Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lord of the Klakrok Drones

Apologies for the delay in posts. Work has seen me travelling again. I'm back now, so let's crack on.

I was having a rather interesting conversation the other day with a very good friend of mine about attitude. Specifically about how those who play EQ2 develop theirs and how they conduct themselves during their sessions online. During the conversation we pulled apart the issue of how those who play act and the conclusions were interesting. The subject of EQ2 being only a game was raised and that would it be realistic to attach the thoughts here to such a situation. It was decided in the end, most definitely. Look at your guild. Look at the different people who play. There are pensioners, students, career folks, teachers, and so on. The game itself is actually a nice slice of society and a good indication for being considered as a social experiment.

So, as I said above, when I say ‘conduct themselves’ I mean basically how those that play interact with the rest of the community. At one stage I mentioned that I saw it having the possibility of being a social experiment and that studying how those who play the game interact with others of varying different social groups within the game can give a valuable insight in to a nice slice of our society, through a very specific window, with some very interesting influencing factors. The main one of course being the removal of actual ‘standing in front of me’ contact during these interactions and something I call ‘The Barrier’, which I’ll explain later.

How people interact when personal contact is removed, and there is no knowledge of the individual themselves, just an avatar and a ‘forwarded’ back story can vary quite dramatically compared to how that person would perhaps treat the other if they were face to face in real life. Now the back story is important. The back story is what I refer to as the information given to you by that particular person prior to the interaction. This can vary wildly depending on how well you know the person. The back story you have on a long standing guildy will obviously be much more comprehensive compared to the back story of a group member you have just met. The back story with a person regarded as a friend, to the extent of where those actually interact outside of the game (albeit not usually in person but on social networking sites, email etc) can be thick with history and emotional investment also.

The interesting part of this to me is the removal of actual personal interaction. This links with the current actions in game to give us our result and how we can then categorise how that person acts or reacts in that certain situation. Sounds a bit convoluted huh? Well, by this I mean how people interact really does depend on what they are doing at the time in game, the history and back story between the two and most importantly, the removal of face to face interaction (even if voice chat is being used).

There is another factor (amongst many), influencing how folks interact in game too that I mentioned above. That is what I call ‘The Barrier’. I see this as quite simply the monitor. Your computer screen. It links in nicely with the non-face to face situation and can reinforce the players attitude, depending on what stance they are taking. With this side of the equation we look at how someone acts differently than they normally would due to the barrier and the sense of added protection it can give. The one way mirror if the player so chooses that is placed in front of them during their play sessions can either stimulate their attitude or crystallise the repercussions of such an attitude. With this I mean good and bad can come from it. If you look at the example of the guildy who is having extreme real life issues, if shared, this can cause distress due to the rest of the guildies and their inability to do anything about it. In turn stimulating some sort of action that may not be totally to the satisfaction of those witnessing the event, but at least gives a sense that they are doing ‘something’ to help. The ‘Barrier’ can provide both frustration and protection it seems.

If someone has a reputation for being a bit of an idiot it may well be that that person uses the barrier to offer perceived protection when spouting their effluence. In circumstances such as this those can utilise the their preconceptions about how they are protected to act in a manner they would normally not do so, even to their friends. To those who are emotionally invested with those close around them can even use this ‘barrier’ to their advantage when they see fit. Erecting it so to speak when the situation so requires. This is perhaps one of the saddest parts about this. It basically makes it easier for those who act in this manner to compartmentalise their behaviour to interacting with a computer game and screen, not actual real people that in reality they care about. Erect the ‘Barrier’ acknowledge its existence and it really can change how some interact with others. Because of the barrier, I have lost count of the amount of times I have seen folks who are supposed to be friends, have issues with each other.

