This is why we can’t have nice things

Today’s topic is incredibly minor, but it set me off on a thought train that kind of surprised me. Blizz recently changed its forum policy by removing the downvote option on forum comments. The main reason(s), according to CM Ornyx:

We originally added this feature as a means for players to assist with forum moderation by upvoting helpful posts and downvoting inappropriate or toxic posts. In practice, however, we found that it was primarily being used for things like downvoting a post simply because they disagreed with it, which was not the intent, and too often led to different opinions getting unfairly buried. Moving to an upvotes-only environment will remove this unintended abuse, while still allowing players to give recognition to posts that have a positive impact on the World of Warcraft community.

The ability to troll threads with downvotes, or downvoting for the sake of disagreement was the prime reason for removal here, and it nay (sic) make some increase in workload on the moderation side, but nothing we can’t handle.

For example, if a Paladin posts in the Paladin class forum about something the ‘general’ Paladin community doesn’t feel is important, they were just downvoted to oblivion, often with no context. We’d much rather people engage in meaningful conversation with each other to convey those kind of things, and, even if they don’t, the poster of the thread doesn’t feel worthless for posting a thread that ended up with -70 votes for no reason.

(In response to comment that “And now if there’s not a lot of likes then it’s still not popular?”)

I think your concern is how do we know x is popular versus y and z (wheras x may be a disagreement about game design and y may be a thread about Illidan lore). Things will be compared on the bigger picture now instead of thread by thread, which is how we’ve been doing it for a long, long time to be honest.

Predictably, this policy change caused howls of anguished protests from the forum crowd as well as expressions of gratitude for finally making the change. Many of the protests were along the lines of:

  • If you didn’t want us to downvote something because we disliked the idea, why did you label the button “Dislike”?
  • How else can we get the attention of the moderators when someone posts something really troll-y or downright disgusting?
  • Downvoting is efficient shorthand that expresses a valid opinion without clogging up the forums with “I disagree” comments.
  • Removing the button will turn the forums into a phony love-fest where everyone “likes” and no one “dislikes”.

Most of the comments in favor centered on one of two opinions:

  • The dislike button was being used mainly by trolls or haters, thus the original reason for putting it there had been abused.
  • Removing the button would serve to civilize the forums, making people actually express their disagreements non-anonymously and in somewhat logical fashion rather than as a visceral shortcut.

Also, there were a number of comments that advocated removing the “Like” button also, making people actually comment one way or the other if they agreed/disagreed with the post.

As I said at the start, this is incredibly minor in the big picture of things. I don’t think I have ever used the dislike button in a forum post and am pretty sure I will not miss it at all. If I agree with any of the reactions, it is with the “get rid of all the buttons” one. But here’s the interesting thing about the policy change — Blizz changed it because they felt it was being used as a social weapon rather than as an expression of opinion. Think about that for a minute.

I happen to think Blizz was right in their assessment, although I am not sure removing one button will do much to fix the underlying problem of the weaponization of social media. The WoW example that sticks out in my mind is the gang-like behavior of a group of warlock thugs last September when they commandeered forums — even non-warlock ones — and spammed Twitch and generally bullied the entire community because they were unhappy. This was a well-orchestrated mass tantrum designed not to express legitimate opinions and grievances but rather to employ standard toddler tactics of making everyone else miserable because they were not getting their way. They turned WoW feedback mechanisms into a weapon of mass destruction. And this is certainly not the only example of the scum elements of society abusing social media, even in the microcosm of WoW. Think about the troll gangs that used to rule trade chat.

Blizz, like the rest of us, is generally powerless to stem this tide of social vitriol, of meanness just for the sake of meanness, of dehumanizing incivility. But lately they are doing what they can, in their corner of the virtual world, to remove some of the tools that enable bile-spewing bottom feeders to do their thing. I am disheartened by the fact that a dislike button became a weapon rather than an efficient way to communicate, but if removing it makes it more difficult for the knuckle-draggers of social media to pursue their despicable goals, then I say go for it.

