In Defense of Civility

Truth be told, much of what annoys me in-game about the behavior of other people boils down to civility. Specifically, a lack thereof. Some examples over the past few years of playing WoW:

  • Having to talk a guildie out of qguitting due to her absolute panic and hysteria over the teenage boy who refused, after being asked multiple times, to stop making dead baby jokes. The woman, who was 7 months pregnant at the time, had also lost a baby a year prior.
  • The men old enough to know better who pepper their vent chat with gender-specific vulgarities whenever fighting a female boss, and don't give the male bosses the same treatment.
  • The self-centered persons who ninja AFK and leave a team of others waiting for them to show back up to complete the dungeon/raid, never apologizing or explaining their absences.
  • The people who constantly ask for help, be it in the form of your time or handouts, who then never reciprocate.
  • The trade chat troll who spent hours at a time, wearing my guild tag, being condescending to and picking fights with the server at large, including other guild members on their unguilded alts.

I'm sure most people have seen some of the above examples during their game time. What they all have in common is a demonstrated lack of civility.


n., pl., -ties.

  1. Courteous behavior; politeness.
  2. A courteous act or utterance.

Well-mannered behavior toward others: courteousness, courtesy, genteelness, gentility, mannerliness, politeness, politesse. See courtesy/discourtesy. A courteous act or courteous acts that contribute to smoothness and ease in dealings and social relationships amenity (used in plural), courtesy, pleasantry, politeness, propriety (used in plural). See courtesy/discourtesy.

That's the definition.

As you can see from some of the synonyms, civility seems to be a term better suited for a Merchant Ivory film than a blog about the World of Warcraft. Who cares about civilized discourse and politeness? Surely not anyone who gets behind a keyboard and picks up a pixelated sword, right? Wrong.

Civility Isn't an Antiquated Concept

Do you make plans with your friends and then not show up? And then never say anything to them afterward? Why is this OK if the plans are a raid signup and involving 24 other people?

Is your every day language at work, at home, and in social gatherings towards acquaintances full of expletives and racial slurs, and derogatory remarks against folks with sexual orientations that differ from yours?

Would you walk up to a group of women whose names you know but you in all honesty are not good buddies with, and start making dead baby jokes? And casually toss around a number of gender-specific sexual terms? Would you say these things in front of your sister/significant other/mother?

Why then so often is online chat too often full of all of the above?And why is it that when you approach someone about their lack of civility, you often are chided for trying to suppress their freedom of expression, or called the thought police? When did it become unfashionable — or even extremist to hear some folks reactions — to ask for courtesy in people's interactions with each other and expect a civil environment in which to play online?

At their core, many of the posts I've written here have boiled down to looking for the human beings on the other side of the computer screens to stop what they're doing and behave more like they would behave towards others they knew in their non gaming lives. The fact that I'm sitting in guild chat with you doesn't mean I have an expectation and desire for the level of your conversation to stoop well below what it would in your living room.

I'm not advocating for a G rated guild chat at all times, but I am advocating for the return of common sense.

Ways to Demonstrate Civility

  1. Think before you type. In person, rude and insensitive comments can fly out of your mouth before you have time to reflect upon them. Online, you're communicating with other via text. Read back what you are saying to someone before you hit enter. This is a major benefit of text-based communications. Take advantage of it.
  2. Be the better person. I don't care if it was someone else who started in with the crass commentary — you are not obligated to join them. You have free will and the ability to make a better decision than they did.
  3. Don't be a dick (a.k.a. the DBAD rule.) Don't troll in trade to "light things up." Don't pick on a guildie in Gchat over something they are sensitive about. Don't treat the World of Warcraft as your personal soap box and megaphone, with your fellow players as the captive audience who can't walk away from you.

How to Cope with Others Demonstrating Incivility

  1. Let them know. Don't seethe with anger and lash out once you are past all points of patience. When the bad behavior/unwarranted commentary happens, whisper the person and ask them to knock it off. If it continues, or if it is malicious and directed publicly at another person, politely ask the offender to cease and desist, using the same channel the person is using for their behavior/comments.
  2. Set an example. No, I'm not saying make an example out of the offending person. I mean model the kind of behavior you want to see in other people. Exert peer pressure by being civil in your interactions with others. Even when you disagree.
  3. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt. This is probably the hardest thing to do. And this is also why obscenity laws vary from state-to-state: what offends me or goes against my community's standards of acceptable behavior may not align with what offends you or what offends your community's standards of behavior.

