(Disclaimer: This post deals with player inappropriateness and the very uncomfortable subject of bigotry in all forms, and will contain more than a few offensive terms and words in regards to things I have witnessed in game. Please understand that I am against bigotry, but in the interest of clarifications, these terms will not be censored.)
I know a lot of us have had this problem in some form or another. Youâ€™re puttering around Stormwind or Orgrimmar going about your business when you happen to see something on your screen that makes you do a double take. Something someone said in General or Trade Chat made you wonder just what was going on, or maybe you spotted the name of a character or hunter pet that made you slow down and say, â€śHold on a second, here. Did I just see what I thought I saw?â€ť So you turn to check again, and sure enough, there sits a Worgen Hunter with a wolf pet named Jewbiter. Or a Dwarf Paladin named Mikehunt (if youâ€™re confused about this one, say it out loud really fast). Iâ€™m not making these up â€“ these are people Iâ€™ve actually reported before.
In days past, you would be able to click the trusty red question mark in your UI, open up a ticket, and file it with the GMs so that it would be looked at. Youâ€™d receive a nice little in-game message that showed that it was responded to and being investigated. In the case of Mikehunt, I added him to my friends list to make sure that the name was changed, and if not, I could report him again later (I had to report him several more times for other versions of the same name, until he finally received a final warning, I suspect, and changed his name to something more appropriate). With Jewbiter, however, you just had to make your report and hope that it would be resolved. Not the greatest option, but for me, it was enough. The in-game mail response at least indicated that it was being investigated, and in my experience, turnaround time on these issues was typically within a day or two.
The new system doesnâ€™t work in the same way, and in some cases, itâ€™s a little bit better and more user-friendly. The option for making a report on bad player names, bad pet names, bad guild names, or unacceptable language in chat is now reduced to a click-to-report option. Right-click the character portrait or character name in chat, choose â€śreport player,â€ť and the UI comes up. Now, the UI for this feature is great. You can choose one of four radio buttons: Bad Player Name, Bad Guild Name, Language, and Cheating ; add in a short description of the incident in the provided text box, and thatâ€™s that. Report finished.
On paper, it looks like the perfect way to manage these reports. No more having to remember what a character name is, or figuring out just what alt code you need to get that umlauted u. I donâ€™t get updates from Blizzard anymore to say, â€śHey, we got your report and weâ€™re gonna look into it. In the meantime, have a Pudding Pop,â€ť but when this feature was first released, I could live with it. Theyâ€™ve done right by me in the past, so no big deal.
Then something went wrong.
Back on Azgalor-US, I was running through Stormwind one day on my hunter. I happened to run by the blacksmithâ€™s area and ran past a Worgen Warrior rocking the DS5 instance plate armor. That armor looked pretty good! So, like any fledgling transmogger (damn you Rades and Rhuan) wanting to check it out and see what it would look like on a Draenei, I clicked his name and did a double take.
I was shocked. Thatâ€™s not even skirting the line of racism, thatâ€™s taking the running long jump right into I-dare-you-to-ban-me-ville. So I brought it up in guild chat. Encouraged everyone to report him, and filed a player name report myself. Added him to the friends list to keep an eye on the name change, and went about my day. In my heart I knew it would get handled; Blizzard would bring down the hammer.
The next day, I logged in and saw no change. No big deal, I thought, itâ€™s probably backed up in the system, but I filed another report anyway. The day after that, no change. No big deal, I thought again, itâ€™s probably backed up in the system. I filed another report anyway. I was away from my computer for a few days after that, working on my D&D/novel project, so I wasnâ€™t able to check in to see if there was a change. However, Iâ€™m sure you can imagine my surprise and confusion when, a week after my initial report, I logged in to find that Ibitanegar was still on my friends list. I reported him again. I encouraged others to do the same. I mentioned it in guild chat. Standard operating procedure, right?
A week later, after reporting daily, Ibitanegar was still on my friends list. Alright, follow standard operating procedure. Report, encourage. Report. Encourage. Report. Encourage. It was then that some people in my guild mentioned that they couldnâ€™t report him without being able to click him or his name. So, after forming a group with everyone who wanted to report him but couldnâ€™t because they werenâ€™t in Stormwind, I used HGWT to bring them to his position (and Iâ€™m sure if he was at his computer, he was confused as to why half a dozen people just teleported in on him, but I digress). Reports were made, and I went on about my business.
On one occasion, I decided to see what would happen if I were to use the old way of reporting. Choosing the â€śreport a playerâ€ť option simply gave instructions on the click-to-report procedure, but what about another method? I sent in a complaint through the original system, indicating that my numerous reports on the new system had gone unanswered, and that this player name was something that should be addressed. I received a wonderfully copy-pasted response detailing that all player reports must use the new click-to-report procedure, and no escalation option. Glorious. (Note at this time that I didnâ€™t use any of the reporting options on Battle.net. Why? Because until the time of this writing and discussions with Rades, I forgot they even existed.)
More than a month after my initial report, Ibitanegar was still unchanged. I was absolutely baffled. I could not understand why a racial slur of this magnitude was allowed or just glossed over.