There are of course many other influencing factors that guides how those react and act within the game scenario, whilst hidden behind their barrier. One of course is that there are nasty folks out there, plain and simple. The anonymity of the screen just makes an already bad person worse. But that’s not what I am interested in. My main focus is fascinated by those who supposedly care about each other in game and in addition out of the game, STILL utilise the ‘Barrier’ at times when it suits them. Even though that person is a friend, add the current action (for example looting a nice big Exquisite chest), add the current emotion (perhaps stressed, relaxed, drunk, etc) add the ‘barrier’ factor giving perceived protection from not only physical hurt but emotional, and then you add the most important factor of all. What that person is REALLY like. I mean deep down inside. Their inner most being. How they would react when repercussion was not a consideration (an impression falsely given by the ‘Barrier’). How they would ‘wish to act in any given situation is usually poles apart from how they do actually act. Include all those factors, especially the barrier and a fair amount of the time, we can get a glimpse in to the real person behind the screen, simply from how they react. The effect is magnified simply by the sense of removal which can be employed when required (again depending on current action etc). In some ways we actually get a better look at the person than if we had met them in real life only where pretence and obfuscation can easily be employed to hide a persons real feelings. And that’s the point, if someone has an edge to their personality, you’re much more likely to s ee it surface in game than if you were in real life. Because in game, you can always head for the /camp command, and as a far as I am aware, there isn’t a workable one of those for real life yet.

I kind of see it as a Lord of the Flies thing. Removal of control and expected behaviour due to a situational anomaly. In the Lord of the Flies, the kids were trapped on an island and without rules their society operates, but has huge issues and reactions all fed by the situation itself and human emotion. For example, fear of the beast drives the boys to kill Simon when he returns to tell them of its ‘real’ nature, mistaking him for the beast itself. It all sounds a bit dramatic, but think of the correlations. In the case of the book and film, the reactions of the kids is deeply affected by the fact they are no longer subject to the law and rules of general society. They have their protection from the emotional and moral questions of crossing those barriers. In EQ2, it really isn’t that much different. The ‘Barrier’ as I keep referring to it as, may as well feel like the removal of laws, regulation and control and as such behaviour can revert to a truer state to that particular individual, simply because of their removed situation and their perceived freedom to act as they please exposing their true nature.

It’s a funny old thing EQ2, seeing folks true personality out and conversely seeing the false personalities created. Luckily, there are a huge amount of folks out there who play are just themselves and act as they would with others no matter if it is behind a screen or not. Hopefully when playing you surround yourselves with such folks and be able to recognise it when you see it. It’s not so easy though. The Barrier sees to that.

There is one area I haven’t touched upon, and it reflects quite starkly the musings I have laid out above. It’s the website EQ2 Flames. A more perfect example of how differently folks act behind a screen can possibly not be found. Read the posts, then imagine all those folks in a room together. Would they really be so frank and forward in their opinions? Yeah, some would, but the vast majority would probably not dream of acting as such, when brought from behind their ‘Barrier’.

Be well.


  1. Great post to welcome you back mate, a really interesting read. The anonimity afforded by the internet has certainly made modern interactions much more of a social minefield.

  2. Laid out with the candor, insight, and logic as usual. Very interesting read.

    I sometimes while reading Flames or watching the chat channels ingame find myself thinking that this can't be life..of course it's not actually, I'm well aware that I'm playing a game or reading a forum whilst on the internet but all the other players/posters are living breathing people is what I'm getting at.

    That in turn leads to me pondering a scenario that I'd dearly like to happen, winning a extremely large Lotto drawing,( Not just for this scenario but because I want to be filthy rich as well:P) and paying for the full community of EQ2Flames and the entire playerbase of EQ2 to attend Fanfaire. Can you imagine being able to sit back and watch the hilarity and ensuing chaos from that? I'd also be recording the event as I'm positive I'd have a hit movie on my hands, as you can't make these things up in regards to the unfiltered dialogue and actions of "gamers".

    It's all in the hands of the Lotto gods now but maybe one day they'll play my number, One can dream..

  3. Thanks gents :) It's nice to be back. I love your comment Bro. You have summarised a lengthy detailed post into one sentence. Damn! Your brevity skillz are mad wikkid! LoL.

    Jahf, I would dearly love to see the whole of the 'active' EQ2 Flames community including those who have sensitive posts about them up there, all in one room and discussing face to face. Like you say, I'm sure it would be a hit movie! Perhaps if we supplied Gladiator style padded batons around the room we may see some action. Even more than that though, I would dearly love to see you win the lotto, no matter the reasoning, hehe.