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WoW and ASPD

March 11, 2011

Dear Reader,

I had a thought today when reading a comment left by Zinn here on my blog (at least I can cite my source this time).  He made a comment about complimenting others, and I replied, jokingly, that PuGs were not tissues: strong, soft, and disposable (stolen from some movie).  I went on to say that believing otherwise as a form of electronic sociopathy, and it struck me then that I should expand on the idea.

I looked into it (on Wikipedia…so take the information worth a grain of salt), which defines sociopathy as “Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is defined by the American Psychiatric Association‘s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as ‘…a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.'”

Now while we cannot know when people in PuGs were like when children (or even in real life), we can observe their toon’s behavior.  Keep in mind this, then, is only an electronic diagnosis for an electronic, animated character, and please do not bombard me with reminders that we’re not trained psychiatrists, we’re only seeing a glimpse of a person, the Internet changes behavior.  Yes yes yes.  I know.  I’m mostly joking.


I also found on Wikipedia a list of behaviors associated with ASPD.  I’ve analyzed each and synthesized them with dungeon behaviors of bad PuGs.  The implications are disturbing.

“Characteristics of people with antisocial personality disorder may include:[3]

  • Apparent lack of remorse[4] or empathy for others”

Well this is certainly true for a lot of bad pugs.  They are clearly self-centered and have no emotional connection to people in their group.  They’ll berate, insult, chide, curse, and deride others for little to no reason without any feelings of remorse of fear that they might have hurt someone else.

  • Persistent lying or stealing

We all know the PuGs who clearly lie about things, whether it be their “main” who has “Bane of the Fallen King from before the ICC buffs started,” or that they had “a huge lag spike,” or that they “meant to hit greed,” which is a nice segue into talking about their thieving ways, as well; we’ve all had the priest roll on the druid tanking staff (which I believe can happen still) or some other such theft.

  • Cruelty to animals[5]

I don’t kill critters.  Others do, including good friends of mine who are definitely not sociopaths (as far as I know).  That said… it is a sign of sociopathic behavior.

  • Poor behavioral controls — expressions of irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression, and verbal abuse; inadequate control of anger and temper

This is certainly present in many of the bad PuGs I’ve met.  They have no desire to help improve others, but instead get extremely irritated very quickly over small things, which can turn into a flame war.

  • A history of childhood conduct disorder

We can’t know, but a lot of them probably are children anyways, so perhaps WoW could be used as a diagnostic tool.

  • Recurring difficulties with the law

I suppose the “law” in WoW are the GMs and the ToS.  Once again, we can’t know for sure what experience bad PuGs have had with the law, buy I know I report people who are verbally abusive, use hateful or discriminatory words, or make threats, which I assume brings some small punishment (probably just a verbal warning – well played, GMs).  So overall, I’d say this requirement is fulfilled.

  • Promiscuity

I’m not sure what this would mean in a WoW setting; perhaps just doing a lot of different PuGs while being unguilded and having no friends on the server?  Perhaps LFD is like a swinger’s club for all of us, and we’re all whores.  What a disturbing thought.  That said, there are people who strip off all their gear in Orgrimmar and dance on mailboxes…

  • Tendency to violate the boundaries and rights of others

This is certainly true of bad PuGs.  They pull before the tank, won’t wait when people need a minute or two (though I don’t like to wait either, I will), and basically treat people poorly.  While it isn’t a “right” to be treated well by strangers, I think that most human beings would admit that they would prefer things to operate that way, and that when things don’t, they feel upset.

  • Aggressive, often violent behavior; prone to getting involved in fights

Oh boy.  I cannot tell you the size and temperature of some of the flame wars I’ve seen (and been involved in) with PuGs.  Just yesterday we had a bad PuG dps Pally overpulling in Stonecore because “its super ez noaw so hury teh f*** up u fagz.”  When we asked him to stop, he refused and kept pulling until he eventually pulled the first boss.  We just stood there and let him die, but we were in combat so we then had to down the boss.  We did not rez him and asked him to leave the group (since we could not kick him due to kickvote cooldowns) and he began to berate us all.  He did eventually leave.  Electronic Sociopath.

  • Inability to tolerate boredom

The impatience of many of the bad PuGs is clearly explained by this behavior.  In my previous example, in fact, we see this behavior in the constant chain overpulls of the mobs.  This sociopathic quality shares a strong relationship with bad PuGs.

  • Poor or abusive relationships

I think this has been pretty well covered (as much as it can be for 30 minute relationships) by the many previous examples.

  • Irresponsible work behavior

Overpulling, refusing to CC, being careless with pets or aoe, going afk unannounced or for long periods of time, only auto-attacking for an entire dungeon, refusing to follow marks, not running back from a wipe… do these behaviors sound familiar?  Bad PuGs do these all the time, and they could be defined as irresponsible “work” behavior.

  • Disregard for safety

In an electronic sense, most of the above behaviors work for this example as well.  Each of them increases the burden on others and endangers the welfare of the group.

So overall, it seems that bad PuGs are electronic sociopaths.  The following question, then, is how is WoW dealing with the mental health of its players?  My answer is EXCEEDINGLY POORLY (I feel the caps are justified).

They’ve increased the kick time, penalized groups from being able to kick people, constantly given only a slap on the wrist to offenders (or done nothing in some cases), and made it easier than ever for sociopaths to find groups of unknowing, innocent victims to torment (LFD and now LFG).

I’m sure Blizzard is protecting its bottom line, of course, and has a limited ability to investigate some of these matters, but they could – and should – be doing more to protect the “innocent.”  Instead, they’re metaphorically repealing gun laws preventing the mentally disturbed from buying firearms (something that recently happened in America).

Reduce kick wait times. Don’t punish all groups playing together because some behave badly.  Allow kicking during combat (a bad PuG can keep combat going for a LONG time if he wants to).  Continue to improve the loot rolling system.

Most of all, trust the players who don’t display sociopathic behavior.  Not all opinions are equal, and in the attempt to seem “fair,” sometimes truly bad people are given too much of a voice.


Stubborn (who defends what’s “right” (in his point of view) vehemently)

P.S.  Dear reader, I just found a coincidental and excellent post over on Mana Obscura, which is excellent in its own right but also links to a heartbreaking post from the WoW forums that I wholeheartedly recommend you to see.

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