Raph Koster explains why griefing in virtual reality isn’t going away

Even if you can overlook the expense, the current lack of games, the potential for nausea, and the annoyance of wearing a clamshell on your sweaty face, virtual reality has a looming problem: trolls.

Turns out that the same internet jerks who ruin online spaces and games via text and avatar show up to do the same in virtual reality too.

As MIT Technology Review wrote yesterday, part of the point of socializing in virtual worlds is to feel the “presence” of other people — but the very benefit that makes “virtual reality so compelling also makes awkward or hostile interactions with other people much more jarring,” such as when people invade your private space or try to touch your avatar without permission.

The publication highlights AltSpaceVR, a startup building tools to help people deal with trolls. The company has some of the basics already — like a way to make obnoxious people invisible with a block — but it’s also working on a “personal space bubble” to stop people from groping your virtual self without permission, which they would otherwise do because people are gross and have no shame.

Where it gets interesting is how even the companies building these anti-griefer tools are pretty sure griefing will fade away as virtual reality becomes the norm.

“If you give people a lot of creative freedom, then people get along better,” said the CEO of VR company High Fidelity, who has clearly never played a sandbox MMORPG.

So… here to speak for people who’ve played sandbox MMORPGs is veteran MMORPG designer Raph Koster (Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, Crowfall), plainly quoted in the article to point out how adorably innocent and naive the VR devs are about human nature online in virtual worlds. He says that his games proved that when more people show up in a virtual environment, the resulting spike in anonymity increases the trolling rather than dampens it.

“If anything, the behavior now is better than it will ever be,” he says. You can almost hear him shaking his head I told you so. “When you get strangers bumping up against one another they behave more poorly. Peer pressure is one of the things that keeps people behaving well.”

Koster expounded on his virtual worlds arguments at his GDC presentation, if you’re curious to hear more!

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64 Comments on "Raph Koster explains why griefing in virtual reality isn’t going away"

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Armsman

Ralph Koster: The same developer who stated during Star Wars Galaxies beta that SWG would NEVER see a balance nerf ever because they were going to do such a marvelous job of balancing classes during said beta.

yeah, he was the MMO ‘guru’ in the late 1990ies – but he’s out of touch these days (IMO).

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Chris Brown-DeMoreno

There’s an episode of a show called Black Mirror where if you “block” somebody, they appear as a blur to you and visa versa. No communication can take place between the two. At the end of it you see a more harsh block put in place by the justice system where that person appears red to everyone who sees him, this lets everyone know that he has committed a particular type of crime. As expected, no one can communicate with him and he can’t communicate with anyone else. He’s basically out in the world but kind of alone. Do that. If enough people flag a person as a groper (i.e Sex Offender) turn him red or something so everyone knows. When something like that has the potential to destroy your social status, you’re less likely to do it.

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Sally Bowls

We have met the enemy, and he is us.

Andrew Ross
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Andrew Ross

Loving his GDC presentation. Koster’s so blunt with a lot of these developers who think their inexperience will lead them to innovation (which it might) when, honestly, they’re mostly repeating past mistakes.

Around 26 minutes he mentions how one of the premises of online worlds is being someone you aren’t. It’s not just escapism, but identity exploration, like skin color, height, and gender. It’s why he (and I!) hate voice chat. However, I keep wondering how anonymous we can be while remaining civil.

For example, Steam IDs don’t seem to ensure that people behave across the platform, and those games often have voice chat. The game companies are largely responsible for their own community. I would think companies like Blizzard would have better communities. Maybe they do and I don’t see it, but they certainly feel the same for the most part.

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Sally Bowls

But from his argument, then all things being equal, wouldn’t one expect Blizzard to have the worse community? Doesn’t he argue that for better community, the communities should be small with as little diversity as possible? So an “everything box” as Bree refers to it, a “real” MMO where you can do a lot of things is going to have a tougher time of good community due to this theory. The most you can do is keep the sub-communities segregated or at least minimize interaction.

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Raph Koster

A lot does depend on the scale, the culture of the community in question, and much more. Including the skill of the operators in governing.

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Melissa McDonald

Social VR apps are really just getting going, and so far don’t have much ability to allow you to grief someone. But I agree it’s going to be no different than any MMO experience, where there will be a bunch of folks who won’t bother you, but some asshat will eventually do so.

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rafael12104

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Yuri Geinish

Don’t forget it is parents’ duty to raise their children to be decent people. The fact that you need special technology to guard against jerks en masse says, before anything, much about those jerks’ parents and hence the culture in general.

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draugris

Well that isn´t anything new. The only thing that keeps human beings in line is consequences. If there aren´t any, anarchy will follow. So of course the usual douchebags will do their thing in vr games too. And as long as game developers incentify and encourage antisocial behaviour in games like in archeage, black desert why should that ever change.

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Dread Quixadhal

Why is this news? From text MUDs back in 1991…
“> :touches you in a private place.”
Quixadhal touches you in a private place.

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Raph Koster

Mostly because a lot of these VR devs don’t seem to know what a MUD is :)

saerain
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saerain

Where should I go now?