Game developer Blizzard is coming under fire again for forcing a queer-friendly guild in the game World of Warcraft to change its name.
According to a report from Ars Technica, the guild formerly called “GAY BOYS” had its name changed by Blizzard administrator to “Guild ZFXPK,” a random string of letters chosen by an algorithm.
A message from Blizzard customer service informed the guild that "your fellow players reported your in-game name as inappropriate multiple times.” A discussion in a WoW forum from 2016 shows that the guild has been targeted for name changes in the past, with a moderator telling players that they shouldn’t choose names that could attract homophobic abuse.
"Picking a name that you can identify with without also using words that would illicit [sic] a reaction from other players would be far more beneficial,” the administrator wrote.
A member of the guild emailed Ars Technica to explain that they’ve often been targeted by other players who would write "Fuck the gays, reported.”
“These are the individuals that find our name inappropriate,” the player wrote. “Giving in to their demands only means that you are siding with them as a company, which, after a decade of playing your games, is a surprise to me.”
Guild members are planning an in-game protest, marching as their characters through a heavily-populated area to draw attention to the company’s actions.
This isn’t the first time Blizzard has cracked down on players who identify as LGBTQ+. As far back as 2006, the company began shutting down guilds with queer-supportive names. In that case, the company said that queer players were to blame for attracting harassment.
“We do feel that the advertisement of a 'GLBT friendly' guild is very likely to result in harassment for players that may not have existed otherwise,” a company representative wrote. “If you will look at our policy, you will notice the suggested penalty for violating the Sexual Orientation Harassment Policy is to 'be temporarily suspended from the game.' However, as there was clearly no malicious intent on your part, this penalty was reduced to a warning."
After a widespread public backlash, the company reversed course. But now, years later, administrators seem to have returned to their old policy of deleting any names that suggest that players might be queer.
Blizzard also came under scrutiny this week for punishing a player who expressed support for the protests in Hong Kong.