I’m finishing up City of Heroes today.

It’s my last paid subscription day, after canceling my account ahead of some disappointing game designer decisions and because I’ve really more or less run the course of what I find interesting inside the game.

I’ve played City of Heroes/Villains, off and on, for almost four years, and it has become my most contemporary and primary reference point for comment and understanding about the nature of online communities.  Most recently, I have been intrigued by the pvp community within CoH/V, and that interest has resulted in a couple of research projects and papers.  Look here to find presentations I’ve given on this topic in Tokyo and Copenhagen.

But today’s my last day.  And so I went online to play the game again a bit, to look here and there and do the things I’ve done before again, hoping perhaps to discover some final crown of meaning that might pop up to crystallize and culminate my City of Heroes game-playing experience.

There was nothing special.

I went onto the game’s test server, which is currently running the newest version of the game software — issue 13 (which helped remind me of the reasons why I have chosen to look elsewhere for examples of mmorpg play).

And I logged onto the live servers, where I have spent many hours doing this and doing that.  But not that many other players were available to play with or comment on or reflect about — until I reached my old and most favorite stomping ground of Recluse’s Victory inside the game’s east coast “Freedom” server.  Here there were a couple of villains at play.  And here once again I, as a lone hero, engaged each one in combat, with this result [as of this post, 'Prime Opp A' will be my persistent pseudonym for any Twixt opponent, likely bearing only coincidental resemblance, if any, to any existing CoH/V character name(s) even somewhat similar -- I truly hope.]:

11-21-2008 15:04:01 Your Air Superiority drops Prime Opp A from the skies.

11-21-2008 15:04:01 You clobber Prime Opp A for 126.27 points of smashing damage!

11-21-2008 15:04:01 You knocked Prime Opp A from their feet with your Air Superiority attack!

11-21-2008 15:04:19 [Tell] Prime Opp A: F8CK YOU

11-21-2008 15:04:53 You activated the Teleport Foe power.

11-21-2008 15:04:53 You teleport Prime Opp A

11-21-2008 15:04:58 Longbow Warden has defeated Prime Opp A

11-21-2008 15:05:06 [Tell] Prime Opp A: F*CK YOU

11-21-2008 15:05:17 [Broadcast] Prime Opp A: twixt is a piece of sh1t

11-21-2008 15:05:34 [Broadcast] Prime Opp A: he is a faaaggot

11-21-2008 15:06:54 [Tell] Prime Opp A: did i mention…….F*CK YOU?

As I look back at these sort of responses to my play in City of Heroes, perhaps indeed these are the most lasting impressions I will take from my time spent online.  The game has been tremendously fun, but also, on many levels I have largely forgiven and forgotten because of that fun, the game has been a revelation as to how social order and structure are most characteristically blunt, brutal, and unwelcoming to individual play and players.

While some might find heroic potential in their online play, I must confess, here at the end of my CoH/V journey, I do not.  I find rather something closer to despair that the individual must eventually, inevitably, be forced to succumb to the great momentum of the zerg, the irresistible press of the mass.  We may call that mass and that zerg consumers, or players, or simply people, but each of those in aggregate I now see as primarily and most fundamentally an important and perhaps insurmountable threat to individual freedom, creativity, and hope.

Others, of course, are less pessimistic than I.

In order to represent that optimistic view — which I cannot myself find in Prime Opp A’s vitriol above — let me leave you with this, an alternative reflection on the present and future of individual values in online worlds.

Fairly well known, this piece has appeared in several collections documenting the virtual, including The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology,  Here it is again, in an online readable form:

Bow, Nigger.

***note:  I've closed comments here, too many to handle.  
See here.

65 Responses

  1. Well well well, if it ain’t our old pal Twixt? Time to let the truth hit the fan.

    Sadly, it seems this article is nothing but an attempt to self-gratify and create an innocent appeal to what you’ve been actually doing, lying and trash-talking. What a disgrace for someone in your position, even if it was “trolling”, you could of at least done it right.

    If I remember correctly, doesn’t it take a couple seconds for teleport foe to actually teleport after even activation the power? If not, how in some of your posts on CoX forums have been tampered on the history of the combat log?

    Believe me, I may be a tad angry, 20%? Due to this, ugh, well maybe not entirely as long as this research isn’t presumed fact… 80 of which that can’t stop twittering with excitement or laughing that I’ve found you here. Probably sad I thrive off this type of ripping, but hey, got to entertain myself somehow.

    I dear say I have to admire the survivablility, the obvious points you proved about the free-for-all availability in pvp… I’ll give you that without a doubt, but still not enough to surpass the respect I have for the alias of another player, aka “Black-Op”, over you. He was someone I could actually “LEARN FROM”.

    It could of been more… how easily silenced you were by Agent Yellow, after he threatened to send in a few reports on how you were violating the EULA with exploits involving that very teleport power and a few terrain spots that could get you stuck.

