In World Of Warcraft's New Communities, It's Easy To Troll And Hard To Ban

World of Warcraft’s new “communities” feature just launched. These communities are a lot like guilds, except they’re unconstrained by servers, which should be an easy win. Unfortunately, players have found some easily exploited blind spots in the new feature, as well as some drawbacks for marginalized players.

WoW communities exist independently of guilds, so you can coordinate raid schedules with your guild while also signing on to chill in text and voice-connected communities dedicated to specific themes, like role-playing, pet-battling, or Satanism.

In their current form, communities feel like Discord lite, all the way down to the fact that players have to receive invite links in order to join them. But as with other elements of the recently launched, widely panned Battle For Azeroth pre-patch, the aforementioned dark lord of power and pleasure is in the details.

Right after launch, players voiced concerns about the design of the communities feature. These groups are limited to 200 characters, rather than accounts. So, if players want to add their alts (the other characters they’ve created), that’ll take up precious slots, plus those additional characters have to be manually invited, one by one.

There’s also no in-game community browser, so finding the right one can be a chore, as can finding members for your own community.

“I created a community for others with anxiety within the game thinking that this would be a working feature,” said a player in a WoW subreddit post about disappointment with communities, explaining that anxiety often keeps people from joining groups and guilds for dungeons and raids. “I’m sort of bummed about it.”

The player is worried that, at the moment, no one can find their community; in a follow-up post, they wrote that anyone who wants to join should message them.

Blizzard didn’t respond to request for comment before press time, but based on the current design of this feature, it looks like communities are meant to be fairly intimate affairs—small groups, links passed between close friends who share similar interests, and so on.

However, after things got heated in a handful of threads attempting to recruit players to communities on WoW’s general forums, Blizzard created an official recruitment sub-forum, complete with a warning that posts should not violate the game’s code of conduct.

Community founders can post their links, which has led to communities getting subject to both the public scrutiny that they would want from prospective members, but also, scrutiny they don’t want from people mocking the premise of certain groups.

In particular, communities centered around players of colour, as well as groups for female or for queer players, have seen blowback. The biggest LGBTQ+ community recruitment thread, for instance, has ballooned into a 14-page flame war.

“I’m going to make a straight people group, for all of those proud to be straight... sounds ridiculous right? So does this group,” said one poster in the thread, among repeated refrains from others that “this is what Twitter is for.” These statements put the community members on the defensive, with some stepping up to justify the existence of a LGBTQ+ group.

“LGBT groups are like any other groups, people talk about all kinds of things, everything from the weather, to wanting to get a raid group, to shipping Anduin with many lore characters, etc,” said one very patient player.

Threads for women-only communities and black gaming communities have drawn similar reactions. “My ethnic background is a white colour from Celtic, Nordic, and Roman cultures,” reads a response in the black gaming community thread.

“Worldwide, it’s minority. Why can’t I do the same?”

“Go ahead,” another player replied. “I promise we don’t care.”

It’s also easy for players to join a group just to troll its members. Players have pointed out that, at the moment, there’s no way for communities to ban people permanently.

Anyone with an invite link can rejoin on an alternate character. Also, the communities tool doesn’t explain how community ranks and moderation privileges work, so players are still scrambling to keep their new groups in check. Posting invite links publicly—the only large-scale recruitment method currently available—doesn’t leave much room for vetting of new members.

People join the community, and then players get to find out if they’re arseholes or not. Even at that point, though, there isn’t a good way to get rid of them.

“Most other queer people I know have always had trouble being queer online,” a player named SamuraiEmpoleon told Kotaku via DM.

“Personally, I’ve been laughed out of guilds and raid groups by asking people to use my pronouns (feminine) ... Communities are hard to moderate, they can hold up to 200 players, troublemakers can easily rejoin, and they have minimal features compared to guilds.” She added that she’s “heard horror stories” associated with communities, so for now, she’s sticking with an LGBT Discord she recently founded.

Xhiel, a player who started one of the larger Reddit threads about communities’ loopholes, is even more sceptical. She thinks communities share too many flaws with guilds, with which she’s had bad experiences, despite being a good player.

“I’ve been harassed out of more than one guild for various reasons,” Xhiel, a trans woman, said in an email. “I was forced to leave an entire server over what the trans community calls a ‘chaser.’ Someone, usually a guy, really likes trans women, and fetishises them, and obsesses."

"My chaser had actually given me preferential treatment (that I was unaware of) until I informed him I would not be trading nudes with him, or giving him my city of residence to meet up. Cue rumour-spreading and serial harassment, and a guild kick. I literally could not log in without a whisper threatening to, and I quote, ‘cut my shemale dick off.’”

The structure of WoW’s guilds exacerbated the problem, according to Xhiel. Guilds and now communities are not directly regulated by Blizzard—unlike, say, public role-playing chat channels, which are.

Xhiel thinks that communities more closely resemble custom chat channels, which tend to have flimsy moderation tools. If a bad actor gets ahold of the ban hammer, they can excise everyone from the group and shut it down.

“Some particularly longstanding communities have paid the [subscriptions] of extremely old members to get their channels back under control after having a troll ban other members, and password protect the channel,” she said.