Some time later on Twitter, Blizzard posted this:
And I responded:
A few hours went by without a response, and I logged off for the day. I got up the next morning to see an update in my twitter feed, a response from Blizzard:
My jaw dropped. Are you KIDDING me? â€śThe atmosphere on a realm is determined by its population.â€ť My problem with this response is two-fold. In the first place, it doesnâ€™t explain WHY they would allow a name such as this to persist, and second, does this mean theyâ€™re okay with a racial slur as a name so long as everyone else on the server is fine with it? I responded to this utter ridiculousness, only partially addressing the requirement of having to click to report:
Now, Iâ€™ve seen @BlizzardCS respond to tweets theyâ€™ve received about people having problems and questions on tickets and so on. Not once did I ever receive a follow-up from them on this for more clarification, and Iâ€™ve been grinding my teeth about this whole event since it happened. Itâ€™s been almost two months since my initial reporting, and Ibitanegar is still playing his happy little racist heart out on Azgalor-US, but Iâ€™m no longer there to continue reporting him.
This ties in neatly with the post made by Stubborn Â where their letter to Blizzard about votekicking says:
â€śI understand your secretive punitive measures that are to â€śprotect customerâ€™s privacy.â€ť Â Fine. Â Those of us who are actually trying to maintain some semblance of civil community are constantly frustrated by it because one job of a justice system is deterrence, which canâ€™t happen if justice takes place in secret, but fine. Â Okay. Â However, when the one tool weâ€™re given where we can see swift and cold justice happen is gimped in such a way as to make it unusable, it calls into question your own stand on bad player behavior.â€ť
My problem with the reporting feature is the SAME THING, but on a much more potentially damaging scale. Blizzard has given us a tool in order to help â€śpolice the community,â€ť as Stubborn indicates, but barring one tweet from @BlizzardCS which is removed from the original issue, Iâ€™ve seen no results. On top of that, it feels to me as though that the customer service department is suggesting that if Iâ€™m the only person who has reported it (I know that Iâ€™m not), then itâ€™s not important enough for them to investigate. Maybe Iâ€™m reading too much into that, but I’m not sure what else I’m supposed to take away from â€śThe atmosphere on a realm is determined by its population” other than a casual dismissal.
Clearly, this isnâ€™t working. So how do we fix the system? Honestly, click-to-report is a great feature. Whatâ€™s not great is that it is the ONLY way to report. You might be able to get around distance restrictions by doing some fancy target-of-target work, but if youâ€™re reporting in Stormwind and your guildmates are in Felwood, thatâ€™s just not possible. This requires the person in Felwood to come all the way back to Stormwind to report cases like this, and why in the HELL are the ones who are following the rules the ones who have to be inconvenienced in order to police their own community? I know that Blizzard doesnâ€™t make public how many people they have in their GM system, so I know that some of the issue has to be with the sheer ratio of reports to personnel, but there HAS to be a better way.
Changes that I think would make this system run a little better:
- More options than click-to-report, OR make it so that you can /who [name] and click to report from the /who window. Being half a world away unable to report something your friend or guildmate mentions automatically forces you into a silent majority. I know Blizzard wants us all to use their shiny system, but if part of the system is broken, responding to â€śit doesnâ€™t workâ€ť with â€śuse it anywayâ€ť is flawed.
- Reports about bad character/guild names must be treated with the same level of concern as you would over someone reporting a hate crime. It might be something that severe, anyway.
- Reports about language must be treated with a high level of concern, though honestly, Iâ€™m less worried about someone saying â€śfuckâ€ť where a kid might see it than I am about them being exposed to racist views. Iâ€™ve personally witnessed other players talking about the â€śgook delivery driverâ€ť that just brought them take-out in general chat, or that some â€śgoddamned Jewâ€ť ripped them off in trade. Put the four-letter words (or others like them) on the back burner, and address the racism first. Iâ€™m not saying the language is any less valid a complaint, but as a personal opinion, I think racism is much more damaging to the community than a rampant swear word.
- Implement and maintain a zero tolerance policy for racism. Iâ€™m sorry, but if I were on Blizzardâ€™s GM squad, Iâ€™d be pushing for automatic perma-bans on anyone spouting off racist remarks or offensive names. I know thereâ€™s a bottom line to consider here, but what would you prefer? Banning one racist and scaring another ten into line, or letting one racist run rampant and losing ten paying player accounts because youâ€™re not heading this behavior off at the pass?
- More escalation options in-game. Itâ€™s too easy to forget that there are other reporting options outside of the game world (I have a pretty good memory, and *I* forgot). Also, getting an automated response from a filter-based servicebot with no way to actually talk to a human being doesnâ€™t contribute to the betterment of the community.
In closing, Iâ€™d like to point out that Iâ€™m not some raving censor out to quell every little thing that people do wrong. If someone swears in a public channel, Iâ€™ll let it go. I swear to express frustration or disbelief, and Iâ€™m not about to tell someone they canâ€™t get a word in for emphasis if they really need to. However, if theyâ€™re on a major rant-bender where every other word requires an eye-covering of any nearby child, then I warrant it necessary to report it.
But this isnâ€™t the 1800s anymore. Itâ€™s not even the 1900s. Any racism, even casual racism, confuses and upsets me a great deal. I just canâ€™t wrap my brain around a blanket hatred of a group of people because of the color of their skin or a stereotype. Beyond that, though, I think what Iâ€™m shocked at most was how this whole situation was handled. Not once was I contacted for further information; not from in-game chat, not from in-game mail, not from @BlizzardCS after a half-hearted â€śshow some server solidarity â€“ power to the peopleâ€ť response. After two months, it makes me feel like my concerns for keeping up a good community were just swept under the rug.