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#4

So why are gamers such jerks online, anyway?

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I'm currently in school to be an economics major and I always think it's interesting when people complain about how people act online. Certainly, it is quite annoying when people troll or be sexist to me in online games and sometimes it's quite aggrevating because I know that some of the opinions that people spout online are either lies or something that would not come out in real life.

Econ teaches you that life is all about incentives. In real life, there are incentives for us to act like polite human beings because there are people all around us judging our every move. This is why laws usually work... if everyone decided to disobey the laws there is pretty much nothing anyone could do about it but we don't because we are afraid of the social (and other) consequences.

Online however, there are no consequences. There is no incentive to act like a normal human being therefore people don't. You can be as rude, sexist, mean, or stupid as you want and there is little anyone can do to find out who you are or to punish you for it. Imagine if there was a police of the internet who fined you if you sexually harassed people! I just think it's interesting to see how incentives work. The internet behaves just like it should since it is anonymous!

I do think that the things people do online and in games are part of their personality that perhaps they are not allowed to use in real life because of these incentives.

I certainly swear like a sailor when I'm playing Mario Kart and I'm pretty tame in real life!

Mark J Kline:
Videogaming, like many internet activities, provides a relatively anonymous way to interact with others. I think this anonymity, combined with the absence of important, behavior-regulating non-verbal cues, creates a powerful disinhibiting effect. By "disinhibiting," I mean the normal social cues and conventions that discourage people from giving free rein to their impulses are absent, or weakened, and what comes out is a full, unfiltered discharge of players' aggressive and sexual urges.

I think this is where the idea of RealID originated from, and unfortunately (imho) where it took a wrong turn. It's not the anonymity that changes you, it's what releases you.

You see, I don't think the disinhibition is a result of those games, but rather a return to our natural states.

I'm sure we could (and have) detail all the little things in our life, from families to strangers that really get our goat. And we turn to our virtual worlds to escape.

The problem being that it's not just the angel that escapes to roam the pastures but the devil as well. (Ego and ID, if you prefer Freud)

While the angel is ballet-dancing with the flaming sword, the devil is remembering all the rude, ignorant people and all the slow, mean service, and all the painful joints, and that girl who 'justs want to be friends'.

Deep inside every adult is a child that wants its tantrums back, and - by god - it's found a place to throw them.

Games, as a whole, are a place where the child inside is allowed to burst free, a playground for sociopathy that the real world disallows. And we all have that malicious spirit within.

It's not so much that the games are dis-inhibitors; it's that real life is such an inhibitor at times. We're born with raging instincts that helped to evolve our race, but society's constraints keep them in. Before computer games, we had Wars.

The problem being that computer games, as a whole, aren't as cathartic as we need. Sniping someone is a burst of power as you become Godlike in your ability - but then it's followed by someone else snuffing your power instantly.

Add to that the fact that your body is spiking testosterone and adrenalin, fueled by caffeine, nicotine and sucrose - and the only release is to get more catharsis - usually by releasing a stream of curses that would paint a sailor turquoise.

It's not just games though, look at road rage. Even though the drivers aren't really "anonymous", that git in the Mini that just cut you up DESERVES TO DIE!!!!!!!!

Which isn't really the way we have to act in a normal society, but how most of us who commute will feel.

This also ties into the addiction factor, as we can't burn out the catharsis we need within the game, so we keep returning to it; but it's not the game that's addicting us, but our need to RAGE.

What we need to do is to exhaust our devil before we can let our angel play freely, and teenage boys - with their systems jammed full of hormones, e-numbers and strange, moist feelings - have that devil in superabundance.

TL:DR Games don't make us get angry, they let us get angry. RL gets us wound up.

MMO and People...they are alright (Usually) when not put together...but, with anything, you give someone an avatar to hide behind, and they dont feel they need to take any recourse for the actions they commit.

I think its quite sad how some people just use the mask as an excuse to be total, and complete idiots...I would like to see how they act when face to face with some of the people they try to demeen.

