Thursday, May 3, 2007

Dragging real-world issues into virtual worlds

Salon has an article about gay marriage in LotRO, where the game developers ended up removing the marriage feature completely to avoid the issue. You can make elaborate family trees spanning up to 20 generations with the /adopt command, but you can't marry in LotRO, neither same nor other sex. If find that totally silly.

In the real world I don't mind gay marriage, although I think that the term "marriage" has such a religious significance that it would be better to call it civil union, but give it exactly the same legal status as a marriage. And of course I have absolutely nothing against interracial marriages. But a gay dwarf marrying a gay hobbit in LotRO? No way! Just like I would support the right of a catholic priest to not perform a gay marriage ceremony, I support the right of the Tolkien estate to define marriage as a union between a man and a women of the same race, with the possible exception of human / elf marriages, in the context of the world of Middle-Earth. If two gay players want to marry in-game, one of them could simply create a female character. There is no reason to destroy the Tolkien lore just to defend your real-world rights.

Games *must* be allowed to have rules that go beyond the rules of the real world. Just because in the real world you have the right to touch a ball with your hands doesn't mean you should be allowed to do so in a soccer game. There are a million things I can do in the real world that I can't do in a MMORPG, starting from simple things like climbing a fence. So why of all things should gay virtual marriage be an inalienable right in a virtual world? As JRR Tolkien was a conservative person with strong christian beliefs, there are no gay hobbits anywhere in the Lord of the Rings lore. And like it or not, the Tolkien lore is part of the rules of Lord of the Rings online, and if you want to play the game you need to follow these rules. So I propose that Turbine stops worrying about political correctness and put the marriage feature in, restricted to marrying a person of the other sex and specific races. You need to be silly to call that gay-bashing and racist. Such real world issues simply shouldn't be dragged into virtual fantasy worlds, unless these are designed to deal with them.

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