We reached out to Kakao to understand the verdict. “First and foremost we do not condone any sexist/racist or any other player behavior that would discriminate against other groups, individuals or beliefs,” a representative for the company told us. That said, he explained to us that Kakao believed the guild in question had picked the heraldry as a “parody” of the heraldry of a powerful rival guild called Man Up.
“We feel that for the people on this server this context would be apparent, as players would be acutely aware of such a popular guild (in menus, emblems, in-game text popups and roaming the environment),” Kakao said, though it was clear that was not always the case, and none of that context, necessary for parody, was conveyed in the actual image — meaning it was still possible for players not intimately of the guild meta of the server to stumble into the heraldry while out on an innocent shopping trip and draw conclusions about the studio and the game’s players that weren’t intended. Sexism doesn’t require intent, after all. And Kakao agreed that it was a difficult decision.
Ready for the twist? Even though it hadn’t been asked or told to change the sigil, the guild apparently did so voluntarily on Friday anyway, making the specific complaint moot (although they changed it to a symbol of a dog with a line through it). But it nevertheless raises questions about just what harm, intentional or not, players can do with some of the more free-form tools available in MMORPG sandboxes and how MMO studios are asked to rule on their meaning, existence, and validity.