We’re a little late picking this one up but it does raise a few interesting questions that will no doubt be important to the very future of Massively Multiplayer Online gaming. Last week Blizzard forcefully closed down a and erotic roleplaying (ERP) guild called Abhorrent Taboo, which was found on the Ravenholdt server. Practises within the guild consisted of simulating sexual acts through “grinding avatars together” and an array erotic text chatting.
Hey, whatever floats your boat. The problem was that there were a few even less savoury aspects to the guild’s unusual practises, which started to ring alarm bells at Blizzard HQ. For example, their welcome post read: "NOTE: Be advised that we frequently ERP in guild chat and often engage in even potentially offensive kinks such as (Extreme) Ageplay, Bestiality, Child Birth, [censored by the WoW forums], Watersports, or any other kink those playing may wish to explore."
Given that there are obvious paedophilic connotations in there, you can see why Blizzard might have panicked. Although, I’m actually left wondering it was that was considered so depraved it had to be censored from that list. The mind boggles.
The guild itself claimed that no one was allowed to join unless they were over 18, but it would really have been very difficult to prove either way. The counter-argument is that if the guild aren’t involving other players, they should be allowed to ‘play’ in any way they like. To be honest though, shutting the thing down was probably by far the most sensible move at the moment, but you can bet it will be back in some other guise sooner or later.
The risks faced by Blizzard – and other games when in some far off, murky point in the distant future, some other game comes along to steal the MMO crown – is how to prevent similar things happening or regulate the if they do. Similar instances could sorely undermine a game’s age rating, not to mention the scale of bad publicity it would kick up if Blizzard hadn’t got to it first.
But, arguably, the very point of a virtual world is that you are able to experience it how you want. If your tastes lie in things so particularly taboo, then so be it – without a police-state level of player regulation, it is going to be pretty much impossible to keep track of all such goings on.