Archive for the ‘Internet Anthropology’ category

On Epicness: A Personal Take

July 29, 2013

Every week, A Paladin’s Tale does a Monday Morning Breakfast Topic. I really enjoyed their latest topic: “Why ‘epic’ no longer means epic, & what the WoW Dev team could do to resolve the issue to bring back some meaning to gear.

I find this general fixation on loot/gear to be a fascinating phenomenon, mainly because it kinda goes over my practical, practical head. Kurn also recently wrote about how loot has lost its value (and when someone who doesn’t even play the game is writing long dissertations on a topic, you know it’s a good a topic), which triggered a reaction from me.

Here is my confused interpretation of our conversation:

Me: But gear matters! It took my guild months to get our first heroic Horridon kill! Now that we have gear, he just falls over. Gear still makes a difference.
Kurn: It does matter for killing things, but with upgrades and resets every patch, gear in itself doesn’t matter.

What is “Epic”?

I vaguely remember in Vanilla, I’d sometimes find myself in trouble and some level 60 would stop and help me. Sometimes they would have purples. I would draw the following conclusions:

– They have a lot of time to play the game (it took me over a year to reach max level the first time).
– They have a lot of friends.
– They got lucky with the RNG.

Then I would thank them, be on my way and totally forget about the encounter.

Apparently that is the wrong reaction. The correct reaction should have supposedly been awe. But I don’t understand why I should be awed by someone who plays a lot of video games, has friends and is lucky.

I am awed by people sometimes. People with strong personalities. People who are much smarter than me. People who work hard and don’t give up. But I can’t draw any connections between those traits and having fancy WoW gear.

A Paladin’s Tale argues that LFR and crafting (and even normal mode raiding) should reward rare/blue gear instead of epic/purple (a side note on crafting, though, I find the higher level craftable gear a gazillion times harder to make than merely killing a heroic raid boss). Me, I really don’t care either way. Blue, purple, they’re just colours. What matters are the stats on them, how well those stats are used and how much those stats will assist me with a boss kill.

So, what is epic to me?

Facets of the game art, maybe. I mean, some gear pieces do look badass. (This is coming from someone who’s never transmogged anything in her WoW life, ha!) But the only things in game that feel really “epic” to me have very little, if nothing, to do with players: huge mysterious dungeons, creative bad guys (and gals), brave heroes, and beautiful details that you only notice when you stop and look around (check out Katherinne’s blog to see some of WoW’s cool details spotlighted)

In my mind, then, those worthy of my awe were never the best geared players, but rather WoW’s art, story and encounter design teams.

Motivation beyond gear

Conversation, circa the end of Dragon Soul, with a few interpretive liberties:

Healing lead: Do you need anything off Dragonwing?
Me: I thought we already killed the last boss this expansion.
Healing lead: Yeah, but do you still need anything off it?
Me: Why would I need anything? We already killed the boss.
Healing lead: You don’t make sense.

An argument that A Paladin Tale brings up, and that comes up fairly often in other discussions around the topic, is that WoW centers around making your character as strong as possible and loot is kinda the only motivation toward that.

I suppose it shouldn’t have, but the idea of the game being strong-character centric actually surprised me. I’d never thought about it in that way before.

Originally, WoW for me was just an escape from reality and thinking. Tired of writing stupid papers for school? Go kill 10 wolves. With some music playing in the background. In my early raiding days, playing the game became a fun learning experience (I love learning. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. My goal in life to learn EVERYTHING.) and an activity to do with cool people. When I got more serious about raiding, the game became about teamwork and perfecting my WoW gaming skills.

If I make my character stronger, my end goal is never her strength. I want her strong so she can keep up with the team, I want her strong as a result of me discovering how to be a better player, I want her strong so we can see content faster. Without a team, without a kill and without learning experience, her strength is worthless. WORTHLESS.

While a lot of gamers cling to the outdated notion of “people are motivated by epic gear“, I personally think that Blizzard is frontward thinking by moving away from archaically using player hierarchy as the ultimate motivator. Concentrating on making the game intrinsically fun to play and investing in potential teamwork situations (also known as “fun things to do with friends and maybe strangers who aren’t annoying“) will make the game far more adapted to the kind of gamer we want to be around in MMOs.

Me and my gear

The other day, I was in a heroic. You know, just Denouncing my way to easy VP, when the hunter whispered me.

Hunter: Sick gear!
Me (very awkward): Thank you….
Hunter: Have you been raiding long?
Me (still very awkward): Kinda. I love to raid.

I love to raid. I wanted to insist on that. Love it, love it, love it. I find working on raid days very difficult because I’m so excited to get home and raid. The hours just crawl by. The gear… The gear is nothing. I don’t want people to look at my character and be all”OMG she has fancy ilvls!“. I’d far, far rather people look at me and say “Wow, she sure loves what she does.

Some nights are rough. Raids have me in tears pretty often (one of the many reasons I’ll never stream!) and I don’t mind. In the end, I think getting through those tough moments just makes the experience more rewarding.

I love feeling us learn a new fight, I love that satisfaction when we finally “get it right” but above all, I love the teamwork. Discovering who my teammates are as people, adapting to more…difficult personalities and, most of all, sharing ups and the downs with fellow gamers from all walks of life. It’s like magic.

And there’s no loot colour in the world that could be more epic to me than that.

I Had No Idea this Required a License

February 26, 2013

I’ve been sitting on this post for awhile. Mostly out of lack of motivation. After all, I should be updating the paladin posts. They’re not going to fix themselves. But I got into a discussion with a friend on Facebook last night that inspired me to finish this.


So yeah, for months (or longer?) there’s been this talk of “fake gamers”. Pretty much exclusively “fake gamer” girls, because apparently being a “fake gamer” requires identifying to the female gender. Guys, it seems, do not qualify to be “fake gamers”, no matter how much their eyes glaze over when you bring them to riveting panels about fascinating games, or how lost they become during gaming nostalgia sharing sessions right after they JUST told you how much they love gaming.

Yep, no matter how much boys lie to you about their gaming habits to get into your pants (because, clearly, it is the only reason anyone lies about anything), only girls (sorry, pc people, when I write about gaming, it’s “guys” and “girls”, because “men” and “women” imply being all serious and not fun and I’m against being serious and not fun) can be “fake gamers”.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can address the next issue (and still ignore the main question).

Why do We Care if Someone is a “Fake Gamer”?

Ok. So. As far as I know, being a gamer does not require a license. I mean, maybe I’ve been living an illegal life all these years and am totally a fake gamer because I never applied for my gaming license. Hey, none of the blogs ever mention it and no one asks to see it when I pick up my tickets to conventions. Can’t blame me for not knowing.

Gaming, on it’s own, not gaming for charity which is something different, also does not feed starving children in Africa. It does not stop poverty. It doesn’t even save the whales. It might help a little bit with education, but only for the person playing, not for everyone else. So it’s not like a huge, meaningful achievement.

