Thursday, August 4, 2011

Language and Respect

Back in the Wrath days, I was once in a Nexus run that I regretted finishing.

Not that the group wasn’t skilled, or even that one player played in an asinine manner, but of what was said in party chat.

You see, the group had three members of the same guild in it, and they kept peppering party chat with references to how the trash mobs and bosses wanted a piece of their ‘puss-say’.  The Druid tank in particular kept up a stream of ‘puss-say’ talk, all the while keeping his toon on the move and tanking each group in succession.  As the instance progressed, their descriptions became more explicit, and the greater my disgust grew.

I may not show it when I write here on the blog, but I have a temper.  (I’m a redhead, what did you expect?)  Typically I keep it in check, and when it does flare up I usually dip into my pool of obscenities to fling a few good barbs at the offenders.  It's been a long time since nerd ragers in an instance or a BG bothered me, but these three clowns did.  I don’t know whether it was the extremely juvenile nature of the thing or that it was incredibly demeaning to women, but before we had even finished with Telestra, my fingers were twitching.  My desire to reach through the screen and smack them good reached a breaking point by the time we reached Alexstrasza.  As the tank pulled the Malygos-dominated dragon, my mouse hovered over the ‘Leave Group’ selection.  All I had to do was click it and get away from these jerks.

But whether I realized it was a futile gesture, that the instance was almost over, or that I wanted the Badges of Triumph more than anything else, I stayed.

I want to say that I said something to them and forced them to kick me --that I stood up on principle-- but this one time I can’t.  I’ve spoken up in party chat before, defended people who did no wrong in spite of what the other party member said, and I’ve called people out for mean and spiteful stuff.  But I’m not proud of that moment in The Nexus, and I’m sure it will continue eat at me for a good long while.

Fast forward a year and a half later, and I found myself in Eye of the Storm on one of my Paladins (I can’t remember which).  A few of us were holding down the Draenei Ruins, and when the last toon --a Death Knight-- got smacked by my Hammer of Wrath, the Rogue turned to me and said “You really raped that guy!”

My mouth opened and closed.  I knew all too well what he was saying, and I thought about ignoring him.  Or leaving.  Or something. 

But I remembered The Nexus.

“I didn’t,” I finally replied.

“Oh, I saw that hammer come down and he dropped!”

“No.  I didn’t rape him.”

“It’s just a saying.  Lol.”

I ground my teeth.  No matter what I said, to him ‘rape’ = ‘pwn’ and that was that.  Never mind what ‘rape’ really means.  Never mind that you might actually be talking to someone who knows a rape victim –or is a victim themselves.  Or that your borderline misogynistic behavior paints all of us gamers in a bad light.

Words have power, and some words shouldn’t be used lightly.  They don’t make you awesomely badass, they make you sound like a five year old who overheard a few naughty words and is testing their limit.

And you’re older than that, right?


  1. It sometimes seems futile to stand up to people about abusive language like this, and I don't think anyone can (or should!) be expected to do so all the time. Still, whenever you DO take a stand against it, even a little bit, I think you've done a good deed.

    That doesn't mean you're a bad person if you let something go by, though. Let's face it, if we wanted to insist on policing every single transgression we encounter, two things would happen: (a) We would spend all our time in frustrating and pointless arguments with brainless trolls, and (b) Nobody would ever want to talk with us for fear of saying something wrong.

    In game, as in life, it's important to pick our battles. That doesn't mean we should just sit by and shrug it off when someone says something terrible, but it's probably not worth our time to call out every single time some foul-mouthed idiot says bad stuff in chat.

    Here's an anecdote: I was fighting in Eye of the Storm on my rogue. A death knight and I were camping by the flag-pad at the Draenei Ruins, dealing with a steady trickle of Horde players trying to take the base. I had some pretty nice gear, and was near the top of the bracket, so I was doing well at carving up the attackers. We were a good team: I'd sap the healer, he'd death grip the DPS away -- we'd burn him down, then go back for the healer. We'd done this two or three times when he whispered me (this is cleaned up for spelling and grammar a bit).

    "Damn, you're ridiculous. You're making me want to roll a rogue."

    I grinned at him and said, "You're no slouch yourself! It's definitely fun, though, you should give it a try."

    A nice friendly person, right? But then he says,

    "You're just raping the shit out of people."

    My heart turned a little cold. Here's someone who's clearly not just being a dickbag, he's actually trying to be friendly. He's trying to say good things about somebody -- and believe me, that's as rare as hen's teeth in a battleground. And yet here he is slinging around "rape" as if it was some kind of praise.

    I couldn't let it stand, but I didn't want to turn the whole thing bad. In the end, I just said,

    "I'm pretty sure I wouldn't use that word for it, but we certainly did a lot of damage to them!"

    And you know what? He actually got it. He laughed, and we kept talking, and he didn't say anything more about rape. Sure, not everyone is going to pick up on something like that, but I am glad I didn't just jump down his throat about it. I don't know if he's going to go on using the word with other people, but I hope that it'll at least occur to him in the future that -- just maybe -- there are better ways to describe winning.

    Thanks for a good post!

  2. @Lara--

    Thanks for the comments. I think the reason why it got to me was that it was so blatant that I felt I should have said something. I don't bother policing Trade Chat or the nerd ragers in BG--it's just a waste of time-- but this was something different.