Like many people in the gaming community, I’ve been playing a lot of Guild Wars 2 over the past few weeks, and one of the things that has struck me most strongly, however small it may actually be, is watching people resurrect each other. The fact that the game allows anyone to actually do this is beside the point. Instead, I’m interested in watching the etiquette of ally-resing develop. Does someone res the ally lying near the treasure chest before looting, or after? How much danger are you willing to put yourself in in order to get an ally on their feet? It’s a particular instance that provides a fresh face to an old debate: where does etiquette fit into the group dynamics of online games?
Online games have a kind of power that is rarely found in the day to day world – these platforms allow you to be someone else. While more than a few people see this as a massive problem with the internet, I can’t help but think that this is one of the reasons that internet forums, MMO’s and any other game you can play online are so popular. People crave masks. Using a pseudonym or avatar to represent yourself allows you to do things you’d never be able to in real life, or act in a slightly different way than you’d choose to from day to day.
So, how do the ideas of real world etiquette and politeness translate into the digital landscape? And, more importantly, how do they effect the community and culture of game? Do these masks we wear as gamers strengthen or destroy our courtesy and etiquette when we hit the battlefields?
While gaming communities are as varied as they are numerous, there are certainly some stereotypes that deserve to be brought up in this conversation. We’ve all heard of the screaming, profanity-slinging maniacs whose voices pour forth from our headsets, or meet an internet random that is able to type insults at a lightning fast speed in team chat. While these may be a vocal minority of the gaming community, you have to nevertheless address the fact that the mask these people wear while in a gaming environment is part of what enables them to act this way. Maybe I’m a hopeless optimist, but I would like to think that most of the people that act this way wouldn’t do so in person.
In many ways, online gaming is reminiscent of acting. Our tags and avatars are the costume that we wear while we are part of whichever online world we join. Just as a good actor can become someone they are nothing like on stage, the freedom to be whoever we want to be is an intoxicating scent that draws many in. Except there is one massive difference. Where as an actor is merely playing out a role, and is not connected to the actions of his character, you and your avatar are one entity.
Maybe your avatar is completely different from you, your tag is a joke, or something entirely different, but that fact remains that your name is you in the online community. It becomes your resume. Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and one bad act can quickly spiral out of control and stain your name.
This can play out in a myriad of different ways, and, of course, depends on what game you’re playing. Being impolite while in a group, be it a Dungeon PUG in World of Warcraft, a team in League of Legends, or simply a pick up match of CoD, and acting without the proper respect or sense of politeness could result in a kick, an ignore, or worse.
But are these deterrent enough? It would seem not, considering the fact that attitudes and actions don’t seem to be changing. There are still ragers, trolls and more voicing their opinions loudly in whatever venue they can, from teamspeak to trade chat. This isn’t a fault on the companies producing these games. What more could they possibly do? There isn’t much more a company can do to a player more harsh than a direct ban, and it doesn’t actually solve the issue. If you report someone in a game for inappropriate behavior or language and they get banned, if they are determined they will find a way to return to the game.
So, if we want to create communities with a sense of politeness and decency, how do we accomplish it? The first step is to realize that we do in fact have some modicum of personal responsibility for our actions in games. Maybe it isn’t the same kind of personal responsibility that we have in the real world, but it still exists. Whether or not you want to be kind and have a sense of etiquette while online is completely up to you, but you must realize that it’ll effect how others view you. Being ready to take responsibility for that is all that anyone can ask of you online.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.puresophistry.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/profile-pic1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Born in Maine, educated in Canada, and forged on the Internet, Jacob is a proud gamer, unabashed nerd, and writer. He received his degree in classics from Mount Allison University and his love of stories and their meaning from countless hours spent reading Homer, playing old school RPG’s and studying Joseph Cambell. His one rule to live by? “Always dress as if you were going to give a speech.”[/author_info] [/author]