discrimination in gaming: World of Warcraft bans queer community

I had finally broken down and ordered World of Warcraft to check out the social dynamics. I still detest gaming but i decided that i wanted to know what is going on. And then the news broke that Blizzard bans (advertising) queer safe space (on WoW) on the basis of it being sexual harassment. Even though i agreed to check out WoW, i cannot support an organization that discriminates on the basis of sexuality, especially when it’s for idle curiosity. I will be returning my game to Amazon once it arrives and i will not be joining WoW.

I’ve already heard on numerous occasions that there is intense homophobia within the chatrooms on WoW and this had already made me quite uncomfortable. But Blizzard’s response is just disgusting. How can they call a queer-friendly guild sexual harassment given that this is an attempt by the queer community to create space? Furthermore, there’s so much sexism in the chats (aside from the creatures) that no one from Blizzard can actually argue that they are preventing sexual harassment. I can’t help but wonder about the state of other forms of discrimination and prejudice within the system (particularly since “race” is critical to the narrative of WoW). That said, i don’t care enough to find out – i can’t justify spending personal money on a company with these values.

This is a nice little reminder that most gaming companies are not actually progressive in any way shape or form. I respect the importance that gaming has had in youth culture (and for adults for that matter) but it still pains me to watch systematized prejudice executed in code and culture. Yuck yuck yuck.

For those who are curious, there’s a great discussion over at Terra Nova. Tx LawGeek.

Update: Jason Kuznicki has a fantastic Open Letter to Blizzard Entertainment that does a much better job than i do addressing this issue. As has been noted over and over again, queerness is an identity not just a set of sexual practices. By silencing people’s identities and not allowing people to have bigot-free spaces, Blizzard is upholding a level of discrimination that far outweighs the _potential_ sexual harassment that might occur if people’s sexualities were known.

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24 thoughts on “discrimination in gaming: World of Warcraft bans queer community

  1. Leah Ingrid MacLennan

    I understand why you’re upset about these games, but wouldn’t it be better, if someone with your values (and mine) took a long, hard critical look at these things? If they breed sexism and racism then should they not be exposed and closely scrutinized? I know that you have many things to do right now, and so do I, but someone should do it! Regards, Leah

  2. Chris

    I took a look at the Terra Nova post and I think I fall into the category of this being a can of worms that Blizzard is pragmatically trying to keep closed. As a WoW player, I disagree with your assessment that this policy reflects some sort of malign set of values held by Blizzard.

    Let’s look at it this way – say that Blizzard allowed a guild called [The LGBT Warriors]. Given the number of immature players out there, I’d guarantee that on the opposite faction, we’d start to see guilds that were LGBT gankers (killers). Would players have grounds for claiming harassment because some snot-nosed punks were repeatedly targeting them on the basis of their sexuality and camping on the graveyards and corpses? If Blizzard allows LGBT-labelled guilds, is it obligated to allow anti-LGBT guilds?

    Furthermore, while playing WoW, your social interactions are not limited to your guilds. I probably spend more time questing collaboratively with pick-up groups unconnected to my own guild. Would it be a problem if a LGBT-identifed player can’t gather enough people to go with them to beat an instance because of the LGBT label?

    Now, I’m not defending any of the behaviors I speculate about above. I really couldn’t care less about the sexuality of the hunter in my questing group. However, in a community with over five million users, there are going to be those who delight in making others’ lives miserable.

    I think that once the Blizzard allows this type of identification within the game, it’s opening up a whole host of similar situations. Do we want to see GOP guilds take on Democrat ones? How about white guilds fighting black guilds? Or Catholic v. Protestant raids? The question is where do you draw the line at how much real-world identification is permitted?

    I don’t know about you, but I’m busy enough worrying about whether Blizzard needs to nerf paladins or whether rogues are are overpowered. My WoW time is where I get away from all the stupid crap here in meatspace. FWIW, I think that there are plenty of plain ordinary guilds out there who don’t care about your sexuality one way or the other, and would be glad to have someone else on the team. You can join or quit a guild at any time – if you find one that’s hostile to who you are – quit and find another. God knows that there are enough people out there looking to sign new guild charters.

    Also, I’d suggest giving the game a spin before you write it off entirely as an environment infested with bigots. If you don’t want to spend the money, use the trial period and don’t send any money to Blizzard.

