I love my clichés, generalization and stereotypes. A common conception is that:
normal person + anonymity + audience = total fuckwad
Naturally this isn’t true in all cases, if it was there would be no such thing as MMO’s. A teacher once told me that in life I would “meet a few people I liked, a few people I disliked and a whole lot I didn’t care about”. No matter how cynical this might sound, there is a lot of truth in it. In MMO’s however, things seem to be slightly different. In my experience it’s more a case of “meet a few you like, quite a lot you don’t like and a whole lot you won’t care about”. I find this very intriguing. Why do people generally act more like arsehats online than in real life?
A large part of it is probably the lack of consequences, which the cross server PUGs seem to have made even less significant. Being almost midget sized I wouldn’t walk up to a guy twice my size and tell him “fu u sux gtfo!”, not unless I wished to know how a melon sized fist to the face feels like. It takes a real knobhead to get a bad reputation on a server, getting one cross servers is pretty much impossible. And the worst case scenario for the knobhead is nothing more than a few ignores, perhaps a guild or two refusing to take him/her into PUGs and if you’ve really been a class A knobhead, being the joke of [2. Trade]. It may affect your game play some, but I’ve still seen some really bad players (skill and personality wise) get into what many would consider “respectable guilds”.
While anonymity certainly makes it easier and more tempting, it doesn’t really explain why some people decide to act the way they do. If they behave the same way in real life they are bound to hit a wall at some point and will most likely end up nowhere. The first thing that comes to mind is that it may be a way to vent some frustration and built up anger, but if that’s true WoW should come with a coupon for anger management courses. Another way to look at it is that a lot of people play games, read books, watch movies, act, roleplay etc. to get to imagine being someone else. While I’m sure most people don’t consciously “role play” being a bastard, there might be something to it. Perhaps the quiet guy subconsciously feels like being the bully, but doesn’t dare to in real life? I should probably stop now before getting way over my head. Moving on.
Now let’s turn things around. Some time back while chatting in guild chat I discovered that several people saw me as the Nice Guy™. I must admit I was a bit surprised. If you were to talk to any of my real life friends I’m pretty sure none of them would label me as a bully or a twat, but not the Nice Guy™ either. I’ll try to say this without sounding like I’m bragging, but it dawned on me that I tend to do the direct opposite of what I talked about above. Instead of coming off as a bigger twat than I really am, I try to “hide” my bad sides, especially while in guild and to some degree in PUGs. As Tam mentioned in a post a while back, guild chat is very much like a large classroom (or something like that) where everyone can hear every conversation. There are certain things you wouldn’t just yell out in a classroom full of very different people since there is a good chance you’ll offend someone. In PUGs I’ll admit that I tend to be a bit more unfriendly. I won’t call anyone names or use excessive cursing, but I can’t help my self from making sarcastic and subtle (or at times not so subtle) remarks since the chances of any negative consequences for me or my guild are slim. I’d like to think these are outbursts of frustration and that I’m not like some of the people I’ve met, but what do I know?
This is where I should have come up with a conclusion, but I haven’t really got one. I wrote this post to come closer to an answer to why people behave the way they do online, but I ended up with more questions than answers. I might be missing the point completely, approaching it from the wrong angle, I dunno. It just fascinates me how some people put on their Internet Masks and turn into completely different people. Perhaps we all do to some degree?
PS: Windows Movie Maker is evuhl! Evuhl I tells ya! …*cough*. Metamorphisos episode 2 ought to be coming some time within the next two weeks. I just need to decide which editing program I’m going to use (WTB suggestions) and learn how to use it.