The Rythym Method (Move!)

So, I had a very Catholic grade-school education. I went to a private school and there was a lot of emphasis on learning in an environment that fostered a life of dedication to Catholic values. Because of that and other facets of my upbringing, I have a very rich and developed spiritual life, and I’m happy with that. I’m also not ashamed of it.

When I started going to University, it was the first time I was really exposed to peers that had different faith systems than I did. It was an interesting time for me, and I appreciated the chance to talk to and interact with all these amazingly different types of people. One girl in particular stands out in my memory, though (and of course prompted this post.) She was also a Christian, and although we disagreed often, our friendship is one of the fondest memories I have of my first degree. (The worst, of course, is a tie between having the stomach flu in my embryology lab final and being elbow deep in the intestines of a shark. Oh zoology, you were never boring!)

The point of this philsophical journey into cladistsics and catholicism is that my friend constantly tried to convert me (and everyone who would listen to her) and that annoyed the everloving hell out of me. She made it her mission to make those around her believe as she did, often with very little respect for the beliefs they already held. Even now, thinking and writing about it, I find her behaviour intensely aggrivating but I cannot fault her intentions. She honestly believed that she was doing me a favour, and I can’t blame her for that. She saw something wrong with the world around her and she did everything she could to fix it. Her methods were faulty, but her motivation was good. And that stands true even if you can pave a road to a warmer clime with those good intentions of hers.

As a guild leader I have a responsibility to the members of my guild. I am supposed to define and maintain the goals of the guild and to make sure that all members are working towards those goals. I watch dps meters, I watch buffs, I watch gear and gemming and enchants. I direct and I goad and I show and I tell and I generally herd everyone. Some days I feel like a babysitter. Some days I feel like a gardener. Anyone who leads any team of people working together towards a common goal understands these feelings – these roles that team leadership plays.

The thorny question I have been attempting to untangle lately is, “Where do my responsibilities to the members of my team – my guild – end?” And as a secondary question to that, where do the social responsibilities of each one of us as human beings begin and end?

I like to consider myself a social activist. I believe very strongly in ideals like gender equality, the importance of education, and environmentalism (sorta. But that’s another topic for another day.) And other than participating in a march and camp on the lawn to protest tuition rates way back in my University days, I’ve always striven to keep my activism low-key. As important as I feel the topics near and dear to me are, it’s been easier for me to get a favourable reception and a willingness to listen from people by presenting them with small and subtle doses of idealism rather than shouting and beating them over the head with it. For me, people like my friend who have no desire to listen to the viewpoints of others, but keep banging on about how right they are and how wrong everyone else is do more harm for their cause than good. I think there is an adage about flies and preferred fly-bait in there somewhere.

To borrow a phrase from a blog that I read often, it’s about teaspoons, not dumptrucks. I don’t march, I don’t demonstrate, I very rarely write angry letters. What I do do, however, is to perform small and subtle acts day by day. Because the larger problems of environmental abuse, homophobic murders, wage inequalities based on gender and/or orientation don’t happen in a vaccum, I do my small part every day to add one teaspoon full of tolerance to the world. I recycle my cardboard. I don’t let my sister call things “gay” because she doesn’t like them. I don’t let myself be ignored or silenced at work because of who I am.

How does that responsibility that I have, as a person in this world, to slowly, slowly work for a better life for all human beings translate into Azeroth?

How does my responsibility to lead and guide my guild to more and more boss kills and better and better loot intersect with my responsibility to them as one human being to another?

The world of gaming, and perhaps especially online gaming is not generally known as a bastion of tolerance and acceptance. Gamers are far too often seen as foaming at the mouth homophobes and misogynists and I don’t doubt for one moment that those caricatures are actualized somewhere out there. But I truly believe that the community of Warcrfat players is no different than another other community. We are a segement of society and I’d bet that to a large degree we are a reflection of society in general. There are old gamers, young gamers, fat gamers, skinny gamers, richer gamers, poorer gamers, gamers of all races and orientations.

Our guild is generally very inclusive. Myself and the rest of the leadership have put in place guidelines that clearly state that racist, homophobic, sexist or other objectionable comments will not be tolerated. But, inasmuch as we live in a racist, sexist, homophobic society, these permeating influences seep their way into our online lives despite our best intentions and efforts.

What is my role in all that?

I can’t even begin to tackle this issue. I know that I as a guild leader am not here to be some sort of crazy Though Police. I’m very emphatically not here to impose my political, ideological or religious views on anyone, for any reason. But I also know that I have a responsibility to each and every memeber of my guild to make Impossibilium as much fun for them as I can. And to a large extent that means not allowing discrimination. But where do I draw the line? I can tell people this is a discrimination-free guild. But what do I do when people decide to be racist, sexist or homophobic anyhow?

