Hey everyone.

A conversation I caught on Twitter about abusive in-game chat this morning has motivated me to compose this long-winded PSA for players who may play like I do (mega casually) but who may not have thought to approach WoW chat as I do. With Shadowlands right around the corner and a likely spike in WoW activity for many of us, it’s not a bad idea to revisit these topics, and I do care about decent players and their experiences in game!

Up front, I think it’s important that I disclaim that nothing in the way I approach the game tends to “need the public” all that much. I don’t use trade chat, I generally don’t do walk-up in-world Roleplaying, and the modern game entertains me just fine (when the lore is actually appealing as it appears it shall be in Shadowlands) when sticking to myself, playing with friends when our schedules align, or using queued difficulties when I feel a need to use group content, whether alone or with friends. Essentially, I don’t generally view “manually assembled team” content with strangers as part of “my game,” except in rare occasions.

It may then come as no surprise to you that I’m a big advocate of just... not including strangers in my chat settings.

The modern, worthwhile MMORPG is built on a framework that acknowledges that the internet is no longer novel, and the game isn’t our sole online social network. In the early days of EverQuest, a sense of wonder and newness almost... awed people into a higher degree of accountability for their treatment of each other in game. Part of this likely also had to do with how strictly, claustrophobically interdependent earlier MMOs were, but today’s consumer generally doesn’t tolerate that. It’s “just the internet” and “just another player” in 2020, and games have to sell themselves to one player, one of those modern players at a time. That is both good and bad, and adapting to the bad is sometimes crucial to navigating a non-novel internet.

So what do I actually suggest? I’m glad you asked!

First and foremost, I am a big advocate of having one chat pane (of a few), perhaps even the main/default chat pane or tab, with a pruned set of player chat channels permitted to display. I have on pretty much every character a “main chat” that silences all except what I call “by invitation” channels. These include guild, Battlenet friend whispers and manually assembled “party” chat, not to be confused with instance chat. Optionally you can include emotes, but some people use those to insult people. My “main chat” indeed often does not include say, whisper or instance chat. The truth is, there is very little that a complete stranger in town in modern WoW can say that you absolutely need to hear. We don’t need WoW to be a social mixer when we have other avenues to make friends on the modern, non-novel internet, and the modern MMORPG is a “with friends” game more than it is a “with the public” game, because the modern MMO is built to realize that its community’s behavior is a variable the devs cannot control in delivering a quality experience. Of course you can leave yourself more open to meeting people if you like, but you don’t need me to tell you that!

It’s important to remember that most “queued level” undertakings are meant to potentially be experienced by a group with language barriers, as often happens in European queued LFX content. If you don’t say much and don’t tip your hand that you can indeed see and understand chat, generally speaking a DPS or healing player can get through most normal and eventually heroic dungeons and even/especially LFR encounters without seeing or saying a word of player dialogue, once you yourself know what you are doing. That last part is important. Whether you watch a video or learn by doing, communication may be... less optional while you yourself are still learning.

You may note that I left out tanks. The blunt truth is any tank worth their salt will keep their chat open enough to see if someone needs you to stop. I often get around this by running dungeons with a friend who isn’t as particular with their text chat, who is with me on voice chat to tell me if someone has asked me to stop or slow down. If I can’t arrange that, I either don’t tank (every class can DPS after all) or use another chat pane with instance chat enabled.

People are going to be returning in droves to enjoy shadowlands in the near future, and people of all kinds will be bumping into each other, learning dungeons and potentially competing for tags in the linear questing experience. While the option always exists to go in with fully “open ears” and breathe in the community feeling, one cannot be faulted on a non-novel internet for wanting a degree of “personal space” in a game where the main vein is for you and your friends. Nothing in the social compact of WoW gives anyone a right to have their text on your screen. Enjoy yourself, realize there’s a lane of the game that “belongs to you alone,” and never feel pressured to interact more than you are comfortable doing!

If you’re still here, thank you for reading!