Still, it’s a net loss when a decent idea has to be retracted because people purposely abuse it. It’s like having to put an ugly plastic cover on your couch because the teenagers in your family decide it is fun to jump on it with muddy shoes — the real solution would be to teach them some manners, but if they refuse to comply and you have lost control over them, covering the couch is the only remedy you have.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

WoW as a personality mirror

Yesterday, according to MMO-C reporting, there was a dev pseudo-interview about raid and encounter design. I did not know about it in advance, and I would not have watched it even if I had known. If you are interested in it you can read the crib notes here. I would say you can also watch the video but apparently some of it is “proprietary” so not available unless you go to the Snotbag Slootbag Twitch account. I am only guessing about this, as I was not interested enough to track it down.

You may have surmised I am not a big fan of Slootbag, and you would surmise correctly. I do not know the guy personally, I only know my impressions of his public persona. He may be a fantastic human being in person, but in my opinion he presents the public image of a supercilious, slick, weaselly, chiseler out to advance his own name at any cost, to get all he can while the gettin’ is good. The “interview” yesterday was less about getting encounter design info out than it was about Slootbag tooting his horn about how connected he is and what a fantastic interviewer he is, not to mention what a great raider and gifted player he is. He has been a part of a slimy world-first guild that looked the other way while he and others almost certainly crossed the line in their game play. So, yeah, I am not a fan, but that is neither here nor there. I suspect he is not a fan of mine, either, if he even knows much less cares that I exist. Trashing him is not the focus of this post, but his public persona serves as a jumping off point for my real focus.

I have a theory that you are who you are in WoW. I know there is another point of view — that WoW and similar games are where people try out alternate personas and experiment with psyches that may be the polar opposite of who they are in real life. I suppose some of that happens from time to time, but I think over the long run such pretense is very hard to maintain, and people revert to their real selves even in their avatars.

I think the anonymity of MMOs encourages the real core personality to emerge. You are free from normal social restrictions on behavior, and you act according to your own internal morality code. If that code is based on empathy, kindness, trustworthiness, honor, etc., then that is how you interact with others in the virtual world. On the other hand, if your core morality is based on personal resentment, unfettered ego, greed, or other less attractive human qualities, then that, too, is what emerges in your online persona. Virtual anonymity assures us that no one will report our behavior to our parents or our significant others or our close friends, so we are completely free to be exactly the person we are with no fear of censure from those we care about. It is at once liberating and frightening.

WoW is a microcosm of this greater virtual uninhibited world. You see true unfettered behavior in activities like trade chat, pugs, LFR, and chance world or quest encounters. Some players prey on the weak, others go out of their way to help. Interestingly, I think guilds tend to moderate this Lord of the Flies behavior, because they add a certain amount of social accountability back into the equation. You are no longer completely independent of organized society — you are held to some standard of behavior codified by the guild, and you know there is a chance that if you violate this standard you will be held accountable for it. In other words, guild membership establishes a kind of non-anonymity in an otherwise anonymous virtual world, and some of the social restrictions of the real world start to apply.

I am someone who wants to believe most people are good at their core, that given a chance they will nearly always try to do right by their fellow human. Sadly, I am coming around more and more to the realization that a sizeable number of people will only behave honorably if there is a punishment for not doing so. In the real world, that punishment is frequently social or family censure, but it is also more concrete reactions like a guaranteed punch in the nose or legal punishments or losing one’s job.

In WoW, this was driven home to me with Blizz’s fairly recent reaction to the toxicity of trade chat. Left alone, that channel became a cesspool of spewed hatred, vile language, and implied threats of extreme violence. It was run by bullies and trolls, and they stomped down anyone daring to speak up against them. Then about a year ago or so, Blizz announced they were implementing a system of immediate and graduated bans for reported bad behavior in the game, including in chat. And they followed through. Miraculously, trade chat improved almost overnight. This is a good thing, but it is sad that it only happened because suddenly there was actual punishment for bad behavior. It does not give one great faith in the innate goodness of humanity.

