[MMO] Dealing with trolls and other "special" individuals
One of the novelties of GW2 is the way this game handles potentially irritating activities that are related to the competition aspect in MMOs, the result being a minimisation of conflictive points, and perhaps a masking of human nature. In a comment with Azuriel on a previous post, we delved on the surface of philosophical thought for a moment, he stating that the repetition of an action creates a habit (“We become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.” -Aristotle), whereas I remain skeptic: Should not a positive, mature attitude come from ourselves, not incentivised by the system? Well, if that does work as Azuriel and our old buddy Aristotle state, perhaps we will see a new breed of more social-conscious players educated by the MMO genre. And that is something we really need right now.
Grumpy Granny Milady: "Back in the old days, people behaved because they had no other option if they wanted to engage in high-end content. The community could regulate itself by ostrasizing harmful elements such as ninjas, slackers and jerks. And what do we have now? A system that eliminates any rough areas so that we can ignore that we are actually playing side by side with a bunch of jerks! I dissent! People should learn that bad behaviour is not tolerated, not that there is no possibility of behaving bad! Etc, etc."
Perhaps it is too late for that, given the trend MMOs are following. WoW is implementing a looting system in Pandaria that completely eliminates the need-greed dichotomy when playing with strangers. The players saw that nobody could be trusted in an anonymous lawless situation and played the same game the ninjas did, rolling for everything as a self-defence. That system was aberrant and a solution had to be tailored for it. Instead, they removed the system completely. One more social aspect gone down the drain, and the Massive Multiplayer is dismantled little by little until we have dispensed with every social aspect that fostered that community which used to be generally good, spiced up by one or two jerks, gankers, etc. These patches into the Multiplayer areas of the genre strike me as a blindfold, so that we can play alongside jerks and their like without actually engaging with them, challenging them.
Some time ago, there was a post by Stubborn in which he told one particularly obnoxious LFD experience. That is the usual way of things these days, the anecdote was nothing new, but the way he reacted to the situation was. He stood up for what he believed instead of resigning to play under the conditions the jerks had established. Check it out, it is a good read and the comments are also diverse and insightful.
This post led me to reinforce my belief that each one of us can, and should, challenge the system. We have been overrun by jerks, not just in MMOs but all over the internet. Trolling is the expected response to almost anything said on the public sphere, specially when a sound discussion is attempted. On the internet, it falls on moderation and a combination of engaging and ignoring those trolls depending on the issue. I am more concerned with the trolls and jerks that populate our MMO space.
It falls on both the developer and the player to ensure that the MMO community is healthy. The former must at least provide the latter with tools to fight undesirable behaviour, and make sure that the system works properly and is not exploited. We could consider GW2 and Pandaria's approaches as an attempt to fight the jerkish community, but I actually see them as a way of rose-tinting the community. Perhaps social and good behaviour will breed good behaviour, so I will not complain too loud about GW2. Although I suspect that the intended result of this is that players do not have to deal with human-internet nature, and thus will not have to challenge its failings.
I prefer tools that encourage us players to deal with the trolls with some effectiveness, such as LoL's tribunal. But since we do not have such tools available to us in our MMOs, we will have to make do with what we have been given: reports, tickets, and being loud about respect and rights. Setting an example. Trade channel, or whatever its iteration is called in other games, has always brimmed with trolls, jerks and spammers, who have taken over a channel that is supposed to be the agora of commerce and grouping (and sometimes Hellenistic debate). Three or four trolls will sour a common spot for the whole server. The other day I read a very ill-intentioned joke along the lines of "The difference between football and rape is that women do not like football." Not only did I report that, but I also wrote a ticket to make sure that it would be looked into by a human being (this is the GM response if you're curious), and then I stated on that same trade chat that I had done so, for other players to know that it is in their hands to do something, and for the perpetrator to know that it is not an accepted behaviour.
Some people will say that I place too much importance on things most people do not care about. Well, I bet that that joke was read by a rape victim, and that it must have hurt her/him. I am also certain that most people, that silent majority, are sickened by the troll/jerk behaviour, and that they only need a little push to begin working against it themselves. Players should try to foster a healthy game environment and stop heeding the trolls who will tell them that "this is the internet." No, the internet is you, me, our neighbour. We are part of the problem if we do not engage with it. Silence sadly equals to agreement. I assure you, confronting the trolls on the public spaces does very often yield results in the manner of public support and troll-silencing, but someone has to step up for her beliefs.
I would rather work with other tools than the ones we were and will be given. I would like to see a player tribunal, some sort of reputation system that was carefully tailored to avoid exploiting, and more power to the game masters. It is needed more than ever because the community can no longer enforce respectful behaviour since players are more individualistic than ever.
An essential read on the topic of trollhood: "Racism, Harassment, Griefing, Bullying, Trolling…whatever you call it… just stop."
PD: I will be abroad for three weeks and might not be able to check the internet so much. I hope I can still post and comment around, but do not think I have been murdered by a furious troll if I don't.