It doesn’t increase a person’s social status either. While I find social status kinda silly – why does anyone care if my job pays well, whether I’m following my biological obligations to get married and reproduce and if I have a lot of politician friends? – I guess it matters to some. But gaming does not make you more socially acceptable. It actually still sometimes even has the opposite effect.

So, why the hell, are people going around pretending to be, oh I dunno, gaming police or something?

Apparently there’s even this meme on Facebook going around comparing the “fake gamer” to a “what a gamer really looks like/does”.

I can’t say I’ve ever really seen this because I have certain, um, standards when it comes to Facebook friends. But there are a lot of people on the internet who worry about weird things (I worry about weird things too, but not so much whether someone has received permission to call themselves a gamer) so I can believe that there are some who are genuinely concerned about the…authenticity? of gamer status claims.

Think of it as I might, I cannot wrap my head on Why. Why do you care about the credentials the person sitting next you at ComicCon? You’re there to watch and listen to a famous person talk about their work. That’s not a goddamn competition.

And if that person next to you is only there to impress their significant other? What happens then?


Consequences on “fake person”: They’re bored and wasted their time and money.
Consequences to you: … Nothing, really.

So start worrying about your own fun, and less about everyone elses motivation.

It’s the Media, You Say, I’m Sick of Fake Sex Being Used to Lure Me In

Various (and possibly, most) major figures (I was going to say players but that would lead to confusion) in the gaming industry do have a habit of putting a scantily clad human model with body parts that are, um, voluptuous in some places, and, um, dainty in other places next to their product in order to increase sales. Habit that it annoying to, well, pretty much anyone with a soul.

Nobody knows much about these models because their humanity is drowned out by their obnoxious body parts. Understandably, it is frustrating to be served by a pair of disembodied boobs (note, that you’re not allowed to touch) instead of a helpful, knowledgeable sales expert. At least when it comes to making gaming choices.


On a side note, though, this reminds me of a complaint I have about Big Bang Theory. The characters on the show started off as pretty brilliant but eventually devolved to exactly the 2-dimensional idiots gaming companies think they are catering to. This is 2013, people. Gamers like sex like everyone else, but we still live with the times. We’re demanding in 2013. We have a shitton extra needs to go with our sex needs. The media would do well to evolve with us.

Differentiating Freelance Sexy Costumes from the Media

I read a complaint post (can’t remember where) about sexy costume wearers. They were getting labelled as “fake gamers” because apparently the ability to look fantastic in skimpy clothing cannot be acquired simultaneously to the ability to operate a controller, mouse or keyboard.

The whole post (and, really, the internet in general) leads me to believe that sexy costumes (and other revealing clothing) are misunderstood.

That young lady in spandex, the one not hired by a company at the convention, is not trying to sell you anything. The one at the booth is trying to sell you something. This one here isn’t.

The young lady is wearing spandex (or latex) for the same reason you have a ridiculously large SLR camera that you don’t even know how to use hanging around your neck. She’s got something valuable she worked hard for, is proud of and wants to show off. Just like you have something valuable you’ve likely worked hard for, are proud of and want to show off. She doesn’t want to sell you her body anymore than you want to sell anyone your SLR camera.

And if you want to be proud of your body, stop eating garbage and start moving. Then you too can wear a skimpy costume that makes people smile.

On the Other Side, Is Being Called Fake Supposed to Hurt?

There was a female gaming convention awhile back (there are gaming conventions for everything, really). They did this survey and an obscenely high % of respondents said they’d been called “fake gamers”.

This has never happened to me before, at least not to my face, so I really had to stop and imagine how I’d feel if that happened.

The only thing that came to mind was “very confused”.

On one hand, as this post suggests, I would be deeply concerned about your emotional health. It’s not healthy to feel so strongly enough about gamer title legibility that you play gaming police. What can I say? I’m a caring person.

On the other hand, I’d be a little “um…ok… *scratches head*” because, really, I’m not here to prove anything with my gaming. I play games because they’re fun. I go to conventions because I want to see, in person, the geniuses who brought my favorite stories to life. I go to meetups so I can hug with MY REAL ARMS the people I have to /hug and *hug* normally. I socialize within different gaming communities so I can get super excited about stuff I love and be responded to with equal excitement. You know, instead of the amused looks I get in my everyday life.

So I cannot grasp why being “real” or “fake”, and, especially, a stranger’s silly opinion of everyone else’s realness, matters. We all have our reasons for gaming or for revolving around the gaming community. As long as we’re not deliberately stomping on someone else’s fun, who cares?

And after all that, I still never touched the great encompassing question of: WHAT THE HELL IS A FAKE GAMER ANYWAY?

ps. If you enjoy this topic, I have reflected, though a tad more seriously, on the notion of gamer/geek identity in the past (part 1 and part 2).

Identity: Gamer

August 3, 2012

When I wrote my post about “Who gets to call themselves a Gamer”, I quickly realized, as I was reading the comments, that I only talked about the will of others on the individual. It was meant to be a post on gamer identity, and I totally left out the concept of self identity. Oops.

Yet, even though I spent the entire last week reflecting on the notion of identifying oneself as a gamer, I’m have a terrible time writing this paragraph. So I’m going to start with something general, then ramble on and see where it leads.

Self-Identity: Something General

I’m going to assume that most of us around here (in my mind, this blog post takes place a virtual party in my virtual loft and if you’re reading this, you’re there) come from individualist societies, where the individual is a separate and complete entity (since we’re all geeks here, think non-borg. Or what the Geth aspire to toward the end of Mass Effect 3, if you make the right choices).

Individuals who are separate entities need to define themselves, and the only benchmarks we really have are other people.

I identify as a gamer (and even, A Gamer) because I like video games (I actually don’t like other kinds of games… I can’t stand situations where my winning isn’t an eventual guarantee. I know, it takes away from my cred), more than most other people in my life.

I also identify as a gamer because (as Vik pointed out in the comments of my last post) I feel a lot of affinity with other people who like video games more than most people in their lives.

If I lived on an island with no other people around, I don’t think I would feel the need to identify as anything.

Identity: It’s not black and white

My mom is from Toronto, my dad is from a Scottish family established in New Brunswick. I grew up in a very “pure” (pure-laine!) French semi-rural area North of Québec city (the area is now hardcore Québec city suburbs but at the time it was semi-rural). This was during the 80s and 90s, where separatism was strong and the language wars raged. I sometimes describe my childhood as growing up behind enemy lines in a warzone, but that’s not exactly accurate and it disrespects a number of my friends who are actual war refugees.

My parents, obviously, never fit in. So I grew up as a cultural chameleon, talking English at home and using English values, and talking French at school and in my friends’ homes and using québécois values. It was relatively easy for me – I had to tell off a couple of racist (linguist?) teachers and I made sure I never showed any trace of an English accent (English accents during the 80s and 90s in Québec were like picking your nose. You NEVER EVER let it be noticed publicly), but for the most part people just treated me like a “show and tell” object, much to my amusement.

