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When players cross the line to harassment

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Sometimes, despite our best efforts at being pleasant and respectful, we run into "that guy." You may or may not know who they are. They may be male. They may be female. They may be young or old. But the one thing they are, no matter who they are, is rude, inconsiderate, and possibly a little scary. It seems odd that someone could be considered frightening in the context of a video game full of fanciful creatures made up of millions of pixels, but harassment exists, and it's not a laughing matter.

I hate using my ignore button. I'm one of those people who lives in a fantasy land where I assume and am forever hopeful that people can talk things out like two reasonable adults and come to a mutual, satisfactory conclusion about things. I hate stopping the flow of conversation, because I believe that everything can be worked out in due time as long as people are being reasonable.

Unfortunately, I've had to use that ignore button on more than one occasion, and I've had to deal with people who were anything but reasonable over the course of the seven years I've played this game. When someone crosses the line from reasonable to threatening, there is a distinct course of action a player should take.

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Piercing Shots has written a heartfelt post with a really good message: There's nothing wrong with asking for help if you feel you need it. And that's really step one of dealing with someone who is making you feel uncomfortable. Peregrina points out that alerting someone to a problem doesn't force them to act a certain way; when you're asking for help, all you're doing is letting someone in charge know that there is something they should be aware of.

That said, if you do report a player for harassment, you need to prepare yourself for the reality that you're never really going to know what happens to that player. This is because what happens to that player's account is between them and Blizzard. You are not privy to someone else's personal information when it comes to their account. This isn't a bad thing, when you think about it: would you really want a random stranger to be able to find out information about you? Heck, no -- and that's why that policy is there. Does this mean it's not worth reporting them? Absolutely not.

If you are in a situation where you feel threatened, where you feel that the offending party has gone over the line, there are steps you should take, and reporting is on that list.
  • Give the offending player the facts. The first step when dealing with a player who's crossed the line is letting them know that you are no longer speaking to them. Send them a tell and tell them that you no longer want to speak to them, you are placing them on ignore, and any future contact will result in their being reported for harassment. Plain and simple. Just that. This may sound like a harsh thing to say to another player, but there's a reason for it. If Blizzard looks into the situation, it is perfectly obvious and clear that this person was warned, by you, not to speak to you again. Giving it to that player straight means there is absolutely no way they can try and say that they didn't realize you wanted to be left alone. You told them flat out. Make a note of the time and date of the exchange, and screenshot it for your records.
  • Put them on ignore. Once you've made this statement, put the player on ignore. Don't wait for them to reply. Don't say anything else to them. If you do so, this completely invalidates the statement you just made about not wanting to speak to them again. Don't put in a last word, don't insult them, don't do anything but put that player on your ignore list.
  • And keep them there. Don't take them off your ignore list. You're done with them. If a friend says that the player is talking in public channels about you, don't take that player off ignore. This is easily the hardest thing you will have to do, because it requires you to push any knee-jerk emotional reaction like defending yourself or saying things about that player in retaliation aside. Acknowledging their existence is just sending them the message that they are still affecting you, and they will keep the harassment going as long as it's having that effect. Don't give them the satisfaction.
  • If they contact you again, report them. When you're filing a report against another player for harassment, you need to be as detailed as possible with that report. Remember making a note of the time and date of your statement? This is why you want to do that. If you can give Blizzard the time and day that you asked the offending player to stop contacting you, the staff can look it up much more easily and see for themselves. Take screenshots of any attempt the offending player makes to contact you, and keep them for your records. As for any talk in public channels, if a friend notices the offending player is doing this, ask the friend to file a report, and file a report yourself. Again, note the time, date, and also the channel name.
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  • Rinse and repeat. If the harasser continues to try and contact you, keep filing reports. When you are filing multiple reports about an offending player, make sure you note in your report that this is a case of ongoing harassment. This lets Blizzard know that this is something you have reported before. When you file a report, it's not always the same staff person looking at that report; they don't know your history, so it's up to you to fill them in. Using the term ongoing harassment lets them know immediately that this is a repeat occurrence.
  • Document everything. Keep records of every report. Keep records of every moment of contact. Times, dates, screenshots -- keep it all. In the unfortunate event that this escalates beyond the fantasy land of pixels and internet dragons, having all of that information recorded will help you.
  • Don't retaliate and don't look for revenge. This is incredibly important. It doesn't matter how many times a harasser tries to contact you. It doesn't matter what they say to you. Don't seek revenge. Is it tempting? Oh, you bet it is. In one case, I happened to have the first and last name of a player who was continually harassing me, as well as their location. Five minutes on Google later, and I promptly had enough information to completely ruin their life if I wanted. And I was incredibly tempted to do it. I asked my brother about this, and his advice stuck with me: I was not "that guy." I wasn't the one going out of my way to harass people. But the moment I took that step and took it to real life, the moment I went looking for revenge, that's when I'd become "that guy." And that's not a step I'm willing to take. It's just not worth it.

If you are being harassed in game, it's not something you should ignore, and it's not something you should be afraid to report. Any time you feel threatened or frightened over another player's behavior, it's something that you should take seriously. It's not an easy thing to do, it really isn't.

For me, I really didn't want to be the bad guy. I didn't want to be the overreacting, hysterical person. And to be perfectly honest, I was neither of those things. I was patient, I was reasonable, I was willing to let matters lie. They were unwilling to accept those terms. They crossed that line.

You are not a bad person for reporting another player. They are behaving in a way that is inappropriate. If they are unwilling to listen to reason, reporting them will let them know in no uncertain terms that their behavior is wrong, and they are not going to get away with it again.

I hate using my ignore button. And thankfully, I rarely have to use it. But when someone gets to the point where they are harassing, it's a nice thing to have. And when I begin to doubt myself, when I begin to think I'm being a terrible person by reporting, there's one thing I remind myself of every single time: This person has crossed a line with their attitude and behavior, and their privileges are being revoked. Talking to someone, being someone's friend, having conversations -- that is a privilege that you grant to another person, not a right that they have. If they cannot respect the time you are giving them, you are no longer obligated to give them that time.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

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