So, even though it depresses me a little, I still think you are who you are in WoW. And if you are the self-aware, introspective type, that can help you to become a better person, to see yourself as others see you. When I look at my WoW characters and how they interact with other players, I see someone who basically would never cheat others or berate them for their play style or gear, someone who is happy to give mats and crafted items to guildies and donate to the guild bank, someone who can be relied on to show up for raids on time and be prepared, someone who values her word and would never go back on it. Someone you can trust. That is really who I am. But I also see someone who can be snippy and snarky, who has a quick temper, who lacks confidence, and who frequently obsesses over imperfections in the game. That is also who I really am. A mixed picture, but a picture nonetheless, and one I can use to improve myself.

And now, I will further improve myself by enjoying a beer on the front porch and starting my weekend. You enjoy yours.

Summer is nigh

We are in a kind of dry period in WoW news these days. That’s neither good nor bad, it just is. We are still at least a couple of weeks away from 7.2.5, I think, and then a couple more weeks away from the next raid tier. It’s the normal ebb and flow of game development. To be honest, I am just as happy with no New Thing To Discuss — these days the world seems to be spinning so out of control that it is nice to have at least one space where things remain constant and un-newsworthy, at least for a while.

Still, no real news is tough on us bloggers. It means we have to rely on our creative juices to come up with interesting topics instead of taking the lazy way and nattering on about whatever new announcements are topical. Creativity is something that waxes and wanes, I have found, and unfortunately mine now seems on the waning side just when waxing would be helpful.

In addition to being between major patches, we are also on the cusp of the summer season, typically a time in WoW when players have a ton of other relaxation and entertainment options, and activity slows down pretty noticeably. I don’t know if summer will have an effect on 7.2.5 or the new raid, but my hunch is it might make the patch last a bit longer, since quite a few people will just be playing less and thus take longer to get their class mount or complete whatever level of raiding they do (if any).

Interestingly, what I have observed is that while game activity tends to slow down, trade chat ramps up in the summer. I chalk this up to children on summer vacation quickly being in the “I’m BOOOOOOOORED” mode and turning to WoW trade chat as a way to pretend they are sophisticated and worldly, usually by showing off their dirty word vocabulary or exercising their freedom from supervision by being rude to everyone they can. It’s usually the time I just turn the channel off. However, I am not sure that will be necessary this summer — Blizz’s now year-old policy of taking swift incremental action against reported bad behavior seems to have worked miracles, at least on my server. Trade chat has actually become almost civilized again, the trolls have pretty much disappeared, the vile spewing of hatred has abated, and there is even *gasp* quite a lot of actual trade going on. Amazing. This is one of the best quality of life improvements we have had from Blizz.

Most of the people in my guild are using this breather to tidy up loose ends in the game. Our raid team is very slowly working on a few Mythic bosses once a week, people are grinding out their daily AP on their mains then working on one or two of their favorite alts, and there seems time again to spend soloing old dungeons for mounts or profession patterns or transmog sets.

The Mythic+ group is frantically running as many as they can in order to get three chests while that is still an option. I guess anyone who is interested already knows about the changes to M+ loot and keystones in 7.2.5. (If you don’t, Wowhead has a summary here.)

I am not big into running M+ instances. I usually run one or two a week with a guild group, mainly to get the weekly chest on reset day and maybe some extra AP. But I am not really absorbed in them like some people are. So I am pretty neutral on the changes. The one thing I will note is that Blizz seems to be fixing a problem they themselves deliberately set up, and they are fixing it, once again, cheaply and at the expense of players.