    (I will also note that teleport foe used constantly on the same target, and/or into drones constantly actually counts under the EULA under griefing and potential suspension.)

    But at least you knew your place then, how easily we could brush someone like you aside with such attempts of teleport foe.

    Now lets name our fixes, I13 introduces teleport foe phase to the target for a few seconds… guess you can’t send them into NPC’s and your traps anymore, aye buddy?

    Or travel surpression and heal decay… making inspirations useless (Except our lovely orange, for resisting teleport foe) and your hit-and-run tactics invalid. So assuming it’s safe to say… you left because you were cut too short to grow? You should of adapted, like the rest of us.

    I feel bad for you Twixt, I really do… but not enough to stop be from further destroying your fragile wall of lies.

    I have dozens of people that can acknowledge everything this man has spewed out of his mouth, and as for my real Alias, Twixt, lets add some further aggrivation, or perhaphs a test of some common sense to see if you can guess who I am (The alias), as well as anyone else here whom is willing to try.

    Enjoy the scars we left you in pvp, Twixt. It’s funny to see they were this deep.

  2. ExoSpecter I have never played the game, but from reading your post you have just come across as a very very sad individual.

    You have to hide behind an alias? A big man behind the alias and in reality you probably have a lot of confidence issues..

  3. > I might at this point refer you to the The Lord of the Flies (which may or may not still be required reading for biology majors).

    How apt. Your behavior is on a par with the little hellions on that island – griefing people repeatedly and acting shocked when they get hostile. It’s not like you gain anything from it, aside from the joy of inflicting pain on others.

  4. Great read this. It’s amazing how people turn into whiny bitches when they get pwnd in the game that they feel they’re so superior in.
    Moral high ground is claimed immediately and put in as an argument against behaviour that makes sense in terms of the gameworld. But it’s just the same again and again. Some people can’t handle the way things go down, and you get the hate tells and ridiculous nonsense. I’ve had my score of hate tells throughout the many years I’ve played MMOs now, and they never cease to amuse me, deaththreats or not.
    Keep them coming, losers :)
    /Mastablasta – Anarchy Online

  5. “You have to hide behind an alias? A big man behind the alias and in reality you probably have a lot of confidence issues..”

    It’s ironic that you accuse him of ‘hiding’ behind an alias while you don’t give your own full name and/or contact info.

    Kettle, meet pot.

  6. I knew some one would raise this, I don’t even play the game, its not my argument.. But the professor has revealed his identity proven exactly who he is what about this guy ? He comes on as arrogant as probably he has been in game and doesn’t expect to be called a sad individual ?

    I’m just calling it how I see it.. If you want me to tell you who I am, why don’t you tell me who you are and drop me your email address and I will drop you my details. I’m not afraid of doing it, don’t think that I am.

    Its just pointless for me to do so, because my identity bares no relevance to this discussion. I am a nobody ultimately, however the guy above is obviously one of the bullies within the game and he obviously thinks that his behavior is somehow fine, that its fine to chase people around and call them names to threaten to kill them, because of a video game no less. Now are you telling me that some how him not revealing his identity makes him less of a coward ?

    so pot meet kettle meet pot meet kettle, meet idiot with idiot response..

  7. Just read about your exploits in CoX. Will you be playing Champions Online?

  8. Well, at least now you know why MMOs are so lame: antisocial socializing. Why anyone in their right mind would actually pay good money to join a virtual pecking order cock-fight is beyond me, but hey, different lanes for different brai… OH! LOOK! A BIRDY!!!

  9. An interesting read, both from the social experiment side and the comments from people you have…influenced.
    I have never played the game, I prefer consoles, but have run into similar things. Threats to get me banned/killed/fired…the list is long and boring. And always merely because I won or used a tactic my opponent was not prepared for. The odd thing is most of the language used to threaten me is in violation of EULA, let alone that threats of bodily harm to other users is a violation that can get you permanently banned. I see the insults this way: an expression of frustration from an underdeveloped adult with severe ego problems,

  10. Sorry for not finishing, had an accident.
    To continue,
    …possibly in need of therapy. This in not intended to insult anyone here, I have my own issues I will freely admit to, and I know three people that are the people I just described. And yes, I told them my thoughts in blunt terms.
    I was wondering how you think revealing this in such a public way will affect the CoH community in the short term? The long term hardly exists in most gaming circles, so asking about that is pointless, but say the next three months or so?
    @Irony
    Slashdotters are almost flame-proof, unless you start with providing your personal information to us, your comment is null.

  11. Wow, people in a PVP area complaining about getting killed.
    If that thought does not seem strange enough, the comments posted only enforce the statements raised in the essay.

    But I have also seen similar in other games as well. People playing PVP complaining that their assassin was taking one of their possessions (in a game where also player items dropped).

