He’s alive!

My friend Das, in his gear from 6 years ago (Wrath!!!), with my druid Anacrusa, with whom he raided when he last played. And yes, we danced with each other several times while hanging out in Dalaran, because an occasion like this deserves dancing and singing!

My friend Das, in his gear from 6 years ago (Wrath!!!), with my druid Anacrusa, with whom he raided when he last played. And yes, we danced with each other several times while hanging out in Dalaran, because an occasion like this deserves dancing and singing!

I still play World of Warcraft. I don’t raid in the traditional sense, nor do I PvP. I don’t even succeed at meeting personal goals, like doing an Ironman or whatever. And I haven’t blogged since shortly after I hit 100 on Mushan in December 2014.

But I still play. I do some leveling, holiday events, hit up LFR/LFD on occasion, and have 7 100s. And I do enough garrison crap to not be paying to play anymore.

Sometimes, I think I will be done soon. I was thinking about not getting Legion until I heard some lore-related stuff* that made me reconsider my lack of desire for new content.

*The more “veteran WoW player” I become, the less I want to know about anything new before it comes out, other than mechanics-related info…

But, every once in a while – and this is very rare – something happens that changes perspectives and makes one glad that he/she has stayed the/(some type of) course… and on Saturday night, I got the strongest dose of that feeling that I have ever experienced.

 * * *

Back in the summer of 2013, I wrote a post called “Someone I loved is lost. Is he gone forever? I may never know.” Disregarding the snow we got yesterday, the post is almost three years old.

In the post, I revealed my anguish regarding my friend and former raid-teammate Das, whom I was worried might have killed himself. I had read a post on Facebook from March 2013 that basically gave me no other option – given that he had disappeared from every online means of reaching him – than to seriously concede that the worst could have happened. Without belaboring the content of that post again, I was shocked, scared, and shattered by the idea that my friend could be dead by his own hand.

Over the past couple of years, on occasion, I have retraced my steps and looked for new information avenues in attempts to find out if my friend was still alive. My limit was money: I was unwilling to spend money online to do “searches” with questionably legitimate companies in order to maybe find out nothing. Not being a hacker, or otherwise IT-wise, I looked as far as I knew how for free, and found nothing conclusive.

I didn’t look perpetually: it would be unhealthy to obsess over it, so I wrote that post, shared it with friends and family, and grieved. And, as I said, I retraced my steps from time to time. After the initial shock, however, I quickly settled into a state of unwilling acceptance, that I might never know what happened, and that probably my worst fear had come true.

* * *

On Saturday night, I got home after a long day at work, and logged in to WoW. Mushan’s garrison missions, done. Logged in to Anacrusa, and GUESS WHO LOGGED IN?? My friend Das.

My reaction?

“WHAT THE FUCK??!!” I said, out loud.

“What?” asked my better half.

“Das just logged in!”

“Oh… really?! Holy shit!”

“Yeah, I’m trying to find out if it’s really him.”

I was not convinced it was him. Immediately, my heart told me that, years after my friend apparently did himself in, his account was being hacked by some grave-robbing asshole. So I steeled myself for rejection and ventured a whisper: “Hi Das! :)”

The result was more than I ever could have hoped for. He answered, and answered again and again, and then at some point he addressed me by my IRL first name, and asked me if I still worked where I work, and so on – it was, as far as I could tell, really him.

After further conversation, I can tell you that it’s really him.

My JOY was – and still is – leaping from every fiber of my being.

I don’t have to reference that original post on Das that I linked above to recall that, when I got the scare I got, I spent time frantically searching for closure on him, and, failing that, I became as close to catatonic as I have ever been.

The feeling when my acceptance of that scenario was unraveled/reversed was incredible.

We conversed via pink text (whispers) for over 90 minutes before I broached Real ID, and now we can see each other whenever we’re online. Back in the day, we were in the same guild and I played my druid mainly, but now I have several new alts and I wanted him to be able to find me – and vice versa – if I was not on Ana.

