Yesterday I came across a post by Izlain of Me, Myself and I titled Nice Guys can be Killers too. Izlain took the Bartle Test. This is a series of 30 questions to ascertain what type of MMO activity you enjoy most. I came out as an explorer with a strong achiever score and a nearly as strong socializer score. Killer is very much the last thing I am. No surprises there. But my thinking on what sort of gamer I am didn’t stop there.
I also read yesterday the post A Call for New Perspective in Our Gaming Communities by Murf over on Murf Versus. Murf uses the modern philosopher John Rowls to make a point about behavior in gaming. He uses Rowls’ Veil of Ignorance posit to question if gamers would act as badly as they sometimes do if they might inadvertently bring upon themselves such bad behavior. It’s a tricky supposition, and one I’ll have to read several times more before I grok the full implications of what Murf is on about. Good job Murf! But there is one paragraph I want to quote for this post so I may contrast it with what Izlain’s Bartle Test revealed.
As a gamer, do you want to be treated as an inferior player or constantly slurred against on the basis of your national origin, gender, race, or some other identification owed solely to the uncontrollable factors of your birth? Do you want to be regularly harassed and dehumanized by others while trying to participate in and celebrate a medium/culture/community that you have loved your entire life? Do you wish for others to try and silence you anytime you express your very real pain, anger, and frustration simply because they believe you’re doing so only for the attention or a completely fictional ‘hidden agenda’ or because your capacity to succeed at the game is automatically seen as lesser than their own? Do you want to be told to go back to the kitchen, demanded to make someone a sandwich, or asked inappropriate questions about your body?
These two paragraphs are about two completely different things. And before you say derp, understand this: though they are about different things, they relate to the exact same supposition. What sort of gamer are you? Does your conduct in an MMO reflect who you think you are as a gamer? Does the rest of the gaming community see you that way as well? For example, Izlain says his Bartle Test correctly identifies him as a killer, but that he is really a nice guy. That is how he sees himself. However, does the person he “kills” see him that way? Does the person he just popped consider him nice? Well, that all depends on Izlain’s follow-on actions, which in large part are driven by all those questions Murf asked.
Now, I don’t know Izlain. I need to stop making these sorts of generalizations about him and apologize if he feels I’ve denigrated him in any way. That is not my intent. I have no basis to believe Izlain isn’t a totally nice guy. So I’m going to switch up and talk about someone I do know quite a bit more about – Rixx Javix. Rixx is a long time EVE Online player and blogger. His blog Eveoganda is a must read in the EVE Online community. Rixx is also a pirate with a kill list longer than Texas is wide. He is most certainly a killer in terms of the Bartle Test, but he is also a genuinely nice guy. He’s proven this to me time and again, in-game and out, and I’ve even told him as much.
This was in response to my post on Wednesday Be the Hero, Not the Villain. Rixx is proof one can be a killer and still be a genuinely nice guy. That is why I am willing to believe Izlain when he says he is a nice guy. Because I know it’s possible. But that is not the case with every killer and I am actually making an exception for Izlain. Why is that? It’s because I have a pre-conceived notion of what sort of gamer Izlain is based on what I’ve read and experienced as a gamer.
But why do I feel as I do? What’s Izlain done to make me trust him? The answer to that question goes deeper than the Bartle Test can reach. In fact, the Bartle Test really says nothing about what sort of person he is. It only tells me what sort of game roles Izlain prefers. It tells him nothing else either. It would tell you nothing more as well. To understand what sort of person you are, and thus what sort of gamer you are, you must dive to a depth within your inner character many do not feel comfortable attaining. But if you are willing, I think I can help.
The first thing you need to do is take the Bartle Test, or something like it. You need to understand what you like in order to understand why you like it. Then you need to understand how those preferences act upon your inner psyche; what pleases you about such behavior. What’s your reward for acting as you do?
That will require some reading. This reading material comes from many sources. Some are personal experience. Some are scientific research. Fortunately you don’t have to understand the science behind the scientific reports I’m about to link. The summaries will do, and those are free unlike many of these papers. Now understand, this is NOT an exhaustive list. This is a representative sample of the types of articles you should find and read in order to better understand your own motivations. My personal start place is Doctor Nick Yee’s Daedalus Project. The rest are in no specific order.
- The Daedalus Project – An online survey of MMORPG players. There are many papers. Read them all.
- Playing as black: Avatar race affects white video game players – What happens when white video game players see themselves as black characters in a violent game?
- Can you tell a person’s gender by their video game avatar? – Does picking an opposite gender avatar make you play differently?
- Anita Sarkeesian at TEDxWomen 2012 – It’s not a game.
- The Bonus Round – Let’s delve into a simple story of EVE players behaving badly.
- Grand Theft Troll? Anonymity encourages bad behaviour in online computer games, but group discipline wins the day – Flaming. Trolling. Griefing. Cheating. Most players of massive multi-player online games, such as GTA Online, have been victims of activities like these.
- Project Massive: The Social and Psychological Impact of Online Gaming – What factors contribute to players reporting that gaming has gone beyond being an engaging pass-time and begun to cause problems in their real life? Does play lead to social isolation or, instead, to an expansion in the social connectedness a player feels? Does involvement in online gaming lead to depression or can participation reduce depressive effect?
That should keep you busy reading for a while. And while you read, ask yourself if anything being discussed might describe behavior you’ve exhibited past or present. If it does, ask yourself why you acted as you did. Was it a good reflection on you or a bad reflection? Would you want to be treated that way? Introspection is the hardest task in the world, but it is the most rewarding – especial when you discover you might not like yourself very much if you met in a bar… or in an online game. And be honest! If you can’t be honest with yourself, you’re lying to the only person who could conceivable never let you down. That’s just sad.
When you’re all done, you should have a fairly clear picture of what sort of gamer you are. It will also give you an indication of what sort of person you are in general. If you didn’t like that peek in the mirror, you’ll have to do something about that won’t you? As Anita states at the end of her TEDx talk, the online gaming community is changing slowly, sometimes painfully, sometimes taking a step back for every two forward – but always going forward. If those who want to hold the gaming community back consider it a game to attack others, then the rest of use just have to play the harder game. You don’t want to be left behind by those more able and willing to play the harder game. Do you?
Now, about that harder game. Along the way sometimes people have to take a break. Like Jester did with EVE Online. Like I’ve done with EVE Online. But there always seems to be others willing to take up the cause, if only for a short time. Any amount of time they contribute moves the gaming community forward, and allows other’s who’ve worn too thin time to rejuvenate. Together we can win this. We can beat the uber-boss of misogyny/racism/hate. And we will, so long as we keep in mind Rixx’s last tweet from the thread above.