave when you think no one is watching? In a PUG, what do you give off as a first impression?
I try to do interviews with new raiders joining our guild after their first raid with the guild. I ask “who stands out to you, good or bad?” Usually we get the same answers. One time, I had someone comment on one of the kindest of our players, who had made an ethnic joke. He asked if our guild didn’t let folks of that ethnicity in. Even a comment in good fun can be taken dramatically out of context, when its all someone has to go on for a first impression.
Are you doing everything to create a play-environment where people are happy and comfortable being themselves? Do you empower your fellows to do the same? Isn’t girl-power awesome?
As a bonus for those of you who managed to push through an emotionally heavy and serious post, I’ll link something awesome. Don’t click it if you didn’t give some serious thought to the above :)