A touchy subject, to be sure, but one that doesn’t have a lot of attention paid to it. Blizzard does a really nice job of laying out what they determine harassment to be (read here: Blizzard’s Official Harassment Policy ), but there’s not a lot written about what to do if you are the target of a harassing player.
That said, there are some different things to consider at this point, including the different levels of harassing behavior. Not every harassing player is created equal, and the response to each one will be different.
It’s very easy to pop into town and see some new moron spouting racist, sexist, threatning, or derrogatory language, right-click ignore them, and go on your merry way. I’m not talking about that kind of harassment. On another level, we have the frequently spotted, often naked RP griefer. That’s the subject of a separate post, and one that you’ll see soon! Let’s leave that particular character behind for now as well, though, since it is worthy of a separate discussion.
Which leaves us where I want to get started.
What do you do when someone is personally going out of their way to harass you? This might be someone you know, someone in your guild or in your raid, someone in a chat channel you frequent, or just someone you picked up for RP. The key here is this:
Harrassment happens when someone contacts you in a way you don’t like (or are uncomfortable with) and continues to do so even after you ask them to stop.
By that definition, it doesn’t matter who they are, whether you’ve been in a guild with them for years or just met them in a PUG, what you know about them, or anything.
There are three key parts to the Official Annas Definition of Harassment though, each of which is important:
- Someone makes you uncomfortable, disturbs you, upsets you, or threatens you.
- You ask them to stop
- They refuse to stop, make it into a joke, defend themselves/call you oversensitive, or otherwise continue to do that which you have asked them not to do. (Possibly demeaning you and your feelings in the process.)
It’s not a complicated list, and it doesn’t have to extend over long periods of time, make you feel all skeevy, make you think about quitting the game/transferring servers, or any other horrible thing. Someone does something; you ask them to stop; they keep doing it. That’s harassment.
I want to stress, however, that you do actually need to ask them to stop, and you need to state it clearly, firmly, and in no uncertain terms. Nobody around you is a mind-reader, and JoeNoobface may actually just be a clueless noob that doesn’t know that his rape jokes are somewhat offputting. Most people, when asked “Hey could you please not do (whatever), it makes me uncomfortable and is kind of skeevy” will apologize and hey – problem solved.
If they do NOT stop, particularly if you are the target of ongoing threatening/sexual/disturbing/uncomfortable whispers, you have come to #3 on the list and will need to make some decisions. I don’t recommend being rash, but I don’t recommend putting your own comfort, enjoyment of the game, and (in severe cases) mental state below “not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings.” Temper this with your best judgment (and the help of people you trust, like your guild leader).
I would suggest, at that point, cutting off all communication with the harasser. Regardless of their motivations, whether you think they are/were a nice person, or whatever, they are blatantly disregarding what you want from a game that you are paying money to play. Nobody deserves that!
Here’s how to go about it:
- Put them on ignore. Yes, that includes on all of your alts. The person who is bothering you has already shown that they don’t care about your feelings or opinions because they have ignored your request either to stop doing something or to stop talking to you altogether,. Putting their comfort above yours – when they obviously don’t care to honor what you want – isn’t a good idea, and drawing it out will only increase the chances of drama. Besides, that’s why the ignore button is there.
- Put their alts on ignore. Yes, that includes on all of your alts (even your banker), and yes, it includes any cross-faction alts you might know about. If the harasser creates a new alt or logs onto a character you don’t know about, report them immediately and add the new name to your ignore list. Actually. Ignore them first, and THEN report it.
- Remove yourself from any chat channels that they are also in. This includes guilds. DEFINITELY talk with your Guild Leader, raid leader, and/or whoever manages the channels before you drop them like a hot rock, though, since those people are very likely your friends and you may not need to drop them all – your GL may choose instead go /gkick or channel ban the harasser.
These steps are particularly important if you think that the person in question is deserving of a temporary or permanent account ban – you want to have taken all the steps that you can to make yourself totally unavailable to the harassing person.
Now, that third step is particularly sticky, and I really don’t like it at all – it’s isolating, and it rewards the harasser while punishing the person who is being harassed. Unfortunately, there’s not another way to deal with it outside of getting the harassing person removed from the channel/guild. Which is why you really should speak with the GL/channel manager before dropping out. Explain to them why you need to not participate in the guild/channel anymore, state your experiences calmly and rationally, and bring along a bit of evidence (screenshots are good) of you asking the person to stop and their refusing to do so if you can.
These tools – the ignore feature and the report feature in particular – are there to give you a measure of control in the situation. Yes, they might not be fair (and in some cases they are decidedly UNfair), but they do succeed in getting your game experience free from the influence of the harasser.
Occasionally, these situations will make their way out of game – either because of guild forums or the realm forums, or because this was someone you thought you could trust and gave them an IM name or an email address (not every creepy person on the internet has a creepy name and goes around advertising their creepiness).
There are ignore and report functions on most guild forum sites (and they are both there on the realm/Blizzard forums as well) if both of you are guests. If the person is in your guild, however, you’ll probably want to take further steps. This is absolutely another time when you should speak with your GL, because most guilds are not fond of harboring people with such outright disregard for others. Whether your GM decides to ban the harassing person or not is in the hands of the guild leadership, but you can always ignore a poster even if they choose to let the harasser stick around.
Most instant messaging and email programs also have ignore or block functions (in gmail, that function is done through creating a filter) – however, do not throw away emails or conversations if you can avoid it. Once this kind of situation progresses to out-of-game contact, particularly if the harassing person went digging for your email or IM that’s posted in a guild forum, the situation changes from being in-game harassment to being on-line harassment and potentially on-line stalking. (Yes, it’s a scary word.) On-line stalking, if it gets very serious, can be grounds for contacting another person’s internet provider and/or the police.
Throughout any situation like this, remember that someone else choosing to harass you is not your fault.
It doesn’t matter if this is someone you’ve known for a long time and the conversations just kinda got weird, and then they got really weird, and now you’re uncomfortable and freaked out. Someone who is your friend, when you tell them “please stop” will do so. Common courtesy. It’s like finding out that one of your friends really doesn’t like being hugged. If a good friend said to you sincerely “Please don’t hug me, it weirds me out and makes me uncomfortable,” you might feel a little embarrassed, and you might not really understand, but you’d also probably not run up and hug them all the time either.
Above all, don’t be afraid to take whatever steps are necessary to remove a poisonous or harassing person from your gaming time. You deserve to not have your feelings hurt, to not be made uncomfortable, and to enjoy the time you spend in game. If someone wants to stomp all over that, there are ways to deal with them that are quick and effective. Take advantage of those tools and don’t let other people ruin your game.
This isn’t a light subject, nor is it a particularly fun one to talk about. Please be gracious in the comments – especially if someone chooses to talk about a past experience with this kind of thing.
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