But it always left me wondering how I identified. My family upbringing was important to me, but so was my social upbringing. I was born in Québec, I went to French school until the age of 21, I got hit by a nun teacher (in public school no less), I wrote with impeccable French grammar, I won Québec history competitions, I watched Passe-Partout, La Princess Astronaute and, later on, OMG, Dans Une Galaxy Près de Chez Vous. I had L’Album du Peuple Tome 2 memorized. I read Belgian comics (no Marvel or DC for me, I was all about Le Journal de Spirou!). Yet, I was missing the most important element of all: a French ancestry. I also had an embarrassingly English name (which no one was ever able to pronounce or spell).

So, to this day, I don’t know how I identify culturally, except maybe, as “from the internet” since I did spend most of my life online.

All that to say, identities are complex, and there is a large personal component to it (how you feel) as well as a social component (how others see me).

Identity: Earned?

The title “Gamer” also comes with another title, that of “Geek”. A “Geek”, is someone who really likes something, or some things, that is/are unpopular.

Thus most (and especially older) Geeks have faced the consequences of being enthusiastic about something unpopular: isolation, having to hide their interests, harassment, bullying.

This creates a solidarity among “childhood geek survivors“, but it also leaves the door open for a mentality of “in my day, we walked 5 miles in the snow with no shoes to play video games“.

Is liking video games enough to earn respect as A Gamer? Or do you have to be so passionate about your interests that in order to be respected, you need to prove that you fought for your right to like video games?

Escapism: Why Do You do it?

Some time back, there was a blogger who went on a rant against female gamers who were campaigning for better female representation in games (I suspect he was just trolling, but it still makes for a great example). His rationale was that he spent his youth picked on by girls, and used video games and fantasy worlds to escape from his real life struggles.

Escapism can be a wonderful coping mechanism. But not everyone escapes because of suffering. Me, I fell in love with fantasy worlds out of boredom. To this day, I still find the real world extremely boring.

Being a very shy person, and because my imagination has always been something extremely personal (notice how very rarely I show my fictional writing?), I did experience a bit of isolation and felt the constant need to hide everything I did. But the bullying, the harassment, the suffering? I got none of that.

I never earned my Gamer title through fire. I’ve only ever gamed because I liked to game. I still call myself A Gamer.

Consumerism: You Can’t Escape That

In all my passion and fire, I’ve left an element out of the equation. Quite possibly the most important element of all: consumerism.

My good friend Clockwork Bard did an excellent write up on the topic. In my fantasy worlds (and this is also why I use escapism!), buying and selling doesn’t make the world turn, but in real life it does.

As CB points out, it is those who spend the bucks who affect the direction gaming takes. And elitism is encouraged by the businesses producing the games, because ultimately it earns them more money (I’ve always considering Magic the Gathering to be one of the most brilliant and most annoying business schemes ever.)

It becomes important, then, to periodically stop and think, do I really want this or am I just being tricked into forking out money?

In Closing: Identity vs Taking advantage of an easy market

After I wrote my last post, I came across a post by Burek on Professor Beej’s blog, which was a response to a post by someone named Joe Peacock who doesn’t like “posers” as his conventions. Burek horribly misquoted Peacock (who, by his post, actually seems to advocate for girl geekdom but is exasperated at not being able to escape “sex sells”), but his post is still a great reflection on what it means to be a geek.

My good friend Oestrus, has been on a crusade against “posers” for some time now. It’s not something I really understand – I don’t consider celebrity status to be something particularly desirable and if someone is trying to sell me a mediocre product because they have no idea what they’re talking about, I just won’t buy it – but her rants do make you stop and think “wait…what am I REALLY investing my time and money into?

So this post went from a reflection on personal identity into a reflection on money makes the world go around, world go around, world go around. This is what happens when you want to fit all your thoughts into a single hit of the “publish” button.

What it did make me realize, though, is that, in the fluffy, feel good notion of self identity, consumerism is the cradle rocking you. And it’s a double edged sword. If you avoid buying things, your voice doesn’t matter anymore. You don’t matter. If you do buy things, you open yourself up to exploitation.

Thus, the happy conclusion: be passionate about what you like, share your passion, put your money where it belongs, but be wise, ethical and responsible about financially supporting your Gaming identity.

Obtaining and Using the Title “Gamer”

July 24, 2012

I’ve been chewing on this post since the Calgary Expo back in April and hadn’t gotten around to writing it down because…um… was April really over 3 months ago? Time just goes by so fast. Feels like the Expo was yesterday.

There’s something I’ve observed a lot in my time hanging around other gamers: a certain behaviour. A behaviour you see from gamers, from game-related marketers, and, shamefully, occasionally from myself. Maybe a tad more than occasionally, even.

The notion of what makes someone A Gamer.

Does this make me A Gamer?

Who is allowed to call themselves A Gamer?

My mother thinks video games make you stupid and lazy. But she plays an embarrassing amount of Mahjong on the computer. Is she A Gamer in spite of herself?

What about those who play Farmville, and only Farmville? Are they Gamers? They are playing a game! What if they were playing Farmville, and only Farmville, for several hours every day? Would that make them more of A Gamer?

Or perhaps being A Gamer has more to do with your past than your present. Can you be A Gamer if your parents didn’t allow you to spend time in front of a screen as a child? Can you still be A Gamer if your first game was World of Warcraft? Or what if it was even more recent? What if the very first game you played was SWTOR? Can you still call yourself A Gamer?

Maybe video gaming doesn’t cut it either. Maybe you need to play at least two TYPES of games. Can you be A Gamer if the only kind of game you play is screen-based? Or do you need to be playing video games and, say, Magic, to earn the Gamer title?

A Theory on Gaming Elitism

The notion of “elitism“, as we call it on the internet, isn’t unique to gaming.

Back when I did a lot of freestyle downhill skiing, the “I’m more of a skiier because my skis/goggles/edges are better than yours!” or “I skied out West so I’m better than you!” attitudes turned me off hanging out with other skiers. I’ve seen similar attitudes in the outdoorsmanship community too. My parents even have a friend who’s elitist about football fandom. According to him, you’re not truly football fan-ing if you’re not watching the game a certain way, with certain foods, in certain places.

So what’s up with the weird attitudes?

Well, in the skiing world, when you’re part of organized competition, you’ve got medals, awards and race histories to brag about. Success is measured and the hierarchy is easy to establish. Those of us who weren’t classified by external forces (no matter how much I begged my mother, she refused to spend tons of money to become my personal chauffeur, so competitive skiing was a no-go for me… to this day that feud still stirs up hard feelings) had to find different ways to prove ourselves. Those ways became knowledge of brands, became the level of gear we were willing to pay for, became the ski centers we frequented, became which teaching/coaching certifications we aimed for.

I suspect gaming is kind of the same. Gaming is a vast, vast world, and it’s only getting broader. Game genres like MMOs, iPhone/Android, Rock Band/Dance Central, and Facebook reach out to previously untapped markets. Certain sub-communities have official competitions – think Starcraft or Magic the Gathering – but for the most part, there’s no way to compare gamers in a hierarchical format. So each Gamer makes up their own criteria for “good gaming”, involving games played, time spent playing each game, in game achievements, gaming history and so on.

