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.

References

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;

Images

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?

Rage Rage Against the Dying of the Light

Immortal words of Dylan Thomas beautifully express the fight against darkness in any form. Activism is the raising of an army of people rallying for or against a cause, with protest seeking some kind of change. Social media increasingly becomes the platform to share our rage.

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night

Digital Activism uses the technology of social media to bring attention to a cause, giving anyone a voice. Millennials almost automatically innately express their feelings on social media, having grown up in the ‘always on’ sociosphere (boyd 2012). Social media gives oppressed individuals a global voice to protest social injustices, ignorance and misinformation.

Millennials express feelings on activism on social media

Social media has spawned clicktivism and slacktivism, criticised as the minimalist online involvement and no substitute for actually ‘doing something’, however even the simple act of using a #hashtag has proven to change the world. Physical civil action has changed because of social media, but we must not dismiss online activism. Examples #bluelivesmatter #marchforlife #heforshe began tweetstorms that seized more coverage for their cause than mainstream media.

# HeForShe

Digital activism can be louder than marching in the streets because its global reach bypasses authoritarian governments and corporations. Example, Global Citizen campaigns to end extreme poverty. Highlighting injustice, health and sanitation issues, civilians suffering in conflict, gender inequality, etc, to over 25 million responders has resulted in over 100 commitments made by governments, multilateral institutions and corporations.

Digital citizenship has challenged authoritarian regimes, from Hollywood moguls to political despots, and circulated previously suppressed information, but before we get too complacent about the power in clicking ‘like’ and reposting, consider the ever-present filter bubble. When society surrounds itself with people of shared outlook that never challenge assumptions, chances are we are only hearing the loudest squeaky wheel.

Eli Pariser TEDTalk ‘Beware online Filter Bubbles’

Axel Bruns explains that living in information cocoons results in “self-reinforcing ideological in-groups of hyperpartisans” threatening democracy (Bruns 2019). “The high degree of self-sorting leads to increased contempt for those with contrary views” (Sunstein 2008). When society polarises itself into Us vs Them, either through selective choice or by algorithm curation, then only the voice of the most outraged is heard against the dying of the light.

MDA2009 Assignment 1B Activism and Protest

References

boyd, d 2012, ‘Participating in the always-on lifestyle’, in M Mandiberg (ed) The Social Media Reader, NYU Press, pp. 71-76

Bruns, A 2019, “Are Filter Bubbles Real?”, Digital Humanities Research Group, Western Sydney University, YouTube, viewed 2 May 2020, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=ouzPhoSSGYw&feature=emb_logo&gt;

Gould, W R 2019, “Are you in a social media bubble> Here’s how to tell”, NBC News, viewed 2 May 2020, < https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/problem-social-media-reinforcement-bubbles-what-you-can-do-about-ncna1063896&gt;

Hitchings-Hales, J and Calderwood, I 2017, “8 Massive Moments Hashtag Activism Really, Really Worked”, Global Citizen, viewed 30 April 2020, <https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/hashtag-activism-hashtag10-twitter-trends-dresslik/&gt;

Hull, G 2017, “Why social media may not be so good for democracy”, The Conversation Media Group, viewed 2 May 2020, <https://theconversation.com/why-social-media-may-not-be-so-good-for-democracy-86285&gt;

JainKeff, 2010, “Dylan Thomas reciting his villanelle ‘Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night’”, YouTube, viewed 2 May 2020, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2cgcx-GJTQ&gt;

Pariser, E 2011, “Beware online ‘filter bubbles’”, TEDTalk, viewed 2 May 2020, <https://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles?language=en&gt;

Popova, M 2017, “The Story Behind Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ and the Poet’s Own Stirring Reading of His Masterpiece”, Brain Pickings, viewed 2 May 2020,  <https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/01/24/dylan-thomas-do-not-go-gentle-into-that-good-night/&gt;

Shah, N 2019, “In 10 Years of Citizen Impact, $48.4 Billion in Commitments to End Extreme Poverty”, Global Citizen, viewed 29 April 2020, <https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/10-years-total-impact-numbers/&gt;

The Pink Protest, 2017, “The Power of Online Activism”, YouTube, viewed 2 May 2020, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=fp_LoZUEOf8&feature=emb_logo&gt;

UN Women Org, 2019, viewed 30 April 2020, <https://www.heforshe.org/en&gt;