I remember the first time I encountered a “ninja,” those who purposefully take things they can’t even use for the sake of making sure others can’t have it. It was a dreadful run through Sunken Temple and something I could have used was ninja’d. I think I asked, in my silly naivete, “Why? Why would you do that?”
The snide, triumphant reply was, “Because I can.”
I also remember the time I bumped into my first griefer. Someone was blithely questing in the same area, willfully ignorant of others who may be doing the same quest. Every time I spotted another quest objective, it was snatched out from under me; whenever I was fighting a mob to get to an objective, the griefer traipsed past me, took the objective, and traipsed away without so much as an, “Excuse me.” And, worse yet, was when the griefer deliberately waited for me to make a move before doing one of the aforementioned deeds.
I’ve since installed safeguards against such things, mostly because it baffles me to no end that people would do that in a video game and getting worked up over it was just pointless. I don’t PUG very much anymore. I became more vigilant, hardened against those less scrupulous in the world (of Warcraft) by my experiences. At least, in a video game, I wouldn’t have to encounter most of these people ever again if I didn’t want to, thanks to the handy ignore list. Or, that’s how I consoled myself. Besides, the only person I was hurting in my self-righteous indignation was myself.
The problem of ninjas and griefers, however, is a lot more troublesome in the real world, where you can’t just log off and exit the world if you get fed up.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to a party hosted by a couple my husband was friends with since college. We all had a grand time, really, and they were the most gracious of hosts. I kinda stuck to the people I already knew, met a few I didn’t, and just had a blast.
When my daughter felt brave enough to travel a little distance from my husband and me, she went and played with a little green ball that was abandoned by the other kids. She didn’t feel brave enough to play with the others— there were too many of them, it was too boisterous, too loud, and she just wasn’t comfortable with it, especially since not many of the kids were “her size.” It’s nice to know that some sense of danger assessment exists in her programming.
Not long after she started playing with the ball, a little boy about a year or so older than her comes along and takes the ball away. She stared in incomprehension but went back to playing when the other kid skedaddled elsewhere and had, once again, abandoned the ball off to the side. Perhaps it was just a spur-of-the-moment thing; no harm, no foul. Then the boy comes back and kicks the ball right out from under her. She had been bending over it at the time, trying to pick it up, and it’s lucky she didn’t get kicked herself.
This time, the boy kept the ball and went sprinting down the yard with it. She didn’t cry. She didn’t throw a fit, get angry, whine, or even so much as nurse an iota of resentment. My husband, who was standing nearby and saw what happened, went to make sure she was okay. And she was. She just didn’t understand. My daughter, again, stared in incomprehension and uttered a tiny, singular word: “Ball?”
It was only one question, but it asked so many others at the same time. It contained echoes of my plaintive “Why?” during that Sunken Temple run. The only explanation we could give— the only explanation we cling upon to carry us through each day— is that not everyone is going to play by the rules, and not everyone you encounter on the road of life is going to be nice. Some people you meet in LFR are worthy of being added to your friends list; some others, not so much.
If— no, make that when. When my daughter gets older and asks me, “Why do I bother following the rules? Why do I bother with being nice or considerate?”, I’ve got one quote to be the cornerstone of her moral foundation:
“The success or failure of your deeds does not add up to the sum of your life. […] Judge yourself by the intentions of your actions, and by the strength with which you faced the challenges that have stood in your way. The Universe is vast and we are so small. There is really only one thing we can ever truly control: whether we are good or evil.“
That’s from Stargate: SG-1, said by Oma Desala to Daniel Jackson. (It’s the episode “Meridian,” if you’re interested.) It’s a sentiment echoed in the first Mass Effect game by Commander Shepard: “You can’t predict how people will act, Garrus. But you can control how you’ll respond. In the end, that’s what really matters.”
We can control the actions of others about as much as we can control the weather— that is, zilch. We can, however, control ourselves and how much we allow others— especially those who aren’t exactly pleasant— to affect us. Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and butterflies, but that shouldn’t keep us from fostering it wherever we go.
I used to think that active retribution was the only solution to such situations where I’ve been wronged. But there’s a reason why my paladin is spec’d holy/protection, and has never gone ret (no offense to the ret pallies out there). The best solution is, in fact, apathy. Barring that, don’t let your offender see your reaction and let your emotions out later— be it a punching bag or the ruthless slaughter of pixels in a video game, it’s a lot more constructive than seething in blind rage in the heat of the moment, and loads better than wallowing in it.
Tranquility isn’t just a really pretty druid spell, though it’s fun and effective to imagine it like that. You gotta admit the world does look better when you’re standing in the midst of floating sparklies. Over time my daughter will learn, though I hadn’t expected her to learn such a harsh lesson so soon. With luck, she’ll skip the cynicism phase and get to the I-Know-How-To-Find-My-Inner-Calm phase directly.