Since those criteria are totally arbitrary, one person’s criteria unavoidably clashes with someone else’s criteria, lighting up the flames of hate discussion all across the interwebs.

What makes the Gamer title even more arbitrary is how easy it is to lie. While modern games tend to track and advertise your every move to the world, your profile can’t determine whether you were carried in an MMO raid, can’t speculate how often you cheated at a puzzle game (as a huge fan of puzzle games, it often saddens me that puzzle gamers get little respect because, while puzzle games require a lot of skill to play properly, they are the easiest games to cheat at), can’t tell if your best friend ran you through all the hard levels, and can’t measure the degree to which you enjoyed your gaming experience.

“Gaining respect as A Gamer”

One of the posts within the past year that I found most thought provoking was Lynesta’s explanation of why she choose to compete in Maxim’s Pose In a Ridiculous Outfit with a Controller (that’s what the competition was, right?).

As much as I mock the contest (it’s all in good nature – I even considered entering, not because I gave a damn about winning, but because I had access to a good photographer and it pleases me to receive complements on my figure), I loved her post. She wrote from the perspective of a marketer of game paraphernalia, who works in a style of marketing where the salesperson is chosen exclusively based on their sex appeal toward a select market (horny young and creepy old straight men). Everyone assumes that actual knowledge of the product is irrelevant in that style of marketing, which, I can imagine, causes a lot of frustration to the marketer who has both the sex appeal and extensive, first hand knowledge of the product.

Her post made me think of how I like to be perceived as A Gamer. My career has nothing to do with gaming and I make no money off the blog, so any “respect” I receive as A Gamer is purely for my personal self-esteem. I thought about it, and thought about it some more and came to the conclusion that I game because I enjoy gaming. At some points in my life, I may have gamed more in order to make or keep friends or to attract admiration, but these days I play for me and only for me. If I make friends along the way, all the better, but I’ve no interest in proving anything to anybody.

I can remember a time where I thought “I’m a special snowflake! I’m an athletic chick who plays video games! I must announce this to the world!“. Even though my first gaming community (nearly 15 years ago!) was about 50/50 gender-wise and our membership included acrobats, dance instructors and bodybuilders who must have rolled their eyes at me more than once.

I like to think I’ve gotten over caring about the arbitrary gaming hierarchy, yet, sometimes I do feel a little pride when my guild, a fantastic 25s 2 nights/7 hours total a week guild, kills progression bosses faster than guilds who raid twice as much as we do. Maybe I secretly think “na-na-na-nah” to competing guild. Or when I’m guesting on a podcast and we get to the question “how did you get started as a gamer?“, I feel like I’m submitting my Gamer resume, instead of just throwing a bone to fellow old school Sierra fans who’d like a friend to geek out about King’s Quest with.

For the most part, though, for me, acceptance within the gaming community happened without me making a conscious effect. Actually, I believe that if you have to work at being accepted as A Gamer, you might not be hanging with the right sub-community. When I meet other Gamers, either at conventions or through the internet, I talk when I have something to say. When I don’t, I listen and learn. It’s simple and my gaming resume, age, gender, boob size, difficulty speaking and/or social awkwardness don’t seem to matter at all compared to the impact of how much I enjoy gaming, talking about gaming and learning about gaming.

When I walk away from an interaction with fellow Gamers, I want to think “That was so much fun!” not, “I hope I impressed them.

Conclusion “I’m more of A Gamer than you”: All Bad, or Friendly Competition?

So, what, to you, makes someone A Gamer? And, more importantly, does it matter?

I certainly believe that a little competition adds spice. There is a lot of fun to be found in playing on your own for yourself, but, as humans, we’ve got social urges too, and the pleasure of winning against other humans feel really, really good inside.

But when discussions turn bitter and someone is denied the right to talk about character leveling in World of Warcraft because they don’t do heroic raids (because character leveling has SO MUCH to with competitive raiding), or game writers receiving extreme harassment because they suggest skippable combat in games, then the whole concept of Real Gamer just makes me sick to my stomach.

As for gaining respect as A Gamer, especially for my fellow girls who, like I did years ago, feel the need to use the term “gamer girl” to define themselves, the advice I have is this:

Forget about the gaming hierarchy and play. Play with all your heart, love what you play and let the rest happen. Passion is ageless, genderless, apparent, contagious and magnetic. Gaming passion just as much.

Anonymity on the Internet…Is it Your Anonymity or the Audience’s that Brings Out the Fuckwad?

April 10, 2012

I’ve spent a lot of time on the internet. I mean a lot. If I were to write my autobiography, it would be called “Growing up on the Internet” and it would be a documentary for internet-virgin parents trying to understand what their connected 24/7 teenagers are experiencing.

So yeah, I’ve witnessed a lot of “fuckwads”. Ordinary people who, when getting online and finding an audience, lose all their social skills (/euphemism).

Penny Arcade’s “John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory” definitely strikes a chord with me (as well as with anyone who’s ever come within smelling distance of the bowels of the internet). It’s also struck a chord with John Suler, an American psychologist who’s written about what he calls (unfortunately scientists and cartoonists aren’t allowed to share vocabulary) the “Online Disinhibition Effect“.

But while it struck a chord, I’ve always felt that something wasn’t quite right. I thought and thought and thought about it. After some discussion in the comment section of a past post of mine (which I would link to if I had the motivation to scan through all my posts until I find it, but I don’t), it dawned on me: the Audience is anonymous too.

Now, I’m not refuting any theories here. Especially not the one written by the guy who actually did research and who uses much fancier words than me. I’ve got no data more scientific than my own observations. All I’m bringing here is a dimension that seems to have been left out from (or at least, not highlighted enough in) the theories and their subsequent discussions.

Lord of the Flies

The Fuckwad Theory and Online Disinhibition Effect both suggest a very Lord of the Flies view of the Internet Nation.

No, no“, you say, “the theories specify Normal Person.”

Normal person. Thing is, to me, if you don’t care about the effects your actions have on others, then you don’t care about the effects your actions have on others. It doesn’t matter if others know who you are, or if you’ll be punished. You won’t act if you can be punished, but what’s holding you back is the effect your actions have on you, not the effect they have on others.

And thus, the “normal person” in the theory is actually always an asshole and the lack of sanctions on the internet simply removes the chains.

I know I probably have too much of an idealistic view of the world, but it seems that the Lord of the Flies theory takes it too far. Yeah, there are a lot of horrible people in the world (What are the statistics for sexual assault again? It makes me nauseous just to think about how many animals who parade as humans are among us.), but is every douchebag on the internet a sociopathic monster?

What if some of these rotten apples of the internet are capable of empathy, but don’t sense the effect of their behaviours because they can’t grasp the reality of the audience?

If you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

The feedback given by an internet audience is always a reaction. Sometimes a good reaction, sometimes a bad reaction. But an ethereal crowd expressing offense and hurt doesn’t transmit the same poignant message as the human face on the human being in front of you.