    Chris (Adenadar on Eldre’thalas)

  3. David P

    Id also like to point out that its just as inherently discriminatory to allow guilds to recruit based on being LGBT as to allow guilds (or country clubs?) to admit members because they are white or not gay.

    Theres no such thing as “good” discrimination. No organization could get away with saying “We favor straight whites, but you know, if you are a gay mexican we wont turn you away, cause we arent bigots or anything…”

  4. Renzo

    While I respect and understand the previous poster’s (Chris’) views, I have to interject my own opinion and correct something he mentioned.

    Number one, game play at the high end is completely based on cooperation between 40 people. You say you can get groups of random strangers to help you – those are for 15 people instances. For the end game, you need 40 people. Say I’m at the point where I can play at the end game. I find a guild that seems to be full of people at the same point in the game. I join the guild and go through the recruitment process, but one night during a raid some kid gets mad over something unimportant and starts calling someone or something or some act “ghey.” I contact the guild leader to reprimand him/her, and they see no reason to. I take your suggestion and leave the guild. Now I need to find another guild and start the recruiting process all over again and pray that this time it’s not filled with random bigots. It’s a lot of hit and miss here – and could amount to weeks if not months worth of searching which could all end up, in the end, in failure. Why should I have to wander around searching for a guild that could possibly maybe hopefully not have a bunch of accepted bigoted diction as part of guild chat? Why can’t a person make a guild where this would be a guarantee, rather than a one in a million chance?

    I used to put up with that kind of banter. I didn’t want to lose all the time I had put into a guild because some ignorant person happened to be there. But at some point, it gets to a person. You can’t hear “you damn faggot” sporadically every day and just ignore it. I was an officer in a GLBT friendly guild on Everquest. It provided a safe haven for people who didn’t want to have to put up with that language.

    This leads me to my next point. You say that the case in question involves gay people discriminating against straight people. You are wrong, sir. The woman in question was advertising for a GLBT /friendly/ guild, not GLBT only. There is a difference, a very important one. GLBT friendly means everyone is more than welcome to join *except* for bigots. You could argue that that is also a form of discrimination, and I might agree with you. However, your previous statement was incorrect. I currently belong to a GLBT guild on WoW and we do have and enjoy the company of heterosexual people. In fact, a heterosexual woman is an officer in the guild.

    Just thought I’d bring up these points for clarification as the previous post did raise some relevant points.

    P.S. I would like to echo Chris’ suggestion about giving WoW a chance. Try the Proudmoore server. The Stonewall Champions (Alliance side) and The Spreading Taint (Horde side) are two big GLBT friendly guilds. You might find you really enjoy their company 🙂

  5. Justin Harris

    Three comments:

    1) I find this story hard to believe w/o actually talking to the person it happened to. I’m doing research on people who play WoW and intentionally joined a gay-friendly guild w/ my main character because of some of my hypotheses. How did I find this guild? It was the 4th post (or so) in the recruitment forums and it said “gay-friendly” guild. It’s still running strong and Blizzard hasn’t done anything to them. Also if Blizzard wanted to discriminate… they need not have put sexual orientation as a protected class. Nothing requires that they do this.

    2) For the people who responded to this… get a clue! A gay-friendly guild is not discriminatory. The guild I refered to has a number of straight members. The idea of such a guild is soley to reinforce Blizzards anti-discrimination policy within the guild specifically disallowing negative, anti-gay comments so that members don’t have to bother petitioning Blizzard about someone’s behavior in their guild. All of that aside, because its utter stupidity to say that an open guild is discriminatory, the idea that people will go after these guild is completely unfounded. I don’t know any players of the opposing faction that are known for attacking our guild. Furthermore, disallowing the formation of a guild because it might make it harder for Blizzard to follow up on executing its own policy is ridiculous. Blizzard recognizes that it owes its customers fun game play.

    3) WoW is actually not so bad as people say it is. I have encountered instances of people saying “that’s so gay” or something like that. Everytime I have told them that it wasn’t appropriate and everytime they appologized and we moved on. I’ve actually found it to be an astonishingly open environment.

  6. Renzo

    My apologies. I directed both my arguments towards Chris, but upon re-reading, I see I made a mistake.