Brilliant article, and great to see an experts point of view on it

The_root_of_all_evil:
Snip

I agree with some of your points - but the way I read Dr. Kline's article, it looked like he made many of the same points, just in different areas (obviously) from the place. I'd just like to take this opportunity to also make the point that Freud is stoopid. :P.

I really enjoyed this article. It feels like the good Herr Doctor (sorry, you must be sick of the TF2 references by now, but it's irresistible) has a good amount of free reign to talk about the actual issues affecting games, rather than the censored, neutered discussion that usually goes on (for instance, in mainstream media it would be "Why do gamers act like dicks? They get to be anonymous, next question").

I particularly liked that he addressed the high proportion of stoned and drunk players. I'd never made the connection (somehow) between disinhibited people on the internet and traditional disinhibitors.

Also, no pun intended on high proportion.

This was a complex and nuanced take on a complex and nuanced issue that doesn't usually get that level of discourse.

Mark J Kline:
I have also noticed many gamers who play at various levels of intoxication, from moderately buzzed, to downright shit-faced drunk or stoned out of their gourds. My sense is that people who are intoxicated are even more likely to be disinhibited and become abusive. In most public places, there are laws against drunk and disorderly conduct, or if you go into a bar, at least you know what you are probably getting into. Maybe we need separate servers for the wasted?

Hi Dr Mark, your above comment there, could it be possible to use a bit of text book psychology questions for when registering to servers to see what sort of gamer that person is?, if they happen to be the stoned out shit face's stick them all in one server together where their insults can blossom without me having to be called a "homosexual".

Honestly, I did not read the entirety of the column, but the gist is anonymity and reclusive social disorders can factor in. My girlfriend and I play Guild Wars all the time and since she doesn't tend to choose girly names plus the frequency of males playing as female characters is high enough that she is rarely ever 'harassed'. I will, however, say that it is sad that if a woman wants to have fun and express themselves with their name or how their toon looks in an mmo, that they are singled out. Furthermore I agree that it's an entertainment form for more than adults. Youth are learning about the foulest of the world via these games. Perhaps some games could have a running system to keep track of age and place people in realms or regions accordingly. This wouldn't solve everything, though, as young adults can be just as rude and vulgar as their elders.

This entire article is actually relevent to the decision // suggestion to implement the RealID system so people would have their names in the public. So whatever you said, you will degrade yourself and people will take notice. Maybe family or friends will see what you posted or said in an online world.

As always, I am glad The Escapist has a battle-hardened WoW veteran writing and answering the most burning questions within the community. Dr. Mark, you are an amazing person, I was not so trusting with the people in your trade, but you emit a comfortable aura. x] Keep up the good work!

My own personal opinion is "some people are just jerks", the thing is in a virtual world you are more likely to run into the jerks then the real world because virtual worlds are just so much smaller. Even the largest virtual world isn't any bigger then a small town, effectively.

How many people have a bar or pub in their town you just don't go near because it's got a reputation for being a hangout for thugs and crazies? If some moron makes a racist comment in a public shopping mall, chances are only a few people will hear it, in a virtual world everyone in that chat channel will see it.

So I don't really think general jerkish behaviour is more common online, it's just easier to notice.

They should make you take one of those personality test like on Match.com or one of those dating sites. After you get your results you sre given a list of servers for people that are most suited to your personality. However the one downfall I can see is that maybe joing in with your IRL friends might not be possible if this was implemented.

I think that there is a major difference between the two types of harassment. I've played on sports teams and the like where hazing is the normal, but it often conforms to the more "playful" teasing that you referred to earlier in the article. The thing that really angers me is the group of what sounds like 12 year old males doing one of three things:
1: Using racial/ethnic slurs directly.
2: Pretending to be the ethnicity that they are usually sluring. Usually a representation that far outperforms even the worst Jean-Claude Van Damme portrayals (Bloodsport).

