With every huge online game, there’s an accompanying rush of mainstream fuss over it – it’s in the rules.
For example, Polygon has a piece covering apparent outrage on outlets like CNN, USA Today, and the WSJ over the idea that parents are paying for Fortnite coaches for their children. “The reaction to [the WSJ] story tells us more about our relationships to class, play and trends than it does about what these parents and kids might be doing wrong,” the publication points out.
“There’s a strong incentive to recycle parenting stories that have played out across sports and games, like chess and even cheerleading, to focus on the hot new thing. And yet, if you replaced Fortnite with private lessons for nearly any other activity, you would likely get a less emotionally charged response. You can get tutors in magic, you know. There’s no public outcry about parents who pay to help their kids get better at juggling.”
When the toxicity topics just keep piling up in the news room and nobody wants to cover them, you get the Toxicity Roundup, your weekly report on who’s being a jerk in gaming this week! (We’re kidding. This is not really a thing. We don’t really want this to be a thing. Please don’t make this a thing.)
Let’s start with Overwatch. Kotaku has a report out on a stream sniper who was hassling popular streamer TimTheTatMan. The troll would show up in the streamer’s matches, refuse to play anything but Symmetra, and proceed to suck – meaning the team always lost. Apparently, TimTheTatMan wasn’t the only person this jerk had griefed. “To be clear this player is being banned, not for their hero choice, but rather for systematically ruining Overwatch games for thousands of players,” Blizzard wrote on Reddit. “We recognize that not finding this player faster is an unfortunate failure of our ever-developing reporting system and we’ve already taken steps to quickly eliminate outliers like this in the future.” So one down, how many more to go?
What else have we got here…
When they heard a cry for help go out in their game, these players took action right away.
A few days ago on November 5th, an unnamed 28-year-old EVE Online player from Poland disturbed fellow gamers and stream viewers by stating that he wanted to kill himself, going so far as to swallow a large quantity of pills. It appeared that recent failures in the EVE had sent him over the edge. Concerned, several players and a livestream viewer all called up local police agencies across Europe in an effort to save the man’s life.
German, Icelandic, and Interpol authorities investigated the matter, sending help to the man’s home. Fortunately, the police and paramedics arrived in time to provide the care that this troubled player needed, and the man is doing better under the attention of his family.
It is always heartening to hear stories of compassion among online players, especially from those in a gaming community such as EVE Online who are often perceived as unflinchingly hardcore and ruthless.
The EVE Online
community is aflame this week after alliance leader gigX was permanently banned
for making threats of real-life violence against another player following possibly the biggest betrayal in EVE history
. Some players don’t want to accept that gigX crossed a serious line and deserves his ban, and others have been asking why The Mittani’s similar actions in 2012 resulted in only a temporary ban. CCP’s official stance
is that its policies have become stricter since 2012, but it’s still not entirely clear exactly where the line is drawn.
Another side to the debate is that the internet itself has evolved over EVE‘s 14-year lifespan, and a lot of toxic behaviour that was accepted or commonly overlooked on the early internet is now considered totally unacceptable. Many of us have grown from a bunch of anonymous actors playing roles in fantasy game worlds to real people sharing our lives and an online hobby with each other, and antisocial behaviour is an issue that all online games now need to take seriously. The lawless wild west of EVE‘s early years is gone, and I don’t think it’s ever coming back.
So what’s the deal? Does EVE Online tolerate less toxic behaviour today, has the internet started to outgrow its lawless roots, and what does it mean for the future of sandboxes?
One of the most universal facts about most MMO communities is that we band together when one of our own is hurting or in danger. That’s why EVE Online
players came together to donate support, togetherness, and affection for Olivia, a player who attempted to take her own life after harassment from other players. Except, in a twist that basically no one
would have expected, it turns out Olivia doesn’t seem to exist
and was entirely a scam by the head of her corporation to extort money from other players.
In other words, this was a catfishing scheme against all EVE Online players by the head of Olivia’s supposed in-game corporation, Jackson Thrane. The player appears to have deleted his account and returned in-game money as the news broke; CCP Games has also been investigating the issue, although no official response has yet been issued. Our condolences go to all those affected, and if it needs to be said, our hope is that the people responsible for perpetuating this scam are given appropriate penalties. The boundless compassion of communities is a wonderful thing, and to see it exploited on false premises is a disturbing thought.
Let’s stop fussing over what Pokemon Go is being dragged into court over and focus on something it’s apparently, if inadvertently, doing right: suicide prevention.
The Japan Times reported over the weekend that the head of a suicide prevention agency in Japan, Yukio Shige, claims that a notorious suicide hotspot in Fukui Prefecture (with allegedly 120 deaths in the last decade) has seen fewer suicide attempts in the last two months since Pokemon Go launched. Shige argues that the designation of Tojinbo — that’s the cliff-top park in question — as a PokeStop has brought local traffic and players to the area, which in turn has changed the atmosphere into a lively one incongruous with self-harm. The Times reports,
“[Shige] said the effect of Pokemon Go is noticeable in that he did not encounter any suicidal visitors in August. Although he spotted seven such people in September, one of them told him the atmosphere ‘was not quite right for committing suicide.'”
Shige further noted he hopes other known suicide destinations in the country will also become PokeStops and widen the presumed effect.