Just Because They’re Video Game Characters Doesn’t Mean They’re Not YOURS

I know this video is old news, but earlier this week, a discussion with Deyndor on Twitter about domestic violence reminded me of it. Ignore the really, um, silly, article containing the video. For those who didn’t watch the video (I’ll confess I didn’t have the heart to watch it either), it’s a girl deleting her boyfriend’s WoW characters. Anyone who enjoys dramatic threads in the customer service forum knows this kind of thing happens all the time and isn’t overly shocking.

What weirds me out is how the perception people have of this.

Oh, she must not have known how much characters can mean to a person.

It’s true, World of Warcraft can be very addicting.

It’s not a big deal, characters can be restored.

Maybe the story needs to be told in a different way:

This girl went uninvited into her boyfriend’s personal space and broke his stuff in an effort to control him.

Sure, it’s not as spectacular or as sickening as pushing a pregnant woman down the stairs, but it’s still a form of violence. It’s disrespecting your partner’s personal space, it’s trying to control someone and it’s putting yourself in a position of power over them. A romantic relationship isn’t a parent-child relationship. Neither person has authority to “confiscate” anything from the other.

Maybe the abuse in that video’s relationship will stay at the deleting WoW characters level, maybe it’ll escalate, who knows? I sure as heck wouldn’t stick around to find out.

Would I be upset if a boyfriend deleted my WoW characters?

I’d be devastated. Not over of the missing pixels on my screen (after all, those can be restored easily), but over losing the trust I had in that person. Over realizing that this person has no regard for me or my personal space. Over discovering that someone I cared about would want me to be distressed.

I’ve dumped boys over less. I’d rather curl up with the vibrator every night for the rest of my life than have to put up with that kind of bullshit. (Vibrators are much lower maintenance anyway.)

On Having a Partner that Plays Too Much

I’m not disregarding the frustration that comes from disagreeing on “how much is too much” when it comes to gaming. Even though I’m a gamer too, I’ve seen been in the “ITS NOT FAIR THAT I HAVE TO WORK MY ARSE OFF AND ALL YOU DO IS SIT AROUND AND PLAY VIDEO GAMES” camp many, many times. (I’m sure I’ve been in the opposite camp as well, but guys don’t complain about that stuff much.)

The thing is, when we’re not talking about video game addiction (I’ll get into that later), it’s up to both partners to find an acceptable solution. Trying to control the other person doesn’t work, or, at least, it doesn’t work in a very satisfying way.

There are plenty of ways to go about it. I had a guildie who was fine with raiding only one night a week. Another reserved Friday and Saturday evenings for elaborate date nights. Another had a wife who actually encouraged his gaming so she could get dibs on to the TV remote control. And Honorshammer once wrote a beautiful post about being a gamer in a healthy, happy relationship. (Even if the religious context doesn’t strike a chord with you, what he says is still applicable to non-Christians.)

Just like any other aspect of a relationship, communication is key. And if you can’t come to an agreement, you’re either not compatible, or one of you isn’t in the right state of mind for a serious relationship. You probably notice it other aspects of your relationship too (whether you admit it or not) and character deletion isn’t going to change that.

When Addiction Comes to Play

There are entire books written on gaming addiction, and I’m no addiction specialist, so this is going to be short and superficial.

Any type of addiction is a sad occurrence. It’s devastating for the addicted person and it’s devastating the friends and families losing the person they love. Unfortunately, though, it’s up to the addicted person to realize they’re out of control and to take the measures needed to rebuilt their lives. Sometimes it takes losing everything. Oh, from the outside we can let our friend know where they can find us when they’re better and be supportive and encouraging when they’ve decided to get a grip back on their lives. But ultimately, it’s their lives and they’re the ones who have what it takes stop the downward spiral. We can’t try to drag them back up, or cling to them as they pull us down with them.

Again, character deletion isn’t going to fix anything. Unless you’re in a position of authority (hint: in a relationship, you’re not), taking the object of addiction away from an addicted person accomplishes nothing but turning them against you. (And when you are in a position of authority, you still turn them against you.)

It’s Not About the Game

The bottom line is, invading a partner’s space, betraying their trust and trying to control them without their consent is wrong and not conducive to a happy relationship. True, video game characters don’t cost anything, aren’t essential to your day to day life and are easily restored. So what? They’re still your belongings and if having your stuff destroyed is your idea of a happy relationship, well… I got nothing.

On the flipside of the coin, as a gamer, if you’re not interested in investing yourself in a relationship and putting your partner’s needs first, then don’t. Society tries to drive into our heads that two-manning life ALL THE TIME is the only acceptable way to live, but that’s a load of crap. There’s nothing wrong with being single if you feel like being single. And there’s everything wrong with making commitments you’re not interested in keeping.

