A World of Warcraft player had come up with a way to screen other players who wanted to join them on raids, which can only be completed as a group: using the group finder feature, they told other players to message them the phrase "trans rights." They've now been penalized seven times for doing so.
The first time they had their account "silenced," which restricts players from being able to meaningfully communicate with others and additionally places a demerit on one's account, Maurice Reimann contacted Blizzard customer support. World of Warcraft players are silenced for a period of 24 hours if they're reported for "spam" or "abusive" chat multiple times, and are silenced for longer periods of time if they're silenced multiple times. Players can appeal a silence, and Reimann told Motherboard that after a customer support representative looked at their case, they were given the go-ahead to continue asking players to say "trans rights." The customer service representative they spoke to not only told them that they had the right to use this method of screening other players, Reimann said they were given an in-game pet for their trouble.
"I renamed them trans rights, obviously," Reimann said.
After the most recent silencing, Reimann was told that customer service would no longer lift them. Specifically, they were told that "as group finder was not designed as a medium to discuss politics, we encourage you to try to avoid discussing politics in this communication channel."
"My statement is just 'trans people deserve human rights.' I don't think human rights are a political issue," Reimann said. "The thing is, if I backed down now, I think that would be very political, because I would have been bullied into silence."
Motherboard reached out to Blizzard but it did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
World of Warcraft is best played with other people. A good group can mean the difference between a fun or miserable experience. In the early days, players had to find each other in the open world and form groups using world wide chat rooms. Group finder allows players to easily jump in and out of groups interested in doing the same activities they are.
From a menu on the toolbar, a player can tell the game what dungeon or activity they want to do and what role they’d like to play in the group. Players who don’t want to leave things to chance can create a listing with specific requirements for joining a group and put it into a list other players can browse. Common requirements ask perspective players to use voice chat or prove they’ve run the dungeon several times before joining the group. Reimann simply asked players to send them a message saying "trans right."
Reimann first started asking players to message them a specific phrase to find players that they could communicate with in English and to see who could follow basic instructions, which is useful for raiding. They changed it to "trans rights" to further filter out people who use bigoted speech.
"It is a powerful filter because about one in five make it through. That doesn't necessarily mean that four people don't agree [with the statement]," Reimann said. "Many of them don't read that part that says 'whisper trans rights.' Or they aren't interested in writing two words. Or, of course, they don't speak the language."
Ironically, by trying to screen players, Reimann has received abusive messages denigrating trans people, and has been reported for abusive language themself. "Know your place dog, you're worth fuck all you autistic dickhead," one player wrote to them.
Reimann's account always gets unsilenced eventually, but they say the experience is frustrating.
Reimann also told Motherboard that that very same day as they were told that game finder wasn't a place to talk about politics, game director Ion Hazzikostas made a statement supporting Black Lives Matter during an official livestream, which they felt was hypocritical in light of what they were told about appropriate venues to discuss politics.
"And yesterday, I found an article on Eurogamer saying that they were going to make gender swapping no longer a 'for real money' service, and just a thing you can do with in-game gold," Reimann said. "I think that sounds like they think that should be a right."
Matthew Gault contributed reporting