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A recent panel sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) discussed the issue of gay characters in online games, some of which forbid them.

Games produced by Bay Area-based Electronic Arts Inc., such as the Sims properties and Spore have no restrictions about revealing the fact one is gay or lesbian, according to the Bay Area Reporter, a San Francisco-based newspaper for the gay community. However, users of the Microsoft Xbox system are not allowed to mention their orientation in their profiles or names, though they can do so via voice chat.

Noting that 98 percent of the time the word "gay" is used in game data, it is used pejoratively, Microsoft said it has this policy to prevent harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender gamers, as well as the creation of homophobic player names, called gamertags.

However, the paper said that Microsoft executives are reviewing their policy, which the company said it is modifying so that in the future Xbox players will be allowed to come out in their profiles or gamertags. GLAAD is also working with Microsoft to help the company with the transition.

Members of the panel included Caryl Shaw (Senior Producer at Electronic Art's Maxis), Dan Hewitt (Senior Director of Communications & Industry Affairs for the Entertainment Software Association), Stephen Toulouse (Program Manager for Policy and Enforcement, Xbox Live), Cyn Skyberg (Vice President of Customer Relations at Linden Lab), and Flynn DeMarco (founder of GayGamer.net).

Reports on the panel indicated that people were generally positive about the notion of being able to be openly gay in an online gaming environment.

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