What kind of World is this?

There exists a world that I know nothing about. Divided into categories: Social Media Games, Online Multiplayer Games and Gaming Communities, these game worlds are as diverse and complex as any biological microcosm. In the past 24 hours I opened the door to peek into this space. I’ve never played a game, this is an unknown environment.

Apart from games that focus on social experiences, other games construct virtual worlds. There’s a space-based, persistent world, massively multiplayer online role-playing game called EVE, celebrating 17 years, that has become the world’s largest living work of science fiction (Parkin 2015). People do not play EVE to ‘win’, instead it is a miniature universe of human activity where “players project their ideological principles. Their virtual behaviour almost certainly is an expression of their ideas about how the world really works” (Parkin 2015).

EVE Online: Wallpaper image.

According to De Zwart & Humphreys, EVE is designed as a lawless frontier. It prides itself on aggression, “players are rewarded for ruthless gameplay, including murder, sabotage and piracy”. Tactics not acceptable in other games are encouraged here. However EVE has its own codes of conduct in the Council of Stellar Management which evolved along with the game. The council gives players a negotiation channel with developers but a breach the terms of service will find a player suspended. Even for comments made outside the game environment. The written code states: ‘You may not use any abusive, defamatory, ethnically or racially offensive, harassing, harmful, hateful, obscene, offensive, sexually explicit, threatening or vulgar language.’ However, it is all an illusion. There is no power structure or accountability as these forbidden tactics are embedded in the game (De Zwart & Humphreys 2014).

Pew research found attitudes toward gaming are complex, with a myriad of debates about their societal impact. With 49% of Americans playing and 10% considering themselves gamers, online gaming is a serious consideration. The biggest debates are whether positive attributes of problem-solving skills, communication and teamwork outweigh promotion of aggressive and violent behaviour (Duggan 2015).

Even the FBI say toxic elements are a challenge to extinguish. Toxicity goes beyond cyberbullying and verbal abuse to include real-world criminal activity, such as recruiting to hate groups, re-enacting slavery-era racism, sexual predatory grooming and rape, violence against women, and inciting murder (Smith 2019). The most pervasive is harassment leading to overwhelming depression in young people. With no clear methods to effectively monitor or eliminate toxic behaviour, it’s “proving to be a mess hard to clean up” (Smith 2019). There seems a lack of legal options to deal with real-world threats from online games.

‘A text chat from the game Dota 2 that was posted to Reddit’ (Screenshot)

I am turning off the lights and closing this virtual door. More than a subculture within recreational games, here is an identity battle for ownership of shared cultural spaces (Dewey 2014). Who belongs and who doesn’t. There is no good solution.

MDA2009 Assignment 1C  Social gaming: Playing the crowd.


Castello, J 2018, ‘Foul play: tackling toxicity and abuse in online video games’, The Guardian, viewed 21 May 2020, <https://www.theguardian.com/games/2018/aug/17/tackling-toxicity-abuse-in-online-video-games-overwatch-rainbow-seige&gt;

Dewey, C 2014, ‘The only guide to Gamergate you will ever need to read’, The Washington Post, viewed 21 May 2020, <https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/10/14/the-only-guide-to-gamergate-you-will-ever-need-to-read/&gt;

De Zwart, M & Humphreys, S 2014, ‘The lawless frontier of deep space: Code as law in EVE online’, Cultural Studies Review, Vol. 20, No. 1, Mar 2014: 77-99, viewed 21 May 2020, <https://search-informit-com.au.ezproxy.lib.swin.edu.au/fullText;dn=225934593111540;res=IELLCC&gt;

Duggan, M 2015, ‘Gaming and Gamers’, Pew Research Centre, viewed 21 May 2020, < https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2015/12/15/gaming-and-gamers/&gt;

EVE Online, viewed 21 May 2020, <https://www.eveonline.com/now/17th-birthday&gt;

Parkin, S 2015, ‘Eve Online: how a virtual world went to the edge of apocalypse and back’, The Guardian, viewed 21 May 2020, <https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/may/12/how-virtual-world-edge-of-apocalypse-and-back-again&gt;

Smith, N 2019, ‘Racism, misogyny, death threats: Why can’t the booming video-game industry curb toxicity?’, The Washington Post, viewed 21 May 2020, <https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/02/26/racism-misogyny-death-threats-why-cant-booming-video-game-industry-curb-toxicity/&gt;


Eve Online, Wallpaper Images <https://www.eveonline.com/article/holiday-wallpaper-social-media-headers-now-available&gt;

The Washington Post, ‘A text chat from the game Dota 2 that was posted to Reddit’ (Screenshot), posted in “Racism, misogyny, death threats: Why can’t the booming video-game industry curb toxicity?

2 thoughts on “What kind of World is this?

  1. This is a really interesting angle Wendy. Your point, “players project their ideological principles” is something I haven’t thought about in regard to online violent games. Obviously there are people involved, in what seems like harmless games, who have darker intentions. And I guess if you wanted to find like-minded people who you could recruit to an idealogical cause, then game culture could be a possible network for you. Really interesting, thanks Cathy.


  2. Some unique insight here, Wendy! The part about the forming of groups in games, and how any sort of ability to fraternise digitally can, disturbingly, lead to the formation of race- and sex-biased groups is shocking. Anecdotally, as a non-gamer myself, I was dismayed to see my previous workplace start to ‘gamify’ our professional environment (in the corporate world it is becoming more common — you may have heard of it as ‘Agile’. The Agile methodology is trademarked, hence the capitalisation. It’s a way of working which formalises and gamifies things that should be done in the first place, like daily meetings, assigning value to high-priority tasks (which Agile assigns literal ‘points’ values!) and so on. It’s like people today are not capable of meaningful engagement in tasks until there is a strict framework (the game) and they feel like a character who is making points-based progress to level up (pay raise).


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