I spent portions of the rest of the evening on Saturday texting some of my old guildmates and family who shared my concerns, in order to share my joy with them. And I suppose this post is a continuation of that process. There were many of you who responded so kindly to my original post almost three years ago, and so if anyone is still interested in what’s happening with Mushan/Anacrusa**, the answer is “not much, but… remember that post? This is the resolution to that situation.”

I am so happy. I am high on joyfulness right now; I just got the best news I could get this year, and I wanted to share that with those of you who read and responded to or were touched by my original post in 2013.

Thank you, to everyone who ever responded to anything I’ve written, and to all who are reading this today. Your interest and friendship means more than I can ever express.

* * *

**A lot of my old guildies know me as Ana, since I mained my druid until late-2010, when I switched to Mushan and eventually started Mushan, Etc. To this day, I am still called Ana more than Mushan, and I consider it an honor. To know those people, AND to have been fortunate to have such an amazing toon that I built so many close relationships while playing, are things I will cherish forever. 

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Off-Topic: The best days

It’s good to be in something from the ground floor. I came too late for that and I know. But lately, I’m getting the feeling that I came in at the end. The best is over.

– Tony Soprano, The Sopranos “Pilot” (1999)

_____________________________________________________________________

This part was written on September 14th (with some measure of optimism)

The recent announcement by Darkbrew that Hunting Party Podcast co-host Euripides is done blogging about, talking about, and playing WoW was yet another in what has become a series of retirements/hiatuses by prominent members of the hunter community this year.

This marks the fourth time since the end of May that I’ve read an announcement like this. Tabana, Frostheim, Quelys, and now Euri. The Hunting Party Podcast has not just been decimated, it’s been seriously hurt, although Arth has been doing a tremendous job on the show.

In a game as long-running as this one, with such time commitments, there are several factors that can impact a player’s ability or desire to stay in the game. The number of “I’ve been here since Vanilla beta” players continues to dwindle, as people grow tired or disappointed with the game, or have less time due to family or work commitments, or a desire to use their talents differently. This is only natural, and completely understandable.

However, there’s a part of me that identifies with the above Tony Soprano quote every time someone like Euripides announces that he’s reached the end and is moving on: I came in at the end. The best is over. I missed the best ride, as a blogger and a part of the community.

It seemed like the best days were around the time of Wrath, heading toward Cataclysm. This is probably my perspective alone, but with Wrath seeing overall population numbers reach their zenith, there was also a boom of bloggers about the game itself: theorycrafters and class bloggers, explorers, levelers, raiders, achievers, PvPers, screenshotters, role players, fiction writers, and so on. That all continues today, but it seems at times that, like the subscription numbers, the number of great blogs is dwindling – not toward zero at any time soon, but dwindling nonetheless.

The truth is that we still have some great hunter bloggers, and there are new and rising bloggers out there all the time. However, they don’t always come to our collective attention, and so it feels like the community is shrinking, and some people do seem irreplaceable.

As a person who started blogging almost five years ago, but started blogging hunters 17 months ago, it’s easy to feel like I came in at the end. And perhaps I did miss the community’s zenith, or, at least, came in at the end of the tail end of it (WoW Hunters Hall was a pretty great hunter community site, after all!). But the game and the community are still going strong, and I have to remind myself of this at times like this, when it seems like what I knew to be constant is no longer so. It’s the nature of the game and the community, constantly changing and adapting and fluctuating.

Euripides doesn’t know me from Adam, but I’ve known his voice and writing for years as a hunter and podcast listener. I loved listening to him talk about PvP; I think that, in general, he played the game better than I could ever have the focus to do. I looked up to him, even when I disagreed with occasional points he made on the podcast. And while Darkbrew has long been the zen member of the podcast, and Frost the outspoken one, Euripides held his own in some fun and epic battles with the Frost-meister. I’m going to miss him, and I’ll always remember listening to him.

Take care, Euripides, and best wishes to you and your family!

_____________________________________________________________________

Today (with slightly less optimism)

It’s almost a month later, which means we’re a month further from experiencing the talents of all of the bloggers who have retired over the past year.

We do have a new bright spot in Scattered Shots columnist Adam Koebel, who is doing a fine job over at WoW Insider. After five months of dormancy on the hunter front at WI, there is finally someone there representing the class. This is very important, because WoW Insider has a large reader-base… and while the powers that be seemed to be disinterested for a long time in providing for class columns when previous columnists left, I personally think they provide a critical service to the community.

