Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Othello, Act 3, Scene 3, Lines 155-161

I have been "working" on this post for over a month now. Each attempt distilled what I wanted to say even more. I would delete it and start again. I think I'll finally have the words exactly right this time.

Everyone knows I play World of Warcraft, the hugely popular online role playing game. I've been doing this since fall of 2006. I've met a lot of people, some nice, some not so nice, some in the middle. I've run a guild, a loose group of like-minded people, since December of 2007. I would say I have 20 people who have been with me for a long time. We've probably had 30 or so people who have passed through but what I offer with Spectacular Death is not for everyone and they have left; some nicely, some not so nicely and some in the middle.

While the anonymity of the Internet can cause the coarseness of humanity to show through, I run my guild and try to comport myself as I would want to be treated if I ran into these people in real life. It can be easy to have the snappy, snippy, sarcastic come back because you won't probably ever be standing in line at the grocery behind them. I just can't be that kind of a person.

So it was with great surprise that I and my guild became the target in late December of someone with an axe to grind. It started with a character whose name was exactly the same as mine with the exception of a "Two" added at the end. As you can chose your name, and my original spelling was already taken so I had to add letters to my original word, this was clearly designed to confuse people.

Then, the person joined one of the chat channels in the game that I have openly said I don't frequent and started advertising for people to join an all-Filipino guild to "combat the bigotry and hatefulness found in Spectacular Death". I didn't know about this recruiting tactic until I started getting private messages from other people in the game who know me wondering what I was doing. After this, posts started appearing on the public forum of the server on which I play telling people my guild and I were "bigoted and hateful towards Filipinos".

I tried, under the guise of a little used character, to find out exactly what what the person's beef with me or my guild was, but they would not talk to me. Others also tried, but got nowhere. For over 2 weeks, this was a nightly occurrence and I spent a great deal of game time explaining to people I had no idea what this person was complaining about. My enjoyment of the game was slipping away rapidly.

I have officers in the guild, people who have volunteered their time to help with the mechanics of running something with 277 names in it. Their counsel was to ignore it. Most of the time, the few people who take pot shots at me or my guild are ignored. But it became clear I was being specifically targeted as this person would log off when I logged on or would disappear when I was in the same town where they were soliciting members. When I left town, he or she would start up again.

Now, I have no problems with someone making an all-Filipino guild. More power to them, if they can succeed. But I do have a problem with my guild being denigrated for something we would not do in order to get attention. I have a code of conduct for players in my guild. It is absolute and I have kicked people from the guild who violate provisions in the code. It can be distilled to "Respect others. Period." Being bigoted or hateful toward an ethnic group would violate the code. I have people of Asian descent in my guild and they wondered where this person got the idea we were bigoted.

And Blizzard/Activison, the company that owns World of Warcraft, also takes a dim view of bigotry and open hatefulness. You have the option of "reporting" someone for actions which violate the Terms of Service or the End User License Agreement which everyone must accept to play the game. Harassment, hate speech, threats of violence are taken seriously and can garner you a permanent ban from the game. I know of people who were banned for any of those items.

At first, I laughed things off. But, as the weeks went by and the forum posts and yelling in the game continued, it began to get to me. "You must be strong. He can't see that it bothers you," my second in command told me. That's all well and good, but it's ruining my play time when all I do is deal with the comments from others about what was said. I was reporting the posts on the forum, telling the moderators that, while he's entitled to make a guild the way he wants, he's not entitled to belittle my guild in the process of making his. I dreaded logging on. I found the stress of playing, wondering what he was saying when I wasn't in a major town, overwhelming.

At the end of February, a casual friend talked to me about these incidents. He wanted to know why it bothered me. I had come to find out that over 55 people had been reporting this guy every time he showed up in town. When he chose to be on late at night, people stood around him and openly yelled at him in game. "People have your back," my friend said, "Why did this get to you? Answer that and you'll know how to handle the next event."

I really couldn't answer it until one day while surfing the web. I don't remember why these lines from Othello were quoted but this says what I couldn't.
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing.
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been a slave to thousands.
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
That's it.

I have worked very hard, since creating the guild, to have us be seen as a good group of good people. We are well-known for doing silly, wacky and crazy things, for trying to engage the entire server in events, for being nice and helpful. One person threatened to upend this.

"But they are just words," I hear you say. When people don't know who you are, words are all they have to go on. Even in a fake environment, people believe what they read running in chat channels on their screen. There are a good 11,000+ people on the server. I can't know all of them and they can't know me. If they only play from midnight to 6 a.m., chances are very good, I've never crossed paths with them at all, in nearly 4 years of playing. Of course it stands to reason they will "believe", in whatever capacity that is, what someone tells them, particularly if that someone seems very insistent on it. This is an attempt to rob me of my good name, to sully my reputation, as unfounded and baseless as it was, and that's what bothered me to my core.

I'm happy to say, thanks to the outpouring of support from those people who have crossed paths with me and my guild, the person saying these things has been banned from playing. I sometimes wish I knew who it was. Was it someone who I kicked? Was it someone who left in a huff? Was it someone who was jealous of us? Or was it just someone who drew a name out of a hat and decided to harass us? Was there a kernel of truth in what he or she was saying? Did someone from my guild make an inappropriate statement which was then blown completely out of proportion? I'll never know and I'm okay with that.

A month later, I can log on and be the silly guild leader everyone knows and not have to watch my back. I have learned that I have done what I set out to do, create a guild that is respected for who we are and whom people are not afraid to stand up for. If this were to happen again, I would probably feel the same upset feelings. This guild is very important to me and I protect it like a mother hen. But I also know that I can relax and if someone wants to claim we're bigots, they are going to have to prove it.

Beverage:  Water


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