The current loot setup for M+ is that if you beat the time by a lot, each player gets to loot 2 or sometimes 3 chests at the end instead of just one. The change will be that no matter how much you beat the timer by, there will be just one chest at the end, and instead of per-person loot chances there will be 2 or 3 pieces of loot to be randomly awarded. It’s a pretty big change, but here’s the real crux of it: people who currently run a lot of 3-chest M+ instances don’t do it for the loot, they do it simply to increase the number of boxes they are opening. The popular belief — borne out by quite a bit of anecdotal reporting — is that there is a significantly higher chance of getting a legendary from a box than there is from, say, a world boss or some other kind of drop. Thus, the more boxes you open the higher your chances of getting a legendary. By restricting all M+ runs to one  box instead of three, Blizz is in effect putting a bandaid fix on a problem they deliberately created by having what is apparently a different legendary RNG for boxes than for other drops.

The other aspect of this is that Blizz is still in cleanup mode from their original terrible Legion legendary design. They continue to apply surface fix after surface fix, yet the whole legendary system is still a mess. The 7.2.5 legendaries that grant a talent will only add to the problem, especially if simultaneously with the introduction of these powerful legendaries Blizz reduces the lottery chances of obtaining them. Stupid. Lazy. I don’t know how else to put it.

So, on a no-news day I have managed close to 1000 words. This ability to fabricate a lot of filler when I have nothing to say may portend a future in politics for me. (No! 😖)  I am so impressed with myself that I am going to start my weekend with a cold beer on the porch on this hot almost-summer day. If you have the weekend off, enjoy.

Who are you in trade chat?

I use an addon to help me set up chat tabs, and the one I usually use screens out trade chat. But last night I inadvertently had my “everything” channel on, so trade chat was streaming through in all its vile-ignorant-illiterate-self-absorbed glory. It was like watching a train wreck — too horrible to see, but somehow you are unable to take your eyes from it.

The first thing I noticed was that the main cast of characters seems never to change (I use the gender identifications the person has self-identified in chat):

  • The village idiot. This person has never once, to my knowledge, put together a coherent statement. Everything he says is something along the lines of, “dont start playin my never shinny sord is sharp” (actual quote). I think he is, seriously, a very disturbed individual, which should indicate that engaging him in conversation is not only pointless but also could do further psychological damage to him. Nevertheless, trade chat bullies and trolls on my server insist on baiting him, making fun of him, seeing how long it takes to get him typing in all caps and reverting to a steady stream of four-letter words.
  • The self-styled “intellectual”. This guy spends his chat life trying to show off what he believes is his mental superiority over all other humans. Most of his chat responses to others start out with “Actually, you are mistaken,” followed by some rather obvious Wikipedia info. He also frequently claims to have several advanced degrees, apparently to impress everyone further with his great intellect.
  • The trade flamer. This person lurks in trade chat, ever ready to pounce on, and hold up to ridicule, anyone daring to offer anything for sale. He uses several techniques. The most frequent one is to ridicule the price of the item being offered, usually claiming to have either bought or sold many of the item for far less than the quoted price. On the opposite spectrum, if the item is low priced, he accuses the seller of being an illicit gold seller or bot. If he is bored with these techniques, he sometimes resorts to just ridiculing the actual item, claiming it is ugly or useless or everyone has one so there is no chance of selling it.
  • The sex troll. On my server, this person identifies as female, and basically trolls adolescent males by incessantly discussing her supposed sex life and physical attributes, all the while whining about being “objectified.” Why anyone pays any attention to her is beyond me, but her presence on line never fails to incite the creeps who usually spend their game time “RP-ing” in Goldshire.
  • Other trolls, too numerous to list. These people usually specialize. We have a political troll, an elitist-gamer troll,  a hate troll, a religion troll, etc. It takes a special kind of sub-human, in my opinion, to be amused by inciting the base emotions of others, to apparently be gratified by thinking you have “power” to manipulate people. It tells me these are sad little losers with no real power over any part of their real lives.
  • Spammers of various kinds. Often these are people who just figured out how to macro an item for sale, so they hit the macro keybind approximately every 15 seconds. One of the most annoying on my server is someone who spams a word for the male genital, in caps, over and over again. On the plus side, I rarely see gold spammers on my server any more.
  • The hapless helpful person. There is actually someone on my server who is an incurable do-gooder, who keeps trying to bring reason and logic and politeness to trade chat. He doesn’t do it in a nasty way, always in an understated appeal for civility. Sadly, he is usually ridiculed and shouted down, but I have to give him credit, he is not deterred.