    The first part of my post is directed towards Chris, the latter half towards David P. How about that? 🙂

  7. Chris

    Renzo: You may be right on the end-game content. I’ve been playing the game for over half a year now, and I’m only getting to that stuff. On the other hand, sixty levels has been long enough for me to figure out who’s someone you want to quest with, and who are wankers. Maybe I haven’t really cared enough to even think about joining the high-end guilds, but I would think that given how much of the recruitment process is actually outside the game (guild forums, and so on), it would be rather easy to take care of this problem outside of the actual game.

    Justin: The idea of such a guild is soley to reinforce Blizzards anti-discrimination policy within the guild specifically disallowing negative, anti-gay comments so that members don’t have to bother petitioning Blizzard about someone’s behavior in their guild.

    What you’re describing here sounds more like a guild-governance problem than a game-governance problem. To be a bit clearer, I think Blizzard should be much more stringent in managing the [General] and [Looking for Group] channels so that much of this anti-gay bigotry is not tolerated. On the other hand, I also think that they should be a bit more loose with what goes on in the guild. I play with a group of adults and I’m often saying things that I wouldn’t say in the public channels. (“G*d d*mn! That f*cking murloc just kicked my a*s!”) If I have a problem with a fellow guildmate, the appropriate place to resolve it is within the guild. There’s a leader and XO for a reason. If we don’t see eye-to-eye, I can leave. It’s poor form to go complaining to Blizzard that you’re getting verbally abused in your guild. No one is forcing you to take part in that group. Likewise, I don’t see any problem with a LGBT-friendly guild booting a fool out on their first offense.

    As for people not going after you, could that be because there’s not an obvious label that identifies you as a LGBT guild member? In following this controversy, I’ve been surprised that there are already LGBT guilds, Christian guilds, and so on. Maybe it’s me, but I couldn’t tell from the names. I suspect that most of the WoW population is likewise clueless. But I’m skeptical that all of them are mature enough to not take potshots at the LGBT folk. I could be wrong, and I’d be very happy to be so.

    That said, if you’re looking for a group that is a lot of fun to play with and are only minor wankers, check out [Eat My Bomb] on Eldre’thalas. We’re small enough to appreciate all the help we can get. 🙂

  8. Chris

    Justin, my apologies. For whatever reason, I misread your quote and responded to something other than you said. Too much Dew, I guess.

    I agree with you about the aims of the LGBT guilds. I guess what I was trying to get at is that this problem doesn’t seem like one exclusive to LGBT communities, and I’m not convinced that there’s a necessity to make a pro-LGBT statement as part of the explicit label that follows you around when you’re a member of the guild.

    It’d be like forming an anti-white supremacist guild in my mind. It just clutters up the game with extra junk that really doesn’t belong in a fantasy world. I probably agree with you 95%, but I don’t think the solution is pro-LGBT guilds, it’s Blizzard better enforcing their own policies. I’m personally hoping that this PR disaster wakes someone up and they start cleaning house a bit.

    Now, I will retire before I start babbling incoherently again. Have a good night all.

  9. Ypulse

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  10. carl

    they’re not discriminating against the GLBT guild; they’re treating it the same as they treat every other guild. essentially, blizzard doesn’t want hot-button real world topics invading their fantasy world. read the thread started by sara andrews here:


    she starts out with a good portion of the forum supporting her cause, but after more information comes out about the situation, and after a few people closely examined the terms of service (and after she compares herself to rosa parks) the general consensus is that she doesn’t have a leg to stand on, because she wants special treatment, not equal treatment.

  11. Andalucia

    I am a lesbian hooked on the gaming world (don’t worry, I play a dwarf, who has much more accurate female anaotmy)and I find that by being out of the closet people become more and more reluctant to make homophobic remarks on guild chat… i often “out” myself as a “guy” to test the waters, inorder to see if I have equal treatment.

    I guess it depends on where you’re coming from. There are assholes everywhere, but there are also allies everywhere. Yes, the Blizzard Bastards have made an unwise choice, and I totally support your decision to keep your money from their paws. In the meantime, you might sucker a friend into letting you make a character and do research on your own — it would be an interesting study.

    Honestly? I’ve had more issues with the grrl-side that the gay-side of dykehood.

    If you do decide to dig in and see for yourself the atmosphere, I’d be curious about your findings.


