Achaea: Land of Dreams (but not all dreams)
I have this dilemma.
I play this game I absolutely love. I would recommend it to anybody who enjoys role playing or D&D or Might and Magic or any of the related genres.
You create yourself a persona, join a Guild and/or City each bringing its own skills, conflicts, and potential friendships, and immerse yourself in this totally imaginary world. It is a world filled with dragons and magic and many adventures, along with a wide variety of the equivalent of chat rooms imbedded into the game system where folks of the same groups or interests can converse even while playing, some within the personas of their character, others about non-game, real life things. (And yes, many find new friendships and even romance.)
It's just fun.
I know that sounds like an odd thing to enjoy, but it provides an amazing cathartic relief, and no, it doesn't make me want to run out and kill real people. Honest. Okay. Orcs I would still kill. But only because they give disproportionately high experience.
No, it's not real gold, but the gold you can earn in the game does allow you to make purchases for something called "credits," that can be used to enhance your character in a number of ways. Those "credits" can also be purchased for real money, so in effect you are gaining an actual financial benefit if you planned on buying credits, or wanted to buy them, but could not otherwise afford to do so.
Okay, that's not entirely true either. Small-minded people and jerks are even more so in this world, where they are free from restraints placed on them by civilized society. A handful, in particular, come to mind, but that's an entirely different matter. But, in general, the world is a better place, with many folks who want to do for others, rather than do to others. And even those who battle believe they do so for a just cause, whether that cause be objectively (or even subjectively) "evil" or "good."
One of the first things I check at any new site or game is how they deal with, and what policies they have, about harassment based on sexual orientation.
Since the game environment includes conflict and war, where characters can be harmed or killed, I check in particular whether gays and lesbians are "protected" in a genre that lends itself to in game acts of violence.
It is one thing to kill, or be killed, because it fits into game play, it's another thing for it to happen because your character is gay or lesbian. (It should be noted that not all who play gay and lesbian characters are gay or lesbian in their real lives --- folks do enjoy "role playing" something they are not, whether that be orientation, gender, age, or any one of a number of real life characteristics.)
So, one of the things I immediately noticed about Achaea was that as part of its in game marriages, there is no bar to same sex marriages, in fact, they are widespread, and very accepted.
Additionally, Achaea is very good about not allowing harassment on the basis of orientation (or gender, much to the relief of women who are hit on in un- relented fashion in many, if not most, online communities).
The first question of whether Achaea would put its money where its mouth was arose when one of my friends wanted to name himself in a way to honor another character, choosing to be called, "Kuniko, Prythe's Little Lesbian."
The leader of his Guild objected. On many grounds. All of which were specious. He was convinced to leave it to the folks who run the game, operating under the impression they would be of the same opinion so that he would not have to be the "bad guy." In fact, one of the employees who helps run the game did ask "Kuniko" to change his name so this leader thought he would get the result he wanted, without having to take the heat for a bad decision.
I wrote to the owner of the game, outlining what had happened, and received in return a very positive response, agreeing with all my points, and concurring that the name did not violate any game play rules or provisions. (It should be noted that "Guilds" and "Cities" can make any ridiculous rules they want -- and quite often do -- with minimal restraint, but in this case the Guild leader chose to abide by his previous statement that if the name was within game rules, he would not require it to be changed.)
I was happy.
Heck, I was pretty and witty and gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!
The game also has a system of creating families, and therein lies the only area in which I feel its gay and lesbian players and characters are not treated as well as the others.
The system is called "bloodlining" and under this system it is treated under the rules that the folks who become your parents are your "blood" parents, having given birth to you the old fashioned way.
That's the rule.
But that's not the practice.
Folks write backgrounds and histories where their families, parents, entire villages were lost to raiders. Or, they wander the lands not knowing their parents. This stems from the fact that all folk start game play at the age of 18.
So many consider themselves adopted.
But the blood lining system only allows for two parents, one female, one male
So I asked that it be changed to allow for this adoption by two people of the same gender.
And was told that since this was intended to reflect actual birth, that was not possible.
(It is amusing however to note that one can be "bloodlined" by only one person. When it is a single woman I guess the assumption is that the child was conceived immaculately, and when by a single man he must have had a baby dropped on his doorstep without knowing who he had the child with -- and yes, my tongue is firmly in cheek.)
There are two obvious problems with this argument...
I think however the owner of the game is a good guy and the "No" boils down to dollars. The coding would take time, and therefore money, and there are other improvements and additions the game needs that would be important to a larger portion of its current customers.
So, here is what I suggest.
Come play the game.
You'll love it, and thank me for introducing you to it.
But at the same time let the owner know you are trying out the game because you read this article, and because you heard they're really good to their gay and lesbian customers --- but that you'd like them to go the extra step and create some form of official recognition of gay and lesbian families that integrates effectively within the existing system.
Sometimes little changes are just as important as the big ones.