Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dear WOW Player

Dear World of Warcraft Player,

You invite someone to group with you.  For the sake of this letter, let's call her K.

K doesn't respond, because she has no idea who you are and doesn't see anyone with your name in her immediate vicinity.

You whisper an embarrassed apology, explaining that you sent the invitation by accident.

(This is odd.  The two of you weren't in the same guild, same zone, or same chat channels.  How did you invite her by accident?  By misspelling her name?  Not likely, not an unusual name during off-peak hours.  By right-clicking her name and hitting "invite" by mistake?  But why would you have had her name on-screen in the first place?  You would've had to do a /who search for people of her level or in her zone or something, and why would you have done that?  The two of you were on different zones in different continents and at different levels.)

She says that it's fine, accidents happen.

You talk about how late it is and how tired you are.  She agrees that it's late and says that she's tired, too.  You mention having a daughter.  You call K "sweety."  Since most players seem to assume that other players are male unless otherwise told, K assumes that you think she's a guy, so you must be someone who calls anyone and everyone sweety.  Since most of the straight men she knows don't call other men sweety, she goes by stereotypes and assumes that you must be a woman or a gay man.  (While she thinks that it would be terrific if straight men addressed other men as sweety, that's not part of K's experience.)

You ask her what time it is where she is.

She hesitates to reply.  After all, she knows not to give out personal information on the Net.  Still, you seem to be some friendly, chatty woman (or a friendly, chatty gay man) and it wouldn't hurt to be friendly in return just this once.  So she mentions what time it is where she is.

You ask if she has a child, too.  She says no, she has a dog.

You say that you're divorced.  You ask whether she's married.  She says that she's single.

You tell her how old you are.  You ask how old she is.  She's uncomfortable with this Q&A on personal information.  She begins to think about how much she's already told you.  You know her time zone, you assume that she lives alone (you've already made a comment about her being "lonely.")  You know that she has a dog, and that simple fact has been used against her before, when someone threatened to harm her dog.  She tells you that she's not comfortable giving out personal information on-line.

You tell her that you understand.  You refer to yourself as male.

She starts to wonder what's really going on here.  You contacted her out of the blue with an excuse she was willing to accept in good faith but which honestly seems very shaky.  You began to call her "sweet" and "sweety" far before you had any indication of her gender, which suggests that you assumed her to be female from the start, but why would you assume that about someone you accidentally contacted at random, when the overwhelming consensus among players seems to be that the default WOW player is a guy?

You began to flatter her early in the conversation, when you knew nothing more about her than that she's a human being who plays WOW, types in complete sentences, and doesn't reply to accidental invitations with, "Fuck off, n00b."

Now you begin to press for her age a second time, after she's already told you that she doesn't want to discuss it.  You push for her to admit to an age range.  When she tells you again that she's not comfortable disclosing that information, you begin to talk about hugging her, inquiring into the kinds of hugs she prefers.

Throughout this conversation, she's tried to be friendly, because she wants to be polite.  She's been told all of her life how important it is to be polite to people, especially as a woman.  She's also been told that it's her responsibility to protect herself from "stranger danger," so she's also been a bit removed, so as not to seem too encouraging.  It's a weird dance and she hasn't been happy with any of her replies; they all seem too forward or too cold.  She can't simply relax and have a good time, because if anything happens, even something so simple as you posting this chat log on-line later for everyone to have a good laugh at, it'll be her fault for not saying the right things in the right way.

She doesn't know who you are or what you want.  You claim to have contacted her by accident, but that doesn't make logical sense.  You continue to push for personal information even after she's asked you not to discuss it.  She has reason not to trust you.

Is it any surprise that she stops replying?

Here's a tip for you.  Act like you want to get to know her as a human being.  Instead of wheedling her age, gender, and location out of her, start with what you already have in common: the game you're both currently playing.  Ask how long she's been playing, if she's into raiding, if she's into pet battles, that sort of thing.  Tell her how you're enjoying the new expansion and which achievement you'll work on next.  Instead of telling her how "sweet" she is after thirty seconds of polite conversation during which you really learned nothing about her except that she's capable of pulling off decent grammar and punctuation, get to know her as a person so that you can learn whether she really is sweet, or sarcastic, or a complex human being with various personality traits which don't all fit under generic assumptions.

I don't know why you assumed her to be a woman.  Maybe it was her character's race, her class, her name?  (Maybe you're the alt of someone she knows, which makes this entire situation even slimier.)  Playing the "accidental invitation" game is conniving and starts the entire conversation off on a bad foot.  Why not be honest?  Whisper people and tell them that you're bored and sleepy and want to talk.

Don't lie to women to get them to interact with you.  Don't press for details when someone has already set boundaries.  Don't drop generic compliments so early they're meaningless.  Treat women like human beings you want to get to know.

The woman you contacted would love to have a boyfriend who plays WOW.  But it's more important to her to have a boyfriend who respects her boundaries.  If you won't respect her limits about conversation topics, she has no reason to believe you'll respect her limits about anything else.

With love,
Frank Lee

1 comment:

  1. I *love* this. It is so redolent of online interactions with strangers (everything from game playing to blog discussions to msn chatrooms - back in the day!) when one half is assumed to be female. There might not be anything openly rude / upsetting, and often there's nothing that you could repeat on its own and have people understand what's offputting or discomfiting about it, but put it all together and there's a scary undertone of entitlement. This person hit a lot of buttons I'm uncomfortably familiar with.