Beyond Scattered Shots, most of my hunter reading material – what I’d classify as commentary on raiding with the class and playing it well – comes from Kheldul (Hunter-DPS), The Grumpy Elf, Darkbrew (The Brew Hall/OutDPS! The Hunting Party Podcast), and Arth (and commenters at Warcraft Hunters Union). Jademcian (Jade’s Forest) has posted somewhat recently. Jasyla (Cannot Be Tamed) has switched her main from druid to hunter and has some nice posts. And of course there are various hunter guides at Icy Veins, the forums, Youtube, etc.

That’s about it.

Alternatively, after a glance at (the also dormant) WoW Hunters Hall’s blog list, the number of bloggers who have gone dark from that resource list alone in the past year or so is kind of staggering:

  • Loronar
  • Zanbons
  • Garwulf (for the most part)
  • Morynne
  • Euripides
  • Quelys
  • Gavendo
  • Frostheim
  • Mehtomiel
  • And, of course, both Tabana and Kalliope at WHH

And Laeleiweyn is a monk now. Just sayin’. :)

Additionally, there are some signs that the Hunting Party Podcast could be close to having run its course. In a post this past week, Darkbrew hinted that this could be the case. And Arth has also said previously that he doesn’t know how long he’ll be there, or at the WHU for that matter. It’s certainly understandable – both the podcast and the WHU are big commitments and popular hunter gathering places, and also stand as two of the last bastions of the hunter community we have come to love over the years. A lot of work goes into them, and that can be difficult to sustain.

This morning, out of curiosity, I went over to Blog Azeroth to see if there was anything new there. What I found was that participation on that site has dropped precipitously as well. The first page of new blogs, for instance, has 48 blog introductions since the beginning of December, 2012.

I was stunned. Just 18 months ago, I stuck the business card for Mushan, Etc. on there and hoped it wouldn’t be drowned out by other blog introductions. In retrospect, it sort of was and sort of wasn’t; close inspection shows that use of that site has been dwindling for some time now. I think it helped a tad, but it’s not the resource it used to be.

One thing I need to do is take some time on Twitter, to browse through the lists of people who follow me, and people I follow, and check out the people who follow them, and who they follow. There has to be a new (or new-to-me) hunter blog in there somewhere, right?

Before this post gets too long, I should cut it. The purpose isn’t really to whine and complain about people leaving the community of hunter bloggers; rather, it has been sparked by a feeling that the pool is much smaller, and a bit lonelier, than it was a year ago.

Sometimes it seems like there is little to read for days. And as someone who enjoys back-and-forth inter-blog discussions about the class, I’m starting to miss that. And I’m starting to feel like the hunter blog is becoming a “legacy” thing, where there actually isn’t renewal or new birth in the community because of changing technology or due to lack of interest. I’m fine with blogs themselves being “old hat” – I just blog, when I have the time, because it satisfies an interest of mine. So if this is the way it’s going to go down, I’ll accept it. It’s just sad to see so many old friends saying goodbye. The community really is a gift.

o/

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Off-topic: anonymous commenting, Facebook, and the future of online discussion*

*Almost definitely an overly ambitious title.

As a fan of hard rock and metal, one of the sites I visit on a daily basis is Blabbermouth.net. For more than 12 years, they have been an aggregator of news, reviews, and happenings in the rock and metal universe, and for me they’ve been the go-to site for that kind of content.

Since the beginning, Blabbermouth has had a typical comment system, where a user registers with the site, creates a user name and password, and is essentially anonymous – and, therefore, is free to be unrestrained with his or her speech on the site.

Blabbermouth has always had a policy against abusive language, racism, and so on, but it never seemed to be enforced. And with the previously mentioned commenter anonymity, there probably wasn’t much that could be done in such cases if abuse was reported, other than banning an account or even an IP address, but over the years it seemed to me that no comment was ever addressed by the admin. I came to accept that this was just the way the site was: it continued to post content, commenters did their thing, and if you didn’t want to read the comments, you didn’t read the comments.

