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by Elizabeth Wyand on 11/11/13 10:42:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


I'm going to say some revealing things about the act of Revealing Things.

In my time as a GM, I received tickets wherein people complained that another player was discussing their personal information in the public chat channels.

Now, there are strong penalties for what we refer to as Real Life Threats -- where Player A finds out Player B's location, or threatens to, or starts calling their house or their work, or -- this happened to one of my friends -- takes pictures of their family members and then emails them to Player B.

This is a Real Life Threat. This is the point at which you can legally get your local constabulary involved. This is stalking, and this is illegal in most developed countries.

Discussing another player's personal life and details in a manner intended to intimidate them is not considered a RLT, however it is considerably out of line. The problem is that, as social animals, humans set themselves up for this without ever intending to.

Player A: "My wife's having a baby!"
Player B: "When's the abortion scheduled?"

Pretty nasty, pretty uncalled-for, likely to upset Player A. Player A is just so happy that they've got a kid on the way, they want to share the good news with EVERYONE. Player B, being your Bog-Standard Internet Troll (or as I refer to them, Bog-Trolls) sees an opening to upset Player A; some people just want to ruin the joy for everyone else.

As the GM on shift I received the above complaint; unfortunately, as offensive as it is, it isn't considered a RLT and there was no action to be taken on it. Game companies are not the Political Correctness Police and cannot be expected to adjust every player's rotten attitude; the amount of offense perceived depends entirely upon the target's attitude towards people being Bog-Trolls.

We give out information about ourselves every time we type into a chatbox; internet denizens and tourists alike need to be aware that this can and will be used against them if it falls into the wrong hands. CasualPlayer3284 didn't HAVE to tell RandomStranger3746923 that they live in Milwaukee and volunteer as an EMT. InnocentMind42 didn't have to say in an open forum that they suffer from depression and social anxiety, George4th didn't have to proudly announce that she's a woman in RL, and Happy2Live wasn't forced to tell IWillHurtYou that they're gay.

These are all things that I have seen turned around and used against the unsuspecting poster. The question that gets asked most by support teams when complaints about the retaliation come through is, "Why did you feel the need to tell people that?"

Why DID you feel the need to tell people that?

Because everyone wants an identity. Even in the world of internet anonymity, people want to be identified as their self. They want to find people of like minds and sympathetic demeanors, people they can talk to and share with. We're social animals, as I said before, and in the biggest forum in the world where men are men, women are men and little girls are FBI agents, we get lonely. And there's inevitably one person looking for that vulnerable opening to use to ruin your day.

It's easy to say, well stop giving personal information. I know a few people who have successfully managed to maintain the veil of anonymity -- we've joked that in RL they're porn stars or the Prime Minister -- but the large percentage of people have a very difficult time separating their online persona from their Real Life selves (or the Real Life self they wish they were, but lying on dating sites about how much you really weigh isn't what we're discussing here).

I sometimes wish there was a line-by-line disclaimer every time a person opens an online game or an internet browser.

You are entering the Twilight Zone.
Anything you type can and will be used against you.
Please maintain a sense of humour.
You have the right to leave the discussion at any time.

Player C: "There's this guy in my channel who won't stop harassing me. I can't kick him out because it's an organisational channel, please make him stop."
Me: "He's not saying anything overtly offensive, and you own the channel. Talk to his CEO and let them know if the guy doesn't stop, you'll kick him out."
Player C: "Are you telling me I have to solve my personal problems by myself?!"
Me:  "...Yes?"


Originally posted at


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Eric Robertson
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Do you think an online game can function socially if the players can only communicate through fixed responses and body language?

ex. Eric motions for you to follow him. vs [Eric] "Miranda, follow me"

Stephen Horn
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I think Journey demonstrated that players can function socially with only the ability to move, jump, and "ping".

Maria Jayne
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If you build it, they will come. An mmo is a cattle pen, the wolves will always circle if you aren't willing to stop them. An mmo server is private property, nobody has a right to free speech if the owner says no. The owner just has to believe they get more revenue from those they protect than those they eject.

