Video gamers ‘riot’ over RuneScape’s LGBT Pride event
The developers of long-running online video game RuneScape have been barraged with homophobic abuse after trying to hold an in-game Pride event.
The popular online fantasy game has been running since 2001, and holds the world record for the most-updated game in the world, having been serviced with regular updates for more than 15 years.
However, players reacted with fury this week when it was revealed that Old School RuneScape, one of two versions of the game which is still actively in production by the UK-based Jagex, would be getting a special in-game event to celebrate Pride month.
The update had been teased by one of the game’s developers, Mod Wolf, who took to Twitter to announce the plans.
He wrote: “It’s an honour to announce a small holiday event of mine will be coming to @OldSchoolRS this Thursday to celebrate #Pride2017”.
RuneScape has featured a number of other events in recent years dedicated to important themes – including mental health, animal protection, and preventing online abuse – with little issue.
However, many fans apparently believe that an in-game celebration of LGBT equality is a step too far.
Though no details of the in-game event have yet been revealed, the announcement incensed the game’s fanbase, with thousands flooding the game’s Reddit and forums with criticism and homophobic abuse.
One of the highest-voted Reddit posts, which has more than 6000 upvotes, attacks the game’s developers Jagex for “shoving your opinions about stuff down my throat.”
The highest-rated post says: “I play this game to play this game, not to agree or debate with other people’s sexuality.
“A giant Rainbow Gay Pride holiday event being shoved down my throat [is] not acceptable.
“I’m not playing this game to celebrate other people’s sexuality predispositions/choices/preferences/taste/whatever you want to call it.”
Another highly-rated post ‘suggested’ the introduction of in-game “assless chaps” to accompany the event.
Others questioned the sexuality of the developers, adding: “One gay guy joins the OSRS team now we’re one step away from armadyl strap-ons and toxic trident of the rainbows.”
Some players even attempted to start an in-game “anti-Gay Pride riot”.
A ‘riot’ is a long-observed tradition by which players protest disliked updates.
Hundreds of people assembled inside the game, repeatedly posting the slogan “We Pay No Gay”.
An image from the event shared on Reddit appeared to show messages claiming that being gay is a “disease” and that “God Hates Fags”.
Not everyone is critical of the Pride event though.
One fan pushed back: “There have been many events in the history of Runescape that did not necessarily have a connection to real-world holidays.
“Some people are making valid points, but many others are being homophobic and using slurs [or] veiling their homophobia behind concern trolling.”
Another added: “Gay pride is not political. It’s just a celebration of basic human rights and being allowed to love whomever you want. I really don’t see too much difference between ‘anti gay pride’ and ‘anti gay’.”
In general, the homophobic response has been reminiscent of the so-called ‘GamerGate’ movement, which was harshly critical of the prominence of women, LGBT people and ethnic minority characters in video games.
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‘GamerGate’, which started in 2014, garnered publicity after female developers and video game journalists opened up about experiencing shocking violent threats and abuse.
In a response to the tidal wave of abuse, Jagex said: “Pride is about bringing communities together and celebrating love and understanding: sentiment that’s close to RuneScape’s heart.
“There’s no political statement here. Our only aim is to acknowledge and honour an event that promotes empathy, acceptance and love.”
The game studio added: “We are disappointed to see some hateful and abusive comments targeting individual members of staff and players from a small sub-section of the community.
“We stand side by side with those targeted, in support of them, and in support of this cause. There is absolutely no place for hateful behaviour in our community and we will not tolerate abuse or harassment.
“Pride 2017 is something we wholeheartedly agree with and are proud to support.
“We know the community stand with us in support of the cause. If you want to show your support, all you have to do is take part in the event when it launches!”