On Monday night, I visited the site to find that at some point in the previous 24 hours, it had been relaunched in a new format. Gone are the full-length front page articles, the archaic post menu, and the long-standing, claustrophobic-dark look. In its place is a bright, clean, professional, modern looking website, with truncated posts and “Read More” buttons. In general, it is a much easier site to navigate from a “what’s happening right now” standpoint.

Also gone, however, is the old commenting system. If you want to comment at Blabbermouth.net now, you have to be signed in to Facebook. Which opens up an interesting can of worms for the site’s users…

There has been a lot of talk around the world lately about anonymous commenting and online discourse: I’ve heard a few stories about it on NPR and its affiliates (here and here. for instance) in the past six months. Unsurprisingly, it’s been a subject of discussion within the WoW community. Furthermore, with a couple of Google searches, you can find many articles about websites, such as online newspapers, getting rid of anonymous comments.

What’s interesting is that many sites that don’t allow anonymous commenting have integrated with Facebook. One of the benefits of doing so is that the site’s Facebook page can then highlight comments that it gets on its website, giving both the site and the comments/commenters more exposure (and, presumably, can lead to more discourse). As far as I can tell, it also takes a huge chunk of responsibility for the content of the discussion out of the hands of the website and places it squarely, in the end, on the user.

This is fairly simple to explain. On Facebook, the user is the person. The user isn’t “Neil Young’s Cocaine Booger” or “RiotAct666” (real user names from Blabbermouth – I didn’t make them up myself). It’s you, the Facebook user with – potentially – real life friends and family, who are “friended” on the site and can presumably see every comment you make.

To my knowledge, Blabbermouth.net hasn’t made any announcement about the revamp of the site and the discussion system overhaul. When I saw how it had changed, my first thought was “they must have changed it to cut down on trolling.” That may or may not have played a part in their decision, but I’m inclined to think that, in addition to adopting a comment system that is in place on thousands of other websites (and is probably simple to implement), improving the quality of the discussion was a factor.

Additionally, Facebook is the closest thing there is to a universal sign-in system in the world, particularly when requiring that commenters use their real names is a desired feature. Facebook is used by hundreds of millions of people around the world, and nothing else that uses real names to commonly sign in to anything on the internet comes anywhere close to that magnitude. It’s a built-in sign-in system, with no site-specific registry required – unless, of course, you don’t use Facebook at all. Or, unless you don’t want to use your Facebook login to make comments on other websites…

While anonymous posting/commenting is as alive as it has ever been, there seems to be something of a growing movement toward requiring real names in order to comment on websites.

I’m curious to see how this plays out over the next several years. As more sites stop allowing anonymous commenting, will there be more ways to require that users log in as real persons, other than using Facebook? Or will this be something that becomes the lifeblood of Facebook, as more and more young people enter the online sphere looking to use the new “it” social media format – not FB – but are forced to use Facebook in order to be a part of a growing piece of the online discourse pie?

Or, will there be sections of that pie that begin to skew less toward the opinions of young users simply because such sites’ comment requirements will restrict them to Facebook, while these users would rather use Tumbler / Twitter / whatever the next big thing(s) is(are)?

Personally, I sit in the camp with those who don’t want to use their Facebook logins to comment on other sites. This is not because I am young and hip (…), but rather because I just don’t like Facebook. I barely ever comment on Facebook itself. I don’t trust Facebook. There are many reasons for this, and I won’t get into them here, because I’ve never written a 5000 word post before, and I don’t feel like having my first one be about Facebook. But there are privacy issues, data-collection and -sharing issues, and others that make me extremely uncomfortable with the idea of just going ahead and giving in to it, and posting my life and opinions and whatnot there… and, therefore, having my account linked with various other websites doesn’t make me feel easy.

With respect to Blabbermouth.net, I don’t really care. I didn’t ever bother commenting there before, and I don’t think that will change. But I also never comment on a site that requires Facebook. If FB is an option, but you can also use an alternative, I’ll comment if there is an alternative that I like.