Taking into consideration the anonymity of the audience thus encompasses “normal person” to not only total empathy lacking sociopaths, but also more average individuals who simply don’t anticipate the effects of their actions when there’s no clear feedback.

You’re Not Anonymous on the Internet, but Everyone Else Is

Sometimes you’re a little anonymous. When you first join a group or community, you can pick whatever name you want and make up whatever story you want about yourself.

Sometimes you feel a little anonymous. I’m just as shy on the internet as I am in real life, but I’ve been told by real-life bashful friends that they’re more outgoing on the internet because no one knows who they are.

But if you’re around the same group long enough, you’ll build an identity for yourself. While this identity might be real or fake, you still have it. The local assholes are known as the local assholes.

You can build a fake identity for yourself in real life too. I could join, say, a yoga group in the city, and pretend to be, um, a musician from, I dunno, Hawaii. The internet allows wackier identities, but it isn’t all that more anonymous than in real life.

The people around you though, you don’t know who they are. Pretty much all of Suler’s factor’s come into play. “Invisibility“, because it’s easy to assume that everyone around you is lying about who they are, or “Solipsistic Introjection” because you can make assumptions about then using your imagination, “Minimizing Authority” because social ranks are attributed differently on the internet.

And thus, I find that the anonymity of the audience is just as important (if not more) than the anonymity of the person when it comes to explaining bizarre internet behaviors.


There’s an old episode of the Instance where Randy points out that the meanest behaviour he’d witnessed actually took place on Facebook. Facebook. The place on the internet where you’re given the least privacy.

So I went and checked it out for myself. Followed a few fan pages, read some discussions. Yep, a lot of trolls. You’d think the trolls would be the ones with pseudonyms and cartoon pictures, but no. Everything seems genuine. Interestingly, the meanest people I encountered on Facebook (though that might just have to do with the type of pages I was looking at) were middle aged women. I could click on their profiles, see where they work, look at pictures of their kids and check their friends lists. Not so anonymous. However, they have no clue who’s reading their messages and being creepy. Generally, their hate was directed at celebrities. Celebrities who probably never read their fan pages. Celebrities whom we don’t know personally. Celebrities who are too busy making money and being flattered in award ceremonies to be touched by what idiots on the internet are writing. In other words, celebrities who are kind of anonymous.

Again, it’s all about the anonymity of the audience.

One on One VS One on Many

In my early internet days, one of the phenomenons I found most remarkable was that our resident message board douchebags were usually super nice when you talked to them privately.

Penny Arcade’s theory highlights the need for there to be an audience present for the fuckwad to be released and, clearly, the audience of a whole forum is far more exciting than the audience of a single person. But I think it goes beyond that. The single person audience is far less anonymous than the mass of 1000 message board posters. When talking to me, our trolls were speaking to someone they perceived as a real person, with real feelings and a real life. When talking in front of the forum, they weren’t addressing anyone in particular, just throwing out whatever words would give them the most amusing reaction from the ethereal masses.

Kind of like actors, comedians and singers who are real goofballs on stage (where the audience is vague, nondescript) but admit to actually being quite shy when not in the spotlight, I think a lot of net nerds use the anonymous audience to enjoy attention they normally couldn’t handle. Except that, unlike talent artists, most internet trolls aren’t very entertaining and don’t have the social skills to realize it (or, at least, care).

Conclusion: Don’t Underestimate the Anonymity of the Audience

I don’t discredit personal anonymity on the internet, however I find that in discussions about inappropriate or bizarre internet behaviour, the role of the anonymous audience is neglected. Yet, if those trying to make the internet a better place want to succeed, taking away the anonymity of the audience is what will make a difference.

This why sensitization discussions do have some effect. Take attacks on the unemployed, for example. I once witnessed a thread of complaints and mockery of unemployed gamers. Someone started another thread, explaining that she was an unemployed gamer who, yes, lived with her parents. She hadn’t always been in the situation and she was making concrete actions toward getting herself out the situation.

By making that post, she took away the anonymity of the audience. The sociopaths still laughed. I won’t deny that punishment-free environments allow those who live a Lord-of-the-Flies life to harm others on a whim. But those in the middle, who were cruel because they didn’t anticipate that their words would touch real people, once they decided that she was being sincere (note that it’s very easy to assume that someone is lying or exaggerating on the internet) they moved on to being idiots about something else.

Words Words Words

February 9, 2012

I try to stay out of these debates in the WoW community because they’re exhausting and (I know this is in direct contradiction of my conclusion!) they lead nowhere. Extremists remain extremists and moderates remain moderates. But, I guess you could call me a philologist. I love words. I find them fascinating. My background in psychology, my passion for travel and my interests in anthropology and linguistics have created a monster: the relationships between language and cultures is something I could discuss for days and days and days. (And days and days.)

I’ll do my best to respect my energy levels and keep this short, though.

I’ll also start off by saying that I’m a moderate and that I’ll be playing with both sides of the discussion. My message in 4 words would be “reflect and be kind“.


When I was a teenager doing teenager memes on Livejournal, one of the “survey” lines became etched in my memory: “What would you do if your boyfriend called you fat?

The obvious responses would be to ditch him, to yell at him, to make him apologize. But not me. I’d probably burst out laughing and give him another joke as a response. Why? Because when I was 16 I got sick, my weight dropped and ever since my BMI rarely creeps above 20. As a result, no matter where I go, I get the “oh you’re sooooooo fat” line. My weight isn’t low enough to be worrisome, and though, like anyone, I dislike lumps showing up where they shouldn’t be, I’m not conscious at all about my weight. Putting “fat” and me in the same sentence can only be humorous.

Where I’m going with this is that the word “fat” doesn’t SPECIFICALLY mean the same thing to me as is does to someone who is struggling with their weight. Just like it wouldn’t mean the same thing to someone in a culture where being overweight is a sign of wealth and social status. It has a very personal and a very cultural meaning and person and culture are relative.

Intent and effect

Does that mean it’s ok to insult people’s weight, and when they are hurt, tell them that they should just change their view of the word “fat”?

I hope you find that as ridiculous as I do.

Saying things, KNOWING that you’re upsetting someone (or that you have a very high chance of upsetting someone), is just being a jerk.

We can debate until we’re blue in the face about which words we should ban (why do I always get flashbacks to Harry Potter and He-who-must-not-be-named whenever these “word ban” topics resurface in the blogosphere?). The fact that these discussions get so heated is proof enough that the meanings of these words is indeed dependent on the beholder.

However, you can’t go into the beholder’s head and change their past experiences, their beliefs, their thoughts, their feelings. What you can do, however, is not be a jerk.

But I don’t know what other people don’t like!

What fuels these heated topics is that among English-speaking Westerners (which, I’m guessing, is the general demographic engaged in the debates I witness), there are certain words and topics that are generally demeaning.