There is a human tendency to project our own opinions and values on others, and I am aware of this as I make my next point. The second thing that occurred to me as I watched the chat lines roll by is that I think –more often than not — people’s real life baseline personalities are magnified in anonymous interactions such as WoW’s chat. I have seen people claim — when called on particularly odious behavior — that this is a game, and their game persona is not their real one. But I don’t think so. I think if anything the person you are in trade chat is exactly who you are at the core of your personality. It is you stripped of all the restrictions of society, of having to face any real consequences for your behavior.

I am a believer in the idea that morality is what you do when no one is looking. The Internet, by virtue of its near-complete anonymity potential, is the modern day equivalent of “no one is looking.” No one can tell your mom that you were acting like an ass, you can call that big bruiser nasty names without fear of his fist connecting with your nose, your friends will not know that you routinely taunt and tease a mentally disturbed person, your girlfriend will never suspect that your favorite response to all females is “Bring me a sammitch, b**ch”, your father will never know that you were sashaying your little self provocatively in front of a crowd of horny teenage boys.

If, in spite of all the ways you can make sure no one you care about will be looking, you still show compassion and respect for yourself as well as for others, if you care for and help others, then you are at heart a decent person, worthy of belonging to the human race. If, on the other hand, you routinely leap at the opportunity to bully, taunt, threaten, and abuse your fellow human being, sashay your intellect or any other part of you in front of others just to tease or demonstrate power over them, or ruin someone else’s enjoyment of a game for your own amusement, then you are basically a waste of good air who will best serve the planet as worm food.

In my opinion, you are who you are in trade chat.

Luck of the LFR draw

LFR lately for me has been on a kind of pendulum swing — great groups that power through every boss with a minimum of effort and drama, or really abysmal groups that struggle with every boss and snipe at each other the whole time. Not much in between. Last night, sad to say, I was on a roll with the latter kind of groups. I was trying to power a couple of alts through full HFC clears, for the valor and in one case for the 33 final ring doohickeys. The first run took nearly 3 hours, and I was unable to complete the second because frankly I could not take any more, I got through one wing and part of another before I just gave up.

There was a pattern of “really tough” (more than 3 wipes) bosses last night, but even the ones that the groups did not wipe on were usually only beaten by the skin of our teeth, and sloppily so at that. Usually they went on far longer than is usual these days. One Gorefiend group went through three Feast of Souls phases. Three. An Iron Reaver group went through two air phases. Another group spent forever in the trash gauntlet after Socrethar, neither of the tanks understood that you can’t just stand in one place and kill mobs.

The big wipe bosses were Kilrogg, Xhul’horac, Mannoroth, and of course Archimonde. In LFR, these bosses really should not be especially challenging — they are all about fairly simple mechanics, like don’t stand in fire, kill adds before boss, and take the bad stuff away from the raid. But people for some reason frequently just refuse to do that. I have no clue why this is.

Now, there are sometimes groups who are collectively so overpowered that they can do all of those no-no’s and still down the boss. But that was absolutely not the case last night. One group wiped twice on Kilrogg because people just ignored it when they got Heartseeker, and the entire area around the boss was filled with the red AoE splotches. Plus the bloods kept getting to the boss because they started out so close to him. Similarly, in Xhul’horac no one moved at all when they got Fel Surge or Void Surge, and soon there was almost no place to stand where you were in range of the boss and weren’t taking AoE. Wipe, wipe, wipe.