I do like the fact that, intended or not, Blabbermouth has stopped so much of the terrible commentary on its site with one fell swoop. There is value in that. But I go to that site for news and videos and so on, not for the comments. The comments there have historically been mainly garbage, although there has been good discussion on rarer occasions.

I just wish that there were non-Facebook alternatives for sites like that, where the burden of moderating could be kept to a minimum without requiring FB. Right now, I don’t know that there is any other solution on the horizon.

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Someone I loved is lost. Part 2: learning points

Regarding the situation I described in my post (Someone I loved is lost. Is he gone forever? I may never know.) from last weekend, there are some learning points, or action points, that can come from an experience such as this.

First of all, I received some very kind comments to that post, both here and on Twitter. Thanks, again, to those people who took the time to comment, share their thoughts/feelings, and lend a /hug. I’m glad that so many people read the post – it’s definitely a subject that made me think a little more deeply about relationships with online friends.

Secondly, Nev from She Rides Dragons wrote a piece from a place on the other side of the equation, entitled Just Somebody That I Used To Know?, where she talked about the fact that sometimes real life events – going in for surgery, for instance – present us with unknowns that we might not always think about. What if, as she posited, she doesn’t come out on the other side of the surgery, for instance? On one hand, it’s a terrible thing to think about, but it can be a pragmatic thought in cases like this. However, while her friends and family might always be in touch with what’s happening, what about all of her online friends, fellow bloggers and followers, and gaming buddies?

This made me stop and think again about my own situation. While I don’t have anything like surgery on the horizon, what if? is a big question. We are never guaranteed tomorrow; we only have today. And if something happened to me, Mushan, Etc. would stop cold. @MushanEtc. would as well. Mushan would stop logging into WoW.

Any and all of my WoW-related online personas would come to a standstill, but they would also be suspended in time for all time. Other than my Real ID friends in WoW – many of whom are friends who talk outside the game, and would find out somehow – and friends on places like Facebook, who are connected to people I know in real life, including family, nobody would know what happened, or have a way to find out.

I assume this is the case with most bloggers who write about things like video games. Anyone who hides behind the avatar and screen name is somewhat anonymous, and difficult for the average person to find. This is as intended, but as I talked about in that previous post, there can be heavy consequences.

What’s great for me about this set of realizations, putting them into words on the blog, and the reactions I’ve gotten, is that they solidify a train of thought that has been germinating for a while. What’s happening is that my perspective about clinging to online anonymity is changing. Along with that, I’m also formulating a plan to provide some measure of closure to my online friends in the form of information, should something happen to me (God forbid).

A while back, I was having a conversation with my father. He’s retired, and healthy, and hopefully he and my mother will both live until I am an old man. Anyway, he was talking about paying bills. He pays almost all of his bills online now, and suddenly he mentioned that he should probably do something with all of that information, since he handles the family finances and my mother does not. She doesn’t know the passwords to any of the sites that he uses to pay their bills, do their banking, manage his retirement fund, and so on. We talked about this again recently at my brother’s wedding – apparently, it’s still on his mind, but he hasn’t done anything about it.

My parents aren’t in their current situation because my mother can’t handle finances; rather, my father handles them because he has the time and the interest, and my mother still works, so that’s just how they get done. Given the necessity, my mother would do a fine job with it. The only obstacle is that she will likely need the passwords and information in the event that she outlives him.

These conversations came to mind when I was thinking about my online personas. Someone close to me should be able to access my blog account, my Twitter account, and any other place where I interact with people that I have relationships with. If nothing else, so that readers/friends can be informed.

(This is actually an issue that is becoming increasingly common in this day and age, by the way. I’ve read several articles about it over the past few years, regarding both finances and social networking – mainly Facebook – in the case of someone passing away.)

Ultimately, I’ve learned that when someone in our “online world” disappears without word – for whatever reason – it is not an event (or non-event) that occurs in a vacuum. As a blogger, I want to always remember to never be the person who suddenly disappears, leaving others to wonder. However small or large our circle of community, it’s still a community of real people with brains and hearts.

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Someone I loved is lost. Is he gone forever? I may never know.

Back in Wrath, I had the pleasure of raiding in our old guild, ThoseGuys, with some great people who no longer play WoW.

