A bit of a preamble: I was in a class where we studied the Rhetorics of Videogames while I attended Washington State University. This class was based around class discussions and student interaction. It was an excellent class, and I'll be posting some of the class's discussion points for further discussion on my blog. Here is one response written about a class discussion we had on griefers. First, please watch the video attached, it will provide context.
The most interesting (and maybe important, only time will tell) topic we discussed this semester was gamer interactions. I remember the discussion we had about griefers and I remember being amazed by the extent that people grief people online. Griefers are interesting to study because they represent some form of repressed social interaction. Somehow, people find it acceptable to be complete **** online, yet in "real life" people don't act this way. As I noted in one of my game night responses (see below), griefer's interactions online are becoming more and more disturbing as our society trends towards more and more technology. What happens when technology is so entwined in our lives, that the separation between the gaming world and "real life" isn't quite distinct?
The interface of what is real and what is not real is becoming thinner every day. For example, remember the video my group played during our presentation that showed a person with a camera and scanner who could go around and scan things and people—bringing up data on what she scans instantly? Iphones, Blackberries, Droids, etc—all of these devices are bringing more and more technology into the realm of reality. Griefers, trollers—whatever you'd like to call them—follow technology. They do this, because technology offers them a form of aegis. It's a shield of anonymity.
What's worrisome, though, is currently griefers are a niche group in games; as technology expands, so too will that niche group. Griefing is somewhat tolerated in games. As we saw during presentations in the ****mdash;people often defend griefers as part of the game. Will they be tolerated when they grief people in reality, though? What happens when the interface between "real life" and the gaming world becomes more gray? People are becoming more and more detached, and it is this detachment that leads to griefing. What does the future hold for us?
(Excerpt of discussion)
Hey Professor,Last week's game night was probably the worst game night for a busy college student to go to. The games we played are possibly two of the most addicting games out there. So far, I've resisted the Siren's call, and have instead been doing other scholarly things, I.E: Homework and drinking a few beers. I know these responses are meant to be used for writing about the games we played during the game night, but personally, I found the discussion we had today during ****a bit more interesting. I suppose I'm not cheating this response too bad, considering the discussion hovered quite a bit around WoW, but player's morals and ethics are extremely interesting to me.
I'm a rhetoric major, so I'm always fairly concerned with what is said, and why it is said. I understand these MMORPG games offer a completely different context than real life (for example: Not getting punched in the face for things that you say), but it's a somewhat disturbing, and frankly frightening, revelation that a lot of people find it acceptable to lose their moral compasses simply because there are few or inconsequential guidelines and consequences for actions. Just because something is allowed, tolerated, or doesn't re-mediate a consequence, doesn't mean that the action should be done. Just because I could punch a blacked out person in the face and run away, with essentially no consequence, doesn't mean I should do it just for the sake of doing it. Just because I can raid an in-game funeral, doesn't mean that I should.
The MMORPG landscape is becoming similar to the Lord of the Flies. At first, things weren't too bad. But then the society lost control of itself because its constituents lost track of their morals. In my opinion, I shouldn't have to sacrifice my gaming experience (I.E. muting my mic, turning off the sound, changing servers) because there are a few morally despicable and ignoble people. The racial slurs I hear in games are inexcusable, and I'm quite certain the majority of people that use them in a game, do not use them in "real life" (I know you hate the term, but I did a wiki on it, and it's funny to use). If these people find it wrong to say these things in "real life," then why do they say it in games? And why does half our ****defend these people? In my view, playing a game is a privilege, not a right. And nobody has any right to degrade people the way gamers do. I also find it funny that our ****deflects this racism as something that is inoffensive and can easily be shrugged off by the players. I find it funny, because probably 95% of our ****is white, they have not experienced that type of racism. I have not experienced that type of racism either, but I would not negate it and assume it's easy to shrug off and ignore, especially when we claim to be a "progressive" and un-racist society. I will say I'm a bit scared. Scared because our society, as we have seen in a few presentations, is becoming more and more technologically based. This "Real world" and game dichotomy will begin to blend. And similar to the Lord of the Flies, if you where the face paint of a savage, or if you where a mask for too long, you lose track of your original identity. You lose track of your morals and ethics. You lose track of being a good person.
Anyways, these games are filled with interesting things to study from the perspectives of mass communication, critical theory, and rhetorical studies. Hopefully they don't degenerate into something that becomes beyond repair.
See you Thursday,