  12. sp


    I, female, played Myth tournaments and won. And yeah there’s a lot of trash talk. A lot of the online banter was of course stuff you’d never say in public, and came out of the mouths of the 14-yr-old boys who were playing. You are not EVER going to change that age group.

    And hello. It is world of WARcraft. If ever there were a place for unPC thinking, it’s in WAR. It’s not like you go and are debating at a security council. You are hacking, slashing, bombing and frying. Other people.

    War isn’t pretty. It doesn’t apologize for making you feel bad. It doesn’t care that you lost your mommy, or that a poisoned water supply made all your soldiers crap their pants instead of defend their posts, or that the other side slit your best friend’s throat with box cutters. It cares whether you have good strategy, win battles, and protect as many of your soldiers and civilians as you can.

    Likewise with online battleplay. Who cares who or what you’re screwing? If you’re a badass, people want to play with you regardless of skin, gender and orientation. And there are other ways of encouraging behavior besides crying about it.

    My compadres, “The Civil Order,” used the passphrase “civil” in order to join our games. That meant you had to maintain a certain level of discourse, or we’d kick you out. We became better players because of this, because we had camraderie, not trash talk. And then we won tournaments, and people wanted to play with us even more, and they had to be civil about it.

    Sorcha Payne

  13. Vandell

    I’ll keep this short-ish and simple-ish.

    I’m gay and I play World of Warcraft, but I’m fully aware of the fact that children play the darned game, too. I keep my orientation out of zone-wide, or yell-wide, or forum-wide broadcasting because then a kid may or may not see it and may or may not run to their parents asking what it means.

    This, in essence, can be both a good and bad thing. The good part can be that the parent(s) whom the kid told are nice and understanding and will explain what it means to be “gay”, “lesbian”, etc. However, there could also be some bad cases where the parent(s) will discipline the child, accusing them of finding gay/lesbian porn, and send them away to bible camp! (This happened to my friend over similiar circumstances.) Or a parent could simply send a complaint letter to Blizzard, and they’re always trying to avoid complaint letters from peeved Christian mothers.

    I’m sure Blizzard doesn’t want either to happen, so they took the other road. If someone advertised a “hetero-friendly guild” in the same fashion, I’m certain they’d get warned/suspended, too.

  14. Kultcher

    I always find it ironic that those who champion equality can often be the quickest to judge. To be fair, there is a lot of misinformation about the topic floating around, but it also seems clear to me that some people are just a little too sensitive.

    A lot of your information seems based entirely on hear-say. Does the word “gay” fly around the chats? I’m sure it does from time to time, but not so much that you’d notice without actively searching for it. I’ve played the game for about a year and I’ve never seen it used with malicious intent to attack someone for their sexuality. I do understand that it might be offensive to see the word used even with a relatively benign connotation (i.e. we just wiped on this boss, his mind-control attack is gay!”), but to call the game “homophobic” is certainly a stretch.

    As far as Blizzard’s stance, there’s not a lot of wiggle room for them. As others have said, if you can recruit a gay-friendly guild, can you not then create an anti-gay guild? It’s a recipe for drama and more. There a plenty of people who could potentially be hostile and judgemental toward me – as a liberals, or as a black man, or as a non-Christian, but I have no desire to join a guild in a game that is “friendly” to any of those things.

    In any case, the vast majority of people I’ve run into are pretty reasonable. For anyone who isn’t there’s an /ignore command.

    One final thought to chew on. It seems that sometimes people become so concerned with creating a “safe” space that they ignore the safe spaces that already exist — and in doing so alienate themselves. I’d bet that if you started conversations with 100 random people in WoW by saying “Hi, I’m gay”, 99 of those responses would be “Okay, and you’re telling me this why?”

  15. illovich

    quote: “Does the word “gay” fly around the chats? I’m sure it does from time to time, but not so much that you’d notice without actively searching for it.”

    It depends heavily on what server, what zone, what time of day. I just stopped playing on Hakkar, and one reason (I’ll admit it was a minor discomfort) was that EVERYTHING was “gay” or “ghey” or “fag” or “u liek boyz” or “wussy fag” blah blah blah.

    The only way to get away from it was to /leave 1, so I chose to /leave Hakkar.

    I don’t know where people get the idea that WoW is ,a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/illovich/97018364/”>completely straight anyway.

