Cold Dark Heart

Cold Dark Heart
Curing the Noobonic Plague

Bryan Lufkin | 3 Aug 2010 12:59
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The schism between people who've played videogames for years and those who haven't is as clear as ever. With Nintendo at the helm, and Sony and Microsoft on deck with PlayStation Move and Kinect, more and more consumers are first-time gamers. And when people have the internet at their disposal, where neither their safety nor their reputations are threatened, they're free to censure anyone they please. Why are some people's comments so vitriolic, and sound like they're coming from repellent know-it-alls with God complexes?


I asked Jamie Madigan, a Personnel Psychologist who works for the federal government and runs a popular blog called The Psychology of Video Games. Madigan seeks to understand "why gamers do what they do by studying the intersection of psychology and videogames." The old school-versus-noob phenomenon reminds Madigan of the kind of hazing that can show up at college fraternities and sororities.

"People who have to endure hardships to get or enjoy something are much more likely to value it than people who get it without those hardships," Madigan says.

He draws a parallel to the research of psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini, specifically in his celebrated book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. In the book, Cialdini describes a study conducted by social psychologists Elliot Aronson and Judson Mills. In the study, a group of college-aged women participate in a group discussion about sex. However, some of the women were forced to undergo an "initiation" before joining the discussion - reciting a list of obscene words to someone beforehand, or describing sexual scenes from contemporary novels in detail. The result? The group discussion was actually an incredibly boring, dull analysis of sexual characteristics in lower animals, and the control group (those women who weren't initiated) reported being uninterested during the presentation, but the initiated women found the discussion exciting, worthwhile and valuable.

Madigan believes that the experimental group in Aronson and Mills' study is similar to "old school gamers who had to endure years of what used to be a much less socially acceptable or expensive hobby. They may overvalue their history and knowledge of gaming trivia while resenting new entrants to the scene who didn't have to go through what they did to get it."

In other words, if you've been gaming in utero, or were among the first to hop on the gaming craze, or have spent hours of your life unearthing tips and tricks - how could you not get annoyed when a bunch of newcomers, who know next to nothing, arrive late onto the scene?

Granted, there are plenty of comments on game-centric videos, forums and blogs that show friendliness and patience with casual gamers, as well as appreciative feedback thanking a user for uploading knowledge to share with the world. Surely not all gamers are obnoxious, sun-deprived dweebs with something to prove, right? I consider myself a hardcore gamer, and I'm certainly not like that, and neither are any of my friends who game. Heck, I don't know anyone like that, gamer or not. Most gamers I know are friendly, well-adjusted people who'd likely demonstrate great patience toward beginning players.

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