World of WarCraft, Anonymity, and Invisible Rings

Raid Finder

True enough.

Time for a little venting.

I play a lot of World of WarCraft. Like the Internet in general, a person can act like a total jerk or fool without the issues of reputation. In other words, anonymity provides particularly poor players, both in skill and attitude, to infiltrate your group in any random assemblage; the Dungeon and Raid Finders appear partly to blame for this due to them placing players you’ll never see again in your group. I don’t have a problem with the former players – they just want to learn the game – but the other ones really chap my caboose. Cross realm play’s a boon, but also a curse. No one needs to speak, talk, or act like a decent human being, nor does it seem required.

Such is the case with many groups I encounter. As you know, I play tanking classes because I love the style. I don’t like doing damage (except as a tank) because I find the process bizarre and complicated, and healing appears like looking at numbers and meters for the whole time I play. Neither really excites me all that much or keeps me in the game, but tanking provides a sense of tension, fun, and challenge all rolled into a wonderful video game burrito. And that metaphor didn’t take much time to create!

Still, the World of WarCraft demands that I grind out gear to progress anywhere, and since tanking requires people to protect, I basically need to group with other people to learn my abilities and hopefully augment them with new gear. Said gear comes in rare quantities because the stats (RPG game stats, you know the drill) for tanking remain pretty specific for each tanking class. You might get lucky, but more often than not said gear arrives in limited quantities.

Hopefully, you’ll get a group full of people who can’t equip your armor type, nor roll on it. But who would expect that in a run? It’s more probably that a plate-wearing DPS specced person of the same class comes into the group. More often than not, I’m competing for gear against these people on items that aren’t optimal for them in any way. I extend the courtesy to them by not sniping their DPS gear, and I usually expect the same in return. Silly Zachery! They take gear designed for your class and then leave into the mysterious morass of 8.3 million players on different servers! How could you expect to get things you need? It’s especially frustrating when said person doesn’t even need that gear and then rolls on it anyway; in a surprise to no one, they win and take the gear home with them, and I get left with nothing.

Ninja Looter

I remember the days when groups took FOREVER to set up because you needed to play with people on your server. Furthermore, everyone needed to venture out to whatever dungeon/raid you planned on plumbing with your group. You could not act like a ninja-looting thief as your reputation would emerge immediately. People would not group with you, and would probably call you horrible, unspeakable names that the Internet’s anonymity allowed (I’d call it a positive in this particular situation – they deserve it, in some sense). World of WarCraft’s server carved out little communities on the Internet; people created (perhaps unknowingly) their own rules and, in this case, forms of social shaming that kept everyone keen and on the level. I suppose the time and dedication required to play the (admittedly simple) game at the early years probably forced this mentality – you’re either in, or you’re out, and there wasn’t much acceptance for those not willing to put in the time or realize that the game wasn’t a solipsistic universe.

Thank goodness that this does not happen where it counts (Raid-quality gear), or else I would tear my hair out and quite. As it is, the “people rolling on things they don’t need” syndrome seems limited to 5-man dungeons only. Raid Finder, back in the Cataclysm days, also allowed this rolling, and it was an insane quest to get anything of value unless you had several friends also rolling on the same item (even if they couldn’t use it!). Still, why should stuff like this happen at all? In a perfect world (where Blizzard could, apparently, peer into the hearts of man), it wouldn’t happen this way.

I find, more often than not, that this anonymity shows us how people would function without the threat of social reprecussion – I gotta say, that sounds like a cynical point of view. Still, it’s similar to Plato’s case of the Ring of Gyges, a powerful artifact that makes its wearer invisible. Would people do whatever they wished without punishment? Glaucon, Plato’s opponent, pretty much says as such:

Suppose now that there were two such magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the other; no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a god among men.

Then the actions of the just would be as the actions of the unjust; they would both come at last to the same point. And this we may truly affirm to be a great proof that a man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any good to him individually, but of necessity, for wherever any one thinks that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust.

For all men believe in their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice, and he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are right. If you could imagine any one obtaining this power of becoming invisible, and never doing any wrong or touching what was another’s, he would be thought by the lookers-on to be a most wretched idiot, although they would praise him to one another’s faces, and keep up appearances with one another from a fear that they too might suffer injustice.

To my surprise, someone’s named the Internet version of this phenomenon: the online disinhibition effect, which makes the whole process a lot more clinical and less colorful than it is in practice. Thanks to technology, we find ourselves confronting the exact same problems as before; we just happen to give them scientific, fancy sounding names without diagnosing the theological name for the problem: sin.

We all become slaves to desires if we do not hold ourselves in check. Should it surprise you that we Christians call ourselves “disciples” and not “pleasure-seekers”? We seek to discipline ourselves according to the Word of God, not to do what we wish – online or off. We attempt to hold every thought, idea, and action to that same Word, and though we fail we also seek the ideal of it. Otherwise, we’re just following our own selfish desires. Stark examples make this clear, from what I can tell, and World of WarCraft ninja looters look like one symptom in a long line of selfishness. 2 Corinthians 10 tells us what we must do:

Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! 2 I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.