Oooh look, I haven't had a rant on my blog for a while. Let's change that.
We have discussed here the issue of female objectification in game, which is always a bit contentious in certain circles. If you want a fight, that's normally a good one to start with. Once you've done with that then we can move swiftly onto the concept of how people treat people in (and out) of game: you'll be expected to be civil and respectful, but I'm not adverse to the odd attack of colourful language or impassioned point-making if the whole shebang is getting a bit emotional. However, there are lines to be drawn, and boundaries to be set, and if you won't do any of this without the fundamental understanding that everyone has a right to their opinion, it's going to end in tears.
So, what happens when someone steps over the line?
In Warcraft, toxic behaviour is no longer acceptable, to the point where Blizzard has created an entire algorithm in an attempt to monitor it. However, what happens outside the auspices of the game? If you're not on a Blizzard forum, how is it acceptable to deal with people who decide that they don't like what you are or what you do? There would be many people who would argue that the best method of attack is nothing: after all, this is the Internet. Many people check their brains out on login, and your experience is as varied as the company you keep. This is all well and good, until a point comes where you are in an environment you believe is safe, that you've felt comfortable in, and something happens to upset the balance. If you're like me, you might not even notice what happened until you take a step back.
There is nothing wrong with sensible and adult discussion, if everyone plays by the same rules. This allows you to have discourse with people who you might not normally talk about issues that are sensitive or inflammatory. The emphasis, of course, has to be on those two words: sensible and adult. There also has to be a level of understanding that if people don't like each other to begin with, they can still co-exist and communicate. I've learnt so much from people over the years (many of which I no longer talk to, some I actively avoid) and I've made so many mistakes... I'm not proud of any of them. What I try not to do any more (which I did a lot of in my youth) is deliberately cut people off because I disagree with their position. Every day, as I constantly remind myself, is a school day. You must learn until your last breath.
However, when you belittle people because they hold an opinion that you don't, when you make them look less worthy than you because of something personal that has affected your life, that's a dangerous precedent. Of course, I can think of a number of examples where an individual would be entirely within their rights to do this (and female objectification is a case in point) but to do that simply because they hold a different opinion about an aspect of, of all things, a computer game... that's just petty and pointless. Life is really too short for anyone to hold such preconceptions. People have the right to play their game, the way they want, even if that means in the end they are a negative influence. If that situation ultimately becomes toxic, then it should be the community's job to deal with it. When it's just because they won't toe your particular line or that they want to discuss stuff you don't think is either important or worthy, well... go play somewhere else.
Everyone is entitled to hold and defend/discuss their own opinion. Just because it doesn't match yours doesn't make either wrong or less valid. This bullying (because that is what it is) also fosters an environment where people feel uncomfortable, to the point where many will stop talking altogether, or simply leave because they feel unable to discuss what they want without fear of being attacked for not being part of what seems to be the 'norm'. I've been pushing really hard to try and get more people to blog and discuss their game experiences, and such attitudes will put that cause back, not help it forward. This community should NOT be an environment that discourages debate, quite the opposite. It also shouldn't be a place where attention-seekers can come to assuage their egos. If that's what you want, other internet mediums are available, but don't expect an easy ride anywhere if your idea of tolerance and understanding only extends to people who hold your opinions.