I know that they probably should not be playing the more hard-core games anyway (COD4 is where I saw this most often), but I think that the least of the problem here. Team killing and other annoyances usually come along with this group. If a person gets their jollies by annoying other people, there is no way to stop them, because the very fact that they are getting people angry gives them an incentive to continue the action (this goes beyond the 12 year olds).

Finally in reference to an earlier post, I wish that it was easy enough to just exile the jerks to one server, but no matter what the system it is incredibly difficult to block a type of person from playing with you. For all the number of times I have reported people on xbox live (and always felt like a tattletale no matter how much they deserved it) there are always more people like them. I find muting them more tolerable, but it doesn't solve the problem.

It's impossible to completely stop people from being dicks on the internet but when playing a game like WoW there is a very simple solution. Block them. Problem solved.

If it's really bad you may be able to report them too but blocking should probably suffice.

As for the getting ganked aspect of being a dick online, as someone who used to frequently murder Alliance players, regardless of level and with no mercy, I'd like to tell you not to flag yourself. Don't play on a PVP server if you don't want to PVP. Don't flag yourself if you don't want to PVP. Doing either suddenly permits me to murder your ass and I will.

Or I would. I don't play WoW any more.

the cure for sexism in games would be women reacting by cussing appropirately, like callinmg em infantile skunk, mofo dickhead,If I wanted to hear asshole I woulda farted,etc.
Good point here, may I presume you all get to this topic by playing Alien Swarm lately?

Hithlain:
I'm currently in school to be an economics major and I always think it's interesting when people complain about how people act online. Certainly, it is quite annoying when people troll or be sexist to me in online games and sometimes it's quite aggrevating because I know that some of the opinions that people spout online are either lies or something that would not come out in real life.

Econ teaches you that life is all about incentives. In real life, there are incentives for us to act like polite human beings because there are people all around us judging our every move. This is why laws usually work... if everyone decided to disobey the laws there is pretty much nothing anyone could do about it but we don't because we are afraid of the social (and other) consequences.

Online however, there are no consequences. There is no incentive to act like a normal human being therefore people don't. You can be as rude, sexist, mean, or stupid as you want and there is little anyone can do to find out who you are or to punish you for it. Imagine if there was a police of the internet who fined you if you sexually harassed people! I just think it's interesting to see how incentives work. The internet behaves just like it should since it is anonymous!

I do think that the things people do online and in games are part of their personality that perhaps they are not allowed to use in real life because of these incentives.

I certainly swear like a sailor when I'm playing Mario Kart and I'm pretty tame in real life!

Pretty much this. Anonymity negates the need for social standards.

It's the same impulse that drives people to be bullies. Dr Mark asks if it's right for kids to be exposed to this but I suspect that most (but by no means all) of the worst offenders are youngsters. I played WoW a lot a couple of years ago and to my shame I often found myself playing to the wee hours of the morning. However I noticed that the frequency of anti-social behaviour dropped off noticeably after 11pm. I am not sure if it was because of the much smaller number of gamers or if the people who felt the need to be idiots were in bed but I actually found myself starting to play later and later to get a bit of peace and quiet and game with more sensible players.

Being a jerk is about power, whether it's "happy slapping", slagging people off on Facebook, writing rude emails to journalists (see the latest Extra Punctuation) or typing endless tirades of abuse in capital letters in WoW. The anonymity of the Internet just makes it easier for those who otherwise feel powerless to finally grab a little bit of glory (if only in their own mind) or make a move on a woman when they're too scared to in real life.

If it makes anyone feel any better they're probably being bullied mercilessly at school; they deserve our pity rather than our ire. Not that it stops them being annoying little jerks of course...

