Massively Overthinking: Nasty labels for players in MMOs

    
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This week’s Massively Overthinking topic comes to us from an anonymous Kickstarter donor, who wanted to talk about excessive namecalling jargon as it pertains to groups of players in MMOs:

Regarding sneering terms for players (whales, carebears): Why is it considered inherently superior to prefer to play for free, and to think smashing other players’ heads in is fun?

Of course, it’s not just PvP players and F2P players generating rude epithets for their enemies; we have nasty terms like “freeloaders” and “sociopaths” clogging up discussion too. So what’s up with the namecalling and tribalism in gaming? And why are we so obsessed with how people pay for things and what type of thing they like to kill in video games? I posed these questions to the MOP writers this week.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Tribalism, like stereotyping, is all about shortcuts in thinking. It’s convenient to lump everyone and everything and every idea into a homogeneous group. A group is easier to dehumanize, degrade, and attack because it’s a very complex assortment of people and things and ideas reduced into something far more simplistic than it is. Heck, in recent gamer memory, we have examples of folks insisting on manufacturing enemy groups just to have someone to fight their culture war against. You can’t fight nameless, shapeless things, so you create them and label them, and terms like freeloader and carebear are born and applied and misused with wild abandon. Those who wield them find their status elevated inside their in-group, even if that in-group is an ephemeral comment thread.

Belonging to a group or clustering with likeminded people isn’t the problem. The problem is that shortcuts like in-group/out-grouping simplify arguments to the point that nothing is learned and no progress on solving issues can be made, and that’s true in gaming and everywhere. Can we fix it? No, but individually, we can fight it by avoiding shortcut terminology, calling it out when appropriate, and defining it carefully when we do use it.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): In part, because it’s easier to have a narrative with a villain. If you feel like games as a whole no longer cater to your particular playstyle, you could look at a variety of causes that have led to shorter-session play being more desirable… or you could blame the filthy casuals. It’s not that most players don’t want to take part in open PvP for various reasons; it’s that they’re a bunch of stupid carebears! It makes it much easier to present a unified front in your mind, to create a single opponent that’s behind all of your woes, and with the internet being what it is, odds are high you can find others of a single mind to point to one group and shout that they’re the problem.

Accurate? No. Productive? Not really. But it does form a better narrative to assume that you’re waging a long and tireless war against those horrid freeloaders instead of thinking about it in depth and realizing their are a variety of reasons someone might not subscribe to a game.

Jef Reahard (@jefreahard): Humans are inherently tribal. They always have been and always will be. By and large, people enjoy spending their time with other people who have similar interests and preferences whether we’re talking about car club members, sports fans, or MMO gamers. And this is totally OK, by the way, despite all the inclusivity rhetoric on Twitter and in the blogosphere.

In gaming, groups with diametrically opposed preferences can and have negatively affected the enjoyment of the opposed group because devs can’t cater to everyone. So yes of course, sub fans are going to get irritated with F2P fans, PvE fans are going to roll their eyes at PvP fans, and dozens of similar examples that I don’t have time to mention.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): I feel it comes down to most of us harboring a deep-rooted and irresistable need to be right. To be right about everything. To have our way, our lifestyle, our viewpoint, and especially our opinions (informed, inherited, or just insane) validated and affirmed. When something works for us, we want others to experience it too. And while sharing that isn’t necessarily bad, getting pushy and then demanding about it can often cross the line.

So when it comes to the “serious business” of gaming, there are those who simply can’t live and let live. They have to identify with a game and a gaming style, they have to push opinions, they have to get into yelling matches over acronyms, and they chase this notion that if everyone and everything lined up the way that they see it, gaming would get so very much better for all.

But as with almost everything in real life, gaming is a messy business where the lines we draw for ourselves don’t usually hold up and people don’t aquiesce with each other’s desires. We might be concerned and agitated that another likes something we don’t or is on the opposite side of the fence, but what can help us get past this is to realize just how much we share in these games. Nothing destroys steadfast strongholds of opinion faster than finding common ground with the opposing side. Then everyone comes out for a picnic and takes a brief respite from the never-ending forum war.

Larry Everett (@Shaddoe, blog): Honestly, a whole article can be written about tribalism in online games because it amplifies what happens day-to-day in our places of employment, in our neighborhoods, in our cities, even in our families sometimes. But I would like to distinguish one thing that stands out as unique in online communities and that’s basic accountability. Because most online communities allow for anonymity, it inflates the anti-social behavior. People feel they can speak their mind without consequence, and it also increases the volume of the echo chamber. People will gravitate to the extreme more quickly. The biggest thing to remember is that there is a person on the other side of that computer screen that deserves just as much respect and patience as you do regardless of what they believe.

Your turn!

