Social Entitlement, Oversensitivity, and Real ID
There’s been a lot of hubbub about our little sphere recently about the inability to appear “invisible” when you’re on a Blizzard game. MMO Melting Pot collected a representative handful of bloggers voicing their opinions on the issue, but I didn’t really feel like I had that much to say about the topic. I did, though, begin wondering why people were getting so irritated by this whole thing. Since Real ID only shows your availability to people of your choosing – your “friends” – why do people feel the need to remain invisible?
My wife’s had some professional troubles recently, not insurmountable, but irritating. She only had one other professor in the department she runs, and without any discussion with her about it, when that professor left the university, the administration took that position from her and gave it to someone else. A committee voted on this – let me reiterate without any discussion with her about how it would affect her department. Our semester has since ended. I was looking forward to a week of glorious sloth: sitting around, watching TV, playing D3, etc. Then on Monday night she told me she had to go in from 9 to 3 on Tuesday to help someone else do their job – someone on the same committee that put her in this uncomfortable position. I asked her why on Earth she’d agree to help someone who’d just screwed her over, and she replied that she didn’t feel like she could say “no.”
Then something clicked.
The problem isn’t so much the inability to be invisible on battle.net, it’s an increasing feeling in our culture that saying “no” is somehow offending the person who’s requesting our help or to play with us. Thanks to the ubiquity of social networking, where everyone is everyone else’s “friend,” with all the benefits that entitles, our culture is feeling pressured from a false sense of social entitlement to people who’ve become labeled “our friends.”
“A friend helps you move. A real friend helps you move bodies.” Well, frankly, this dated cliché does well enough to make a point: few of the people we call “friends” in a digital environment would help us do something irritating and exhausting in the real world. There are commercials now that make fun of this fact; people work hard to get out of helping their “friends,” so let businesses do it for you (I think it’s a cable commericial).
In an older episode of Radio Lab (and this is a really excellent episode – one of my favorites, so I recommend you give it an hour of your time), Paul Ekman, the scientist who pioneered facial microexpressions that have since been popularized by the TV show Lie to Me, discussed his personal efforts to not lie, even in the socially acceptable “white lie” fashion. He discussed how he’d handle someone asking on a few occasions to have drinks or dinner or whatever – to be friends. He detailed how he’d explain that he had was having trouble keeping in touch with his older friends, how he’d not had as much free time, and how he just frankly wasn’t looking for a new friend right now.
I wonder if this type of honesty would even work any more. Apparently, we’ve become so scared of the social pressure to accept and become so entrenched against telling our friends “no” about things that we literally want tools to avoid our friends. We’ve become so acculturated to putting anyone who asks on our friends list (and I’m guilty of this, too. I put my last guild leader on my friends list when I knew I didn’t want to because I wanted time to play away from the guild. Same story, different game, so please don’t assume I’m talking down at you, dear reader, from a high horse.) that we want to avoid those non-friends by hiding our digital selves. Really, I think we’ve become so afraid of any kind of conflict that we want a tool that helps us avoid it in our “game” situations.
To be clear, I’m not saying any of this is unreasonable. I am going to ask, though, about how we define friendship. Are people who can’t take a polite “no” for an answer really our friends? Are people we feel the need to hide from really our friends? And if we use a looser definition for the people who we share our RealIDs with, then why do we feel socially pressured to play with them if they’re not our friends? Perhaps overuse of “friending” thanks to Facebook has muddied the waters a little too much.
I don’t need an invisible button any more. When I’m on playing my solo hardcore character and one of my other buddies gets on, I simply tell them that my goal with this character is to play it alone all the way through. We’ve got a social game where we’re leveling “together” (more on that in a second), and if they want, we can play that one when everyone’s available. But this toon is mine. This game is mine. I don’t have compunctions about telling my friends – and they are friends, people I’ve known in the real world for years – this, because I know they’ll respect my decision, regardless of whether they understand it. That’s what real friends do, and why they’d help move the bodies.
On a totally separate note, I think my last play session convinced me that using the auction house IS CHEATING. My buddy, who by his own bragging created an arms race in our group to up our dps (3 of our dps was around 200 when his was 350, so he started making jokes about his shoulders hurting – from carrying us. It was joking because we all do that to one another in WoW; we just hadn’t in D3 yet) was ahead in dps for 4 of our 5 play sessions. Right at the very end of our play on Monday night, I inquired where he was, and we realized that I’d pulled ahead; I was around 360 while he was around 350. Only a little bit ahead, you see, but ahead. And it was left at that.
Then during our Tuesday play session I (rightly) inquired if he’d gone to the AH to “rectify” the problem. “Only for my weapon,” he said, so I asked what his dps was. “550.”
A two-hundred dps increase. Supposedly just from a weapon purchase. As we headed out into the end of act III, I watched him hit monsters. He was able to one shot trash monsters. 4-player mode champions (yellow mobs) died in a few seconds to him alone. It had happened. He’d trivialized the game. I confronted him about it, being “friends” and all, by asking him if he thought he should be able to one-shot trash. “Why not?” he responded.
“Don’t you want there to be a challenge in the game?”
“There’s a challenge.”
“What’s the challenge when you one shot all the trash?”
“There’s still bosses.”
“So you’re saying that all the time between the bosses – 97% of the game play – is a waste of time, then?”
“No, because I enjoy this style of game.”
“It’s not a game if there’s no chance to fail. It’s just play.”
“Fine. I enjoy this style of play, then.”
“I don’t want my game trivialized.”
And it was left at that.
Stubborn (4 essays left – done today!)