  16. p@

    go to the wonderland blog.

    update yer post.

    blizz hasn’t banned anything.

    there were sum admins that made a bad decision.

    it is not the companies position.

    the official position is being clearified so this doesn’t happen again.

    GLBT guilds now are protected to advertise for their guilds in the meantime.

  17. p@



    ” That’s right! I have received an email from the head of Global Customer Service which included an apology for the way that their staff characterized my conduct, and that it was an unfortunate interpretation of their policy. They have removed the warning from my account. I will be posting the letter that Blizzard sent me on the guild website sometime this week so that you can see that advertising for your glbt friendly guild is NOT violating the TOS!!! ”

    This is coming from the user of the account where this whole ordeal started.

    This is from a letter from lambda legal group:

    “Although Blizzard is well within its rights to insist that players avoid referring to other gamers in an �insulting manner,� Blizzard cannot issue a blanket ban on any mention of sexual orientation or gender identity. There is nothing �insulting� about identifying oneself as gay, lesbian or transgender, nor does the announcement of a guild for LGBT gamers constitute �harassment� in any sense of the word. If other players react insultingly to the mere presence of LGBT gamers, then Blizzard should discipline the harassers, not attempt preemptively to silence the potential victims of harassment.”

    this so far has been the most logical argument presented by ANY side… including yer own blanket boycott of blizzard. it is most likely this argument the encouraged blizzard to quickly take a stand on the issue… their stand being that The Admins who Suspended the account… Did so without proper justification.

  18. James

    To David P,

    So you go running away everytime you hear gay used as a swear word. Man I would be running from everything everyday with as many times as i hear God and Jesus’s name used as swearing. How many times have you blurted out say “Jesus”. So You saying i could go into any place in the world and sew and make a big to do over someone taking Gods name in vain. Stop letting these petty things stop you , suck it up , forgive them, and know that you are more mature then some lil kid that think Jesus,God, and Gay is all swear words. I mean how do ya think a female dog feels everytime a human is called a female dog as a swear word. If i had 1.00 for everytime I heard Gods name used as a swear word i be rich. So dont pull the “gay” thing ok, its dumb and its inmature. Besides most games censor out “gay” but the dont god and Jesus when thay type dam after it. So you have some safty lol. Like I said they dont really know or care meaning of the word and what it means to someone else.

    Now on the subject, I think it was stupid for this to happen to this girl and blizzard really needs to be carefull, but we cant be pulling up arms and getting lawyers into this mess cause that will just ruin the whole comunity of gaming then you will have net police everywhere and things not said will be reported for it being said and blah blah blah. I mean really every time i hear someone say something that is against Christians,Jews,Indians,Irish,German,Dutch, Fat, White men I could raise a big stink over lol. But i dont. When its come right out in your face bigotry then we need to stand up but i think this was a really bad misunderstanding and Blizzard is to fault. But we are all bigots that need to grow up cause a bigot is someone who hates another person for anything and any reason. just remember that.
    Ok thnx for the time and my chance to voice my opinion.
    Oh and dude(“zephoria”) who started this post your being a biggot to the gameing comunity , reread your comments and you will see that.

    Now Im not a bigot, but i hate it when ppl(the action of it not the ppl “to cover my but” lol) want to make a mountian out of a ant hill.

  19. Si

    I was very interested when I came accross the conversation while searching for girl gamer support for WoW. I would like to respond to a few of the comments made. First of all, to respond to Vandell’s post on february 3rd, yes, comments like “thats so gay” and “you’re such a fag” DO fly around chatrooms, guildchats and in groups on a daily basis. I think it does depend on the time of day, server you are on and guild you are in, but it is very common. I do not identify as queer, but am an ally and it bothers me quite a lot. I have confronted several people in an effort to educate (rather than anger) but have not reported anyone. As a female gamer, I often correct other players that say “hey man” or “you guys” by subtly letting them know I am a woman. I have yet to encounter a hostile response, but I constantly hear “you pussy”, “you play like a girl” and very derogitory comments thrown around general chat as well. I have been playing for about 3 months, so I am not an expert, but I have yet to see blizzard take action on either sexist or homophobic chat by players. One thing I am slightly surprised about is how little racism I have encountered. I speak Spanish (although I am white) and in guild chat one day, we were descussing national origin and language and one player said “I speak English and English and go home if you don’t speak English” which I found offensive, but that was one isolated encounter. I think the use of “gay” with negative connotations has more to do with ignorance than actual homophobia in many cases, but it is still an issue that blizzard needs to keep an eye on and take action on.