Mannoroth and Archie were of course all about the adds, and far too many damage dealers just simply refused to target adds, even after it was patiently explained that killing adds was the winning strategy. I am guessing most of them were prima donnas that figured targeting adds was for the average damage dealers, not august presences such as themselves. I quit one group after we got 6 stacks from repeatedly wiping on Mannoroth because of this. In the Archie group I was in, we got up to 8 stacks because, even after people finally got it through their thick heads to down the adds, most could not grasp the necessity of prioritizing the orb while in the Nether. They just figured they could power through the big add there before the orb could get close enough to do damage. Nope.

Over the course of the evening, I think I came into contact with almost every bad stereotype player in LFR.

The diva tank. This guy is truly a delicate flower, unable to tolerate even the smallest hint that anyone would dare to think he could make a mistake, or to abide even the most polite suggestion regarding tactics. We lost 4 tanks over the course of the evening because of this attitude. (And I know tanks get a lot of abuse in LFR, most of it completely uncalled for, but as far as I could tell, none of that was going on when these tanks quit. They acted huffy and insulted that anyone would dare to address them.)

The GOGOGO guy. These are the ones who, at even the slightest pause before a pull, start chanting GOGOGO WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR. If forced to wait for more than a minute they either drop group or pull themselves, even if that means pulling with insufficient number of healers or tanks, or that it locks some people out because they are still running back after the last wipe. Quite a few of the groups last night spent a lot of time in queue because people would drop group not wanting to wait for replacements, which of course caused us to need more replacements, which caused impatient types to drop, etc.

The meter guy. This is the guy who blasts out damage meter results in raid chat after every pull. The one constantly monitoring everyone else’s damage numbers, and helpfully pointing out — strictly as a public service to the raid — that Buggyeye’s numbers are terrible and he should be immediately kicked. This is almost always also the guy who never targets adds and who would not deign to perform raid utilities such as running the boxes in Hellfire Assault. Those are jobs for the lesser raid members.

Leeeroy’s group leader. This is the opposite of the GOGOGO guy, who thinks LFR is a real raid, and who wants to spend forever laying out complex movement markers, sub-dividing groups into specialty teams, marking the tanks and healers. I am all for ensuring the group knows the basic mechanics, but that takes at most a minute — and usually more like 30 seconds — to explain for LFR.

Your BFF. This is the guy who, as soon as he gets a shareable debuff on him, immediately sidles up to you, and no matter what you do you can’t shake him. If you move, he moves, it’s like you are suddenly joined at the hip.

The troll. This is the guy who is only there to see how nasty he can make it for others. He belittles every class except his own, demeans every player so as to build himself up, brags about his (usually nonexistent) expertise, takes a contrary stance against every strategy, and refuses every suggestion such as “Everyone step inside, please.” He may also deliberately pull before anyone is ready and run around gathering up adds to bring into trash fights. He often initiates kicks of people he has inexplicably taken a particular dislike to, and he counts it as a victory if his nastiness results in someone dropping group.

Interestingly, most of my baddies tend to be tanks or damage dealers, I don’t think I have ever come across anything close to a bad stereotype of a healer. Maybe I just haven’t noticed. I have certainly come across bad healers, but generally what makes them bad is that they are just not proficient, nothing that strikes me as malicious. (Except when they deliberately let some dirtbag die, which I tend to cheer actually.)

And there are certainly also good LFR player stereotypes. I’ll try to describe them next time my LFR luck of the draw results in a positive experience.

 

 

 

What is it with some people?

Yesterday was reset day, and I ran a lot of LFRs on my resto druid as part of my attempt to become passably proficient at it. Some groups were decent, others not so much, but all in all there was only one that I dropped because, well, frankly there was just no hope for them.

