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It didn’t take long to get from Thunder Bluff to the Echo Isles – Ankona took advantage of a wyvern so she could think and plan before getting to her destination. She had information to confirm with the spirits – was Gromnor dead? Was he really in the northern part of the Eastern Kingdoms, somewhere […]

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In Game Harassment
comment 7 Written by on January 19, 2010 – 3:06 pm

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:

  1. Someone makes you uncomfortable, disturbs you, upsets you, or threatens you.
  2. You ask them to stop
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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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7 Responses to “In Game Harassment”

  1. Too many people put up with way too much in terms of harassment. This is an outstanding checklist–and not only for in-game situations.

    I worked in human resources for 14 years, and I can affirm that much of what Anna says can be applied in the real world. The most important thing is, make the harasser aware of your discomfort: Ask the person to stop. (In a job setting, if you are uncomfortable asking the person to stop, you need to go to your supervisor or human resources manager. Retaliation for reporting harassment is a violation of federal law.)

    Ahem…sorry for the tangent there, Anna. This happens to be (still) a pretty hot button for me.

  2. @Steve – No tangent at all. This is an important issue (like so many of these big posts) that exists in more than just the game. And maybe, from reading either the post or your comment, someone will have the guts to say something about a poisonous or uncomfortable situation.

    Because it /does/ take guts, and courage.

  3. Excellent, excellent post. My favorite note is that it is NOT YOUR FAULT.

    I have been in a situation where it was a long time friend and I went from happy to uncomfortable to squicked out, to seriously, seriously edgy with this person.

    Because I was confused, I thought maybe it was my fault, I shouldn’t have been so sensitive, and he was a ‘friend’ and I was afraid of him (yes, all of these should have been huge glowing signs of obvious danger, but they weren’t) – I didn’t even ask him to stop.

    Had I even once stopped to think about it from a non-emotional standpoint, I would have put a stop to it.

    If you’re not sure if you’re being harassed, pretend a friend is telling you the story of what is happening. What advice do you give them? Be a friend to yourself.

  4. Hello.
    I would like to comment on this page since I am a UK player of WoW. Now whilst I won’t name and shame anyone who was involved with harassment I was caught up in it did get to a point where I had to contact the police.

    I am being serious. I have played the game for about two years this goes back to 2008 so please bare with me on the length of the story. I meant players A and B who ran a small guild I A (her) B(him) where both married in their 30’s now I was 27 near to 28 at the time. I got on well with A and B we raided together etc but there where some tensions. I also at later dates found out that A had been spying on me when I was elsewhere whilst in her guild and that she had decided for whatever reason to tell me that this was not okay nor how I was behaving because she was concerned about the reputation of her guild. I was a tad shocked but I did decide it would make sense to change my attitude as I was at the time a little immature.

    We move six months down the line the relationship with me and A was strained and I had an alt by now in guild and this had caused tensions to rise I was also angry she had continued to spy on me with no justification. She also started to spread rumours about me and other players rightly or wrongly decided to chip in and give their own two cents. I was incensed and pissed off but kept my cool I did not rise to the bait and trust me she tried to bait me very well. I got fed up with the complete lack of action from Blizzard I consistently ticketed the GM’s up to 12 times and also sent e-mail after e-mail to the concerns address but nothing it seemed to me was going on I finally had it in september when she attempted to blackmail me into silence.

    I phoned the local police who at first did not want to seem to help till I gave them an example of what was being said to me via whispers. For obvious reasons I am not going to repeat what has been said but it alarmed them enough to allow me to speak to several people till I was eventually put through to a case officer. He began to look into it and chased Blizzard up on the issue. I still had even more harassment in game and some of it was done using alts of other screenames I use elswhere in game. Some was done in front of me blantantly and I continued to report it. Eventually in November last year I called Blizzards accounts department due to a credit card issue and also because the situation was getting out of hand. I badgered the bloke on the other end to know what if anything was going on. I got fobbed off by them telling me a specialist GM was dealing with it.

    Anyway A&B had by this time all but disappeared and they had other people and alts they where using to continue to send me whispers. I eventually moved realms and got harassed on the next realm. The GM’s did eventually contact me via e-mail they finally told me they had dealt with the matter. I was offered to have my charcters purged from the system rename them and it would mean I was free to play the game in peace which I now am.

    Any questions please ask. Also I would say if your in the same boat as me one don’t lose your cool two if the police do get involved it will make Blizzard sit up and listen to your complaint they did with mine and it could have led to charges if I felt not enough had been done. This did not happen but the police would have sent an offical letter of warning to A and B if they had persisted. I am happy to reaspond to any thing you have to ask about my experince it’s old news to me now.

    By Arcfelonas on Jan 19, 2010 | Reply
  5. Last summer I experienced some sexual harassment from a guy who’d just joined our guild and immediately began harassing the female players for cybersex. Of course, I hadn’t known that when he got to me.

    It started with him being REALLY familiar with me. Nothing really inappropriate, but he was emoting “hugs” and calling me “hon” like he knew me. Now, at first I was confused, because my guild is filled with a bunch of my husband’s friends, and they’re all affectionate with me. And they all have various alts. I thought that maybe he’d been one of them. But then I realized that he didn’t know my husband at all, which freaked me out a little. Being stupid, I felt I couldn’t establish a boundary now that I’d unwittingly let him cross it.

