Runescape’s new Pride Event is met with hate speech and in game riots

Posted on June 8, 2017

*Warning: this article contains images of vilification and hate speech that may cause distress to members of the community.*

If you’ve paid any attention to recent moves in the game’s industry to be more inclusive of LGBTQIA identities, then this story won’t be any surprise to you.

Two days ago, Mod Wolf of Jagex announced in a tweet (found below) an upcoming event for Old School Runescape that would celebrate queer pride. And as some of you may guess, the internet did not receive it well. Complaints against the event (which will include a rainbow scarf and emote along with a stream to launch the event) spread from Twitter onto the Runescape forums, Reddit and into the game itself.

Now those unfamiliar with the nature of Old School Runescape may not know what it means when the player base isn’t happy. Old School Runescape launched in 2013 after a player poll showed extensive desire to play a 2007-era version of the MMO. Typically, any new content must first receive a 75% “yes” vote before it is added. Simply put, this is Runescape for people who don’t like change forced on them. Old School Runescape is a game where players have control and collaborate in the design process.

Some players are objecting to the pride event because they disagree with forcing this content on players. Others disagree with “political” ideals coming into the game. Further dissidents believe that the pride event clashes with the medieval theme. Finally, there is the classic argument that pride has no place in a kids game, despite Old School Runescape having a minimum age of 13.

And of course, some people are just homophobes.

Rioting about the event has already begun in game. Like a traditional Runescape riot, players on both sides of the argument have amassed in one of the game’s biggest cities, Falador, to fill the screen with a rainbow of hate speech. Less directly hateful arguments elsewhere have devolved not only into slurs against LGBTQIA people, but also pretty much everyone else. However, the chief slogan has been “We Pay, No Gay”. This is a derivative of the “We Pay, We Say” slogan that captures player attitude in Old School Runescape.

Players within the riot are encouraged to drop lots of items, change outfits rapidly, and generally do anything that will stress out Jagex’s servers. Furthermore, groups of players have also begun dressing in white robes, posing either as KKK members or ISIS militants – they aren’t sure which.

The following image shows the situation as it stands. Fair warning, there’s some pretty hateful stuff.

It’s important to note that Jagex itself is taking a positive approach to the event. Jagex confirmed on Reddit that the event will promote empathy acceptance and love and stated their disappointment in players who have been spreading hate and abuse. They also state that they do not see the event as a political statement. Furthermore, Jagex said that although there was nothing wrong with rioting, they would be “taking care” of unacceptable chat. As of writing, Jagex mod Sween stated that 15 players have been permanently banned for hate speech. In spite of this support, the event is isolated to Old School Runescape and will not be releasing into the main game. At least, not right now while it can distract from the major Menaphos update that was only recently implemented into the game.

Important to note as well are the examples of players speaking against the homophobic backlash. Notable player Autumn Elegy posted a tweet encouraging players against the event to think about their own prejudices. Meanwhile, another player posted their thoughts on the official forums, praising the pride event’s intentions. However, the event has also brought to light the fact that the game’s optional chat censor still censors the word “gay”. Regardless of your view, the event has shed a definitive light on the issue of homophobia in gaming once more.

Ultimately, with a player base defined by its resistance to change, I can’t say that I find this surprising. However, as someone who played Runescape on-and-off from ages 10 to 20, it does warm my heart to see a developer making the effort to include the community. Remembering all the hate speech that I saw in online gaming as a kid, I think this is definitely something that gaming needs.

What do you think? Do you want to see more MMOs launching pride events? Do you wish that these discussions stayed out of your games so you still had a place to escape the hate speech? As always, you can let us know in the comments!