On the offensive

We review about 90 plus sources every day here at NPNM (Thank God for the invention of the executive summary).  As result of reviewing that many feeds, when I come upon something with the syllable “porn” in it, I simply roll my eyes and move on.  As a result of when I saw this come up on our RSS feed, I simply dismissed it and move on.  It was not until I came upon this (someone I tend to take a bit more seriously) that I decided to go back and at least glance at the executive summary for Tobold’s site. The title of the article, “Blood Elf Porn” lead me to believe that either it was a really, really slow news day or Tobold has lost his mind. So I read Tobold’s post.

 “If your boy can play World of Warcraft, he can also find explicit pornographic material on the internet. In fact, parents should be more worried if their teenage sons *can’t* find porn on the internet, because then they are either completely retarded, or sexually not normal” – Tobold

After reading the sentence above I was sure that Tobold had lost his mind. Now mind you I don’t know him personally so I have no idea if he was in his right mind to begin with. Still, sanity is a matter of perspective so “to each his or her own” as the old adage claims. But credit where credit is due, because that led me here (simply because “Ancient Gaming Noob” comes before “Too Many Annas” in our RSS Feed) – which in turn led me to the Blizzard Blue post on a related subject by Arrestide (which I will post below for those of you who don’t have access do it).  Most notable in the response by Blizzard was the last paragraph:

“Members of our CS team will ‘patrol’ Goldshire on Moon Guard on a regular basis, and take appropriate action for individuals violating the Harassment Policy. Note that this pertains primarily to public messages (/say, /yell, General) and unsolicited whispers. We won’t be showing up with that mythical crack of lightning– we’ll just be watching silently for any rule-breaking language and following up privately with the player[s] in question.” – Arrestide, Blizzard

It is important at this point to let you all see the post from the concerned father that led to Blizzard’s reaction:

Not that it will matter, as I’m sure I’ll get trolled, but I wanted to drop a line, as I did in the cancellation box, that I cancelled my son’s account. He’s 15, and I’ve found him to be very trustworthy. We allow him access to play usually 1-2 hours a night, max, if he chooses.

Tonight, he had some friends over for the night. When It came time to wrap it up, I went into the comp room to find my son and his friends huddled over the monitor, laughing like school boys will.

Apparantly, they had heard about and discovered Goldshire Inn on Moon Guard. I myself had heard of it’s reputation, but after scrolling up and reading the chat, I never thought it was as bad as I was reading.

I cannot begin to tell you how displeased I am with the absolute lack of server/ToS follow up regarding this abominable server. Line after line, having absolutely NOTHING to do with RP: sexual emotes, gay bashing, racial comments….I sat there speechless.

And please don’t tell me about the ignore button, I am well aware of that feature. The fact that this behavior goes on CONSTANTLY on this server is disgusting, and I will not allow my son to “discover” any more servers such as this.

I understand that this is a T for Teen game. However, as I said, we trust our son, and playing WoW is a reward for his good grades in school. We have all parental features enabled. I took screenshots, but there’s no point in sending them because I’m sure they weill be disregarded.

As a paying customer for 6 years now, I just wanted to voice my extreme displeasure regarding this disgusting server. IMO, it should be shut down.

T for Teen is one thing. What goes on in Goldshire on Moon Guard is appalling and beyond offensive.

Both my wife and I are very sorry to punish our son by cancelling his account, as this really wasn’t his fault. However, we cannot allow our son access to a game that is not monitored for the very rules you so vehemently say you enforce.

Thank you for your time.

Now I am sure that it is at this point that some of our readers and listeners will simply roll their eyes and say “ya sure what sort of a reaction would you expect from a nun.”  Truth be told however, nothing could be further from truth – especially considering why I am a nun. Simply put, short of being a convicted criminal, no matter who you are, no matter what you have done with your life, I have “been around more blocks” than 99.9% of you out there. Re-read this line from the original poster’s letter to Blizzard:

Line after line, having absolutely NOTHING to do with RP: sexual emotes, gay bashing, racial comments….I sat there speechless.

When I recently returned to WoW after a long interval I made the mistake of turning on the trade channel.  What I read was much the same as what the concerned father saw over his son’s shoulder. The place where the father’s complaint begins is with language that, as anyone who knows even a smattering about administrative law can tell you, will get you fired on the spot in any office in the United States. Yet it is the words “gay bashing” and “racial comments” which take the all too common incident to a whole new level. 

The apparent anonymity of the internet leads those originating such bigotry to believe they are safe behind some sort of electronic wall – away from the street where someone would through them a beating at best, and get them charged with a hate crime in some jurisdictions.

The unfortunate truth is that with millions of players, and thousands upon thousands of them online at any given moment, it is impossible to police it all, short of mastering the art of being omnipresent. Yet it is the fact that Blizzard has so many customers that enables them to “throw the book” at violators and ban them by the tens of thousands.

Nobody is asking Blizzard to raise anyone’s children from them. That’s not at all what this is about. I am also perfectly capable of defending myself should anyone be unwise enough to even consider playing the dozens with me. But sticking an ESRB rating on the side of the box carries with it certain legal guarantees. And as we have seen lately, especially with the ground breaking case of Schwartzenegger vs. The Entertainment Merchants Association et al, it is a legal guarantee that even the Supreme Court of the United States takes seriously.

