Blizzard is now facing two issues concerning free expression this week. On top of Blizzard’s controversial Hearthstone suspension, a forced name change has angered members of a World of Warcraft Classic guild named “GAY BOYS.” A Blizzard support representative said an automated name change was carried out on the guild after “players reported [the guild’s] in-game name as inappropriate several times.”
As reported by Sam Machkovech at Ars Technica, the guild creator of “GAY BOYS” was given a temporary suspension and the guild’s name was changed to “Guild ZFXPK,” with Blizzard support citing “a thorough investigation” leading to both punishments.
Blizzard has since withdrawn the suspension and changed the guild’s name back to “GAY BOYS,” but warns that the guild could have its name reported and changed in the same manner again. Guild member Ahmil Jilani shared the response from Blizzard support with Ars Technica. “There isn’t a way to stop people from reporting this name, as some find the way the term is used offensive,” it reads. “If you get actioned again, you can appeal like this, and we can look at it once more. For now, though, you have your guild name back!”
Jilani told Blizzard and Ars Technica he has received numerous “extremely hateful and discriminating comments” from individuals while recruiting for the guild, adding that he believes those individuals are the ones reporting the guild’s name. “Giving in to their demands only means that [Blizzard] is siding with them as a company,” wrote Jiliani. Blizzard has yet to comment on the matter publicly.
This WoW Classic episode, combined with the ongoing backlash to Blizzard’s decision to suspend Ng “blitzchung” Wai Chung for saying “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age” on a Hearthstone stream, throw a fundamental stance of the company into sharp relief. In two vastly different instances concerning its games, Blizzard’s default response to matters of personal expression is the same: punish first, then entertain the possibility of appeals or restitution.
Blizzard says it is “assessing the situation” regarding Chung. Taking this name change debacle into consideration as well, Blizzard may find it necessary to evaluate its policies concerning player expression and punishment in a more comprehensive sense.