And, what do I do about the feelings that I, as myself, with my Magical Guild Leader Hat off, should say something to Joepaladin, not as a raider but as my friend that his words and actions could hurt someone? What do I do when they hurt me?

Blizzard has done the architectural work. They have given us this world – the foundations, the geography of Azeroth. How we design and create it’s culture is entirely up to us.

What do you think?


  1. spinks said,

    April 23, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Really interesting topic. I have a no tolerance rule on sexism, racism, homophobia, and so on. I never let it pass without a challenge. It just is a big deal to me and I don’t want to deal with it in game. So I wouldn’t join a guild where that kind of language was tolerated even in jest.

    So it suits me great that in my guild we just don’t do it. It’s something that guild leadership feels strongly about. I just don’t see the need to be tolerant of intolerance.

    I guess that makes me sound a bit uptight, but I think some things are worth caring about!

  2. Tessy said,

    April 24, 2009 at 1:11 am

    It is definitely worth caring about!

    In my guild it’s not a problem, we’ve had very few occasions when people has been racist/sexist/homophobic etc and a whispered reminder that we don’t like comments like those, even in jest, has so far always been enough to get the conversation back on track with apologies from the “offending party”.

    My dilemma is when I encounter these things outside my guild, in /trade, or other general channels, in pugs or other random groups. I wish I would stand up for my beliefs in equal rights and common decency more often in-game, but generally I take the easy/coward’s way out and just /ignore the nasty ones.

    I try to justify this to myself with that I play to relax and have fun, and not to teach other people manners, but I always have this nagging feeling that I should speak up 😦

  3. Larísa said,

    April 24, 2009 at 3:08 am

    When you’re young you feel urged to tell the world about your view in any topic. As you grow older you learn to select your wars and let small annoyances pass. It’s not worth it and it doesn’t help your course. I would never start to argue in trade channel. But if I encountered some really racist, homophobic or other kind of apalling comment in the guild chat I’d speak up. But it would have to be really BIG. I think that during my more than two years of playing it’s only happened once or twice.

  4. Tigerfeet said,

    April 24, 2009 at 9:31 am

    I think it depends on the kind of guild atmosphere you’re trying to build and what everyone’s comfort level is. In Unemployed we ask only that members respect and act polite towards other members. You don’t have to like them, nor do you have to enjoy their company, but you do have to be civil. We’re an adult guild and generally make racy jokes every now and then but another one of our rules is to respect the lines other people have. If you say something that crosses a line you had better back off.

    My husband’s guild is completely different, however. While he doesn’t tolerate racism or any of that crap, they do joke about it quite a bit. He and his officers (one of which is black) will toss back and forth racial slurs like it’s nobody’s business. To them it’s all in fun though and they never mean any of it. He does, however, take very seriously the moral caliber of his guildies. One of his members went to him for marriage advice and, despite the best advice he could give, this member decided it would be better to leave his wife and kids in a lurch, play WoW, and run off to another (female) member’s house to stay instead. These two members both quickly found themselves guildless.

  5. Oriniwen said,

    April 24, 2009 at 9:47 am

    @ Spinks: I’d like to think that Imposs was that kind of guild as well. We have a pretty explicit policy of not tolerating racist/sexist/homophobic stuff *especially if* a member expresses the fact that comments are making them uncomfortable. It’s a bit hard to put into practice, at least from my PoV.

    @ Tessy: That’s sort of what I was trying to get at with this post, as well. Aside from the problem that I don’t know where exactly to draw boundaries within my own guild, the larger WoW community has a pretty bad reputation. And sometimes they deserve it! I feel that there is something I should be doing, but I can’t for the life of me say what.

    @ Larisa: I completely understand about chosing both your battles and your reactions to events. I don’t think it’s something you necessarily have to let mellow within yourself as you age. I’d like to think that if my brother calls someone ‘gay’ as an epithet when we go out tonight, I’ll tell him to knock it off. And when he does it next week, I’ll tell him the same thing. And I hope that I have the moral fibre to keep telling him until we’re old and grey. I *do* think that my guild’s atmosphere is my responsibility both as a member and a leader, and I do think that the atmosphere of the larger WoW community is the responsibility of all it’s members. How we discharge that responsibility is up to each of us as an individual, and how we jugde our indivivdual circumstances and comfort level.

    @ Tigerfeets: That’s Imposs’ policy as well. “Say what you like, but be respectful when someone tells you to stop.” The biggest problem for me is that someone did say something that I found personally very upsetting and when I did tell them to stop I was met with derision. So now that person has not only upset me, Ori, as a person twice now, but has failed to adhere to the guild policies. How do I seperate how I feel as a person from how I feel as an officer? How do I deal with this both as myself and with my Magical Guild Leader hat on? I don’t know. And kudos to Mr. Tigerfeets for taking the moral high road. We had a similiar situation, and all parties actually /gquit before I could /gkick.