A lot of EvE's issues are self made, much like LoL, you allow it to happen and it attracts more and more like minded individuals who escalate the situation. If you don't tackle the nastiness, pretty soon all you have left are a nasty community. To which EVE devs CCP are frequently proud of.

You wouldn't put up with customers in your shop or restaurant abusing other customers, don't put up with it in your video game. You have to choose what kind of customer you want, because they will surely get you that kind of customer by association.

As much as I think too many people are too soft and innocent to be on the internet, if you give them a place to congregate, you have to take responsibility for that and stop sitting on the fence when it comes to anti social behavior.

Adam Bishop
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Completely agree. I play in a basketball league, which is a pretty competitive environment. Nevertheless, there are rules against abusive trash-talking and if people said the kinds of things that the OP lists they wouldn't be allowed to stay in the basketball league for very long.

"The Internet" isn't some crazy other world where nothing that we know about human behaviour is true any longer. There's no reason not to have the same kinds of expectations we have in our offline interactions.

Robert Schmidt
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Computer games are different than sports. The purpose of basketball is not to kill your opponents. In Eve it is. In basketball it is about playing by the rules. In eve it is about finding legal ways around the rules and by rules I mean various levels of lawlessness. In basketball you are playing against real people. but in an MMO everyone is supposed to be a character and so you can say things to them you wouldn't say to a basketball player, like, "I am going to kill you". The problem here is that players are blending their real identities with their character's and then trying to draw a line between them. The best advise is to keep your personal identity personal and, like actors say, try to keep in character.

Adam Bishop
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Um, no. If you can't tell the difference between a real person talking about their wife becoming pregnant and in-character dialogue I am kind of concerned for you.

Dane MacMahon
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It's a classic heavy versus light moderation debate. Or a freedom versus control debate. Or whatever other parallel you want to make. Some people want actions to be heavily moderated to socially construct happiness and politeness. Some people find that insanely stifling and want the freedom to be jerks and expect you to have the self confidence to not care. And of course all the happy mediums in between.

EVE certainly strikes me as the kind of game that needs a free community, not a restricted one.

Maria Jayne
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@ Dane

I think there is a difference between the freedom to play the game in the way you choose and the freedom to treat other people in the way that you choose.

There is no argument I can see as to why you would want people being socially nasty or vindictive within your game world.

Dane MacMahon
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@ Maria

I find your use of the word "want" there interesting. They don't want that kind of language or treatment, they simply don't seek to control the behavior of others unless it passes a significant threshold. You equating a lack of strict controls with wanting that kind of behavior to be present is really telling about where your opinions lie in such matters.

Like I said, this divide is common in everything from politics to forum moderation. EVE is very much a game about taking care of your own business, watching your back, standing up to others, learning on your own and not seeking handouts, etc. It's a very freedom over security kind of game, from a philosophical perspective. It doesn't surprise me at all their rules and moderation reflect that. Makes perfect sense for their game.

Maria Jayne
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I think you're arguing semantics here, if you are aware it happens, have the power to stop it and yet allow it to happen, you don't then get the moral high ground of arguing that you don't want it to happen.

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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I sure am happy that you are not in charge of real world politics (to a degree of influence beyond voting, I am happy if you vote).

Scott Lavigne
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Not wanting it to happen and wanting it to not happen are two different things.

Dane MacMahon
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@ Maria

Semantics? I don't think so. It's two different moral philosophies. Your philosophy is obviously rooted in the opposite approach, but that doesn't make EVE's freedom over security perspective any less valid. Just different from you.

Katy Smith
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"The purpose of basketball is not to kill your opponents. In Eve it is"

What? No! In Eve, the point is to destroy the avatar of the other player.

"In basketball you are playing against real people"

Same thing in EvE...


Mah Laahr
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It is not about wanting people to be nasty or vindictive. It is about giving players the freedom to act as they would otherwise.

The key here is freedom of choice. If someone is nasty, they will be like that, but the same is true for a kind person. It is this polarity that makes players in EVE value the things that we value in real life as well: honesty, loyalty, kindness.