As much as it boggles my mind at some of the comments and behavior people I don't know but am thrown together with over the Internet say and do, I can suspend my disbelief and think that there may in fact be a time and a place wherein they are within social norms and boundaries that favor them and not me. That said, however, the online space is neither my place nor their space — it is a new shared space wherein we have to compromise and come to a workable and tolerable environment for all of us.

When All Else Fails

And for those die hards who refuse to modify their behavior in the face of guildie requests for a kinder gentler place online, you may do well to direct them to the Terms of Service for the game, which state:

Rules Related to "Chat" and Interaction With Other Users. Communicating in-game with other Users and Blizzard representatives, whether by text, voice or any other method, is an integral part of the Game and the Service and is referred to here as "Chat." When engaging in Chat, you may not:

(i) Transmit or post any content or language which, in the sole and absolute discretion of Blizzard, is deemed to be offensive, including without limitation content or language that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, hateful, sexually explicit, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable

Safe travels, adventurers.

14 thoughts on “In Defense of Civility”

  1. Amen, sistah (Esh here). I posted a similar DBAD post on my blog several weeks back (and am thrilled to know I’m not the only one who uses DBAD). I am constantly amazed by the behavior I’m faced with online and, in particular, in World of Warcraft. I’m also constantly amazed by the people who think the language filter means they can just cuss to their heart’s content and will ARGUE with you about it, in spite of having the ToS thrown in their faces and links provided from the customer service forum that state quite otherwise.
    Normally, I have quite the potty mouth but, it’s all about context and location. I know when and where it’s okay to use it. It’s never okay to belittle/harass/demean/and all the other things you listed others.

  2. Exactly. I’m no saint when it comes to language either (I worked as a journalist for some time, with some hard drinking, rough talking folks.) But I don’t feel compelled to bring that into Gchat with me either.
    And seriously, when is it ever the right time or place to belittle/harass/demean other people? Is this how folks behave offline? Is it really? That’s what I’d truly like to know.

  3. Wonderful post. It gets to me when there are some who act deplorable in any and all chats no matter who it’s to and they defend their actions with things like ‘thick skin’ comments and ‘freedom of speech’.
    And to your question to is this how people act offline too, I believe that the thoughts and ideas were already there, anonymity just gave them the courage to share them.

  4. Thank you.
    I have to agree that I think many people behave in ways online towards others that they would not have the nerve to do were they standing face-to-face with that person. The anonymity of the computer screen seems to bring out the worst in some people. People who in turn, will argue for hours about how you are encroaching on their freedom of expression.

  5. Totally agree, civility is something few have, and most lack completely. The world of anonymity on the internet hiding behind characters and avatars I think lends to some people thinking they can say and do anything.

  6. Very good points, I wish more people would think like this.
    I can understand people being in a bad mood sometimes, but I don’t see that as a reason to snap at anyone at the first sign of trouble.
    Glad I’m not the only one who thinks civility should not be dead!

  7. We all have our bad days. But some people seem to only have bad days, and not have the ability to make amends for them. “I’m sorry” is an economical phrase, only a few words, free to utter, and so rarely used.

  8. I am, needless to say, a big fan of civility – being English and stuffy, perhaps. I mean, I have my bad moments, when I am rude or superior or just plain accidentally rubbish, but the way some people people seem to think it’s appropriate to interact with people in WoW just boggles my mind sometimes. Strangers, perhaps, we could all take a little care over – but in guild, with the people you supposedly like to spend with?!
    But then there’s always 16th century understandings of Courtesie to fall back on – i.e. best applied with a big stick 🙂

  9. Very nicely written – thank you. It amazes me that we even have to talk about this. But just yesterday I was in a random Dungeon Finder as the tank and politely asked one of the DPS to stop pulling. He did it for the third time right before the final boss fight – I again asked him to stop – and he responded with the ‘n’ word.
    Really? Just before the final boss – you are not capable of just saying ‘ok’?
    We kicked him but still – kinda sad.

  10. Most people wouldn’t get into a shouting match with a stranger in the grocery store yet many will show little thought before insulting or getting into an argument with a stranger in WoW. It does boggle.

  11. 🙁
    It really is frustrating when polite requests to behave and be a team player are met with obscenities or racial slurs or pointed indifference and continuing to do it. I can only hope that people who behave like that will all be put into PUG groups together if they are kicked from LFD enough, as part of Blizzard’s advanced matching system and tracking said things.

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