One of these was a resto druid; I’ll call him Das. While I was in my early-mid thirties at the time, he was in his late forties. He was a guy with whom I had countless great conversations on vent. He loved jazz, blues, and timeless rock and roll, and would often suggest internet radio stations that he thought I might enjoy. He worked as an independent contractor for a time, setting up and maintaining (as I understand it) internet and communications infrastructure for the military in the Middle East. He was a carpenter, and loved to show photos of his latest woodworking creations, particularly cool furniture that he had built and was trying to sell.

He always said he loved my voice; he called it a “radio voice.” (I do not have a radio voice, FYI.)

During that period of my WoW-playing life, a lot of us were friending one another on Facebook, because it was the thing to do, and it was fun. It also became my sole line of communication with Das, because, due to financial problems and a computer that could no longer handle the game, he quit somewhere around the time that ICC was coming out.

Since then, my experience with Facebook has been intermittent. During the latter half of 2011 – a time when I was using it more regularly – I noticed at a point that Das was no longer my friend. However, since we had messaged one another several times through FB, I clicked his name in one of our messages and went to his page. There was almost nothing on it that I could see. So I sent him a message, both to see how he was and to let him know that we weren’t ‘FB friends’ for some reason. He replied in a long message, telling me that he had un-friended everyone one night in a fit of frustration, adding that it was a “it’s not you, it’s me” kind of thing.

In that message, he told me that he was in a dire situation. He was divorced, broke, and homeless, living with his daughter for a while, although that wasn’t going well. He had no prospects; his money-making projects were all failing miserably. It was an extremely sad message.

At the time, I was also jobless, and powerless to help him. I sent him a response, trying to be encouraging to him, and to let him know that I was there to talk, but he never responded, and he never accepted my re-friend request.

However, he didn’t disappear. He continued to post from time to time on Facebook, ‘publicly,’ videos or articles that he found worth sharing, but there was little direct insight into how he was doing in his life. However, since I wasn’t his FB friend, none of it was in my feed, and I lost track of him.

Fast forward to this past Friday. I was puttering around on Facebook late at night, looking through my list of old messages out of sheer boredom. I know, that’s pretty lame, right? Well, anyway, when I got to his name, I clicked to his page to see what he was up to, and I was stunned by what I found.

His last post was from March 31st of this year. Here is the text of the post:

its been a ride. i tried to live well, be kind, help people… I can’t do it anymore. I have no friends, family doesn’t care about me, penniless and I just can’t stand to wake up another day like this.
I hope that every one that I care about has a good life, live long in good health and can keep their friends. obviously, I can offer no good advice. good bye

I was shocked to the core.

The feeling you get when you suddenly fear that someone you care about either is about to commit suicide or may have already done so is a feeling that is incomparable to any other. It’s difficult to describe, but it’s basically panic, and it grips your soul with an iron fist.

My response to the panic was to do several frantic searches. These proved to be basically fruitless, since I know almost nothing about his vital statistics, such as names of family members, names of people who knew him in real life, place of residence, middle name, date of birth, and so on. As I said, he had erased all of that from Facebook. The only things I had to go on were his first and last names (very common ones), the state he had been living in, and his approximate age.

I first searched for obituaries. I searched for arrest records. I changed it up and searched for death notices. Carpentry references with his name. I came to several dead ends. I couldn’t find him – not, at least, without paying a bunch of money to be able to do more in-depth searches of public records and so on. Money I don’t have, I might add.

I sent him a quick email, to the only address I have for him. It immediately came back un-deliverable. I pasted it into Facebook and sent it again. I have heard no response. The only phone number I had for him, from 2010, has been dead for a long time.

When I had exhausted my free options to the best of my knowledge (which is admittedly limited), the next phase of the affect of panic hit me: I became incapable of doing anything for the better part of an hour. I stared at my desktop and wrung my hands. When my girlfriend came over to me and asked what was wrong, I could barely tell her.

Eventually, I got up and went to bed, and was up bright and early Saturday for work. And Saturday night, we raided. And so on. The initial panic was gone, but the fear that my friend is dead is not.

