Keep It In Your Head: Blizzard Censoring StarCraft II Maps

StarCraft II

If there's one word that frustrates content creators, it's "inappropriate," but then how would you describe user-crafted StarCraft II maps harboring anti-Semitic symbols?

Hold on though--what if the symbol were originally sacred to various eastern sects, including Hindus and Buddhists, and whose name (swastika) in its original Sansrkit form meant "lucky" or "auspicious"?

And if the symbol shows up in a StarCraft II map, who decides which one the creator intended?

Blizzard says they do on the basis of a simple, singular point: That they hold the keys to StarCraft II's content kingdom. StarCraft II only supports multiplay through Blizzard's Battle.net servers, meaning players can only access multiplayer maps by connecting to Blizzard's tightly policed and centrally managed online service.

Word that Blizzard was in fact removing "inappropriate" StarCraft II maps surfaced a few days ago when a player named Cyrileo complained on the game's message boards that his custom StarCraft II map had been deleted by the publisher with "no real reason given."

"My map (Ultimate Tank Defence) was deleted because someone at [B]lizzard deemed *something* with the map imappropiate, [sic] instead of asking me to change said problem or anything," wrote Cyrileo. "It was deleted, it took over an hour for them to e-mail me that my game was actually deleted, and then never told me WHY it was deleted only that it was imappropite." [sic]

"I want to ask [B]lizzard WHY? Why was my map deleted before I was given a chance to 'fix' it, [w]hy am I not being told WHAT was wrong with the map? [A]nd why is [B]lizzard going to delete every map that people like becuase [sic] it has the 'bad' version of the word butt in it?"

With rare exception, the dozens of user responses that followed were indignant.

"You gotta be KIDDING ME," wrote one user. "Guys, think about this...Instead of a [B]lizzard employee actually listening to us and fix [sic] the BROKEN popularity system (which is why this guy is angry in the first place, because his map will never be popular again), there's BLIZZARD POLICE that will patrol their broken system and will delete any map they don't like."

"There were plenty of profane maps in WC3 and nobody died, no children were scarred for life, and most of all...they allowed the freedom map builders needed to make some G R E A T maps," wrote another user.

"I think Blizzard needs to butt out of the map building process. Give us the tool and let the COMMUNITY decide which maps are fun to play. After all, nobody is forcing you to play any map. If you are offended then just EXIT."

This prompted Blizzard community manager Lylirra to cite StarCraft II "Inappropriate Content Policy," which breaks "inappropriate" content into three categories: Highly Inappropriate, Moderately Inappropriate, and Trademark. The first two involve racial, sexual, defamatory, or self-promotional parameters, while the latter involves reproducing licensed content.

What's more, you can actively flag maps as "inappropriate" yourself:

"If you see a player-made map that contains inappropriate content," wrote Lylirra, "simply right click on the map image thumbnail under 'Details' and then select the 'Report this Content' option."

Posting a paraphrased Ben Franklin quote, user Unarmed then asked "[W]hy do you guys review maps 'to ensure that they promote a fun and safe environment for all players' in this game, and not the original?"

"That's all well and good but the relative anarchy (there was pretty much NO regulations on the original SC) promoted a HUGE map boom. The worst things I ever saw was "!#!# defense" and the random strip ones. OH NO! Less regulations = More creativity, just like in real life... We don't need our hand held, seriously."

Blizzard community manager Bashiok responded by taking the "literal" ground:

"Because we can...[l]iterally," wrote Bashiok. "We have a support department now of size and ability to enforce these types of things. It simply wasn't possible when our in-game support used to consist of approximately 20 technical support agents."

"You're confusing our removal of inappropriate content with some draconian measure to delete maps as we see fit. Our goal is purely to ensure that maps don't contain inappropriate content."

And in response to the Ben Franklin reference ("Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one"), Bashiok wrote:

"Keeping people from seeing your hate speech and obscene images on our private game service is not the same as relinquishing your constitutional freedoms in the hopes of increased personal/familial security. Ben would tie you to a kite and let go of the string for making such comparisons."

What do you think? Is Blizzard being draconian here? Or are they within their rights, as server and service owners? Should players be left to censor content they find offensive, or should Blizzard determine what's "inappropriate" for us on the basis that, as one of their community managers argues, "they can...literally"?

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