  20. sssd

    Umm…how about having a guild just for the sake of having a guild? Since when did gender have any place in the design of the game or a guild? They were introducing a dynamic that was not intended: sexual orientation …HELLO? Male/ Female/ Gay distinctions are not part of the game.

  21. Blair

    After reading about reasons for the banning, the mainstay reason being possible repurcussions of a GLBT guild (in the form of ridicule from other players), I think that the key point being missed here is that they are punishing the people who are being wronged.

    If someone openly descriminates against a homosexual player or guild, they’re the one who should be reprimanded, not the person who was wronged. The admins responsible have effectively, if not condoned, then displayed their nonchalance to anti-gay sentiment, putting the blame for it on the gay people themselves, effectively telling the homosexual community “It’s your fault for being gay.”

    I really don’t need to go into detail about why this is wrong.

    While certain individuals may suffer from a particularly acute homophobia (Something I’m frequently called) I think that the more open-minded people owe it to others to set a better example (and not just in a World of Warcraft context).

    Nothing sucks the wind out of someones sails as when their descriminatory sentiments are flamed by half of the zone. And nothing makes me happier.


  22. Tyler

    Honestly, I can’t beleive people are still talking about this, even if this post is from January. I was searching the internet for some WoW related news only to come accross the common non-engineering (us engineers are different) student’s opinionated, panache, and attention-craving blog.

    Blizzard banned the guild because the environment of World of Warcraft is one where sexual orientation is not to be discussed in any way shape or form. I agree that EULA’s are rediculous, but it is stated several times in the EULA not to make any references about sexual oriention in character names, guild names, and chat. Not a stupid move on their part, since it will keep this GLBT guild from creating more controversy and issues around themselves.

    I like gay people. I have several gay friends that are pretty cool. But I do not support this “look-at-me-i’m-gay” mentality that so many gay people have adopted in recent years. They simply try to create an issue in an attempt to appear righteous. Let’s not get into the fact that your article generalizes against gaming companies, and game players. You are insulting an entire class of people who have probably dealt with an unfair ammount of insults from Oprah, Hillary Clinton, etc. Feel free to stay on the mainstream bandwagon, just leave us gamers alone to compete with one another and have fun.

    As for ‘race’ in WoW. They might as well have called it ‘species’, especially since the opinionated irrational elite go into seizures at the mention of the word ‘race’. Choosing between races in WoW is not a matter so much of racial preference, but a matter of playing with your friends, looking cool, and creating a race/class combination that augments your combat abilities.

    A great many individuals complain like you do and threaten to leave, or bask in their glory as they choose not to play WoW and deprive blizzard of a small peice of coin on top of their millions. There are common sayings to people like yourself that flaunt their ‘customer’s rights’ within the WoW community. We tell them blizzard won’t miss one player, especially one that raises a fuss; Nobody will miss you, and more players will play longer in your absense making blizzard more rich; and last of all, can I have your stuff? I guess that last one is irrelevant since you haven’t played yet, but if you can’t return the game to Amazon, send me your game discs, I have friends that would want it. Oh wait, this is postdated, can I still have your stuff?

    I’m not a WoW fanboy. I can’t stand what Blizzard has done in the sense that they have made a game that requires an improper ammount of gameplay to even begin to enjoy upper level pvp content. I am all againt the rpg levelling system, and all for a renewable, non repetitive experience. In many ways, I wish Blizzard would make a better MMORPG than WoW. However, even my dislike of blizzard wouldn’t provoke me to turn against the truth that your article is misinformed, prejudiced, and childish.

  23. Matthew

    I think that yeah maybe in some ways , that WoW can be seen as discriminating to those people of the homosexual community, but in the end I think that people that walk that way of life have to deal with all kinds of discrimination daily (and even though i dont agree with that), thats just the way life and society in general are. Bottom line is that nobody made you buy WoW and if you dont like aspects about it then by all means, return it. The game is well put together and very popular, If its your goal to put out the most perfectly politically correct game ever, then good luck because thats not what sells in todays society.

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