After all: What is light without darkness or good without evil? Take any of those away, and its counterpart loses its meaning.

Simon Pole
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Thanks for the heads up never to play EvE Online. You definitely saved me a months sub, or the time spent downloading a trial.

Zach Grant
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You should stay off the internet then. Trolls are everywhere :)

Adam Bishop
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No they're not. I participate in web communities where trolls are quickly removed and everyone else is able to have a good time. This attitude that there's nothing to be done about jerks online is out of touch with reality. It's not that hard to get rid of them if you want to.

Jennis Kartens
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As soon as you have the desire for commercial success, it is hard to get rid of them. No wait, it is impossible to not have them. In games, that is.

Even in most ordinary communities, it is really not "easy" as you implying to get rid of them.

I really wonder where you're participating and how large those communities are, where people with annoying posts or opinions are not existent.

Mara Rinn
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This article was not a heads-up. It is not normative, nor is it indicative of the population of the game. This article was about how Game Masters handle complaints of abuse.

If you would like to inform your opinion, head over to the Buddy Invites thread on the EVE Forums ( and nab a 21 day free trial.

You'll find that in the EVE community, politeness is usually rewarded with politeness. Most people, given the option to be complete jerks, choose to be sensible and civil. I think you'd be surprised just how civil the general community is.

Olorunsegun Adewumi
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Eve is essentially a game whose real life equivalent would be getting knifed in the back, robbed and then just to add insult to injury having your attacker piss on your face. At some point in time the game started feeding on abhorrent behavior. Somehow I don't think allowing homophobic name-calling as 'deal with it' is the standard in the MMO industry.

Luke S
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As a relatively new EVE player (6 months) I understand where this perception comes from. And perhaps you even speak from experience rather than generalisations. However, that makes your assertions no more accurate than if I declared all Gamasutra users with Calvin & Hobbes avatars, have names that are difficult to spell.

EVE has a diversity of players that I have seldom seen in other games, because EVE has a diversity of roles that can be played unlike so many other games. What is far and away the defining nature of every EVE player I have personally interacted with, is the surging desire to share their knowledge of the game. Ask a question, get 20 answers, most of which will be a consensus. I've had someone type to me privately for FOUR straight hours, sharing their strategies and experience (and surplus assets) simply because I was willing to listen and absorb what they said. That is a very human thing to do, especially if you know elders.

For every insult-to-injury story you could tell me, I could counter with an attacker who (on a good day) conversed soberly with their victim, talked about what they should've learnt in order to not be so easily caught off guard next time, and not infrequently sent the funds to replace the lost ship (typically a pittance for a veteran). EVE has a metagame of "harvesting tears" which is the watch-the-world-burn sociopathology that some people consider mean. But for people who realise it is just a game, and part of the game includes loss as well as victory in that all things are learning experiences. That attitude is seen as mature, and appreciated. Not unlike real life.

There are also people who take it upon themselves to make a difference. Small new-player corps that seek to lower the barrier to entry. Large new-players corps like EVE University, of which I am a proud volunteer. The Angel Project, established entirely by one female player with a team of industrious volunteers and donors who give young players a reason to stick with the game if they are struggling, or have a noteworthy goal within the community at large.

It is a community at large, and it tends to move in the same directions, and take the same offence towards certain business decisions by the developers. Yet thousands of the same players converge in Iceland and Las Vegas to party and enjoy the 10-year metagame of internet spaceships. :)

Your first misconception was saying EVE has only one real life equivalence. It in fact has *every* real life equivalence that involves human behaviour, good and bad. EVE is indifferent to what you believe it is, because it is exactly what the next person makes it, for you.

Myke Oz
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that's a very wise & pragmatic comment.

Jennis Kartens
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Excellent and way more honest story as I've read in a while.

I really like the fact that you've put both sides in perspective and therefore reminded me and hopefully a lot of other readers, that the Online World is to be treated with care. Be that in a game environment or any other. It is different from real world interaction and a lot of stuff will be used against you eventually.