Xhiel finds it puzzling that Blizzard would roll out communities with even less effective moderation tools than custom channels. “This from a game that made the actually good decision that ignoring one character on someone’s account, ignores ALL of their characters across all of their accounts and blocks any friend invites and messages in other Blizzard games,” she said.

“It’s a very inconsistent move from Blizzard, who has historically given us more ways to protect ourselves and our communities in game. Now they’ve actively left the door open for hurt.”

Even the Satanist community is having trouble. The player who conjured the group from the darkest of flames ended up having to delete the link from WoW’s community recruitment forums.

“I deleted it [due] to people coming in and preaching in it,” the player wrote. “I do not go into their communities telling them to repent or anything, they kept coming in with their preconceived notions and thoughts without even once trying to understand what Satanists are like. But I now will do the same thing to their communities.”


Comments

    Given the threats that Xhiel received, it’d be a simple matter for her to report threatening communication and get the other player banned from the game. GMs would have access to the chat logs of her and the offender so there’d be no way they’d be able to weasel their way out of it.

    In particular, communities centered around players of colour, as well as groups for female or for queer players, have seen blowback. The biggest LGBTQ+ community recruitment thread, for instance, has ballooned into a 14-page flame war.

    sigh... why can't the warcraft community just get along for once. why cant people just leave other people alone. If you dont have any interest in a group why be a complete douchebag to them?

      No idea, its kinda like going to a concert for a band you hate just to boo them and harass them for being shit. Just a waste of everyones time.

        Kinda? I mean its more about communities, so it is like booing and harrassing a group of people you disagree with.
        Like protesting a KKK rally or booing down the people on the main street with signs saying "You are all sinners".

      It's worth noting most of the posts quoted are on the wow forums, which has always been a toxic shit fest.

      In game is a mixed bag. I've been in guilds with intolerant fuckheads, and others that were very welcoming and accommodating to all types of people.

      Its not the wow community, its just the Greater Internet F***wad Theory at its finest.
      This is why we can't have nice things.

      But how else will everyone know how little you claim not to care?

      That's very important, and not at all stupid, you know.

      I'm only guessing, but I'd imagine some of the people are viewing the community rules as discrimination. Which, technically it is, if you block someone because they're not gay that's no different to blocking someone because they are.

      That said, I'm not really sure what the problem is. I mean if you have a legitimate need/desire to join the community I'm sure most of them would give you an invite anyway. Unless there is some rule that you can't create a "white guys only" group and they trying to illustrate the hypocrisy.

      On a different note, the communities really do sound similar to custom channels. Though I don't get why people are trying to pay for accounts to control them. As far as I understand it channels are controlled by the first person in the channel who is also online. So as soon as the asshole logs off you could get control of the channel again. Though I must admit I haven't had to look into kicking people from channels in years so maybe it's changed.

    i haven't checked out the feature after launch but last looked in beta it was devoid of moderation of any sort. my past feedback to blizzard was that the community feature was more akin to a glorified chat channel.

    it seems (from this article) if you want to play with like minded people you're better off paying alts 10G in a capital city to sign your guild charter and creating a guild. at least you have total control over that

    Last edited 25/07/18 6:48 pm

    “I’m going to make a straight people group, for all of those proud to be straight... sounds ridiculous right? So does this group,”
    Well, this individual is clearly a reasonable and well balanced person with no issues at all.

      It's actually an understandable attitude at least in some ways. It's not saying "you can't be gay" the complaint is that they're trying to make segregated gay only channels. How do you get proper integration and acceptance of people with different races/sexual preferences/religions if they don't associate with each everyone? If you exist in a bubble with only people who share you views/experience you're limiting yourself.

        Appending this since edit would generate moderation...

        And I'm sure there are some people who are complaining simply because they're trolls or bigots. Just saying not everyone who complains is automatically a troll/bigot (just most of them).

        There's a difference between thinking it, and actively going into conversations like that to blast people with it. It adds nothing meaningful to the discussion at all.

        For what its worth I think groups who actually segregate themselves are doing themselves no favours, and additionally have little right to act all surprised and offended when people start returning the favour.

        But trying to find like minded people for a social group is a far cry from that.

          I suspect that there are people who don't really mind at least initially, but then they see some of the more strident comments and feel obligated to comment. I have to admit I feel this way about a lot of the social justice/political correctness type discussions. I don't mind an initiative but then you get supporters getting super aggressive at which point they're actually becoming the very thing they claim to hate. Look at some of the anti-Trump BS for a great example.

          If people are reasonable and rational about something that's great. I may not agree but I can respect their opinions. But when they effectively start yelling abuse at other people and ignoring rational discussion it's offensive and counter-productive.

    Ah the satanists, i love those guys so much

    Putting the religous right wings cries for religious freedom to the test, because as soon as the satanists show up the christian right are immediate hypocrites and suddenly against religious freedom when its the satanists that want rights

    Also i love it when satanists use loopholes in the law designed for christian churches and suddenly what do you know the loophole gets closed once the satanists start using it

    Its great, every suit against the government by the satanists is legal gold and as a law geek its just the funniest ever seeing them fix an unfair system by trying to use the same loopholes the christians get and then the loopholes getting closed because the state doesnt want the satanists to use them, showing what massive hypocrites they were for making the loopholes in the first place

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