GLS 2008 Day 2 Session 3: Games & Incivility

Sympathy for the Griefer: MOOrape, Lulz Cubes, & Other Lessons From the First 2 Decades of Online Sociopathy
Jullian Dibbell

Jullian Dibbel

Jullian Dibbel gave a warning that his talk about griefers is NSFW. But he did say that he toned it down right before the presentation.  “Griefer” goes back to “spoil-sport,” someone who shatters the “magic circle” (AKA the bounded game world), whereas a cheater is someone who is still within the magic circle.

He then described Mr._Bungles in LambdaMOO, moving on to organized griefing in Habbo Hotel, Second Life, etc. that are anti-furry or whatever. Watch his videos when available… really hard to explain by text. LULZ.

There an insanely hyper-developed culture of memes on sites like Something Awful, 4chan, 7chan, and Encyclopedia Dramatica. Embedded in these memes is a kind of ideology which a sociopath doesn’t have, so calling griefers sociopaths is slightly wrong. They do it for the LULZ and to remind us that the Internet is not all serious business.

The magic circle is porous and ever-changing and can’t really be drawn to exclude griefers since they deliberately play with the magic circle.

But are griefers always bad? Actually, they can do some really important work, like go after the Scientologists or generally keep society in check.

Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft
Lisa Nakamura

Lisa Nakamura

Lisa (a Reedie!) first played a clip from the WoW South Park episode. In it they denigrate Koreans. Koreans don’t count as people to socialize with. So, WoW is a transnational game but not really a transnational game.

She then described how racial profiling happens in WoW, where players figure out whether other players are Chinese gold farmers from broken English or repetitive killing of mobs.

Lisa then played for us the Ni Hao video.

Holy crap. There is so much stuff in Lisa’s talk. Players are discriminating against others who “act” Chinese, not people who actually are Chinese. Those people are those who haven’t properly assimilated to WoW culture. It’s ironic that selling gold, acting Chinese, is bad, but being American–many, many of whom buy gold–is perfectly fine. (and of course, neo-liberal stances hide behind cultural non-assimilation arguments to say they aren’t racist)

While it is possible to hide your offscreen race while playing WoW, lots of effort goes into outing Chinese farmers.

Avatarial capital. More research needs to be done with avatarial capital. Avatars are much more than a few bytes of data. But most research focuses on leisure players, not farmers who may not value their avatars the same way.

Part of the problem with player-workers is that they are not allowed to possess their own avatars.

If we’re going to argue that MMOs are important; we have to be accountable for the bad stuff, too–the racialization and profiling that can occur (that will occur in any medium).

The Temptation of Virtual Misanthropy: User Exploration in Virtual Environments
Edd Schneider, D. Hu

Edd Schneider

What if you put someone in GTA 3 and told them that they were a police officer or a medic or something. How long could a player be in the GTA 3 environment (without the idea that they are meant to be bad) before going down the path of evil?

Technical difficulties…. :)

Do you let people just play with a new world or do you give them some instruction first?

Edd described a study where they put users in GTA 3 for the first time, calling it a fire fighting game.

They recorded first vehicular homicides, first murders with a hand weapon, etc. How long it took before players started doing these transgressive acts. Whether they actually fought fires, etc.

Awesome graphs. People who read instructions tended to not kill very much, whereas those who don’t read instructions couldn’t go a minute without shooting someone. Men killed more than women, were not on task. Gamers killed more and were also not on task.

Takeaway: know your audience. Allow people the option to follow tutorials.

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