Monday, June 7, 2010

Avoiding the Dark Side

Two Sides
There is, in my mind, a Bright side to WoW, and there is a Dark Side. The Bright Side is a game of reasonable, well spoken, understanding, inoffensive, friendly, helpful people playing with their avatars in every corner of the world (both the real world and Azeroth) and beyond. This side of the game is the one I play in most of the time. If a newbie is running their first dungeon with 4 veterans of the game, we all help out the new player, providing tips and encouragement as needed. There is no kicking of a person from a group because everyone is at 50dps but the noob is only at 45 (low level example). No, everyone realized that they have a role to fill and as everyone does it the group succeeds and everyone leaves happy with some blue goodies or a new epic weapon.

There is also the Dark Side of the game. Infested with offensive, short-tempered, unforgiving, and yet imperfect jerks that find nasty pleasure in lifting their own egos above everyone else’s by demeaning everyone around them. The person who, if someone doesn’t meet their completely random DPS or GearScore requirement they kick from their group, or even better, never give them the chance to prove themselves in the first place.

But worse than that, these are the people who make fun of newer players for not knowing every mechanic of every fight, of not knowing every detail on how to min/max their toon from the first day they hit level 80. These are the people who scream and whine and complain in pugs because they didn’t win the loot roll and who drop group after winning the piece of gear on boss 1, leaving everyone else scrambling for a replacement. This is the person who will queue with his friends for a dungeon, be totally wasted, make the enhancement shaman the healer then yell at everyone to drop group to get the deserter buff because they refuse to kick you instead. These people are very simply, the worst kind.

Well, not the worst. There are some really bad people in this world, some truly evil people who are the worst. We live in a fantasy world, no more, but within that fantasy world we deal with real people. At least we try to deal with them, sometimes with grace and tact and other times not so much.

Hunger Games
I’m going to mention a book, not because I’m getting paid to promote it (because I’m NOT) but because it describes something that helps me understand people’s behavior on the Dark Side of WoW. The book is actually a trilogy, the first called Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. The second was titled Catching Fire, and the third coming out later this year is Mockingjay.

If you’ve read these books then you know how disturbing they can be. (Thanks to Wikipedia who can summarize this better than I can):

[The Hunger Games] “introduces sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in a post-apocalyptic world where a powerful government called the Capitol has risen up after several devastating disasters. In the book, the Hunger Games are an annual televised event where the ruthless and evil Capitol randomly selects one boy and one girl from each of the twelve districts, who are then pitted against each other in a game of survival and forced to kill until only one remains.”

It’s one boy and one girl, I believe they had to be between the ages of 12-18, for a total of 24 youth pitted against each other in a fight to the death. The whole scenes of bloodshed and gore are made worse since the people watching in the Capitol cheer like the Romans of old at Gladiator matches for the death and dismemberment of innocent souls who have never done anything but be born at the wrong time on the wrong planet.

The behavior of these Capitol citizens is so appalling (to me) not only because they seem to behave like no person in my social circle, but disturbing because it’s a vision of where humanity CAN go if allowed. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying in any way that people who are jerks in WoW will become bloodthirsty humans who revel in watching “games” of young kids slaughter each other on live television. I’m not saying that at all. I would only wish to draw a parallel.

I was once very new to WoW. I made ignorant comments or made ignorant choices, but over time as I leveled one then two then more toons to or towards 80 I learned things. Now I believe I have become extremely good at playing my characters and their various talent specs. I can switch between top healer to top DPS in the same raid on the same toon (or close to the top, I’m not that awesome). But any toon I play with I understand, and can teach others who are now new to the game or their class.

There are times, however, when I allow myself to get frustrated. I never say anything in party chat or raid chat or on vent, so far I can control that, but I sometimes have trouble not feeling frustrated at people who do stupid noob things. Maybe it’s when I’m in a hurry or I’m tired, but there are times when I just want to yell at people and say “STOP PULLING THREE ROOMS AT ONCE, YOU’RE NOT THAT GOOD OF A TANK AND WE ONLY HAVE ONE HEALER YOU IDIOT”.

Of course, the tank in question thinks he/she’s god and can pull an entire instance and expects to be healed. But maybe it’s the healer who never fully heals and after each pull just leaves everyone at 75% health. It’s little things mostly, sometimes big, but I admit that there are times I wish I was more willing to fall to the temptations of the Dark Side and join in the ranting and offending and abusive language that I see in the game.

Those that live on the Dark Side of WoW is what we are all capable of being. We CAN become like them if we allow it. If someone in a random says “Gronthe sucks @#$@#” kick him already, every 2 minutes, should I respond in kind? Should I have some clever retort to his abuse? Should I give in and bring myself closer and closer to the Dark Side? Or should I just take the abuse and do my job, and if I get kicked I get kicked? Or maybe there’s a third option, that’s trying to respond in peaceful, patient tones providing logic and sound arguments for why we should not listen to the abuse anymore and, instead of kicking me, kicking the one who is bringing grief down on the party/raid. Maybe that’s an option.