But the one thing I noticed in all of them was that there was always a small group of people obsessed with being contrary. It was not like they held differing views on strategy or anything, they just seemed to be gleefully indulging their inner two-year-olds by saying “No!” to everything.

Examples:

  • Tyrant Velhari. The tank asked everyone to step into the fight area before he pulled. Three people were outside the area, just beyond where the wall would appear once the boss was engaged. None of them was afk, but none of them moved. After the second request one of them said “Just pull, [bad name], I’ll be there.” Tank pulled, you guessed it, three people were locked out.
  • Kilrogg. Group lead told everyone, before the pull, to move to the back if they got targeted by Heartseeker, and for everyone to stay out of the middle of the room. During the fight, at least 3-4 ranged plunked themselves in the middle and didn’t move for the whole fight, even when they got Heartseeker.
  • Gorefiend. Standard warning to stack on the tank during the Feast of Souls phase. At least 4 ranged DPS failed to do this, consequently the phase was over too quickly, consequently the fight went on longer than usual, some healers (like me) had mana issues, etc. The kicker was that one of the non-compliant DPS, who had admittedly high damage numbers, then blasted the group for having crappy DPS and rage quit.
  • Several bosses. HFC has quite a number of boss fights where killing the adds is far more important than targeting the boss. Every time I am in one of these fights, there are DPS who just simply refuse to switch to adds, no matter how often they are reminded to do so, and no matter how many times the group wipes because of that failure.

I understand that once in a while there may be players who do not speak English, or players not paying attention to raid chat, or whatever, and in these cases there will be a couple players not following instructions because they don’t know what the instructions are. What I don’t understand, though — and what just flummoxes me — is players who do get the instructions and simply refuse to follow them, for reasons of [fill in your favorite asshat motivation here].

Even in LFR, there are mechanics and requirements for raid awareness that are difficult for some players to grasp much less master. For example, continually running under the Iron Reaver to get behind him when he casts that barrage. For many of us, this is a nursery school level mechanic, but some players don’t get it and probably never will. Even when the mechanic is explained to them, they just don’t have the skill or coordination or computer graphics speed to execute it. This may be sad, but it is understandable. (Hey, I was one of the ones who always failed on Durumu’s maze, so who am I to judge?)

So I get that some players are just inept, and I accept that in LFR. What I don’t get, and will never really accept, is that some players are contrary buttheads who don’t give a crap about anyone but themselves.

Unfortunately, there is no real and/or quick solution to this,  and as much as I would like to blame Blizz for it, I can’t. It is a social problem in a social game. Ideally, these morons would be ostracized by the rest of the group. For example, the clod who refused to get into the Velhari fight area should have, in my opinion, been kicked. If that happened to him every time he threw one of his stubborn special snowflake tantrums, he just might change his behavior. But most groups just want to finish the run, they do not want the trouble of kicking someone and then waiting for a replacement, so it is easier to ignore — and thus encourage — bad behavior.

In an ideal world, even a virtual one, there would be social consequences to rudeness — be as mean and nasty as you like, but don’t expect to be allowed to participate in your favorite activities if you are. But laziness and apathy on the part of the many is tacit approval of the bad behavior of the few.

A disturbing incident

I spent the first few days of last week with newly rekindled interest in WoW, what with some of the 6.2.3 changes and the chance at some alt gear with the Timewalking bonus event. I was not the only one, we had a lot of returned faces amongst my guildies.

But for some reason, all that new energy was gone by Thursday. Guild actives were back down to 4-5 at a time, and even though I still liked the TW event idea and to some extent the valor concept, I was overcome by a wave of indifference to the game. I did not expect the buzz from 6.2.3 to last until Legion, but two days?? I did not even bother to log on all weekend.

Now clearly this is one person’s anecdotal experience, so perhaps yours is much different. I hope so. Compounding everything for me were some time-consuming real life issues with my stupid car. But I also had an in-game incident Wednesday night that for some reason really affected my whole outlook on the game.