While I do agree that some games encourage players to do nasty things, I think those games are a lot fewer in number than we're often led to believe. In most games in which you are a criminal with the ability to cause chaos and destruction, there is no in-game reward for doing so - the chaos and destruction itself is the reward. In fact, the standard response in sandbox crime games is to have lawkeepers attempt to kill the player when this happens. In the same way, any in-game reward you get for seeking out prostitutes in, say, GTA IV is so small as to be completely outweighed by the costs. What I'm getting at is that in many games in which you can do various horrible things, the game doesn't reward you for doing them, it simply allows the possibility. The problem (if there is a problem) is with the player.

I also noticed that you (very circumspectly) implied that Mass Effect rewards the player with sexual content for chatting up NPCs. I have to leap to the game's defence here, because I thought that we all learned from the "alien sideboob" fiasco that any lusty teenager looking to get his jollies to Mass Effect is going to be sorely disappointed. He would be better off with a lingerie catalogue. The only reward for building up a personal relationship with an NPC is the existence of such a relationship, which is surely the exact opposite of what Tom Bissell is wringing his hands about. And you can do it with male NPCs as well. Seriously, Mass Effect is one of the worst examples you could have semi-used. Just put a picture from The Witcher up there or something.

I'd also be extremely wary of asking developers to produce games that encourage "prosocial" behaviour. We've gone down that route in other media, and chances are it'll lead to self-censorship and the stifling of creativity, along with the marginalisation of viewpoints that don't gel with whatever concept of "prosociality" we're working with. It would also probably lead to a lot of very boring games.

Since most gamers happen to play on the internet, anonymity is perhaps the reason why most gamers I've encountered are bad. Some I've encountered are nice but only find those a dime a dozen.

Check out Xbox live and even see certain cretins cuss way too much.

If it happens to have multiplayer, IE 4 split screen game, we would be angry losing to one another thus ragequit.

This was an interesting read. While I don't play MMOs as I don't like interacting with people, I see this sort of thing in shooters all the time (the worst being Halo 3 when it first came out). I think there are more teenagers/pre-teens then a lot of people seem to think there are playing these games. They have the desire to show how 'mature' they are by swearing, as they think that's an adult thing to do, and even saying racist/sexist things, as they think that will make people take them more seriously. The boiling point in any game is when they lose though. If they get killed, they say it's because the person who killed them was cheating and call them something. If their team loses, they'll say it was everyone elses fault even though they had the worst score.

There are plenty of adults who abuse these things too, but for the more popular titles, I honestly think it's younger people who normally go over the edge. I'm fairly young myself of course, but even though I get angry quite a bit, I always try to be polite. It leads back to the golden rule of being treated as you'd treat others. But many don't seem to understand the lines between friendly banter, like was mentioned in the article, and offensive behavior.

I'd say the way to fix it is having a complaint system AND ACTUALLY USING IT. MMOs are normally worse on this because they lose that monthly fee if they ban a person. The same can be said about Xbox live, and PS3s can allow you to make accounts to just keep going. I think that they should stop worrying about losing single customers and start focusing on punishing people who get multiple complaints.

Impliment it sort of like this: If someone gets 5-10+ complaints for anything too bad (racism, sexism, extreme swearing (as, let's face it, a lot of us swear when we get killed, we just don't go overboard), and so on), then they're banned for a week to a month. They can appeal to the company, and the company can send emails to each person who complained using their email addresses to varify if the person was really acting out of line (giving examples, showing replays of the match, etc.). If the half the people don't respond or admit they were wrong, then undo the ban. If the player continues doing it after the ban is lifted, ban the account, and any other accounts registered to that counsole, unless the other accounts can prove they are actually other people who haven't recieved complaints.

That's just my opinion at least. It may seem harsh and it can be abused, but it's better then letting these people ruin gaming for some.

I was bit annoyed by John Funk using a Penny Arcade comic strip as evidence that anonymity makes people act aggressively in games when the real id in WoW issue came up so I'm happy to see this article.

I find it interesting that people might behave that way because they feel relaxed in the environment and that is how they behave informally with their friends. I was in a guild in an MMO for a while that had more than it's fair share of 20+ year old and female gamers and there was no smack talk, sexism or racism as you might expect. There was a mix of snarky gossip and friendly chat as you might expect from this different type of people who were not being formal. Even though they were playing the same game about killing and achieving they didn't communicate in the same aggressive way.