But the more I think about it, it’s not. Why? When was the last time you were able to reason with the unreasonable? Exactly! This leaves me the two roads to follow, one of temperance or one of giving in to my passionate hate.

Let’s argue for a second that it’s psychologically healthy to be assertive, to stand up for oneself and not let people trample over you and abuse you in life. This would allow me or you to stand up the jerk, the abusive and offensive individual that plays to lift his ego at the cost of all others. To stand up to a bully is a good thing, right? Even if you need to stoop to his level to put him in his place! Because by doing this you are accomplishing something greater, you are asserting your individuality and showing the griefer that they will not be victorious over you. All you need to do is do what they do, but with justice on your side.

Being in the right makes all your actions good, does it not? So on you or I go with our game and we feel empowered because of how well we stood up to the bully. The next time it’s even easier because we’re bolstered by the confidence our previous experience gave to us. The time after that it’s even easier. "Ok, maybe 2500 dps is enough for a heroic, but I really want to finish faster so I'll initiate a vote kick for a chance at someone who does 5k. I'm acting in the best interest of the group; after all I'm are right in thinking that three DPS doing 5 k will clear the instance faster than 1 doing 5k and 2 doing 2.5k."

I used to be timid, humble and ignorant, so I took correction well. I don’t take correction as well anymore, but I still do for the good of the group. I used to NEVER get frustrated with anyone because I could empathize better than anyone…"I’m new so there’s no way I’ll ever judge someone else." But now I get frustrated with people, but I still hold my tongue. I’m afraid, however, that even my tongue won’t be bested by my self-control.

I am one of the shyest, calmest, soft-spoken, patient people you would ever meet in your life if we could meet face to face. Yet somehow I have changed internally from where I began when I started playing WoW. But I keep myself on the bright side, or try to. I am aware of my pride that creeps in and try to prune myself of it when it grows back. I don’t ever want to live on the Dark Side of WoW. But much like in the Hunger Games, where the people of the Capitol were representative of what humanity CAN act like when they allow themselves to live unchecked by some ethical or moral law, any one of us can slowly do things that would make it seem appropriate to live on the Dark Side of WoW every now and then.

Surely one rant isn’t bad, right? “I’m just standing up for myself”. But the problem is that you’re not the only one playing this game, there are many others and they are real. Real people with real lives, real feelings, real problems, many of them are playing the game to escape those problems for a short time. Perhaps they had a really bad day because they were fired and their wife left them and they go off in chat. Surely it’s ok to yell back at them, because they were wrong to give grief to you in the first place.

If you think that way then I don’t think we’re going to be very good friends. You see, I think that the more people abuse each other verbally in this game the worse it is. Every single attack adds up. If everyone thought it was ok to attack others, even only once in a while, then there would be a lot of people abusing and offending and very few helping and listening.

I praise all of you who hold your tongue, who TRY to remember what is was like being new to WoW, those who give help and encouragement and not hate and resentment. There is a time and place to rant. A blog is good because you’re not attacking a real person in real time. You can passively express yourself and your dislike of other’s behavior, as I am doing here. But to be specific, personal, and abuse a real person so you can feel better about your own LEETNESS is living on the Dark Side of WoW and that’s a place I don’t ever want to visit.

There are so many great and wonderful people around the world that I share this game with. The Bright Side is a lot bigger than the Dark Side, and I would encourage everyone to keep it that way. There is a good time to assert yourself and there are times when such assertions will fall on the deaf ears of the moronic and offensive. You can’t argue with the mentally disturbed, no good comes of it. You simply cannot reason with the unreasonable, so stop trying.

Stay Bright, stay in the Light. You don’t have to act on everything you feel. In the end I think that self-control will be rewarded with a more positive gaming experience for you and those you play with.


LarĂ­sa said...

I believe in spreading the light in a small scale, rather than trying to save the entire world at once and just getting disappointed since you're banging your head into a wall.
Tend to your garden. Dig where you stand. Start with yourself. That's my mantras.

I think about this thing to keep your thuoghts/feelings to yourself. In one way you're right, but at the same time there are moments as well when you need to stand up for yourself and raise your voice, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. Tam has written about this in many posts. Of course this is a balance act. The difficulty is to fine the fine line where you're not a drama queen making a fuss about just anything, but at the same time aren't a coward who doesn't speak up about things that are plain aweful. Not easy at all. I'm still working on it!

Gronthe said...

@ Larisa: "Start with yourself" - I actually very much agree with that. I once heard someone say "You can't convert a nation, but you can convert yourself. And when enough individuals convert themselves the nation will change".

It's a tough balancing act. I tend to lean towards the tight lipped side due to two main factors, 1) my personality and 2) how I was raised. I try to avoid contention. I do believe there is a time to stand up and say something, but there is also a right way and a wrong way to say it.

A lot of the people I or others may deem "morons" are unreasonable trolls that don't deserve the attention. But when it comes from a non-typical-trolling source a response, I believe, should be thought of before being delivered. Speaking for myself, I don't want to rashly say something that personally I'll regret, something not typical of my normal character.

I'm still working on it too, and that's about the best I can hope for.