We have to differentiate specific meanings from general meanings. Specific meanings are personal, but general meanings are usually pretty constant. Whether you’ve experience homophobia or not, the term “faggot” (when not talking about cigarettes) has a negative connotation. It is the degree of negative connotation that differs from person to person.

Now, the Western world has a painful and not yet completely resolved history of racism, sexism, homophobia and violence.

Thus, when using “rape” out of context, when using racism and sexist terms, you are being disrespectful. There is a high chance that one or more individuals in your audience will feel attacked, or hurt, or disregarded.

Now, I differ from the extremists in that I believe that what you joke about or the vocabulary you choose among close friends where no one else can hear is your own business. However, as soon as you take your words outside and use them in a way that is very likely to bother others, you are being a jerk.

As a side note, there are individuals who have unusual aversions to certain words or topics. I wouldn’t expect anyone to guess that “banana” could trigger an emotional response in another. However, if the aversion is known, I would expect others to respect it.

I’ll insert here that jokes about rape, about suicide, about mental health, etc. are extremely touchy ground. These are very devastating subjects. Joking is a defense mechanism that allows us to avoid feeling something that we have trouble accepting. Joking about rape, about suicide, about mental health happening to others protects us from the pain of empathy. As as painful as it is, empathy is what we need to build a better society. So, in addition to be cruel to the individuals targeted, joking about these topics prevents us from growing as a society.

Note the emphasis on “happening to others”. Sometimes joking about ones own experiences can be a crucial part of the healing process – it offers a distraction and it helps others relate. I wouldn’t have learned to accept myself as I am if I hadn’t written a number of comedy posts about my social anxiety. Joking to heal yourself and joking to avoid feeling empathy are completely different stomping grounds.

Hate and cruelty, it wears on you

I gotta fit WoW in here somewhere!

I don’t have any strong feelings about “slut” plate (I grew up in a very sexually liberated part of the world) but I do have something else to share.

I was in a guild once where the, um, quality of conversation went way downhill. Had I taken a shot every time someone said “fag”, I would have been finished 15 minutes into the raid. And that wasn’t the only hate term that was used abundantly.

No component of the vocabulary hit any nerves on me, personally. So it wasn’t a question of hurt feelings, or fear or anything like that. It wasn’t a question of attributing extreme meanings to words either.

Yet, I got exhausted. Trying to remain positive, cooperative and team-minded while being bombarded with symbols of hate, of violence and of ignorance took a toll on me.

(Not to mention that it all felt very immature. As if my teammates were saying “HEY! LOOK AT ME! I’M USING A BAD WORD! AREN’T I BADASS?” I dunno about you, but if I’m going to babysit 12 year olds, I expect to be paid. In money.)

I understand the need of an outlet for aggression. But I think there has to be a balance between positivity and negativity, there has to be a proper time and place to be aggressive, and there has to be a consideration for those who aren’t currently feeling a need to let out some aggression.

As my grade school moral teachers used to repeat over and over again: “Your freedom ends where someone elses freedom begins.

Words vs Meanings, Messengers vs Messages

Now that I’ve insisted on “if you knowing hurt people, even with words, you’re a jerk”, I’ll switch over to how I feel about outright banning words.

In her post, Cider Apple Mage uses the following example:

A woman is walking home from work in a big city. A car of young men drives by and shouts “SLUT!” at her. It feels scary.

This is a good springboard for my own thoughts because her and I (though we agree on some points) differ on how we view words.

The above situation has happened to me a lot (I doubt it’s anything personal…it happens even when I’m wearing winter clothes that show no skin at all). It doesn’t scare me, but I do get a little insulted. If I’m feeling sensitive that day, I might even be hurt.

Not from the choice of words. The young men could have easily said “dorkface”, “poopyhead” or something equally ridiculous and have trigger the exact same feeling in me. What bothers me is that strangers went out of their way for no other reason than to attempt to cause me pain. The word “slut” doesn’t faze me. Cruelty, however, saddens me deeply.

I find that in the crusade against words, the very people pushing to ban certain words forget why those words cut in the first place.

Perhaps I’m just a dreamer, but I think words are not the right battle to fight. Words are messengers. Killing the messengers won’t change the message. Ban a word and another will appear. It’s a never ending battle. Whenever I see a statement of “ban words X, Y and Z because I can’t stand them” I imagine that the person making the statement must lead a very draining and painful life. I get heck from my fellow bloggers about this, but I feel that if I burn myself out trying to correct everything others say, then they’ll win. They’re wrong in being jerks, but if I allow myself to be hurt or burned out because they’re jerks, then the person who is punished is me.

However, fight cruelty, fight disrespect, fight ignorance, fight hate – and the words will vanish on their own.

Summing it up

Well, this wasn’t really short, but it could still have been much longer.

I think these discussions are important. Regardless if whether you agree with a text, it’s important to read it, absorb it, criticize it. A part of social consciousness is instinctive (otherwise societies wouldn’t exist) but it needs to be refined through discussion and reflection. There are no black and white answers for what’s “best” and “right”. To build a better society, you have to look at all the angles and make your own personal judgements.

And take action. Discussion is the beginning, but it isn’t the end. Join advocacy groups, volunteer, teach children. Ignorance is fought with knowledge, hate is fought with love, oppression is fought with liberation.

You want to make a difference? Do it through positivity. Make society grow instead of repressing it.

That goes for the hate-speakers and the word-banners and all of us in between.

WoW and The Social Contract

May 28, 2011

I dated a guy once who claimed he conceived this great explanation of the reasoning behind governments, cultures and social norms:

See, at the beginning of time there were no rules or laws and it was anarchy. But then people realized that if they felt like surviving they had to come together. And to come together, they needed to trade in some of their freedoms for rules. Rules that would be enforced by a neutral party, a State or Government. The sum of those rules would be like a Social Contract.

To which I rolled my eyes and informed him that I too had studied John Locke’s Second Treaty of the Civil Government. If he wanted to appropriate someone else’s ideas, he should aim for something a tad more obscure.

I’m reminded of that ex whenever WoW blogs debate the necessity of optimization, argue whether or not raiding or heroics are for “everyone” and discuss douchebags in PuGs. Not of his arrogance (he actually wasn’t arrogant at all when it came to WoW, which you’d find rather surprising if you knew the guy) but rather of his definition of the term “Social Contract“.

What it all comes down to is Social Contracts.

Optimization Depends on Your Social Contract

When you join a group of players, you’re expected to abide by certain rules, the, OMG plug, “Social Contract”.

Each group has its contract. The contract will always include, officially or unofficially, a section of the “attitude toward end game” spectrum and some “resource sharing” rules (loot/bank rules) . Sometimes it’ll include language norms, international relations policies (or how to act around non-guildies) and more.

If you follow the Contract, you’ll fit in. If you don’t follow the Contract at all you’ll be exiled (in the form of the traditional /gkick). If you partially follow the Contract, you’ll be a reject and have Cookie‘s rotten food thrown at you.

