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Should WoW players be responsible for player accountability?

Anne Stickney

Blizzard's policy as far as reporting players has been about the same since day one. If you have a problem with a player, you report them. While Blizzard can contact you and thank you for reporting the issue, it will not give any details regarding what it has done about the problem being reported. This has always been understandable to me; in the many years on and off that I worked customer service and call center jobs, rule #1 was that you did not speak to anyone but an account holder regarding the status of their account. To me, the Blizzard policy is just more of the same kind of treatment -- Blizzard cannot tell you about actions taken against another player's account, because hey, their account isn't yours, you know? It's private information.

That said, I have reported my share of players over the years, and I never really knew if action was taken against these players or not. In simple cases of name violations, like using an inappropriate word for guild or character name, I could usually tell if something had been done, because the guild or player in question would have their name changed. But in cases of player harassment ... well, you never know if they've been told anything or not. You just sort of hope this means the person harassing you will go away and that will be the end of it, but there are absolutely no guarantees.

Pugnacious Priest made an interesting post about player reporting and complaints, specifically in the League of Legends universe. Apparently, League of Legends is doing something wholly bizarre in the gaming world -- it is taking these reported cases and letting the players decide whether there is something there that someone should be held accountable for or not. Pugnacious Priest takes this one step further, wondering if this is the kind of system that could be implemented in WoW some day.

WoW has had its share of jerks over the years, whether it was people who ninja looted gear, players who deliberately stirred up drama, players who used GearScore to measure another player's validity, players who used Recount to rub higher DPS numbers in other players' faces -- the list goes on and on. WoW has also had its share of unsavory people who are out there simply to make another person's life miserable, whether it's because of some bizarre sense of entitlement, a personal vendetta, or just the urge to be as obnoxious as possible in a social environment where, presumably, nobody will catch you.

What's odd, though, is that the premise of player accountability isn't one that is foreign to WoW. In vanilla, players were sequestered on different servers, and each server had a fairly tight-knit community of sorts. The one thing you could count on with these servers is that just like any small town neighborhood, people talked. If someone did something reprehensible to the server at large, that person was immediately excluded from raids, guilds, instance runs, and just about anything that could be deemed a social activity. In short, they were shunned -- and back then, you couldn't pay to change your name or transfer servers. If you messed up, you either apologized and tried to make up for what you did, or you started over on another server at level 1.

However, this odd little neighborhood watch system of the WoW community has all but disappeared these days. The potential playerbase that the Dungeon Finder and Raid Finder systems pull from is ludicrously huge. The likelihood of your ever seeing an offensive player more than once is so infinitesimally small that there is almost no point in reporting that player's bad behavior in the first place. Why should you? It's not like you're ever going to see them again.

On the one hand, it makes a strange sort of sense -- pull from a larger playerbase, and you're never going to have a repeat offender or a case of extreme harassment, generally speaking. On the other hand, this system inadvertently lets players get away with bad behavior and gives them free license to continue being jerks whenever and where ever they see fit. Why not? It's not like anyone's going to bother to report them.

This is one of those odd little conundrums that doesn't really have an easy answer. Do we sacrifice the ease and flexibility of things like the Dungeon Finder and the Raid Finder so that we can go back to that state of self-policing? Do we throw up our hands and just let the offensive players continue to be offensive? Or, as Pugnacious Priest pondered, do we adopt a system like the one that LoL is undertaking and let the players judge for themselves who is right and who is wrong?

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