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?

Three Billy Goats Gruff

Trolls in cyberspace have been aptly named. Trolls are ugly, greedy, hide in waiting for their victim and demand to be feed. While trolling is a specific activity, it is agreed that any online abuse is abhorrent. Trolls have malicious intent and interpret any “reaction as validation to continue their activities” (Bergstrom 2100). We are urged ‘do not feed the trolls!’

Ugly Internet Troll (Artist: Ashva – Image courtesy Vector Stock)

Serious online conflict can be flaming (personal attacks), doxing (disclosing private identifying details), cyber-bullying (intense, targeted, one-way abuse), cyber-hating (comments inciting hate) and cyberstalking (following online with intent to harm), or actually any of the ugly behaviours found systemically within humanity. As Couros says, online and offline spaces have merged into an augmented reality, and if you want to understand teen culture you must understand that social media is real life (Couros 2015). “Social media has not altered the dynamics of bullying, but made it visible to more people” (boyd 2014). Boyd proposes teens have more understanding of the imprecise definitions in language around drama, teasing, pranking, punking, bullying, and harassment. She says evil people who torment for fun are sociopaths, but teens know “most bullies react aggressively because they’re struggling with serious issues of their own” (boyd 2014).

Axel Couros, TEDTalk, ‘Identity in a Digital World’

Grievous problems arise when the distinctions between behaviours collapse and make legally dealing with cyberviolence difficult. How do we stop bullying? Governing online behaviour is impractical and nearly impossible with the speed of internet changes, but having a cyber-safety ombudsman as a point-of-call before police intervention is a likely necessity. Currently the eSafety Commission is a clumsy process, but some form of public safety-net is clearly needed as normal societal structures have been removed in social media interaction. The Government eSafety website just tips the iceberg. While it has good intentions, it is about as useful as an AVO in keeping people safe.

Amidst the debate for racial vilification laws, Brandis says “In a free country, people do have rights to say things that other people find offensive, insulting or bigoted” (Collins 2014). We don’t have to like it, but as a society we defend the right to another’s freedom of speech. The question is how to legislate online behaviour that aligns with the constitutional law.

While Facebook’s answer seems to be top-down intervention as it attempts cybersecurity through automated systems removing abusive links and algorithmic censorship, McCosker has a completely different view of these codes of conduct. In analysing the notion of digital citizenship, he proposes the relative lack of constraints, provocation, and conflict as being productive elements of social media spaces. He implies that public engagement with diverse opinions are the democratic processes of becoming citizens (McCosker 2014). Without challenges there is no growth. We must learn how to disagree and co-exist.

“I’m your Sister” Cartoon by Bil Keane

Despite two decades of practice, we are still social media apprentices. The Three Billy Goats had a strategy. Notwithstanding zero-tolerance for life-threatening vitriolic practices, we need to find instructional strategies for young and old alike to form online identities that allows scope for reactive, ‘deviant’ or ‘aberrant’ participation.

MDA2009 Assignment 1B Trolling and Social Media Conflict

References

Australian Government, eSafety Commissioner, viewed 3 May 2020, <https://www.esafety.gov.au/key-issues/esafety-guide&gt; <https://www.esafety.gov.au/report/cyberbullying/how-we-handle-complaints&gt;

Beckett, J 2017, “The Media Dangerously Misuses the word Trolling”, The Conversation, viewed 3 May 2020, <https://theconversation.com/the-media-dangerously-misuses-the-word-trolling-79999&gt;

Bergstrom, K 2011, ‘“Don’t Feed the Troll”: Shutting down the debate about community expectations on Reddit.com’, First Monday vol. 16, no. 8, viewed 2 May 2020, <http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3498/3029&gt;.

Carrick, D 2014, “Can a cyber-bullying commissioner protect our kids?”, Law Report, ABS, viewed 3 May 2020, <https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lawreport/5286036&gt;

Collins, B 2014, “TRANSCRIPT: George Brandis Said Much More Than ‘People Have A Right To Be Bigoted’“, Business Insider Australia, viewed 3 May 2020, <https://www.businessinsider.com.au/transcript-george-brandis-said-much-more-than-people-have-a-right-to-be-bigoted-2014-3&gt;

Couros, A 2015, “Identity in a Digital World”, TEDTalk, viewed 3 May 2020, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=pAlIBTgYfDo&feature=emb_logo&gt;

Koetsier, J 2020, “Facebook Deleting Coronavirus Posts, Leading To Charges Of Censorship”, Forbes,  viewed 3 May 2020, <https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnkoetsier/2020/03/17/facebook-deleting-coronavirus-posts-leading-to-charges-of-censorship/#3918c82c5962&gt;

McCosker, A 2014, ‘Trolling as provocation: YouTube’s agonistic publics’, Convergence, 20(2), pp. 201–217, viewed 3 May 2020, < https://journals-sagepub-com.ezproxy.lib.swin.edu.au/doi/10.1177/1354856513501413&gt;

Pyle, K 2015, “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”, Storyberries, viewed 3 May 2020, <https://www.storyberries.com/fairy-tales-the-three-billy-goats-gruff-by-katharine-pyle/&gt;

Images:

Ashva, Ugly Internet Troll, free download 3 May 2020,  <https://www.vectorstock.com/royalty-free-vector/ugly-internet-troll-vector-14784097&gt;

Keane, B and J, 2011, King Features Syndicate, viewed 2 May 2020, <https://www.comicskingdom.com/family-circus/&gt;