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13 Comments on “Just Because They’re Video Game Characters Doesn’t Mean They’re Not YOURS”

  1. zelmaru Says:

    Oh yeah! Think of it this way: what if your significant other read your e-mail. Even if you had nothing to hide, and it was just basic boring correspondence, it’s YOUR e-mail.

    Saying it’s JUST a video game is also belittling to your partner’s feelings – it would be like saying it’s JUST a bowling league if he was really into bowling. Or had a collection of something you find dumb. Partners don’t get to judge each others’ hobbies or they’re setting themselves up for hurt.

    Now, having said that, hijacking your partner’s toon, dressing it in silly clothes, and parking it in the middle of nowhere is just fun :P

    Actually, I’ve never done that. A sappy story, if you will. Arcanetinkertank really loves polymorph, in all forms, and it’s a source of pride for him that he has the turtle. He has a polymorph:random macro for funsies. One of his childhood friends died, and he went away for the weekend to the funeral (I stayed home with Twig.) While he was gone, I transferred some money from one of my toons, got on his mage, and bought and learned polymorph: cat. When he got back, I challenged him to a duel, claiming to be testing something, and had him polymorph:random me. Poof, I’m a turtle. Then… A CAT! That cheered him up a little. I know, I know, random story – but the point is that in-game stuff totally matters!

    • Ophelie Says:

      That’s such a cute story!

      Hijacking your partner’s toon for some laughs that you’ll both share is a world away from deleting someone’s characters to upset them! Unless they’ve never shared their password. Then it’s kinda creepy.

      I like the email comparison, I see it a bit like that way too. Just because it’s not physical harm, it’s still a violation of personal space.


  2. Well done. Very well done! Thanks for putting this into words and up on the page.

  3. Enlynn Says:

    I’d be devastated if someone deleted my characters for any reason. It’s frustrating that because it’s WoW-related, the hideousness of her crime is justified or even comical.

    I think it’s hard for people to realize how much she’s violated his space because ‘a GM can fix it’. Because the solution is ‘painless’ digital restoration, the act is trivialized. But let’s be honest here, it would be an entirely different discussion had she deleted something that wasn’t a video game: what if she had destroyed his digital art gallery or unarchived his self-help blog? What about physical damages, if she took a crowbar to an engine he built or burned a decade of his poetry notebooks?

    She knew how to hurt him the worst, and she did. The world may think its silly to be so worried about the video game characters, but it’s not the characters, it’s the trust.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Exactly!

      I’ve even seen some gamers shrug it off as “she didn’t know that characters are important” but it’s not about the characters, its about WANTING to hurt/upset her significant other. And intentionally hurting someone is violence.

  4. Poneria Says:

    Strangely (or maybe not), this reminds me of the cold, silent, sometimes drop-group-two-seconds-in-because-you-ate-the-dungeon, cross-server LFD groups.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Really? How so?

      • Poneria Says:

        “And there’s everything wrong with making commitments you’re not interested in keeping.”

        ^ That sums up how I feel whenever someone drops group in the beginning, middle, or even after the dungeon is over. Or when someone pouts in a dungeon and refuses to pull or heal or dps for idiotic reasons. Or tanks who pull half the room when they can’t handle it and then leave group in the middle of the pull.

        But it’s mostly the feeling of everyone’s a diva who must be doted upon that gets me. Grouping…it’s a team thing. So why is it so hard to act like it?

  5. Rades Says:

    Very well written piece. I’d compare characters to someone’s personal art, or models, or the like – something that took a lot of personal time and effort, even though they aren’t “valuable” in the conventional sense. You’re also totally right about the bigger issue being the betrayal of trust and malicious intent behind any such action, regardless of the actual specifics.

    • Ophelie Says:

      I definitely see my characters as a bit of a piece of art: something that I built myself and enjoyed doing so. The problem with that comparison is that it invites the excuse “she didn’t know any better”, and the thing is, even if she didn’t know any better, it’s no reason to invade personal space and cause damage.

  6. Rhii Says:

    You nailed it Ophelie. When I saw that video not too long ago, I really felt shocked. And it’s not the loss of the characters that really gets me, its the sense of *invasion*.

    Enlynn compared it to burning notebooks of poetry, and I think that’s a close comparison. Characters are an extension of yourself, and you invest yourself in them. I still have a vague sense of loss when I remember that I lost my first ever pencil and paper RPG character, and that that little piece of me is gone for good. If someone had intentionally destroyed it, I’d have felt violated somehow. No matter if the character could be restored or if I had other copies.


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