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When the subject of this Poll became apparent, more than one person responded with incredulity: what’s the point of a survey when you already know the result? However, more people asked when I’d be asking players if they’d own up to ever abusing somebody else in Azeroth. For those of you who did enquire, that Poll will happen next week, because it is a natural follow-up to this question:

This is always going to be a sensitive subject. I have lost count of the people I know who’ve been stalked in this game, forced to alter their lives because somebody else couldn’t take no for an answer, or wouldn’t let go after a relationship went south. That’s the problem with a game this immersive and all-consuming. Everything can become a casualty when the emotional overtakes everything else, and it isn’t just one group of people who suffer. Across binary and non-binary relationships, abuse has no borders, and rarely takes prisoners.

What was more concerning was that some people simply accept abuse as part and parcel of the gaming landscape. Sprig’s comments weren’t isolated, a number of people DM-d me privately to explain that sometimes, in order to play the way they wanted, a certain level of abuse was simply considered as part of the experience. He was good enough to let me use the Tweet, and I hope I can be sympathetic enough as I do so.

This then throws up a logical follow-up: what exactly do you define as abuse to begin with? Anyone can call you a scrub, or question your parentage in the heat of a PvP game. However it takes a special kind of person to write in-game mail full of abuse to someone when they make a mistake on the AH meaning their item’s listed for a pittance. It is a particular form of evil that stands outside the Neutral AH in the days before it was part of the whole network sniping players as they try to send items from Alliance to Horde, and then sets up a website full of the conversations had with players once they work out their items have been ‘intercepted.’ These people really are true abusers, and often show little or no remorse for their actions. After all, this is only a game.

Most of the people I’ve spoken to have been very mature and objective over their opinion: I’ve also seen people happily admit that no, they’ve never been abused and are often mystified at the amount of people who say that they are. It is quite likely your level of in game immersion has a lot to do with this, but more importantly if you are lucky enough to pitch up with a decent group of people, abuse is something you can easily avoid long-term. Many Guilds and Raid teams forged friendships that have lasted decades, after all, and this allows a level to be reached where tolerance and inclusivity are front and centre. There are people still trying to do just this even now: new micro-communities who fully understand what is required to build safe, accommodating spaces in which to flourish.

This is the moment where I remind everybody that this is a very small poll size, your definition of ‘abuse’ will and does vary, and that if your discomfort does get too much I know the mechanics in place for dealing with offenders is far better than has ever been the case in over a decade. If, for the sake of argument, Warcraft is considered as a social media client (it has a chat channel, you can arrange events in it and now you can post your adventures to other Social media platforms) as well as a game, both the tolerance for abuse and the amount of it is probably only a reflection on current trends elsewhere. All the major Social media platforms are now promising to introduce far more robust means of reporting abuse, and yet Warcraft already lags behind other IP’s in it’s own organisation. Giving players a chance to appear offline, for instance, and better improving Battle.net functionality have long been asked for, but are yet to be delivered.

dontlikeyou

However, and this must be said carefully, players are as much to blame as the company who provides the platform. If you tolerate abuse, if you contribute to it or, most importantly if you overlook it when it happens to someone else… you are part of the problem. Picking on easy targets because of mistakes, blaming others for your own failings and, most significantly, deciding that your way of playing is somehow more worthy or significant than other people’s is how abuse begins. That means I’m to blame too: asserting raiding isn’t necessary, flying not required to play this game… all the abuse garnered in all the time written here has, like it or not, at least been partly of my own doing.

When you accept you are part of the problem, it becomes easier to find a solution.

The fact remains though that so much abuse online is unprovoked, particularly viscous and appears to be instigated without thought. Those who take the time to think and plan end up as the only ones authorities are ever likely to catch: until worldwide law enforcement is able to consistently co-ordinate their efforts, it will remain difficult to truly intercept long-term offenders. What I find most disturbing is that many people seem to now take both pleasure and notoriety by being the shitty player, to the point where it becomes part of their personality.ย It’s neither big nor clever to be that person, and the anonymity you think exists may not do so for much longer.

Being decent takes no effort, and will change a person’s day. Abuse just makes everybody suffer, and is the coward’s way out.

3 thoughts on “Friday’s Child

  1. So Joar here as usual with the math and statistics stuff (which is vaguely related to finance after all). You’ve made the statement several times that these aren’t large enough sample sizes, but I think if you run the math, these are pretty close to being statistically valid samples. If I have a population of, lets estimate, 5 million subscribers, and I want to have a 95% confidence level and be within +/- 5% (in other words, much closer than your average Brexit poll), you would come up with a sample size of 384, which is pretty much what you had. Changing it to +/- 6% brings it down to a needed sample size of 267.

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  2. I’ve been lucky enough in WoW to originally accidentally encounter some nice people fairly straight off, join their guild and, other than an initial split and a low level drama very occasionally, have been in the same guild ever since. I went from guild member, to officer, to guild leader, with some of the same people, and we’ve built a decent sized guild with our main rule being simply “be nice”. We’ve had the occasional problem, but overall we feel we provide a safe haven for those who just want a friendly, safe, drama free environment to play in. Personally, being gulp middle aged now, I’ve found that having a minimum age limit on the guild reduced a large amount of the drama and the abuse – prior to that we’d have people who would quite frankly be horrible to others, just as a “prank”.

    Personally, I’ve also been lucky that I’ve come across very little abuse directed at myself. And usually when it has been, it’s been because someone is unhappy about the rules we have in place, and unhappy when I said we wouldn’t break those rules for that one person.

    I’ve had perhaps two occasions on Blizzard forums where people have been abusive .. one literally, with foul language, the other with a little bit of stalking across forums and in game across realms – quite frankly the latter was more disturbing as, although it didn’t involve foul language, it did feel a little more creepy and the person doing it felt a bit deranged. Both were blocked and reported.

    I’ve seen some .. usually in LFR or Pugs – sometimes in trade chat. I’ve even taken part in some if I feel they’ve gone way over the top and the person they’re abusing is having problems with it.

    Mostly I just tell people that I’m probably old enough to be their mother .. and there is a slight possibility I could actually be their mother .. so perhaps they should watch their tongue. :p (apparently a side-effect of getting older, is also getting stroppier)

    The one thing I have been wanting for a looong time (and I have suggested in Blizzard forums before now) is an account-based ignore option. It’s no good only being able to ignore one character from one character. If you don’t want to hear from someone again, it doesn’t matter which character they or you are on .. you don’t want to hear from them. It’s silly doing it on a per-character basis.

    I’ve always been happy to report people if I think they’ve stepped over the line .. either verbally or with character/guild names. And reporting people has the happy coincidence of also blocking them, so it’s a win-win. Taking umbrage with something someone has said, but then doing nothing about it, is akin to giving them permission to carry on.

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  3. WTB edit :p When I say I sometimes take part .. this is very rarely, and to stick up for the person on the receiving end .. just in case that wasn’t clear :p

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