Doing the right thing

Some poetry for you to contemplate while you go about your weekend:

The Listeners 
BY WALTER DE LA MARE
‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

You will forgive me, I hope, for waxing philosophical today. There is not much going on in Blizzland, at least not much I can find worth writing about. Patch 7.1.5 has been around long enough for the initial excitement to have passed. Patch 7.2 is weeks away. We know it is too soon to even think about the next expansion. We know Legion is what it is. Those of us still playing the game have decided its positives outweigh its negatives, even if some of the negatives are significant.

The poem I quoted above is one that I learned as a child, read to me long before I could read the words myself. It was the last poem in a children’s story book of nursery rhymes, and I was entranced by both the imagery it evoked and the moral code it taught. I still am.

Over the last few months I have noticed a remarkable change in Trade Chat in WoW, at least on my server. A year ago, it was filled with some of the most vile and disgusting behavior you can imagine. Trolls and spammers were rampant, and anyone daring to actually be civil was hooted down, called horrible names, and treated to thinly-veiled threats. It was Lord of the Flies every night. Then, early last July, Blizz implemented its new set of “silence penalties” for toxic players, and the difference was immediately noticeable. After nearly 7 months, I am ready to call this Blizz action an unqualified success. In my opinion, it is one of the greatest improvements ever made to the game.

Still, there is this nagging little thought: Is it only the threat of punishment that can compel decent behavior from some people? Have we as a society really migrated to the notion that as long as no one knows who you are and as long as there is no punishment, it is acceptable to be a vile piece of shit?

“Tell them I came, and no one answered, that I kept my word …” This is the polar opposite of anonymous asshattedness, this is the human belief that doing the right thing, even when no one knows, is the proper celebration of humanity. I am saddened that this noble moral foundation seems now to be the exception rather than the rule. I hate thinking the main reason the game now seems more civil is that players are afraid they will get a timeout if they don’t mind their manners.

We are in a better place in the game in terms of civility than we were a year ago, but, absent the whip, would players soon revert to rampant nasty brutishness? I don’t know. Perhaps the game is indeed a microcosm of larger society — a very pessimistic thought these days, at least in my particular corner of the world.

What I do know is that there are still at least some of us who will do the right thing, though no one is there to witness it, though there is no penalty for failing to do it. In the game, we are the ones who help out a player struggling to down a mob beyond their level, who let the player originally tagging a mob skin it, who see a new player and stop to maybe give them some gold or mats just for no reason, who donate expensive crafted goods to the guild bank, who respond kindly to someone asking a naive question in trade chat.

We do the right thing because it is right, not because we will be punished for doing the wrong thing. There is a vast difference.

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.

4 Responses to Doing the right thing

  1. Marathal says:

    My server(s) has a Facebook group. Last I checked there were over 500 people in it. I run it, and very rarely do I need to moderate it. I do not show preference over faction. Behave like an adult, get treated like an adult. One by product, at least in my mind, is people now have a face to put with character names, or associate people with guilds. And I like to think that has improved civility in the game, at least in our small part of the world.

    • Fiannor says:

      Yes, it is absolutely true that people tend to act more responsibly when they are not completely anonymous. In my mind, that is both good news and bad news.

  2. I wonder if the community sets the standard. By reporting certain offenses, mostly language, are different realms more strict or more tolerant by region (for example). It would be an interesting thing to know but we’ll never get any data. Personally, I am an avid Reporter and glad that the jokers can not hijack Trade with the same joke over and over and over again.

    • Fiannor says:

      That actually would be interesting data to see, though I am not sure how one could measure it — maybe just by the number and type of reports submitted. Still, as you say, we will never see it, so it is kind of a moot point. I, too, am an “avid reporter”, but honestly there has not been much need to lately. Suspecting around the time of spring break there will be more, as that is often when the children like to play later at night and demonstrate how suave they are by using filthy language …