This will be the last letter on “the community” for a little while. I think the discussion has mostly played itself out, and we should refocus our conversation in a different direction for a while, see what new creative energies we can find in the realm of WoW.
Recently brought up was the idea that there really was no way to fix the WoW community because it was self-perpetuating. The young’ins who come in model their behavior after the previous set of jerks, building off of each others’ jerkiness. It was compared to an instinct, and that word set of a memory of something I’d heard that I wanted to share with you today.
First of all, if you’ve never heard of RadioLab, then I feel very sorry for you. It’s an excellent, excellent radio show about a diverse array of topics handled in an entertaining, informative, and enjoyable way. One of the stories I’d heard was about a group of baboons, and it related greatly to the conversation about the young’ins in WoW.
To sum up, male baboons are very aggressive. Due to unnatural circumstances, all the males in a particular tribe of baboons die. As new males move into the tribe, the females train them to be less aggressive and more social. Overriding the instinct is extremely unlikely, to the point that the baboonologist says that it would be less strange if the baboons had wings or were photosynthetic.
How, then, does this apply to WoW? Well, while it is obviously a very simplistic overlay of ideas, if we can get rid of all the “aggressive males” in WoW (the trolls, the jerks, etc), then we can in fact retrain the new, young jerks. It may take time, and it may require some soft hands and “grooming,” but it can be done.
This reinforces the idea of reporting and self-policing. The major difference here is that the positive reinforcement offered by the baboons, females grooming, and the removal of this reward, no grooming, doesn’t directly relate to WoW. Additionally, we don’t even have the power to punish; we can only refer to a greater authority to punish.
To make this work, then, we would need a firmer commitment from Blizzard that they, too, were interested in cleaning up the community, and I don’t think we have that. We’d need Blizzard to first admit that the community needed improvement, then admit their way of dealing with misbehavior was ineffectively slow, and finally to reform their punishment system. I find this rather unlikely, but were it to happen, then I have no doubt we could clean up the community.
Listen to RadioLab, dear reader. That whole episode is a good one, and the Deception episode is one of my favorite. I hope you enjoy.
Stubborn (who listens to RadioLab religiously)