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The Real World: Azeroth

April 23, 2010

What does it mean to be polite?

  • S: (adj) polite (showing regard for others in manners, speech, behavior, etc.)
  • S: (adj) civilized, civilised, cultivated, cultured, genteel, polite (marked by refinement in taste and manners) “cultivated speech”; “cultured Bostonians”; “cultured tastes”; “a genteel old lady”; “polite society”
  • S: (adj) civil, polite (not rude; marked by satisfactory (or especially minimal) adherence to social usages and sufficient but not noteworthy consideration for others) “even if he didn’t like them he should have been civil”- W.S. Maugham

Why do I care — why do any of us care? I mention this because of Gevlon’s latest attack on altruism.

(TL;DR: I generally agree with him but find some cause for gentle mockery.)

Although I can understand not wanting to go halfway across a zone to do somebody else’s quest, it’s his analysis I find interesting. It seems like a long search to find a flaw in being ‘social.’

Consider one of the meanings of ‘polite’ that I found: not rude; marked by satisfactory (or especially minimal) adherence to social usages and sufficient but not noteworthy consideration for others. So maybe a journey across a zone to do somebody else’s quest violates ‘sufficient but not noteworthy consideration’; I can understand that. There’s polite and there’s abuse. Interestingly enough, Gevlon doesn’t seem to see it that way. Why view it as not leeching and then refuse to help anyway?

So what’s my problem with the goblinish wisdom? Picking a fight. Not simply telling the player ‘no, I don’t want to help you’ but attacking polite society — declaring it an ‘ape subroutine,’ declaring it ‘invalid’. Gevlon is welcome to his iconoclasm, I certainly do my fair share of that.

It’s clear, though, that a fight was intended; you can see the offending social offer gold, he gets back ‘I have gold’. Sure, and you don’t want more gold, goblin? It’s not worth your time. You don’t want to help. But you don’t want to just say that, so instead you attack the premise of why anyone would or should help anyone.

It is hard in polite society, especially with this so-easy just-a-game, to say no when someone asks for help. They’re asking for trifles. Some pixels. A few minutes of your time. We’re trained to agree, especially over trifling things. Look at the meaning of the word: ‘sufficient but not noteworthy’. Could that not define the bulk of WoW gameplay? It would be hard to call anything short of dungeon/raid running or huge amounts of resources a noteworthy commitment.

In contrast with the goblinish wisdom, I can offer an anecdote from yesterday’s gameplay. Things wound down early on my DK, so I switched over to my belf rogue to get her to 68. I found Sue playing her troll hunter and she wasn’t up to much, so she helped me with a batch of group quests in Nagrand. We did the entire ring of blood series last; wasn’t sure if we could 2-man it, but I was foolish to doubt it. Mostly her of course, geared 80 hunter and all. It was amusing to see these huge elites like Durn the Hungerer get taken down by a flick of her finger. I can remember when it was hard.

So another pair shows up at the ring of blood as we’re getting ready to leave; a 67 & 68. I had a feeling they wouldn’t be able to duplicate that performance, and decided to stick around. They didn’t even ask for help; we just chose to give it. Five minutes later we’re all on our way.

Gevlon, I imagine, would bash me for wasting five minutes on total strangers. There wasn’t even any righteous invocation of polite society involved. Why did we even stop and help in the first place? Society has trained us. Our brains have trained us. The ‘ape subroutine’. I wonder sometimes if that’s meant to be insulting, mentioning apes, but then we are just apes, aren’t we.

Quick calculation: what’s worth my time and energy, helping a couple random scrubs who have no business trying the ring of blood at those levels, or fighting my ape subroutine? Is it worth my time to invoke the subroutine and enjoy a moment of pleasant brain chemistry? Is it unreasonable to admit what it is and still say ‘I like how that feels’?

Another: what’s worth my time and energy, saying ‘no’ to a social, or picking a fight and ‘bashing altruists’? What ‘ape subroutine’, what brain chemistry might be powering that desire to pick a fight?

Must be worth your time.  🙂

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