I read with some surprise about the professor who joined an MMO only to grief people to no end, and observe how they reacted to it. Fine, cruel way to treat people I guess since they had no choice of opting out of his “experiment”, but I’d accept that if he had some kind of point to make… so that’s not the worst of it. The worst of it is the conclusions he comes to from this “work”.
“He believes it proved that, even in a 21st century digital fantasyland, an ugly side of real-world human nature pervades, a side that oppresses strangers whose behavior strays from that of the mainstream.”
“Myers was stunned by the reaction, since he obeyed the game’s rules.”
“It started to not be fun,” said Myers, a video game aficionado. “I became the most hated, most reviled player.”
“He said his experience demonstrated that modern-day social groups making use of modern-day technology can revert to “medieval and crude” methods in trying to manipulate and control others.”
Someone actually grants funds for this nutcase? Hell, I could have told you all of those things at once, without the need to be a total dick to people for two years: There are social systems in any context that go above and beyond that of the rules and laws of the context. Yes, this goes for online communities as well. No, you wouldn’t be stupid enough to do that to someone if you weren’t online and anonymous.
I’d urge Mr. Myers to try it out AFK sometime. A subway train could be a good place, for instance (though I’m certainly open for other suggestions, these things are common). Place yourself in the middle of the doorway. Stand in the way of peolpe trying to enter or exit the train. If they move to sidestep you, follow to block the movement.
This is not illegal or against subway rules, but it will still make people really fucking angry. The social context tells you “don’t do that”, not because it causes people to become “medieval and crude” when they force their way past you violently, but because you’re being a real dick to people if you do.
People started out by asking kindly, but then stepped up their efforts to change his behavior as he ignored them. Like people under threat from abuse AFK, they first tried all the normal, appropriate ways of dealing with normal, reasonably sane people, but then had to go to extremes when this didn’t work.
This has nothing to do with him being a “stranger” (hint: everyone’s a stranger in an MMO), but with the fact that he was making their lives miserable to the best of his abilities.
In any game there will be things that are possible according to game rules, but forbidden due to social context. In Battlefield and other shooters, it’s spawn camping. In golf, it’s crossing another player’s line of putt on the green. In World of Warcraft, it’s ninjaing a target or piece of loot from other players. I could go on for a long time.
In the end, we come down to the simple fact that this guy gets paid for being a twat to people for two years, and tries to interpret it scientifically as some sort of bullying on their behalf.
There are plenty of interesting areas to research when it comes to games… games are still a young medium, and especially the social effects and interactions of MMOs are fascinating. So picking an area with slightly more relevance could be nice. Better teach this guy the basics of human psychology before letting him near another study, though.