I may never find out what happened to Das. I’m already four months ‘too late’ as it is, as regards my searches the other night.

I have to accept that. But I hate it. My only hope is that he is still alive, and that he will rejoin Facebook and respond to my message at some point. But it feels like a dim hope, a chance of slim-to-none.

This post is the first of at least two related to this situation. There is something that I have been considering doing lately – an alteration to the way I do things on the internet – and what happened on Friday only reinforces what I’m thinking about. I will likely write more about if and what I decide to do in one of my next few posts.

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc.


Bullying and World of Warcraft

And online, and in life in general.

A call for introspection and civility.

Bullying is currently a big topic in the news.  I think it’s a bigger topic than it’s ever been in the modern era here in the U.S.  It certainly seems to be reported, written about, and discussed much more now than it was when I was growing up, or even more than it was ten years ago.

Parallel to that, we live in an age of technology, where the ability of the average person to communicate – and obtain – information electronically is at unprecedented levels.  It is difficult to wrap our heads around how many trillions of emails, tweets and text messages have been sent and received; billions of comments left on blogs, news sites, Youtube, Facebook, and other various forums; and untold amounts of various types of chats that have happened through electronic means.

Bringing it closer to “home,” most WoW players participate in, at minimum, the latter type of communication, in the form of the chats available in game: Trade Chat, General, Party, Raid, BG, whispers, Real ID, various guild channels, etc.

One of the concepts that has grown in conjunction with the explosion of interactive electronic media is the idea of online anonymity.  Anonymity allows a person to hide behind a fabricated handle and/or avatar (or both), by choice* or by necessity**.  It has many merits; for instance, I might not have ever started my first blog if I had been forced to use my real name, but the ability to create a handle for myself allowed me the comfort of posting my thoughts and getting my feet wet, blog-wise.  As I became more comfortable with the idea of blogging and began sharing my posts with friends and family (and making friends with some of my readers), I changed my handle to my first name, and have been comfortable writing that way on on-WoW blogs ever since.

*By choice, i.e. I refer to myself as Mushan on my blog, rather than using my given name.

**By necessity, i.e. my hunter is named Mushan in WoW, my druid Anacrusa, etc., because the game prevents me from simply naming each of my characters the same thing – my given name – for hopefully obvious reasons.

Unfortunately, it has also provided the means for anyone to potentially use an anonymous handle as a wall or mask to hide behind and use to the detriment of others.  Detriment is probably not the absolutely correct word; nevertheless, every day one can find countless examples of this in almost every medium.

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This was brought home to me (again, for about the ten thousandth time) one day back in January, when I was in Warsong Gulch on my druid.  Both flags were being held in the enemy bases, the clock was ticking down, the debuff was stacking higher and higher, and the first to drop was going to lose the game for his/her team.  The Horde had their flag carrier well protected, and so did we, and each team was sending out sorties to try to kill the EFC in order to get the win.

During the last of these sorties on this particular possession, the Horde succeeded in stripping our FC, and their FC managed to slog his way to the capture point despite our best efforts to slow / stun / knock him back (while we were slowed / stunned along with him – the fighting was fierce!).  There were less than two minutes to go, and we were down one.  The game was basically over.  They protected their flag, the effort was intense on both sides, and they won.

It was a great game, and in spite of the loss I felt exhilarated.  Experiences like that can be epic, even for the losing team, if the players have the right perspective.

However, the exhilaration was grossly tempered in the final seconds by the following exchange in chat:

Holy Paladin loudmouth: “Blah blah blah [FC’s Name], you fucking suck”

FC who had just been killed: “I’m sorry. . .” (etc.)

Holy Paladin loudmouth: “You should just log off and go kill yourself bro, because you’re obviously awful at this game” (actual quote).

Anacrusa: “Hey, not cool at all, [Pally’s name].”

After that, the paladin got an earful from several of our teammates, which I was glad to see.

I wish I could find the screenshots that I took of the conversation, but I can’t.  Such is the price of taking so many screenshots and then occasionally purging them.  However, I did report the paladin for abuse, and I’m referring to the emails I got referencing the ticket and its resolution as I write this.