  6. You Know Who said,

    April 24, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    “She saw something wrong with the world around her and she did everything she could to fix it.”

    Im sure you dont mean that the way I see it. There is only something wrong with the world around her to *her*. Im sure thats what you mean, but that line just struck me as silly.

    Back to trying not to comment. Cheerio!

    • Oriniwen said,

      April 27, 2009 at 1:32 pm

      I think from the way it was written, that it was pretty obvious that the problem existed in her worldview. (i.e “she saw”). I disagree with her, and you may too, but that’s our worldview.

      The point was (and is) that I can’t fault her altruistic reasons for trying to ‘convert me’.

      • You Know Who said,

        April 28, 2009 at 10:41 pm

        Eh. I just interpreted it differently, I suppose.

        But, yes you can fault her. She’s the worst kind of religious person. The close minded book thumper that is ignorant enough to belive that if someone has even a slightly different outlook than their own, that they *must* be “turned”. She doesn’t even know she’s an embarrassment to smart religious people everywhere, and wouldn’t understand that, even if you explained it to her.

        Alternatively, she is the *best* kind of religious person to debate religion with. You can destroy their flimsy beliefs with facts, and watch them scramble to have some kind of meaningful and intelligent argument. Not that you do that, or would even enjoy doing something like that, mind you. Only a select few fucked up people do.

        In general: *shrug*

  7. Ruarc said,

    April 25, 2009 at 12:54 am

    I think people just forget there is a real person on the other side. Most of the people who say things some would consider of poor taste, whether as epithets or minutiae of their sex lives, feel they can because they don’t simply /care/ how it makes someone else feel because they can’t see the other person. People they’re playing with become only slightly more than the NPCs to their mind. It may not be intentional, but it does happen.

    My question is what prompted the subject?

    • Oriniwen said,

      April 27, 2009 at 1:34 pm

      Objectifying people happens everywhere, not just in WoW. Part of the stigma attached to being a “gamer” is the perception that you completely dehumanize the person on the other side of the pixels, which of course paves the way for this ‘othering’ behaviour.

      This post was brought to you by Shakesville, Feministe, Yes Means Yes Blog and the Impossibilium Forums.

  8. Tigerfeet said,

    April 27, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Oriniwren – This might be a situation where you should appeal to your officers. Ask them what they think, tell them you feel you can’t be objective in this situation. You worry if you’re wanting to be too harsh, and you worry that you might be too lenient because you’re trying not to be too harsh.

    I’d say this is definitely a case that needs some outside opinions. (oh wait, that’s what you’re doing here) 😉 I’d say remind him of the guild policies but keep an eye out for further behavior that bucks the system. One thing I’ve learned about the leadership in Unemployed since I’ve become an officer is that we try to watch for patterns of behavior, that and our guild leader loves psycho-analyzing people.

    • Oriniwen said,

      April 27, 2009 at 1:39 pm

      The problem with my officers is that there is a *load* on their plates these days too. And yes, that’s why I did cast my particular angst bread upon the blogsphere waters – for a wider opinion. I do like to observe and analyse my raiders as well, but I think the question still stands. If Joepaladin is a misogynistic douchnozzle but brings a lot to the raid and the guild – do I /gkick him? Do I tell him he’s being a hurtful jackass? What do I do when I *do* tell him and he just lols at me?

      The spectre of the critique of being “too sensitive” or “it’s just words” is a very real one, and not only does it serve to make me look like the (tired) sterotype of a hysterical female who is just looking for something to get angry about, but it also makes me leery of how to go about defining my guild’s culture. It’s a sticky situation for me, and one that I’m honestly just tempted to ‘let slide’ because that’s way, way easier than having to stick to my principles and endure another round of “Why My Guild Leader is a Raging Bitch.”

      It feels like a no-win situation. I think it is.

      • Ruarc said,

        April 27, 2009 at 9:31 pm

        No one wants to be the bad guy, I understand that, but it’s better to be seen as having a stick in your ass than being seen as someone who can be ran over.

        Maybe have one of the other officers with you? If its more than one person presenting and dealing with an issue, it makes it seem more than someone being sensitive.

      • You Know Who said,

        April 28, 2009 at 10:44 pm

        Your guild desperately needs more Raging Bitch.

  9. September 16, 2009 at 7:44 am

    […] on that night (after I had logged off, tellingly) there was a rehash of the earlier vent conversation. Not one, not two but three members and three […]

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