Some people having more problems communicating than others it puts a different spin on things to me. Everyone sees it as one of the best thing about MMOs that they let people with severe disabilities function in an environment where they can be just as able as everyone else. It doesn't seem right to say that people with some psychological problems should be made to face the same challenges they face in real life in games when they don't have to. Especially when their problems might not even be be that disruptive to other players.

Dr. Mark, hopefully you are aware of Jamie Madigan and his blog www.psychologyofgames.com. If not, allow me to be the first to point you in his direction. One of his posts addresses the same issue, although from a research instead of a clinical standpoint.
http://www.psychologyofgames.com/2010/06/05/deindividuation-character-creator-stab-them-in-the-face/

Must say I was a little skeptical of this series when it started but this was a very good article. It summed up a problem in the gaming community without demonizing the medium as a whole. Well done Dr. Mark.

As to the question I'm not sure there's much that can be done. The combination of the anonymity of the internet with young, hormonally driven teenagers is somewhat a recipe for this sort of thing. Any attempts to curtail it, like perhaps penalizing players who use ethnic slurs, are surely bound to fail since people will either desert the games or find ways around the rules. As others have already said people are jerks in the real world so it's no surprise their jerks online.

I believe our psychologist friend has been out of the true male competition loop for too long. Trash-talking isn't just a psycho-social disease or what have you-it's an integral part of competitive games played against other humans, especially other men. And learning to ignore or counteract trash talk is central the development of tactical skills under pressure.

The Army, officially and unofficially, trains medics to do the right thing to save the patient even if it means ignoring or countermanding someone screaming above your head.

Michael Jordan isn't just the greatest basketball player because he's the most athletic, he's the greatest because he can consistently out-trash talk the other team (which doesn't get seen that often on censored sports channels.) And didn't anyone here see BASEketball?

It's not a disorder. Excessive politeness and deference is learned behavior that gives way under varying amounts of stress.

In other words, politeness is conditioned, or if you will, unnatural. Trash talking is natural and genetic. In some cases, it's also emergent depending on the nature of the game.

The only reason women are more polite IRL and occasionally online is because they have less attention to lose from losing, and therefore no incentive to get better. They're already women on the Internet! Why would they need a slot on the high score tables to feel better about themselves or attract more attention?

(Attractiveness is one of the surest routes to self-deception, online or in the real world. And far more evil in this world is done politely than ugly-ly.)

Great article, this is turning into one of my favourite series. I've also recently thought about online behavior and I started watching my friends while we were playing. I don't think there is a way to change all this, but you can take steps in the right direction. For example, I try to "moderate" my friends and tell them when they are being unreasonable in hope that when they play without me, they will think harder before they start a flame war. In the case of WoW, I think your best bet is to play on a Role-playing server, at least you know most of the people there will try to act accordingly. That's what I did, and I had a lot of fun, with almost no encounters with jerks.

Looking forward to your next article.

Oh, and thanks to the guy that linked the "psychology of games" blog, will check it out ;]

Is social aggression not a status thing?
You have hundreds of people jostling for position in a social situation where status is inherently both the most valuable currency and very hard to define.
I'd guess most of the insults are a form of verbal shove, designed unconsciously to elevate the insulter and lower the insultee.

You can't really police things like this, you're talking about punishing people for 'unacceptable' behaviour, which brings up the problem of defining the unacceptable. Also, it would take a hell of a lot of work to watch everyone in a game like WoW. Though if people complain about the behaviour or others, I suppose the chat logs could be reviewed. Since Blizzard can read everything you type.