    He started talking to me when I was asking about RP stuff on our realm. When he began sending me whispers while I was questing, he was just shooting the breeze, I thought, so I allowed it despite the creeping terror I was feeling. But then, one fateful evening, he dragged me into this long, horrible conversation about how he was a lonely, hideous virgin, but that he was into cybersex and that he believed in asking for what you wanted. “So if you ever want to ask me anything, you should.”

    “No,” I said. “I don’t need to ask anything of you. >.>”

    Now, throughout this conversation, instead of saying “AUUUUGH I’M NOT COMFORTABLE TALKING ABOUT THIS,” or “YOU NEED TO STOP CALLING ME ‘HON’,” like I should have, I tried to be a good sport. I tried to give him /life advice./ Of course, he shot down all my suggestions for meeting people because all he wanted was cybersex. Cybersex, and pity.

    I related all this to my fella, and he immediately sped off to report this creepy, creepy guy to our completely awesome Guild Officers. (I would have done it, but he had the quickest access to them, and he was furious!) They’d gotten similar complaints of continual harrassment from other ladies in the guild already, so the offender was soundly banhammered. After which, they gave a little announcement in guild chat explaining that he’d been banned, and /why/, and that the guild doesn’t tolerate sexual harassment. I can’t tell you how much it means to have the support of your guildies like that.

    If you’re on Cenarion Circle, Glaistig [A] and Ruadan [H] will tell you who to look out for! Ha.

    By Zoe on Jan 21, 2010 | Reply
  6. @Zoe – What you experienced is not uncommon, at least from the standpoint of not saying anything because you felt like it was “too late” since the person in question had already crossed boundaries that you were uncomfortable with. However, as mentioned above, (and this is REALLY hard to do when it involves you, I know), it doesn’t matter why you decide that something makes you uncomfortable, and speaking up about it isn’t a mean or out of line thing to do.

    As an aside, this post DOES come from personal experience for me, as well as other people I know in and out of game, and the constant whispering is something of a common thread. So I’ll say it again here, with emphasis:

    If someone is whispering you constantly, and that makes you uncomfortable, it is OK for you to say to them “please stop whispering me all the time, it makes me uncomfortable.” It doesn’t matter if the whispers are sexual, demanding, threatening, or just constant and annoying spam. If you are creeped out or feel weird about it, say something – either to the person in question or (as you did Zoe) to someone you trust who can help. Your comfort matters too, and it is not your fault that someone else will not follow or respect personal boundaries.

  7. If you choose to report the harassment to Blizzard (I had to do this once, because the interactions were scaring me too much), there are couple things to bear in mind.

    First, Blizzard has a “Penalty Volcano” where a first offense is treated mildly, and sanctions increase as more incidents accumulate. This means that in the absence of one of their drop-dead insta-ban offenses, a single report may not solve the problem. On the whole, this is a good thing, as you don’t want Blizzard insta-banning everyone who ever makes a mistake. it can, however, make your situation more drawn-out than you would like.

    Second, while single incidents of harassment are often treated with a warning, Blizzards takes VERY SERIOUSLY situations of on-going harassment. In order to help them deal with this, you need to provide enough information that the GM who gets your second or third report can put it in the proper context. (The default assumption is that it’s a one-time deal and if you have the person on /ignore — which they can check — then they can issue a warning and move on.) So here’s the way you deal with the reports . . .

    1. Using a Blizzard channel (so not on Vent or in email), tell the person you do not want any further contact. Be polite but clear. Put the character and all his known alts on /ignore. Note the date and time.

    If you are fortunate, the harasser will now leave you alone. However, if he does not, move to step 2.

    2. In order to harass you again directly, your antagonist will have to make an alt. When he does, repeat the “I don’t want further contact” message (again in a Blizzard channel) and put the alt on /ignore. Now, file a report. In the report, state the date from step 1, telling Blizzard that you asked to be left alone and put all known alts on /ignore on that date (list the alts). Then state the name of the new alt, the date (and time) of the contact, and what channel was used. Make a note of the date and time you filed this report. If a GM contacts you in-game, write down his name and the date and time.

    You will get no direct feedback about what happens, but it’s usually a warning to knock it off and leave you alone. Maybe it will stop now. If not, a new alt will eventually contact you.

    3. When he does, repeat your message and put the new alt character on /ignore. Now file a new report. In this report, start by stating that this is a case of ON-GOING harassment. List all the incidents with dates and times. List all prior reports, with dates and times. List all prior contact with Blizzard GMs in game about this matter, again with dates and times. You’ll repeat this each time it happens until it ends.

    You don’t need to provide screenshots (Blizzard knows they can be faked, and they can read chat logs anyway), but you do need to provide dates and times and details about what kind of contact (whisper or channel or whatever). so they can verify it. In almost all cases, if later reports do not reference earlier reports, they will not be acted on. The more business-like you can make the reports (and the more able you are to truthfully say “I firmly and politely told him to leave me alone and then put all known alts on /ignore”, the more likely Blizzard is to take action.

    It’s also worth sending copies of all reports (with all that name/date/time history) to the GM support address (for US players, this is wowGM@blizzard.com). Just state that this is a copy of an in-game report.

    You’re doing all this redundancy not only to speed the internal process Blizzard goes through but also, sadly, because if it ever comes to the courts, you will want to prove you went through channels. Police seem to be more wiling to act when you can demonstrate that you have exhausted all other options available to you.

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