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Deathgod881
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Deathgod881

breetoplay Ceder Or your a troll which people will REALLY call you out in general chat or trade if they dont want to listen or read your stuff

Deathgod881
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Deathgod881

Neo_Wolf Yea this is the problem with swtor atm developers are nerfing healers because they’re op in pvp but if they do that pve gets majorly fucked.

bossrprouse
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bossrprouse

Cosmic Cleric bossrprouse Werewolf Finds Dragon If that’s the case, then I apologize to werewolf finds dragon. It looks pretty directed at me as if I said I do that to them.
I’m not saying that sentence for myself, it’s referring to how I think people who tag others with derogatory terms probably thinks. I hope this clears up any possible misunderstandings.

Cosmic Cleric
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Cosmic Cleric

bossrprouse Werewolf Finds Dragon For what its worth, I wouldn’t take insult as to what he wrote, I don’t think it was offered that way.  And, based on other posts (s)he’s made, I think the comment was more generic and not specific to you as an individual, even though it was replied to you.
Though, you did say this …
“Tag the players you feel are ruining your fun with negative tags, like
carebare, or sociopath. It makes it easier to feel good about yourself
when the game sucks  and it’s someone else’s fault.”
… which may be what (s)he was replying to.
$0.02  /shrug

bossrprouse
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bossrprouse

Werewolf Finds Dragon I have absolutely no idea what it is you read, but it’s not what I wrote. What ever it is you took out of context, I’m sorry you read it that way.
The rest of what you say seems pretty insulting, and easy to throw at me since you know nothing of me or who I am, which is exactly what this article addresses and what I’m actually claiming to.
If you’re in a fowl mood, I’m sorry, but your response is pretty insulting and arrogant to me. I hope your mood improves as you are surely trying to rub me the wrong way.

Craywulf
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Craywulf

Werewolf Finds Dragon I completely understand where you are coming from. I agree with your assessment. However I think we can do better in defining ourselves with a “good word” rather than constantly demeaning the other supposedly “bad word” crowd in order to make ourselves feel better. 

Example of typical behavior….”Those hardcore’s are elitist snobs!” or “The casuals are ruining the game with their carebear entitlements!”

Example of what it could be like for gamers…..”Those hardcore’s are a dedicated bunch!” or “The casuals sure love their rewards!”

We also can learn to say some nice things to other crowds. For example I am a casual but I truly appreciate the dedication a lot of hardcore players have when they show off their fancy armor or mad skills.

Werewolf Finds Dragon
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Werewolf Finds Dragon

I’ve seen people do this. It’s why I’ll always write so much, even if I get banned for my constant wall of texting. And I have been! I just can’t function that way, if I think something, I have to fully explain as many facets of it as I can. I have to convey every piece of information relevant to it.
I can’t do that in a word. I don’t know that anyone can, but perhaps that they think they can?

Werewolf Finds Dragon
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Werewolf Finds Dragon

Kind of like how I’m often referred to as just being ‘the tech guy.’
When I use identifiers, they tend to be scientific ones that I think about the definitions of a lot. And they describe part of a person, rather than the whole person.
I’m not sure how you could use a word to describe the whole of a person, that’s weird to me. I mean, it’s kind of narcissistic, isn’t it? That they’re all players in your life and you categorise them that way. That that’s bright t-shirt guy, that’s BBQ guy, and so on.
And yet a number of them may be so much more interesting than that depending on their depth. I seek out people of great depth, and when I find them I could never describe them with a single word. It just wouldn’t suffice. I could and would write essays about them.
It’s just such an alien concept to me. I think that you do this is why I have so much trouble identifying as human. As you do this with me, too, and I don’t understand it. I don’t… I don’t walk into a place where there are people and see them as one word nametags. I can’t. How can you?
Again, I know that the configuration of your brain forces you to do that with me, but how does that even work?
Should there not be words with which we talk about people? A word should only describe part of a person, never the whole. A word should never be used to describe the whole.

Werewolf Finds Dragon
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Werewolf Finds Dragon

You really need to read what you said and think about what you’re saying, okay?

Werewolf Finds Dragon
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Werewolf Finds Dragon

Why blame the exploited for the puppetmasters who pull their strings? Why blame the gambler when the casino exists to entice them? I don’t blame the person, I blame the gun. I understand that certain brains are built in such a way that they can’t help what they are or do.
I don’t blame the mother who let her kids die because she was too addicted to WoW to stop. I don’t see her as repugnant, I never did. I see her as a victim of a system clearly designed to take advantage of her.
The problem isn’t these ‘whales,’ as you call them, but rather the systems designed to brainwash them into becoming merely a cog in a greater machine, a machine that sees them as nothing but walking wallets.
Some people are easier to fool and trick into obeying you and doing what you want than others. It’s ethics that dictates whether you choose to manipulate them to your own ends, or help them understand that they’re being manipulated.
Gamblers are some of the most easy brains to manipulate, they have a compulsive habit that they can’t stop getting involved with. It’s hard to help them to when there are so many casinos, smart phone apps, and goodness knows what else just waiting to take their earnings from them.
The problem isn’t the ‘whales,’ the problem is the games that turn them into excessive gamblers, knowing full well what they’re doing.