I was running HFC LFR on one of my alt hunters, chasing valor for some gear upgrades. I got into a fresh Wing 3 run, and apparently both tanks and a few of the DPS were from the same guild, maybe they had joined as a group, I don’t know. Before the raid group had even completely formed, the tanks took off running straight through the trash, pulling everything that stuck with them into Iskar’s room. They dashed about killing the in-room trash and then immediately pulled the boss.

Some number of trash were still running around in the room, some raid members were stuck outside getting killed from external trash ignored by the tanks. I began madly misdirecting trash in the room to the tanks, and when that was on cooldown, distracting the trash to my pet then putting the pet on passive or even Play Dead so that the tanks in the area would pick up aggro. For my efforts, I earned a stream of vile invective from one of the tanks, who informed me, after first calling me a lot of really nasty names, that the tanks were busy with the boss and adds, and that it was up to DPS to quickly dispatch any leftover trash without bothering the tanks.

We downed the boss, and I expected there to be a short recoup pause to allow the locked out and dead raid members to catch up. Nope. The tanks and their DPS cronies turned on their speed bursts, zipped out the door and immediately engaged more trash as they ran towards the next boss. By this time, we had some players who had released and were running back, some engaged with trash that had been skipped, some dying repeatedly to the skipped trash, and a small group still in Iskar’s room trying unsuccessfully to get their loot which they could not because the raid was engaged in combat.

At this point I probably should have just dropped group, but instead I made what was apparently an unforgivable error and asked in raid chat for the tanks to finish their current combat and pause for regrouping and looting. I was ignored, so I whispered the same request to one of the tanks. No response. I made one more attempt in raid chat, and this time I admit I used caps out of frustration  and actually addressed the tanks as “buttholes”, as in “HEY BUTTHOLES, SLOW DOWN FOR A MINUTE WILL YA”. Not cool, I admit, and I regret losing my composure over something so stupid. However, this at least finally got their attention — and apparently enraged them — causing the tank and a couple of his guildies to respond in raid chat with what I can only describe as some of the vilest, most hate-filled, sexually-oriented, violent-toned language I have ever witnessed in WoW. And then I was kicked from the group, and a couple of them followed up with similarly vile whispers to me before I could put them on ignore.

Now, normally I have a pretty thick skin when it comes to LFR. I have not been kicked often, but it has happened, usually on an alt doing exceptionally poor DPS or maybe a new healer alt I was still figuring out. With millions of people playing you can’t always count on fitting with a given group. No big deal.

But this seemed different. This was a gang, a small group that hijacked LFR, apparently highly insulted that they were “required” to lower themselves to such a level in order to get valor points. They had only disdain for everyone but themselves. Everyone else was there to serve them. Those that failed to give the correct level of awed obeisance were to be given the worst treatment possible.

I was shaken, even though I knew it was illogical to be so. So shaken that I logged off. I logged back on the following night, but there was such a bad taste still in my mouth that I only stayed for a few minutes and did not even attempt to go back until last night.

I am trying to not give this much importance, because my thinking brain tells me it was a just a mini-blip, not worth giving a second thought to. I have played this game for years, and I realize there are some nasty sub-human predators who play it only to bully others. But I can’t deny that this LFR incident caused me to pretty much abandon the game for several days. And my response makes me wonder if maybe similar experiences are one of the reasons WoW is not attracting significant numbers of new players. Think about it, if you are new to a game and within a couple of days of joining you are treated to name-calling and ridicule, are you going to keep playing? If you are considering playing and one of your friends recounts their experience with rude players, are you likely to start?

As I have written before, I have noticed a coarsening of the game over the years, a move away from shared fun and socializing and towards polarization and incomprehensible arrogance over one’s ability to press buttons. It puzzles me. I just hope one of the unintended consequences of the return to valor points is not to further entrench that tendency. But honestly, after a couple of recent experiences, I am starting to think that is exactly what is happening.