Whether or not you should optimize your character depends on that “attitude toward end game” clause. If you’re playing (and I mean, really playing, not just socializing) with people adopting a strict wring-the-most-out-of-it attitude, then yes, optimize or get out.

If you’re playing with a group who’s unwritten clause states “we’re here to hang out with more than 5 people and if we happen to get a purple while doing so, then all the better“, optimizing will cause you so much stress that you’ll cry yourself to sleep at night, burn out from WoW and never want to play again. (Slight exaggeration.)

Since most groups are somewhere between those two attitudes, you’re best associating with those whose social contracts include an attitude similar to your own.

But…but what about those who don’t want to optimize and who want to be in groups who do?

Well, every society has its deviants. Bottom line is, you can’t have your cake and eat it too (unless you bend the rules by sleeping with the head of State, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Doesn’t foster much self-respect). Play the way you want to play with those who also play the way you want to play.

Raiding and Heroics for All?

This doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the Social Contract for now, so lets forget our friend Locke for a second.

Whether or not Raiding and Heroics are for all depends on your definitions of “Raiding” and “Running Heroics“.

To me, Raiding and Running Heroics are broad terms. Raiding means being in a WoW group of more than 5 people (like an actually group, not just more than 5 people standing together) and engaging in combat. Running Heroics means being in a 5 man group with the difficulty arrow pointing to “Heroic“. And as far as I’m concerned, anyone who’s able to operate a computer is capable of doing that (well, the heroic option requires being over level 70).

Now, your definitions may include something along the lines of, you know, actually killing something your level. Or even more scandalous: killing something your level somewhat efficiently. In those cases, well, yeah, those activities have certain attitude and dedication requirements.

And back to the Locke, your definition of Raiding and your definition of Running Heroics will determine your sanity level while straying into no-Social Contract zones – aka the Dungeon Finder.

PuGs are taxing because of the lack of Social Contracts

PuGs don’t have Social Contracts. Well. If you consider the TOS, they do, but the TOS doesn’t cover much and most people don’t ask for it to be enforced very often.

The key to avoiding turning into a raging beast in PuGs is to accept that there is no Social Contract. People are going to act as they please. Sometimes it pleases them to fight efficiently, be polite and have a smooth run. Sometimes it pleases them to ignore fight mechanics, show up without preparing their character and be total douchebags.

If you’re lucky enough to get a couple of like-minded players in the group, you might end up with makeshift Social Contract. If 3 or more of you agree that this dps just isn’t going to cut it, then this dps will end up in exile. But if you end up with players that agree with each other but not you, you’ll be the one exiled.

Battlegrounds and the Social Contract

One thing I’ve always found fascinating about Battlegrounds is that there is a loose Social Contract beyond the TOS. It’s a zone of violence, a zone of letting off steam and zone of letting normally offensive things go. There are limits and the State (aka Blizzard) will act on TOS violations, but, really, it’s generally accepted that battleground chat will be full of colourful language, of whining and of frustration. It’s part of the Social Contract, of the unwritten agreement we sign by hitting the “Enter Battleground” button.

Those who don’t know of or who don’t like the Battleground Social Contract, however, don’t usually enjoy their Battleground experience.

At the End of the Day

At the end of the day, playing happily with others in WoW means finding a group that shares your ideals, a group that will have a Social Contract that you want to follow.

And playing happily with strangers in WoW means accepting that the Social Contract may be loose or non-existent. At those times, you might have to focus on yourself to keep your spirits up, or, in extreme cases, know when to head into exile.

How to Keep Shyness from Ruining Your Game

April 7, 2011

I was recently pointed towards a blog post that could have been written by me a couple years ago: an extremely timid player who struggles with the multiplayer aspect of the game. Her struggles being due to her overwhelming shyness sucking the fun out of just about any in-game social interaction. I’ll spare her the link love as being the center of attention isn’t her forte. I know you guys are awesome and stuff, but easing ones way into the blogosphere has to be done at that person’s own pace.

Edit: I got the ok from Glorwynn to link her original post.

Writing about social phobia (I don’t like the term “social anxiety”, sounds too pop psychology. I prefer the direct translation of the French term since “phobia” is a far more accurate description.) was how I made a name for myself as a blogger. I’m still a pretty shy person in game. I won’t talk on voice chat if there are more than 4-5 people in the channel, I won’t initiate conversations unless I know the player well, I have to be in the right state of mind to join random raid PuG and it takes me weeks to months before I’ll type in a new guild or raid chat.

But you know what? That’s totally fine with me. I’ve reached a point where I’m satisfied with my comfort zone and I don’t care to go beyond it right now. I’m not a particularly social person, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.

Where social phobia is a problem is when it gets in the way of the things you want to do. When you want to try healing but can’t because you can’t be around other players enough to give it a go. When you’re itching to see content but can’t because guilds (PuG raids are obviously out of the question at this point) are unbearably stressful to you. When loading screens make you nauseous.

If I’ve learned anything from my two years of blogging about WoW (and it has been two years exactly! Today is my second blogoversary!), it’s that people like me, and like the author of the original post, are a lot more common than we’d think. It’s just that quiet people are, well, quiet. You don’t see us, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t there.

So, what’s the advice I’d give new players who aren’t quite comfortable with the social aspects of the game?

Refuting Accusations Made Towards My Feminist Side

August 17, 2010

I was originally working on a post about intergender communication in a raid setting, but I kept veering off topic. I just had too much say. So I’m writing this post to get a number of things off my chest. You can still expect a post on communication in the near future, once I get this out of the way and can focus better.

I had someone try to explain feminist WoW blogging to me the other day. Apparently, I don’t understand feminism.

While I didn’t really take part in the recent flurry of feminist posts started by Pewter’s (excellent and well researched) literary analysis-style post on WoW, I have written a number of blog posts about women and WoW. I’m proud that some of them even sparked discussions stretching beyond the portals of my little corner of the internet. In my WoW life, I’m very involved with my predominantly male guild (in the 10 months I’ve been with them, I can’t think of a time where we’ve had more than 4 active female raiders at once), I’m a serious player, I’ve had tanking as my main spec in the past, I’ve led raids, I’m not afraid to speak up on vent when I’m pugging and when male players act patronizing towards me, I tell them off. In real life (because real life is important!), I’ve lived without the security blanket of a relationship for years, I’m finishing up my second university degree, I’ve volunteered in women’s shelters, I’ve written papers on domestic violence, I’ve been a girl guide leader, I wrote my IBO extended essay on the portrayal of women in Lord of the Rings, I’ve participated in vigils remembering the Montreal Polytechnic Massacre … Yeah, apparently I need to have feminism explained me.

I know I’m pretty mild when writing about gender issues. It’s that I don’t believe in complaining. I believe in taking action. I don’t talk feminism very much because I’m busy living it.

Step up and take control

Don’t get me wrong, injustices (be they gender related or not) should be called out. Yelled from the rooftops. They should be clearly described, discussed and, if at all possible, solved. That’s not complaining, it’s educating, it’s raising awareness.

