Web game sparks gay debate

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An internet gamer who complained after being told he could not use the word “gay” in his online identity has been criticised by fellow users for deliberately breaking the rules.

This month’s issue of The Pink News reports that online role playing game City of Heroes (CoH) told subscriber Shane O’Neill that his use of the word gay in character names was too “vulgar” and “offensive.”

He claimed he was being discriminated against for being gay but other players and PinkNews.co.uk readers have disagreed claiming the rules are there to protect people like him from discrimination.

O’Neill said he chose the name because he felt it would be “humorous” to have a gay character but the game, run by international software developer NC Soft, refuses to allow the use of the word gay, changing it to symbols like swear words, because of its policy which bans words that can be used in a derogatory fashion.

Writing on the PinkNews.co.uk message board, another CoH fan, Anthony, suggested the game bans the use of the word gay because of the age of some of the users.

The minimum age requirement for the game is 12, which he claims is too young for family members to explain “the nature of human sexuality.”

He said: “12- year-olds I knew bullied those who wore glasses by calling them speccy, large kids by calling them fatty, tall kids by lanky.”

Anthony says the filter helps stop others discriminating against people because of their sexuality, “If it was unfiltered we wouldn’t be talking about this and instead be talking about the abusive language being hurled at a gay player and forcing him to leave a virtual world where he was persecuted for his sexuality.”

A main theme of the criticism thrown at O’Neill is that other gamers do not need to know his sexuality, one message reads, “You are a SuperHero. You run round in Brightly Coloured Lyrca/Tights. What part of that is not camper than a bottle of coffee?

“When did you last see ‘The Amazing Happily Married Spiderman’ or ‘The Bi-Unsure X man.'”

Augury criticises O’Neill for trying to make the saga into a gay rights issue “As a lesbian I can completely and utterly say I have no sympathy for his plight.

“The issue is that the word “gay” is a filtered word since some people use it as a derogatory term, or could use it as an inflammatory name against homosexuals.

“Someone, knowingly circumvented the filter, knowingly broke the rules, and then gets upset when his name is changed.

“As a lesbian, I feel offended this is turned into a discrimination matter, and I don’t think us gays should feel like we get to break the rules just cause we’re gay.”

Emma, a lesbian, who also plays the game, expressed anger that this was being portrayed as discrimination, “It’s debatable whether the word “gay” should be censored, but there is no doubt about it that it was censored, he knew it, and he knowingly broke the rules

anyway. Is this how we effect change in society? Just doing it anyway even though we know it’s against the rules?


Syra agrees, she said: “He broke the rules, confessed to using the name for ‘humour’ then turned the subsequent name change – not character deletion – into some poor crusade on the forum, begging for attention and slandering anyone who disagreed with him.

“A number of people on the CoH forum are of ‘alternate’ sexualities, and not once have they been prejudiced against for it.”

O’Neill defended his actions saying everyone else can create their own perfect character, “You can create a black character, a female with hardly any clothes on, female or male only super groups, so what’s wrong with a gay character.

“Saying you might be discriminated against is like saying you shouldn’t come out at work in case people discriminate against you.”