2015 — Year of Civility?

World of Warcraft is getting more toxic each year. I do not think this is just me getting more sensitive, I really believe the player base is getting cruder and ruder as time goes by. I do not understand it, maybe some social scientist out there can explain the phenomenon, but I know it is happening.

I don’t know how — or if — the trend can be reversed, but I do know it is starting to limit the things I do in the game. Things like skip the whole Winter Veil tree mess on all my alts, because as I wrote a couple of days ago it was just not worth the annoyance. Things like avoid any group — LFR, randoms, world bosses, garrison dailies — if I don’t absolutely have to run them for some gear or currency or quest. Luckily, WoD makes it easy to pretty much just hole up in your garrison and work on some solo achieves, venturing out only to raid with a known guild group. Which of course is a sad state for an MMORPG.

Worse, I fear the toxic environment is starting to make me a more selfish, untrusting, coarse player. If this continues, I will just have to stop playing, because I do not want to become that kind of player.

I remember the very first group instance I ever ran, as a level 20? 30? something player, back in the early days of Wrath. I was terrible. I did not belong to a guild, joined a pug — knowing nothing of group etiquette — and started by charging in killing every mob in sight. Someone took the time to ask if it was my first time in a group, then told me I should always stay behind the tank and wait for him to attack first. I apologized profusely, and was told “That’s OK, that’s how we learn.” Nicely. I followed instructions, we finished the instance, and a new game activity opened up for me. Today such action would earn me some vile names and an immediate kick, no questions asked, and I would probably never again try to join a group.

Group dynamics have changed a great deal since then. Somewhere along about midway through Mists, I think, I started to see more and more groups become toxic. They ceased to be about working together for a common end and became all about blasting through at breakneck speed to grab gear or currency, spamming Recount to brag about your own (padded) numbers or belittle others for theirs, or even joining for the pure “fun” of deliberately causing as many wipes as possible.

Some, but not all, of the reason group dynamics changed can be laid at the door of Blizzard’s game design. The legendary cloak quest, for example, required many many raids. Most guilds could not provide enough raid opportunities, so players were forced to run LFR. This brought in a large pool of players, some of whom did not like raiding, some of whom were not good at it, and some of whom were very good at it but had no patience for others. It also created a large new audience for social misfits and bullies to draw attention to themselves. As the legendary quests dragged on, people became frustrated at what seemed to be very stingy drop rates, so they had less and less tolerance for anything that added more time to a run. Blizz helped ramp up the frustration when they designed some bosses to be insanely hard for large groups of players who never worked together before, likely would never work together again, and who probably did not want to be there in the first place.

Basically, group raids and instances stopped being fun because they were almost requirements. People did not join because they wanted to have fun, they joined because it was a necessary evil to a very selfish end. And with LFR, especially with CRZ, you would likely never see these players again, so there was no social penalty to being downright nasty. And on the other side, you likely would never have to deal with the same nasty players again, so there was no benefit to wasting time taking them to task for their actions. Just get through it, get your required token or quest drop, and move on.

I do not want to lay the entire blame on Blizz. Granted, their game design had some very serious unintended consequences. But some players used it as an excuse to give in to their baser motivations, and they have carried that over to nearly all aspects of the game. For this, they need to bear the responsibility, although unfortunately we all bear the consequences. The very worst part of all is that once bad behavior happens with no evidence of penalty, others — especially new players, the young, and the easily swayed — begin to act in similar fashion, and the whole thing snowballs. You get widespread toxicity, not only in raids and instances, but in questing, in chat, and in special events like Winter Veil.

Trade chat has become a cesspool. I know, I know, it was never the place to go for enlightened discussion, but I have noticed it becoming not only vile but scary over the last few months. At the start of Mists, I had maybe 10-12 people on ignore. Now I routinely bump up against the max and have to cull my list, hoping whoever I remove has stopped playing or at least has shut up. Trade chat is no longer just stupid or just contains a few rants or people with bad language or some largely innocuous flaming. There is now a strong undercurrent of real hate directed at anyone who disagrees with or does not belong to the hater’s social group. Gays and women, in particular, are targets. Both are reviled, and often used as the springboard for truly offensive, threatening, and graphic sexual discussions. Reporting these people for language has zero observable effect. And there really are no other categories for reporting them. Blizz would not stand for even a hint of such language in their forums, but they seem to be fine with subjecting players to it in chat channels.

No one who knows me would ever describe me as a prude, but much of what I see now in trade chat crosses a line. (There is one trade chat troll who, after every comment anyone makes, responds with the single word “penis”. This goes on for an hour or longer, several times a week. Or did, until a spot opened up on my ignore list. Now, I grant you, if you are 10 years old, this might be amusing for a few minutes. But it very quickly becomes supremely annoying.  I am certain this troll has been reported numerous times, yet he is still at it. No consequences to rude behavior.)

Questing is also becoming a contest of outwit the griefer. I noticed this last week when I was doing some trapping for my garrison barn. Two players (Alliance, no less, and I am on a PVE server to boot) were following me around, jumping in every time I tagged a beast for trapping. One was a Guardian druid, and every time I got to the point of trapping, he would seize aggro, then the two of them would kill the beast. The first time it happened I thought they were just trying to help (silly naïve me), so I thanked them and said I was trapping and could deal with it myself. I got the picture when they kept at it. Annoyed, I moved to an adjacent area. They followed me and kept up their actions. Since I knew what what was going on, I refused to loot the dead beasts, denying them any chance at skinning, so clearly they derived no benefit from their actions other than screwing with me. Seriously, what is wrong with people? How is this fun?

Eventually I just gave up and went back to my garrison. Before I did so, I called them very rude names, thus lowering myself to their level, and in fact giving them what probably counts as a victory in their sad little perverted world.  I am not proud of this.

The game is coarser and ruder and consequently less fun than it was only a couple of short years ago. I don’t know how or if this can be fixed. But I do know that the longer it goes on the more it spreads. I would like to think that a small group of civil players could make a difference, and start a trend that would also spread. But I am not hopeful. People will always be quicker to indulge their baser instincts than their finer ones. But my one game resolution for 2015 is to try and start a civil trend. You all are welcome to help.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

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