I shall start this article with a script excerpt from one of my favorite animes of all time.
Sword Art Online: S1, E19 ~20 min:
Anything goes just because it is a game? Kill if you feel like it, rob if you feel like it. I had met more people who thought like this than I liked. This is true from a certain perspective. I used to think like this too. But this shouldn’t be so. There are things worth protecting precisely because this is a virtual world. I learned that from someone important to me. If we give in to our every whim and desire, the price is that it will come back to affect our real world self. That’s because the player and his character are one and the same.
I have spent the past 20 years of my life playing MMOs. In this time I have met my fair share of unsavory individuals.
In the early days of Ultima Online, there were player killers and griefers. Robbers that will kill you in-game for the slightest amount of loot, or simply for the heck of it. One might argue that this is part of the game though as there were no rules against this type of behavior, although it did get to a point where the makers have to step in and protect the new players.
In Final Fantasy XI, there was no form of PvP built in. It was made in the spirit of player cooperation. As all MMO games went, it didn’t exactly play out as expected. I saw the most blatant display of bigotry between the Japanese and non-Japanese players. Stay long enough, and you’ll see all manner of racist remarks thrown about by both sides, culminating in the ever-so-famous “JP ONRY” phrase. (To be fair, all they want was someone able communicate with them in their own language) And that was just the tip of the iceberg. Intense rivalry between guilds or linkshells as they are called in this game often turned out ugly with intentional MPKs. Granted things eventually became more civil with server wide and player-run “scheduling”, some people never learned to play nice. Even within guilds, there are those loot thieves who would make off with a particular valuable item or just simply in game currency, causing distress to those who associated with them. I used to run a mercenary linkshell (guild), so I know this experience all too well.
Square-Enix got it right, in a way, with Final Fantasy XIV. Segregated servers reduced racism. Ease of loot gains removed the intense competition that was in XI. Unfortunately, it also removed some of what made XI attractive.
And this is not just a problem with a few selected games. It is a problem with all games that permits player to player interactions. It is common to hear words of disdain directed at you in such games, especially if you are perceived to be under-performing. This is online bullying and should be curtailed.
Then there are the cheaters, which I regard as the scum of online gaming society. RMT is a close second.
Make no mistake. I cheat too, but only in offline games, where what I do will not affect another individual. Online games are a different beast altogether.
When we play a game with another person, the most basic assumption is fair play.
- All participants in a game shall follow the same rules.
I regard this as the sanctity of gaming by which all gamers should abide, the basis of an “Honor among gamers”. For obvious reasons, cheaters are scum for violating this. RMT too when not explicitly allowed by the game. Paying someone else to cheat for you is about as bad.
Additional rules that I think are necessary.
- Respect your opponent and never gloat on a win. (i.e. Even if they lost badly, you shall have the courtesy to at least say something like “Good game” or “Good try”)
- Be polite to those who can’t play as well as you can. (i.e. If they are holding you back, inform them so with basic courtesy. There is no need to insult them.)
- Never betray those on your side. (i.e. If there is a trust established, uphold that trust for the duration of the game. Don’t take advantage of others’ good intentions.)
I believe that every time we break these rules, something inside us change, and it is not for the better. That unconscious change will affect real life behavior eventually. It is not so much an “if”, but more like “when”. Like the author of “Sword Art Online”, I believe that the in-game avatar is an extension of oneself.
Conversely, if we can resist the temptation of bad behavior even when under the protection of anonymity, I think our personality will improve dramatically.