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WoW Archivist: Players who went too far

Banned notice
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

With a community of millions around the world, Blizzard has no easy job trying to keep botters, gold sellers, cheaters, and other hooligans in check. Blizzard has enacted many rounds of mass bannings over bots and hacks. As Archivist noted last summer, several guilds have been banned or suspended for abusing exploits in raids. Among the countless players and guilds who have earned Blizzard's ire over the years, a few stand out as worthy of revisiting. Here are their stories.

Still just roleplaying?

In an online environment owned and operated by a company, "freedom of speech" does not extend quite as far as it otherwise might. That, at least, is what members of Abhorrent Taboo found out in the fall of 2007. The Horde-side Ravenholdt roleplaying guild boldly proclaimed their identity as an "extreme erotic RP guild."

The guild's welcome message laid out their philosophy:

Role-playing is legal. Even if you are role-playing something that would be considered deplorable and highly illegal IRL, it's still just role-playing and isn't subject to any form of disciplinary action. Negative publicity is still publicity. Make a Digg or website about how sick we are. Report us to PervertedJustice. All it does is bring in more members. In fact, the Digg the guy on Ravenholdt made about us was so effective, several people signed up for WoW just to be in our guild. The bottom line is: We're allowed to do what we do on any server we please and no one can do anything about it.

As it turned out, that last sentence was not 100% accurate.

ERP has a wide spectrum, from innocent to highly explicit. Many guilds allow or even encourage ERP without interference from Blizzard.

Abhorrent Taboo didn't just register as explicit on the ERP meter -- they buried the needle and then broke the gauge. They roleplayed pedophilia, bestiality, and other nontraditional sexual activities that are best left to the imagination (or unimagined). Their recruiting notice stated that "We are a guild based on freedom of love and sex. Monogamy of any kind runs counter to this, and so, all sexually exclusive relationships are prohibited."

The conversations were not relegated to parties or whispers, but often occurred in guild chat. A whistleblower from Ravenholdt claimed that the guild did not check players' ages before inviting them and would recruit in chat channels without revealing the guild's purpose or adult content.

As word spread about this guild's activities, people began campaigns on the official forums asking Blizzard to take action. Finally, in September, Blizzard disbanded the guild.

CM Verrith stated,

This matter is not one Blizzard takes lightly in any way, shape or form... We appreciate those of you who brought this particular issue to our attention and ... we will continue to follow up with this matter in the future to ensure the safety of all parties concerned.

The members reformed under the name Vile Anathema, but a glance at their armory shows a small roster of alts with no activity at all. The guild seems all but defunct, and few miss them.
Swifty's invasion
Not his best trick

John Pyle, aka Swifty, is one of the world's most famous warriors. He is best known for his Incredible Warrior Tricks videos. He's sponsored by Razer and has been a big proponent of WoW PvP.

In the summer of 2011, he organized a livestream that drew between four and five thousand players. He and his thousands of friends headed to Stormwind on a realm not their own with level one characters. Players /yell'ed "SWIFTY INVASION." The realm promptly lagged and then crashed. The group then moved on to three other realms. Swifty was swiftly ID'ed as the ring leader, and his account was permabanned, along with a few others.

A GM named Daemhunn whispered him,

This account has been found in violation of zone area disruption and exploitation policies, resulting in the penalty of permanent account closure.

Fans recorded videos and wrote forum posts on behalf of Swifty. Razer also posted about the ban.

Bashiok later commented on the decision:

We recently monitored a situation where a large number of players intentionally disrupted access to multiple realms by gathering together and mass-spamming game emotes. In some cases, individual players spammed an emote upwards of 30,000 times.

As a result, some accounts found to be active participants in this activity were permanently banned.

30,000 times? I hope they were using a macro...

Bashiok also said that the banned accounts were still "under review." After two days, Blizzard unbanned Swifty's account -- and they didn't even make him donate blood. Swifty posted a video thanking everyone for their support.

Bashiok further clarified the decision to unban Swifty. He wrote that not enough evidence had been gathered at first about who was most responsible for the crash, and that they were "correcting a mistake" -- not reversing a punishment simply due to outcry.

Other involved players were not so lucky. Their bans were not rescinded. Bashiok warned that intentional realm crashing is "exceptionally ban-worthy."

An unusual offer

Archaeology has never been a popular secondary profession. When Cataclysm first introduced us to it, many players were put off by the crazy amount of grind required and the randomness of dig sites and artifacts. Blizzard has since made the profession much easier to level.

Back then, however, some players resorted to botting to grind up the profession. Blizzard responded in their usual fashion and mass-banned all the archaeology botters. One such player, devastated by the loss of his account, posted an unusual offer on Craigslist:

I got my WoW account banned yesterday during the archaeology bot ban wave. I wasn't a gold farmer or seller, never bought gold. I just botted archaeology because it's a boring profession. I'm looking for a WoW Account Admin ... to un-ban my account for $1000 USD. No questions asked - your anonymity will be preserved.

He offered any method of payment, even to drop an envelope full of cash at a predetermined location, as if Blizzard were some kind of toon kidnapper. I don't imagine he received any serious replies, but I like his moxie.
Surveying for archaeology
Blizzard or Oz

In 2006, guild leader Sara Andrews (no relation to me) was trying to recruit for Oz, her LGBT-friendly guild (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transexual) in chat channels. She told players that the guild was friendly to these groups, but not exclusive. She noted that the guild is "one of peace and unity without judgments or intolerance of others, whatever they may be."

A GM informed her that merely advertising for such a guild constituted a breach of the game's harassment policy. Further emails from Blizzard advised her to limit her recruiting efforts to the Guild Recruitment forum only -- or face an account ban.

The GM wrote,

Topics related to sensitive real-world subjects-such as religious, sexual or political preference, for example-have had a tendency to result in communication between players that often breaks down into harassment.

The company argued that they were trying to protect Sara and her guild from harassment, but it was pointed out that their "protection" seemed to be a form of harassment in and of itself, if not outright discrimination.

Andrews took her story public. From there, things escalated into the legal realm. Lambda Legal, an LGBT legal defense and education group, sent a letter to Blizzard. The group claimed that Blizzard's actions in this matter were illegal according to American anti-discrimanation laws:

Although Blizzard is well within its rights to insist that players avoid referring to other gamers in an "insulting manner," Blizzard cannot issue a blanket ban on any mention of sexual orientation or gender identity. There is nothing "insulting" about identifying oneself as gay, lesbian or transgender, nor does the announcement of a guild for LGBT gamers constitute "harassment" in any sense of the word. If other players react insultingly to the mere presence of LGBT gamers, then Blizzard should discipline the harassers, not attempt preemptively to silence the potential victims of harassment.

A few days later, Blizzard apologized. They blamed a poorly trained GM and promised better sensitivity training for their employees in the future. Interestingly, the guild recruitment channel exists partially as a result of this incident -- Blizzard promised to create it as part of their apology.

In this case, it was not the player, but Blizzard who went too far.

After months of surveying, WoW Archivist has been dug back up! Discover lore and artifacts of WoW's past, including the Corrupted Blood plague, the Scepter of the Shifting Sands, and the mysterious Emerald Dream.

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