We often make the point in this column that WoW is in fact real life. It's real people interacting in a real way that has real consequences. This week's letter is a stark example of this. Sometimes the guildie with whom you are friends, whom you used to think well of, does something unethical, immoral, illegal or just plain cruel outside of the game. When he brings it in game, how do you handle it?
Public Service Announcement: Regardless of how you feel about animals or what the animal has done, it is generally accepted that unwanted animals should be given to a shelter (link goes to how to find an animal shelter in the United States) rather than abandoned. It's not just about the animal's welfare; it is also best for the welfare of your human neighbors. Even if you are only thinking selfishly, there may also be legal ramifications, depending on what you do.
On to the in-game drama:
Dear Drama Mamas,
I like playing this game. I like my new guild. I like the people I raid with, but now I'm starting to doubt my feelings toward my guildies. Today our tank didn't show up to the raid, so we were trying to find a replacement. After we replaced him and started the instance, he came online. We explained the situation and he seemed OK with not being in the raid. Ten minutes into the run, I saw him write in o-chat that he got rid of his cat today.
I didn't want to know. Immediately, I knew I wasn't going to like this story. There is no way that something can start with "got rid of my cat today" and end well. No one else responded either, but he kept after it. Apparently, the male cat was spraying parts of his apartment and he was tired of dealing with it -- spending money on it -- so he booted the cat out. He just abandoned it.
There was this long pause of nothing in chat. No one knew what to say. I know at least one other officer was a pet owner, but he didn't say anything. I didn't know if I should say anything, but I felt so sad, so sick about it, that I decided to at least express my disappointment. As an animal lover who has rescued four cats (one of which we recently had to have put down due to cancer) and a dog (all of which I still care for in my home), I was flabbergasted at the thought of just dumping a problem animal.
So I told him I was disappointed. That I felt like I understood what problems he was facing, but his behavior was deplorable (I'm not sure I used that word). All of a sudden, the story was different. The neighbor was going to take the animal, as she is an animal lover who "collects" strays. I stressed that if the animal was too much to handle, he could have taken it to a shelter. His only response was that to do that he would have to "waste gas."
I think I said something about how it still didn't make abandonment OK. Now the story changes again: The cat was violent, killing other animals in the neighborhood, and he was doing everyone a favor. It just didn't make sense to me. The story, the logic, the backpedaling -- like it was supposed to be OK. Then he asks me if I am "some sort of vegan or something?" Which, for the record I'm not, but I said that my diet had nothing to do with the conversation. Then he told me to take my "bleeding heart and shove it up your ass."
I told him I didn't understand why he was trying to insult me. He told me that I had started it. It was obvious to me at this point, that it didn't matter what I said. He didn't have any compassion for the animal. He then added in how I should be happy that he didn't "do what he wanted to do to the cat" and how pitching it out was the "humane option."
I let the conversation die, but another officer came into chat and asked what was going on. So now the story was rehashed, with more stuff added to it about how the animal was violent and destructive and how it was killing other people's pets. Suddenly, this man, this friend of mine, was housing a feral tiger in his house. It was just so sad, so strange. I decided to turn off o-chat and just forget about it. But it's bothering me now, five hours later.
Was I right to say anything at all? I guess I knew at the beginning it wouldn't make a difference, but it seemed like not saying anything was somehow worse than starting what I knew would probably end up as a sad argument. And what now? I feel like I've lost all my respect for this person, an officer and a friend who I enjoyed raiding with in the past. I know I should just put it behind me and try to ignore the behavior, but I'm afraid it will affect my choices in the future. And truthfully, I'm not convinced I even want to raid with him anymore. I don't feel like I can consider that sort of person a friend. Am I out of line here? -- Disturbed
Drama Mama Robin: I am also disturbed by Cat Hater's ever-changing story. First of all, while you are not going to change this guy, the argument he had with you may have affected his actions a bit. He and/or his on-location friends may have ended up taking the cat to a shelter afterward -- though he may never admit it to you. I don't think we're ever going to know the whole story on this one, but you do have an insight into his character now. What you do with that insight is mostly up to you and your comfort level.
I think you did one thing wrong when responding to Cat Hater. Rather than express your feelings in officer chat (and that was better than using guild chat), you should have done it in whispers. I know he bragged in o-chat, but non-guild-related disagreements should be dealt with in private for maximum drama reduction. Also, rather than expressing disappointment and other judgmental opinions, a better way to have expressed the same feelings would have been to skip directly to the solution-offering phase. "Is there a shelter nearby I could call for you?" "Would a friend be willing to bring the cat to a shelter?" "As a rescuer of animals, I happily offer my resources to you to solve your problem humanely." You can't change the person, but you can help with the situation by offering solutions that Cat Hater may not actually have thought of. You may even have been able to avoid the resulting nastiness. But you don't have a time machine, so this is advice for a future situation that you hopefully will never be in again. Let's talk about what you should do now.
You are both officers. I think you should talk to your other officers and see how they feel about the whole thing. It isn't just his bragging about abandoning an animal and the subsequent nastiness that is a problem here. He also skipped out on a raid to do this heinous thing and was pretty cavalier about it. This is an insight into his character that directly affects his worthiness of being an officer and a guildie. If the other officers are OK with still hanging out with the animal-hating, raid-skipping, ultra-defensive guy (yes, I'm being judgmental) -- well then, you need to make the decision whether you want to stay or go. We have to share this world with people who do despicable things. You choose the degree of how much you interact with them in game. You don't always have that choice in the physical world.
Drama Mama Lisa: It's always surprising to come "face to face" (even virtually) with someone you thought you knew through gaming on the internet. That's not to say you can't get to know someone quite well in this environment. But what you experienced, a sudden window into his real life and the way he reacts to it, certainly came as a surprise to you.
Let's not overlook that your reaction was probably as surprising to him.
A few observations:
- The fact that Cat Hater persisted to tell his story in the face of obvious disinterest in the officers' channel tells us that he was more than a little worked up about the situation and deeply in need of letting off some steam.
- I don't doubt for a second that his initial recounting of the story was amped up in what he thought made a dramatic presentation. Consider that it was also probably hyped up based on his agitation at having to deal with the situation.
- Your pressing him about the situation obviously triggered a lot of anger. Maybe it was guilt over the short-sighted decision he'd made -- or maybe it was sheer annoyance at your probing.
How do you feel about raiding and spending time with someone whose choices and outlook have proven to be quite different from your own? That's the real question here. I hope that you'll consider and react to this decision quietly, maturely and with as little drama and fuss as possible. Don't confuse the welfare of the cat with the welfare of the guild as a whole; you don't have to disrupt one to stand up for the other.
Drama buster of the week
If we aren't able to respond to your letter (we get quite a few), try to imagine the same circumstance happening in a bowling league, softball team, knitting club, LARP troupe -- choose the leisure time group of your choice -- and then determine how you would handle it in that situation.
Dodge the drama and become that player everyone wants in their group with a little help and insight from the Drama Mamas. Remember, your mama wouldn't want to see your name on any drama. Play nice ... and when in doubt, ask the Drama Mamas at DramaMamas@wow.com.