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[Gamer Diary] The Case of the MMOs – Boisterous Behaviour Abounds!

2011 August 16

I readily admit that I am not the most social of gamers. I don’t go on many MMOs, but after some of the behaviour I’ve seen I am most definitely on a break for the foreseeable future. I used to play a fairly popular ‘free-to-play’ space MMO (in reality you still have to cough up some dough to get the ‘elite’ stuff and not get utterly trounced). I started up my account in August 2009, almost exactly two years ago, and I am still only level 15 (to be considered “fully elite” one must be at least L16 or above). I picked it because it was ‘free’ and I like space, sci-fi and shooting aliens – I thought it’d be a good introduction to the MMO world.

Photo close up of part of a white computer keyboard showing the keys blurry in the foreground and sharper in the distance, the L O and P keys are just visible. Photo by Flickr user [F]oxymoron, shared under Creative Commons licenceFor a while it was. Then, when I started to pay attention to the chat, I started noticing some of the childish bravado, the internet tough-guys, mouthing off constantly. To them everyone is a “noob” or a “fag” or a “gay”; despite the chat admins and the auto-kick on certain buzzwords, people always managed to get the insults into the chat. Being called a “noob” for months on end gets tedious, especially when it is meant with such malice, said specifically to twist the knife and offend. Although I was never called any other heinous insults, I saw them all the time and it just made me sick with rage constantly. If I spoke up, I would receive a barrage of hatred poured in my face and most likely be targeted to be shot out of the sky.

Regrettably the disparities didn’t end there; female players had it pretty tough too. Despite the fact one of the top three players was a woman, the only thing anyone focussed on was the fact she is an exotic dancer in the real world. Automatically she was a “bitch” or a “slut” or a “slag”. Because obviously no woman could ever be legitimately better than her male counterparts without having done something deceptive or untoward, right? Ugh. What was the point in this sort of behaviour?

Occasionally, people defended themselves claiming it was “just banter” between the different ‘companies’ (of which there are three) or ‘clans’. More often than not it was just cruel, over-the-top and downright pathetic. Never before have I seen so many keyboard hard-nuts, of all ages, just ejaculating hatred everywhere.

The worst is yet to come though! Now we get to the issue of race. A friend of mine also plays this game. He’s a lot more into it and is a higher level than me and is pretty well-known on the server. Back in March this year he decided to change his name, and pretend he was retiring his account so he could have a bit of anonymous play. His new name was in Arabic characters. He played the game in the same fashion he had done before. Suddenly, just because he had an Arabic name, he was the most reviled player on the server.

I dare not repeat some of the insults that he got (that the chat admins allowed) because they were quite disgusting and appalling. He was at war with half his home Company within three days just trying to teach his attackers a lesson. His ex-clan mates insulted him, his friends made racist remarks; it was the worst case of inherent racism in Brits I have ever seen outside of an EDL rally.

A few weeks later, he revealed himself under his original name combined with his Arabic name. Just as miraculously as the rate they turned on him, wave upon wave of apologies came pouring through.

Now not all MMOs are like this, but as I said, I’m pretty reticent towards social gaming and this is just my experience of one. Unfortunately it was the first one I played, so I’ve been put off again! I am not sure if there are any conclusions we can draw from this, though. Perhaps that competition breeds a culture of anonymous internet bullying? Do people think they can get away with it just because they’re behind a computer? Are these the sort of opinions people really have but they censor themselves in real life? Either way, in some cases at least, the ideal of equality is pretty distant in the ‘social’ aspect of some MMOs, I fear. And that is not an easy medium to break into in order to educate. So for now, I suspect those of us who believe in equality might have to do a bit of MMO-hopping to find a community that isn’t full of bigots. My motto: don’t get comfortable until you’ve met the neighbours! Next time, I’ll talk about something more positive – I promise!

  • Rai, at the tender age of 23, has been gaming for 15 years and writing for 10 – perfect combination! Watch this space for more Gamer Diary.
6 Responses leave one →
  1. Michelle permalink
    August 17, 2011

    Lord of the Rings Online is by far the most pleasant MMO I’ve played, chat-wise; I’ve only played on RP servers (because I find that RP servers tend to cut down a little on the badness in chat in any game, as the people who are likely to ascribe homophobic insults to people tend to ascribe them to people who would play on a RP server).

    The general trend seems to be the more PvP-based the online game is (I don’t play FPS games because I’m awful at them but I hear they have similar problems), the more likely it is to have incredibly horrible trash-talk on chat. Games that are based around co-operation instead for the most part will tend to have slightly less horrible chat environments.

    • August 22, 2011

      I was thinking the same thing! When I do see f*g or any of those other lovely slurs it’s really shocking. And I only realized reading this article that it’s so rare in LOTRO. Even in my kin, it’s really friendly and not patronizing. Just chatting. I only play on the non-RP servers too.

  2. August 17, 2011

    That’s very crappy behaviour on the part of the players. I’ve been tempted to try out EVE for ages, but am now… untempted again. Is it worth pointing someone high-up from the parent company at this post?

  3. Stephen B permalink
    August 18, 2011

    I’ve played a LOT of MMOs, and been lucky not to encounter the awfulness you describe here – the racial one is *appalling*, and I like to think players I know would pull each other up on it. I’m disappointed, UK.

    Here’s my experience of some others:

    As Michelle said in the comment above, LotRO is a very polite MMO.
    City of Heroes has been good as well – those are two most mature playerbases I’ve found.
    Guild Wars was fine.

    World of Warcraft was mixed, but that’s because everyone plays it, and it depended on the server – some of them were full of terrible abuse (and interesting to note how the spelling goes downhill in parallel to the willingness to yell insults).

    I think the PVP element is what swings it: when you add competitiveness to an idealised version of yourself, and put in the anonymity and distance that the internet provides, people go hyper-aggressive very quickly.

    I would really say don’t be put off social gaming by this – there are bad servers out there, but a lot of games are better. But OUCH that space-sim story is depressing. I’ve started calling people out every time I see something like it, and they generally do improve.

  4. August 22, 2011

    Have to echo the comments about LOTRO. It actually seems to be one of the most female friendly MMOs. Though obviously there are some problematic aspects (guys are the default, no damned female dwarves cannon be damned.)

    People are relatively mature. Though there can be some irritating newb questions. HELLO HOW DO I SELL THINGS IN AH I DON’T KNOW.

    But we were all there :).

  5. August 22, 2011

    And I don’t want to derail from your main point.

    The racism, homophobia and sexism in MMOs is appalling. I have no idea how to fix it but my sympathies.

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