In my report, I said: “Filthy language and insults are rampant in BGs – I accept that, however grudgingly. However, [Paladin] crossed the line in my book, considering the seriousness of suicide.”

I got an answer quickly, and the GM explained that he took the matter seriously, and obviously couldn’t communicate with me as to what sort of punishment or reprimand, if any, was carried out, but thanked me for bringing it to his attention, and told me that I was right to do so.  I was fine with that; I know how it works.  I was very pleased with the response.  So I don’t know if the jerk was temp-banned or not; ultimately, I was powerless either way, other than to voice my concerns.

However, the fact remained that it happened.  This person told another person to go kill himself as a result of his performance in a video game.

I don’t know how old the FC was; I hope that he was mature and stable enough, whatever his age, to let it roll off his back.  He was still playing in May, according to the armory, so I’m thankful for that.

I don’t even know how old the paladin was, for that matter.  However, my gut feeling at the time was that it might have been a minor – likely a college or high school kid – telling another minor to kill himself, however flippantly it may have been, and it made me feel awful.

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I’m in my thirties now.  Not that that’s a definitive gauge of one’s maturity, but whatever.  That may have nothing to do with my perception of this; it may be just a result of the trends I talked about at the beginning of the post.  However, whatever the cause, I seem to see this type of hateful behavior all the time: in game, on music/movie/game sites, news sites, blog comments, Twitter, etc.  To clarify, I see it more and more as I get older.

The mask of anonymity makes a person feel safe.  Safe enough to say things that one might never say to another person’s face, although I understand that mean-spirited conversation probably comes from people of many stripes.

Anonymity allows for a myriad of possible consequences both positive and negative.  On one hand, we can develop friendships with total strangers, and even make a positive impact on their lives.  On the other hand, flippantly abusive comments can lead to dire results, although I hope and pray that the number of those results that are most dire is minimal.  Unfortunately, anyone who reads the news knows that that number is not zero.

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And so I have two things to say.  I say one of them to one group of people – the abusers – of whom I realize that almost none will read this post.  And I say the other to those who are sensitive to abusive language, or who have very low self-esteem, or are going through a difficult time personally, and have something negative like this directed at them.

First, to anyone who loves to swear at, call vile names, and otherwise maliciously ridicule others: I ask you to take a look at yourself and your actions.  We may live in an age of anonymity, but your words and actions with regard to others – both online and in real life – have the potential to either uplift or destroy.  While nobody knows you, you likewise probably don’t know to whom you are “speaking,” what his or her life circumstances are, and just what effect your words will have.  Look in the mirror, and understand that, like you, that other person’s life is his or her most valuable possession, regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, size, religion, economic status, or skills and abilities.  Feel free to disagree with another person’s views or actions, by all means, but put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and treat that person with respect.  Because that’s how you would like to be treated, whether or not you know it / believe it.

P.S. “Rape” is never, ever funny.  Ever.

Secondly, to anyone who is the recipient of such abuse, and for whom it is particularly hurtful in one way or another: please, please don’t ever take it to heart when anyone tells you, in some way or another, that you are without value.  If you’re playing a game or commenting on a post somewhere out there or just living your life, and someone directs homophobic, violent, misogynistic, or otherwise misanthropic or abusive language toward you, they are in the wrong.  If it’s in WoW or any other forum that allows you to report abusive behavior, do so.  And always remember that there are good people out there who are exactly the opposite of the assholes you run into, so find them and take comfort in them.  Finally, while nobody is perfect, every life is valuable.  Never forget that.

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Unfortunately, there are far too many negative examples of people who are public figures, from TV personalities to political and corporate leaders, who engage in this sort of middle school playground bullying behavior without even hiding behind a mask.  It’s loud, and it’s flagrant, and it’s without regard for others – to say nothing of its lack of regard for Logic in the process.  These people may deny it, but their public behavior has the potential to influence the behavior of those who grow up in this, the information age.  I continue to hope that there will be a gradual “regression” to the mean – the mean being a more civilized society, from our leaders down to our children, who are the future of this society – but at this point I am not particularly confident that this will happen anytime soon.

But as I said, I still hope.

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Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc.  Comments are welcome!