So before you say to yourself that I am making “much ado about nothing” consider this dear readers: If you think that spam of any sort can’t bring an mmo to its knees you have to look no further than Aion Online.

See you online,

Julie Whitefeather

 [p0sted for Julie Whitefeather by The Webmaster]

Blizzard’s Reaction in Full:

 

This topic is not a new one, and we know it’s a concern for our players and our player-parents. We hear perennial complaints about spots in our game where this activity is said to take place, and Moon Guard Goldshire appears in that list with some regularity.

Often the public assumption is that unless a GM appears with a crack of lightning and a mighty hammer, Blizzard is turning a blind eye…. this is very much not the case, so I’m hoping to shed a little more light on this topic from Blizzard’s perspective.

For reference, the In-Game Harassment Policy:
http://us.blizzard.com/support/article.xml?locale=en_US&articleId=20226

Our Intent
It’s our goal (and in our interests, obviously), to present a safe and accessible environment for play. While defining “offensive” behavior can be subjective, the policy linked above reflects our working definition, and our intent to keep certain types of offensive behavior from affecting the play experience.

Enforcement
With millions of players in hundreds of servers and thousands of channels, it is impossible to manually monitor everywhere. To this end, World of Warcraft provides features to help players protect themselves and help us moderate accordingly:

- Profanity/obscenity filter to automatically intercept the most obvious offensive language
- The ability to report any player violating the rules
- Ignore functionality to remove individuals from appearing in chat

No single one of these, by itself, is always sufficient. It’s critical to understand the rules we’re enforcing, and where they apply. Relevant to this case, whisper chat between two consenting individuals, guildmates, etc is not an area we are out to pro-actively police. Any offensive in-game behavior needs to be reported in order to receive the right followup.

“Punish in Private”
Some posters on this thread have suggested that Blizzard ignores those reports. From several years as a manager for our call centers, I can promise you that we take action routinely…. because they call us. Or they email us. Sometimes there’s blame placed on a roommate or sibling, sometimes an account thief committed the offense, etc. The point is that players appeal because players receive actions. You won’t see it happen…. well, unless it happens to you. Otherwise you can only decide whether you will take our word on it.

Okay, what now?
Members of our CS team will ‘patrol’ Goldshire on Moon Guard on a regular basis, and take appropriate action for individuals violating the Harassment Policy. Note that this pertains primarily to public messages (/say, /yell, General) and unsolicited whispers. We won’t be showing up with that mythical crack of lightning– we’ll just be watching silently for any rule-breaking language and following up privately with the player[s] in question.

5 Responses to On the offensive
  1. Brian 'Psychochild' Green
    August 5, 2010 | 8:48 pm

    Nuns read my blog? And they take me seriously? Learn something new every day. :)

    Interesting that this came to light just as Tobold posted his entry. As a game administrator, I can definitely agree with Blizzard’s response. It’s generally best to ban people quietly rather than making a big production out of it because some of the worst offenders thrive on attention. Unfortunately, “out of sight, out of mind” means most people just don’t see the work that goes into cleaning up even a small part of the offenders. It’s also an issue that you have to do at least a minimum amount of verification. Unfortunately, a lot of unscrupulous players will use the reporting system to try to strike out at other players. So, even if someone was saying naughty things just five minutes ago, it can take a bit of time to dig through the logs when the report ticket comes to the front of the queue.

    The further problem is that if you root out a nest of people in one area, they tend to go somewhere else and cause trouble there. Sometimes it can be the best to keep the “marginal” people in one location to check on them easier, but it also lets things get out of control a bit easier.

    Ultimately, if you give people a way to communicate someone will abuse it. Unfortunately, game administrators can’t be everywhere at once. We do the best we can, though, without being omnipresent. :)

  2. Sr. Julie
    August 6, 2010 | 5:58 am

    We read your blog all the time…it’s right up there on our “must read” list. As you say, “if you give people a way to communicate someone will abuse it”. What troubles me the most is when the abuse is taken to the level of hate. Until Blizzard manages to master the art of being omnipresent there will doubtless always be such problems.

    Thanks much for the response.

    Julie

  3. Tesh
    August 6, 2010 | 12:03 pm

    Seems to me that policing the playerbase is implied in the TOS, at least inasmuch as enforcing their own rules. Silence doesn’t always mean consent, but when you’re the service provider, maybe you should provide the service people are paying for.

    I’m reminded of their halfhearted efforts to clean up the forums. You don’t do that by releasing real names into the wild, you clean up forums with no-nonsense moderation and a heavy banhammer. Whining that it’s a lot of work just doesn’t fly when you’re asking for a subscription.

  4. Webmaster
    August 6, 2010 | 1:41 pm

    @ Tesh: While I agree with the your comments on Real Id, the problem with approaching moderation with a “heavy banhammer” is throwing the baby out with the bathwater – you risk alienating a very large portion of your playerbase.

  5. Tesh
    August 6, 2010 | 2:26 pm

    Not if it’s very clear what offenses garner bans. I’m not saying to wield it indiscriminately (which would indeed be unhelpful), I’m saying that you can’t let offenses slide when there are clear rules for behavior. I should have been clearer; a “heavy banhammer” as I’m using it is concerned with clear consequences for defined bad behavior, up to and including rock solid bans. Blizzard sets the rules; they must enforce them. That’s all I meant. I’m not calling for every little infraction (imagined or otherwise) to call down indiscriminate fury.