Take for instance one of the PUGs I did this evening. Within 10 minutes of joining the group, the Hunter typed a vulgar joke in party chat. At this point I saw four options four options for dealing with it:
1. Go with it and pretend like it was funny, but that might encourage more of the same behavior.
2. Report it and leave the group, but that would be bratty of me.
3. Scold the player for the objectionable comment, but that would make a big deal out of it.
4. Ignore it, and hope that a lack of response extinguishes the behavior.
I chose option four. I just let it slide and went on tanking my merry way through the instance. About four pulls later, said Hunter prodded me to comment on his "humor." My response was that there is a time and a place for everything. As I saw it, a PuG was neither the appropriate time nor proper place for the joke. I believe that one should get to know the tolerance of their counterparts before making such comments.
Am I prudish and uptight? No, I make and take my fair share of off-color commentary amongst friends of a similar tolerance. On top of that, I have very thick skin. This does not change the fact that I don't make it a habit of opening a sexual dialog with complete strangers.
Prodded further, I asked the offender if he would tell the same joke to a random lady on the street. He informed me that I am not a person, I'm part of an online game. I find that odd. Do online games compulsively sip Diet Dr. Pepper and squirm around in their chairs? No, they don't. Online games don't have sensibilities or responsibilities.
Although I'm not entirely sure how to prove I exist, I'm fairly confident that I am a real person. The faceless nature of the online connection can bring out the worst of us. We've probably all forgotten that the pixels are controlled by flesh and blood. and have treated someone unkindly at on time or another. I've had the pleasure of meeting a handful of WoW players in person. It's nice to know the real face behind the Tauren or Night Elf. Even hearing voices on Vent helps add a semblance of humanity.
During this holiday season and beyond, stop to take a second and think about the folks on the other side. Remember than when you do a kindness or pay a compliment to a fellow player, your subject is a real person. It will make them feel good and they may just pay it forward. When you're being obnoxious or cruel to someone on WoW, you are also affecting someone else. Also bear in mind that anything you type is available for review should the person you offended chose option two.
Use this as a Litmus test for off-topic chit-chat: If you wouldn't say it to a stranger sitting next to you on an airplane, don't say it in a PuG.
*Yes, I spell my name with a lower case m.