But words only get so far. I do have problems with sites like My Fault, I’m Female, where angry women rant to other angry women about how much their life (and the world around them) sucks because they’re female. I certainly understand the benefits of venting to individuals who can empathize, but victimizing yourself puts you in a powerless position, at the mercy of jerks everywhere. It’s true that you can’t ever control what others believe and how they behave (well, in countries where most workplaces have very strict sexual harassment laws, you can control behaviour in some situations), but you can choose how you deal with things.

I’d prefer to read a site where women empower other women by going beyond sharing the frustrating moments in their lives and add how they’ve overcome those adversities and reached their goals. I don’t believing in victims, only survivors.

In a WoW setting, I wish other female players would speak up on vent when they pug. Yes, there’s a small chance someone will make a sexual remark, that someone will claim you’re a bad player, that it’ll be assumed you’re the healer. There’s also a small chance you’ll be stabbed in the subway someday. Or that you’ll get mugged on the street. Or that you’ll be crippled in a car accident. Do you stay home every day out of fear that, maybe, something bad might happen?

Ok, some people do. But the thing is, if you keep quiet on vent out of fear, you’re giving all the WoW assholes power over you. So if you want to speak up, then do so. If something bad comes of it, then use the experience to raise awareness and empower other women.

If it’s any reassurance, in my 5 years of playing WoW, I’ve always been open about my gender. I call stuff out on vent while I’m pugging, I correct people when they say “he”, I walk around with my Ammen Vale Lashling out, and the worst I’ve ever gotten from random strangers was “hey, cool, we have a girl in a the raid”. Which really isn’t insulting at all.

And the more women who are open about their gender (note, “being open” DOES NOT equate “flaunt”), the more the inhabitants of the World of Warcraft will realize that female WoW players are in fact quite common and, omigosh, not a big deal.

“WoW, from a women’s perspective”

When Matt and I exchanged some lines on Twitter about blogging about men in WoW and about men/women in-game interactions, we got a few interesting reactions.

What’s there to talk about?”

It’s been done to death.”

So boys, apparently, you’re boring, you have life served to you on a silver platter and you’ve been talked about so much that no cares anymore. What do you think of that?

I don’t know what the ratio of men to women is in WoW, but it’s not that impressive anymore. The millions of blogs with the tagline “WoW from a girl gamer’s perspective” make me smile. There are corners in WoW where women are uncommon: hardcore pvp, high end raiding, auction playing, serious tanking. I have a lot of admiration for those women who dare tread in waters they’re not expected to be seen in.

But for the most part? We’re not special little snowflakes anymore, but it pleases us greatly to believe we are.

(As a side note, I do recognize that it’s just pleasant to talk about WoW with other women, which is probably why groups like WoW_ladies are really popular. Talking about WoW to men just isn’t the same.)

Men on the other hand… I have yet to see a “WoW from a guy gamer’s perspective” tagline. And I bet, if it does happen, it’ll be very scandalous.

It’s like single gendered guilds. Male-only guilds are “sexist”. Female-only guilds are “admirable”. Female-only guilds do tend to be better at marketing themselves, touting the pleasures of playing amongst girlfriends instead of spewing bullshit like “we play better than the other gender”. But at the end of the day, single gendered guilds are about having guy-time or girl-time without the social and sexual pressure oozed by the presence of the opposite gender.

Women are the victims of a lot of double standards, but it doesn’t justify double standards against men.

Having non-cavemen guildies isn’t “fortune” it’s choice

I cringed a little at Metaneira‘s choice of words when she wrote “Ais and I are fortunate enough to be in a guild that promotes inclusiveness“. Her and Ais aren’t in their guild thanks to luck. They’re not guilded with cavemen because they’re self-respecting women who chose a guild where they’re treated like human beings. They chose to not join a guild that doesn’t believe in female tanks, that doesn’t allow women to be officers and that ignores contributions from female players on basis that they’re female.

To all women who are in such guilds: leave. Alt tab over to WoW THIS VERY INSTANT and type /gquit. There are tons, tons, tons AND tons of guilds that judge players according to skill (in a performance guild) or personality (in a social guild) rather than gender. Why the heck would you be wasting your time with a guild that doesn’t?

Of posting your photo on your guild forums

I’ve been thinking on that one quite a bit lately. In the past, I’ve felt the same way as those fearing the wrath of other females about posting pictures. Then I thought about it.

I once criticized a female applicant for putting her picture in her application. But really, a guy applying with a picture would have triggered the same “lol…wut?” from me. Guild applications are about who you are as a player, not what you look like in real life. Guildies post pictures of themselves as a faces-to-names/voices thing among friends. An applicant is a stranger, no one is nosey about looks quite yet.

As for posting provocative pictures, yeah, a woman posting pictures of her breasts will cross other women. If a guy posted provocative pictures of his 6-pack, though, well…do you REALLY think the other guys will let him get away with it?

Same goes for the woman who posts 20 pictures of herself. If a guy posts 20 pictures of himself, he’d get his share of crap too.

As for “you’re hawt!” type remarks, as long as they’re not creepy disturbing or coming from someone 10 years younger, I don’t see what’s offensive about them. No one complains when I compliment my male guildies on their pictures. And between you and me, I kinda like being told I’m hawt. Iin my real life, I’m appreciated only for my listening skills and my ability to recite chapters of Therapeutic Choices, it’s pretty nice to be treated like, you know, a warm blooded human being sometimes.

If you do get creepy disturbing comments after posting a picture, please scroll back up to the part about being guilded with cavemen.

Want to read more?

For a topic that’s supposed to be exhausted, I find I still have way too much to say about it. But I’ll give you all (as well as my fingers) a break from my wordiness and make a few reading suggestions for those of you who still believe women in WoW are a rarity. (Also, I can only think of so many blogs off the top of my head. I know there are tons more. If you write or know of a blog that fits into a category below, feel free to suggest it and I’ll add it to the list)

My past gender-related posts
The Treatment of Women in WoW part 1
The Treatment of Women in WoW part 2
The New Recruit or How I Almost Got in a Fight with a Sexist Jerk

Gifted bloggers who regularly write about gender in WoW
The Pink Pinktail Inn
Pugnacious Priest

Recent feminism posts
The ‘mental Shaman
Empowered Fire
Stories of O
The Lazy Sniper
Raging Monkeys (also a co-GM, raidleader and pvper!)

The following bloggers aren’t necessarily preoccupied by gender in WoW. They are, however, successful at roles or playstyles that are often described as “difficult” for a woman to be accepted in. Most of the time, our greatest limitations are the ones we impose on ourselves.

Female GMs/Raid Leaders
A Healadin’s Tear
Dwarf Babble
Kiss My Alas
Flash of Moonfire
You Yank It You Tank It
Tree Bark Jacket
I Like Bubbles

PvE Progression Focused Female Players
Moar HPS
Kurn’s Corner
Disco Priest
Falling Leaves and Wind
Ecclesiastical Discipline
HoTs & DoTs
Life in Group 5
Tales of a Priest

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

July 30, 2010

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.