As for games creating an environment where violent behaviour is acceptable, or rewarded...
It seems to me that, in the real world, there are certain actions which are considered acceptable, like giving random strangers flowers, and others which are not, like punching random people in the face.
If you create an entire spectrum of virtual experiences to cover the full range of behaviours, it seems reasonable to me to assume that people would be more interested in those which allow them to do things which under other circumstances they could not do.
Any one of us could go out and give random people flowers with no adverse effects.
If you want to punch strangers in the face, you need a virtual world in which to do it.
That is why games tend toward the violent or unacceptable.

It seems to me that at some point soon we're going to have to realise that if someone wants to massacre a bunch of people, or rape, or torture, or any other of a wide range of things which are unacceptable for various reasons, it's far better for such impulses to be explored without any actual impact on the real world.

Perhaps it would be better not to explore them at all, I'm curious as to your professional opinion on that. Some people believe anger is best expressed by violently attacking a pillow, others believe such actions only fuel the fires, and suggest letting the emotion go.

Just a brief comment:

In EQ they had 'Ledgendary' servers (if I remember the term right) where you paid more but you got GMs running around doing plotlines and monster invasions and the like and they were VERY harsh on griefers. I and my friends mourn that they dont offer that service in WoW. Having a server where the GM approved all guild/character names and moderated the global chats would be well worth the extra money, it gave the adult supervision some players need to behave themselves.

If I had to bet, I would say that most jerks in--let's say WoW--aren't really bad people in real life. I do think that maybe there are issues they deal with like low self-esteem, lack of confidence, not fitting in, socially awkward, and things like that. But bad? I wouldn't say so.

But in an anonymous setting like WoW, with all of the powers and freedoms it offers, I believe it gives these people a chance to be on top for once. And, unused to such success in real life, it goes a bit to their heads.

The main factor in all of this is the anonymity a game provides, combined with the lack of repercussions. I say it's the main factor because I discovered a trick to dealing with online dirtbags in Halo 2 & 3 that also works nicely in WoW. The trick is thus:

1. An online exchange of text or voice goes south, and the other player is saying things like, "I'll kick your ass", "You suck"--and all the variations", etc.

2. If something clever to say presents itself, I use it. This has a 40% chance of ending the harassment. (cause it's usually funny).

3. If that doesn't work, I feed straight lines to pump up the vitriol of the agressor.

4. I "let myself get mad", and start "losing control". Basically appearing to sink down to the agressors level.

5. When the agressor has reached his peak, I change my persona to one of focused calm, with an almost pleasant tone--except making it obvious that something is off. Regardless of how the agressor reacts to this, I begin the questions:
"Where do you live?" -this always gets a snide remark.

"Seriously, what city are you in? Come on, tell me the State at least." -still snide, but the wheels start to turn.

"What's your address? Fine, what's your phone number? I can do a search." -the agressor begins to back down and goes on the defensive, "I, I'm not telling you," etc.

"What's your zip code? What pets do you have? What's your Mom's license plate number? What color is your house?" -these odd but scary questions make them think harder, and see danger in saying anything at all. But since the questions are odd, they usually try to regroup in a half-hearted and futile manner.

"Hey! Tell me your social security number now! What is your social security number?!" -the agressor is now in full defense mode, and are only looking for "flight" options and not "fight" ones. At this point, they either become conciliatory or disappear.

The reason this trick works--obviously--is that the tough, strong, anonymous jerk suddenly finds himself in what is apparently a real world situation with real world consequences. It's unnerving, throws them off-balance, and makes being an ass not fun anymore.

I'm sure this wouldn't work for everybody all the time, but it has worked every time for me across three console games and WoW. Maybe this is because I've only ever had the opportunity to use it on teens and early-twenties kids. Maybe it wouldn't work if the agressor was a true badass in real life.

Then again, a true badass wouldn't feel the need to play out any insecurities in an online game.

Probably one of the best things I've read on the Escapist (and dear I say the Internet) in a while. Enjoyable to read as well as insightful and thought provoking. Even though a lot of this stuff I know myself, it's still highly enjoyable to read.

