As I’ve mentioned before, I am addicted to the soon-to-be-released game, The Sims Online. If you’ve played the original Sims and can imagine it as a multiplayer game with chat then you might have an idea of how cool it is.
In the last few weeks, my Sim and her mostly queer roomates have opened a cafe and guest house. While the establishment is called the Rainbow Cafe and we’ve attracted many visitors because of the name, we don’t bill ourselves specifically as gay. It’s often the first question we’re asked. I wish I had a dollar and a macro button for everytime I’ve typed “this place is for open-minded and friendly people, everyone is welcome”. My feeling is that most mature people understand this statement. My Sim has visited many other places, some billed as specifically gay and many not. If I’ve liked the treatment I’ve received in those other places and enjoyed the chat, then I always issue a reciprocal invitation for those Sims to visit us.
Right now, people are complaining because the word gay (among many other words) has been censored from the game. The game producers have said this is not discrimination but rather, that they’re afraid that gay will be used derogatorily in chat and they wish to avoid the resulting customer service complaints. The argument is that the word gay has become an insult among younger people in the last few years.
Okay, this is true, but I’m pretty certain gay has had more negative connotation than positive for longer than a few years. I’ve heard my 14 year old brother say “That’s so gay!” when referring to something in a negative way. Maybe it should, but it doesn’t offend me. Actually, I get a real kick out of watching my step-mother cringe whenever my brother says it because it bothers her and she thinks it should bother me. However, I can understand that it might offend some people.
I should note that the game has a Teen rating and that a credit card is required to create an account. It’s not a game for children. I should also note that the games produced by this company have always done very well in the gay segment and that they have actually done targeted advertising.
Of course, those who now can’t create property names with the word gay in it are totally up in arms. Otherwise, “How would our brethren find us in a search?” they cry. Ummm… be a little more creative? I found lots of folk by searching on keywords like glbt, rainbow, pride, etc. Still, I’ve had people tell me they’re going to quit playing over this issue. I do believe the company when they say they are not being discriminatory but I don’t believe what they’ve done is right. Actually, I don’t care all that much because I don’t believe the absence or presence of a single word will make or break the game experience. Those who want be exclusively gay online in exclusively gay establishments will find a way to do that. Those who want to call each other derogatory names will do that too.
While the debate goes on, I’ll continue to enjoy the game and the people I’ve met online. I’ve had an absolute blast. Just yesterday, I attended a gay wedding .