Why we should all /ignore /ignore
Dear Reader, I’m sure we’re all familiar with the saying that “Evil thrives where good men fail to act.” There’s many cases surrounding us in the world, from the Sandusky child abuse case here in the states to the multiple failures of European leaders to get their shit together (American leaders, too, but I thought the Sandusky thing was a bit more grievous and topical). In most of these situations, brave people standing up for what was right might have put a stop to the problem before things became so out of control. Instead, people tried simply to cover their butts and keep their heads down, like ostriches.
WoW’s not exempt from this trend, either. In fact, it encourages it. In the ultimate act of “out of sight, out of mind,” every time you see someone behaving unacceptably in WoW, you’re encouraged to use /ignore.
There’s an inherent problem with this, though. When we ignore problems, they don’t go away. Anyone who ever tried ignoring a bully in school learned this; it’s not the attention from you they want, but the attention from others, which they get whether you ignore them or not. The same is true of trade chat trolls in WoW; it doesn’t matter how many people ignore them, there’s still a VAST market of eyes to attend to their shenanigans.
Consider Blizzard’s first apology for the now-infamous Corpsegrinder incident. Essentially, they said, “Sorry you don’t like it, just ignore it.” Luckily, many people did exactly the opposite and demanded an apology for the unacceptable behavior. They followed Blizzard’s advice to the fullest: they policed their community.
Unfortunately, a virtual world does not work like a real world. Where in the real world we can all sign a petition, write letters, and otherwise exert social pressure (i.e. bully for good reasons) Blizzard into doing the right thing, no such facilities exist in WoW. You cannot start a petition to ban a player from the server, and while you can write as many 30 copper mails as you want, it’s likely that you’d be cited for harassment rather than the player learning to behave better. As I’ve ranted about before, we’ve been asked to police a community but given zero tools to do so. Our only options are /ignore and to tell a GM, who then covertly waves a magic wand, and we rely on faith in Blizz that something bad happens to the offensive player. Proof of God may be the antithesis of faith, but I’m not playing WoW for religious reasons; I want see the results.
There’s a reason we make our justice system a matter of public record. When someone is arrested, tried, and convicted, everyone can see what happened. It serves multiple purposes. First, its lets the larger, silent, good community know that justice is being served; that they are safe to trust in the legal establishment to protect them, so they do not have to become vigilantes and protect themselves. Secondly, it deters some borderline criminal elements from amping up their nefarious doings. Lastly, it keeps the process of justice open and clear, making sure all the players are playing fairly.
But in WoW, the entire justice process is secret. We cannot know if we are being protected. The borderline elements do not see the “criminals” being punished, and so become trolls themselves. The trolls behave recklessly because there are no overt rules, and they laugh in the face of temporary suspensions or bans. If you don’t believe me, ask one of your local trolls in /trade whether or not they’re afraid of being punished for their behavior. Prepare for hilarious bluster.
On top of the opaque justice process, we have no way to become vigilantes or defend ourselves beyond, like the ostrich, sticking our head in the sand. We’re essentially children forced into a large lunchroom with virtually no adults for supervision and a team of roving bullies to intimidate, threaten, offend, or slander us. Ask around; there’s been some really terrible incidents of harassment where the player could do nothing more than send Blizz a prayer and hope for holy smiting, or just Google Warcraft Harassment.
As a result, people do what they do best: protect themselves from harm. They retreat into their insular guilds, drop out of trade and general chat, and play alone or only with their insulated communities. Tools that could have been useful additions, created with the best thoughts in mind, turn into cesspools or a pit of vipers, such as LFD. And all that it would have taken to avoid all of this would be a little visible justice on Blizzard’s part, or a simple tool for dealing with the trolls ourselves. Instead, we’re provided with a hole to stick our heads into that Blizzard considers the first and best defense: /ignore.
I’m leery of calls to action, but I’m going to put one out there. Clear out your ignore lists. Take everyone off ignore. Then, each time that someone does or says something offensive, open a new ticket about it to the GMs. Don’t just click “report player” (which also puts them on ignore, I believe), but open an actual ticket about the incident. Just put the server, the channel, the name and time with a 1 sentence description of the event. Don’t go overboard, but do it every single time you see something offensive. If you’re feeling particularly self-righteous (clearly I am), then you might add a little tag like “I sure wish I had some way of fixing this problem myself instead of having to pass it on to you guys and increase your work load,” and when they respond with “Use /ignore,” you can say, “No, I said I wanted to fix it, not stick my head in the sand.”
Stubborn (and on a high horse today)