Scobie:

I also noticed that you (very circumspectly) implied that Mass Effect rewards the player with sexual content for chatting up NPCs. I have to leap to the game's defence here, because I thought that we all learned from the "alien sideboob" fiasco that any lusty teenager looking to get his jollies to Mass Effect is going to be sorely disappointed. He would be better off with a lingerie catalogue. The only reward for building up a personal relationship with an NPC is the existence of such a relationship, which is surely the exact opposite of what Tom Bissell is wringing his hands about. And you can do it with male NPCs as well. Seriously, Mass Effect is one of the worst examples you could have semi-used. Just put a picture from The Witcher up there or something.

I agree, I understand what the article is getting at, but Mass Effect, heck, pretty much any Bioware RPG is a terrible example to use when a person is trying to make a point about scandalous sex in video games.

Aside from that, the subject of people acting like asshole on the internet seems to exist well outside of gaming in particular. Go just about anywhere and you'll encounter people, often mature adults, behaving terribly. Most people on the internet are utter bastards. Just go to any political website and read the comments on any article having to do with Barack Obama.

Mark J Kline:
While this questioner wonders about the impact of all this nastiness on impressionable teenagers, I think another category of potentially nasty players are the teens themselves

This is a really important point to get across, especially since you see this argument from people outside of the gaming community. I didn't play a lot online when I was a teen, but if I remember my teenage self correctly, I might not have been the most polite person in the world. Many adults I know actually find themselves turned off from gaming because of the teenagers that the letter writer is worried about.

L

Guyovick:
Dr. Mark, hopefully you are aware of Jamie Madigan and his blog www.psychologyofgames.com. If not, allow me to be the first to point you in his direction. One of his posts addresses the same issue, although from a research instead of a clinical standpoint.
http://www.psychologyofgames.com/2010/06/05/deindividuation-character-creator-stab-them-in-the-face/

Looks very interesting--I will certainly check this out. I was not aware of this particular site, but I do think more folks are paying attention to the psychological effects and of gaming and other issues related to these experiences. Can't help but be a good thing as long as we get beyond glib summary judgements.

Thanks for the tip!

Mark Kline

TraderJimmy:

The_root_of_all_evil:
Snip

I agree with some of your points - but the way I read Dr. Kline's article, it looked like he made many of the same points, just in different areas (obviously) from the place. I'd just like to take this opportunity to also make the point that Freud is stoopid. :P.

Dr. Mark, like Penny Arcade seem to subscribe to the theory that Anonymity turns People into Assholes.
I prefer the theory that Society turns People into Assholes but Games allow them to display it, due to the Anonymity.

But yeah, Freud made most of his great ideas while living with three women and taking cocaine, which makes you paranoid and impotent. Possibly not the best guy to be talking about your mother with.

Edit: Something I should have added is that this catharsis is needed to reset the system, in the same way we sleep to clear/restore our minds. But it needs to be physical (if only vocal) as well as mental. Twitch gamers will revert to vocalisation catharsis, Gankers will be playing out superiority issues.

But we do need to do it. Remember that time when your mum told you off for flicking food at the table? Did you develop subtle revenge fantasies for flicking it at her next time? What if there was a place where you could?

Honestly, I don't think Anonymity is our protection from Responsibility, it's that lack of responsibilty allows us to turn to asshole-ism. And, despite what halo we wear, we all do it at times.

I'll be the first to say that this problem, when I've encountered it, has been less about teenagers than about grown, often married men, and even sometimes their spouses. It could be a matter of my own age and those being the folks I run with in guilds, but sometimes even having someone's name and phone number isn't enough for them not to behave like complete jerks. So you've got multiple things at play here, and truth be told I can deal and ignore some noisy little kid, whether at the mall or in my game, assuming they're not making it difficult for me to enjoy whatever it is I'm doing. What you can't ignore is when you run smack dab into pure cultural differences of what is and isn't okay to say around kids, or what you're comfortable having in guild chat as acceptable teasing.

I've had people try to excuse their friend's execrable language and antics by saying 'Oh, they were in the navy together' or 'Man, that's just how I talk to my brother', and so on. That's when real conflict flares up, because that's not someone acting out intentionally, but behaving in a way they think is appropriate, who then try to turn it around on you and ask why you're giving them grief over it.

Random acts of angry punks, sure, that's just people being people, acting like they'd act in person if they could without risking a slap in the face or being shouted down. That's not nearly so big a long term problem, especially when trying to set a guild culture, in what's acceptable and what's not. Either you lose people who get offended and you give into the social bullying of the lowest common denominator, or you have to take a hard line and get those folks to change or leave themselves.

I think you should have given the age factor more "air time" in the article, as it seems to me like that is the biggest factor in rude behaviour online

Epoetker:
I believe our psychologist friend has been out of the true male competition loop for too long. Trash-talking isn't just a psycho-social disease or what have you-it's an integral part of competitive games played against other humans, especially other men. And learning to ignore or counteract trash talk is central the development of tactical skills under pressure.

The Army, officially and unofficially, trains medics to do the right thing to save the patient even if it means ignoring or countermanding someone screaming above your head.

Michael Jordan isn't just the greatest basketball player because he's the most athletic, he's the greatest because he can consistently out-trash talk the other team (which doesn't get seen that often on censored sports channels.) And didn't anyone here see BASEketball?

It's not a disorder. Excessive politeness and deference is learned behavior that gives way under varying amounts of stress.

In other words, politeness is conditioned, or if you will, unnatural. Trash talking is natural and genetic. In some cases, it's also emergent depending on the nature of the game.

The only reason women are more polite IRL and occasionally online is because they have less attention to lose from losing, and therefore no incentive to get better. They're already women on the Internet! Why would they need a slot on the high score tables to feel better about themselves or attract more attention?

(Attractiveness is one of the surest routes to self-deception, online or in the real world. And far more evil in this world is done politely than ugly-ly.)

You are incorrect, I feel, in your belief that "trash talk" is a default state and polite discourse (or manners, what have you) is learned behavior. I think there is ample evidence and a general consensus in psychology and sociology that both are learned behaviors. Aggressiveness itself is something innate to humans, yes, but how we express it (such as trash talking) is a symptom of learned behavior and very specific to culture.

Put another way, there are many different ways that we could express ourselves in aggressive behavior. Trash talking just happens to be a social norm in sports circles in western culture (and probably elsewhere), but it's something that is highly atypical in gaming culture until recently, thansk to the development of accessible multiplayer to the average Joe. Now those same freaks that I disliked in college down playing or watching football are in the online games I enjoy, imposing their default behavioral standard to them, and effectively crapping all over what was supposed to be a more different, socially cooperative and friendly medium. I don't think I'm alone in that feeling; I think the main point of conflict stems from an indigenous base with its expectations of normal behavior being afflicted by this "new" (because its been a few years now) subset that is imposing its own brash and crude expectations on behavior. Thus, the reason that most people seem to either be constantly bothered by the erratic actions of others, or oblivious.

Maybe requesting players do a non-tethered survey to thier accounts about themselves could help.
Example: Becky starts playing World of Warcraft today and she has to fill out all the normal information you normally would Name, age, billing address, & etc.,but once She's done all of that information would remain completely private between her and ActivisionBlizzard. Then afterwards a optional survey pops up asking if she would like to disclose any information for an anonymous polling of active players she could then say: she's female,In X-age group, her race, and nationality or none at all and opt not to submit at all.

That way the members could voice in part who they are(or lie for whatever reason) while not having to openly admit to everyone or anyone that they are ???? of whatever since it would only use your account to verify you're a current player on the network or at least playing extra to flasify the data with multiple accounts,of course putting a link to the stats on the main page would only help to inform people of the varity of player backgrounds exsist and that there (If at least 50% of the users have been truthful) are indeed other players like you.

Though a simple male/female Statistic like this would be a good way to test the waters of the program.

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