    If you play PVP you are fair game (cept portal/spawn exits). End of story.
    If you do not like it, don’t play it.

    I should really try that during my next FPS session… ‘hey bro, don’t shoot me man, I’m just absorbing the beautiful sights.. hey this is a “happy” server’

  12. Well Done! I thoroughly enjoyed your essay. It’s amazing that a social pecking order in a virtual world mirrors that of the “real world”.

    After reading your paper and a majority of posts regarding the events transpired within the study. I have noticed an ever lingering need for self meaning and conformity exists regardless of laws either virtual or otherwise.

    Once again, Well Done!

    p.s. As for the others and you know who you are, remember it is a game. What you do in “real life” is what matters.

  13. Played CoH/V for a while myself, and yeah the chatting in the PvP zones was lame. Particularly because if you wanted to do hero/villain chat without fighting, you *could* just wander in to Pocket D. Personally, I always found TP Foe too inaccurate for my tastes, so I never picked it up.

    Your strategies kind of remind me of what I learned from a couple of my friends though: if you don’t like what the other guy is doing, do the same thing. Most people hate that though… largely because they’ve been playing by “the rules” for so long that they feel entitled to not have to put up with being beaten by someone that just makes use of what the game gives them. Even more of a crying shame, however, is when people get so hung up on “the rules” that they petition and petition the designers until the designers nerf said element that was available to everyone.

    Example: in Urban Terror for Quake 3, my friend and I made extensive use of a sniper pair arrangement. I would take a scoped weapon, he would take an open sights rifle. There were constant complaints that we were using auto-aim “bots”, because our score and kill:death ratios would consistently be extremely high. But the bigger complaint we got was that we dared carry the shotgun as a secondary weapon in the game. Keep in mind: it was available to everyone, it had SEVERE limitations (only useful at close to point blank range), and it required getting used to it to make it useful. But it did insanely high levels of damage when used at the proper range. On the order of single hit kills routinely. You know, the same reason the military and SWAT use shotguns in close quarters in real life.

    Nothing but complaints of “cheap” flowed from the mouths of other players. Despite the MANY limitations of the weapon (small clip size, short useful range, long long LONG reload time), players petitioned and petitioned again. Instead of USING the weapon, they didn’t like the strategies it required and petitioned to have the weapon made useless. Eventually the developers caved.

    This happens often in online games. The absolute rules of the game itself are altered to match the social rules that the players within it contrive. I would wager this is not much different from the mentality that gets some really ridiculous edge case laws put in to place in real life. Stuff like making it illegal to say “Oh boy” or to perform some other obscure little action that almost nobody does but somebody didn’t like.

    Fascinating stuff to study, and MMOs make a wonderful sandbox for studies of such things. There’s no real consequences for behavior outside the norm, aside from the complaints and protests of other players. But then again, when the strategy that ticks them off is available to them as well, it sounds to me like they’re just whiners without the brains to use the strategy themselves.

    And don’t sweat the flames now that the world knows about your experiment. You’ll run in to a swarm of Internet Tough Guys. I’ve had a few talk trash to me online, tell me how they’d kill me in real life, then run in to them at a convention and tell them “Well, gonna kill me now?” Suddenly their eyes are looking down at the concrete, they’re talking quietly out the side of their mouth, and beating a hasty retreat to whatever exit they can find. They’re universally unable to follow up on a threat, despite their tough talk. Why do you think they play a video game instead of learning real combat techniques such as martial arts or joining the military? ;-)

  14. lol butthurt

  15. I regret that I did not have time to play this game and meet this particular Twixt fellow during his reign!
    It is disapointing to see the hatred spewed at him when by the very nature of the game he was providing a potential for some fun that would have been well within context of the game’s theme. What could be better in a superhero game then to have an arch nemesis? What I have read of Twixt so far suggests that his problematic social interactions stemed from a breakdown of the competetive spirit; these players who became so angry were not agitated by his actions persay, rather they were emotional over the fact that they were not arbituarily in control of the situation. I qualify this by pointing out that even with a rudementary glance at the mechanics of the game I can see many ways in which Twixt’s particular tactics could have easily been countered. But rather then strive to meet the challenge, many players prefered to take the path of least resistance and simply lash out.
    (And I suspect that most if not all of these angry players had absolutely no compunctions about killing or hindering any enemy player that they could even if they did not present a threat to their characters)
    I for one would have greatly appreciated Twixt’s antics and if he was as prolific as what I have read suggests, I would have happily re-created my character in the event that I was on his team simply to pit myself against him. And I certainly would not have had an unkind word to say!
    Twixt reminds me of players I encountered during the early days of the mmo genre, and its disapointing to see that players did not simply derive enjoyment from countering his actions, as the game intends them to do.

    Silly players! When encountering an irresistable force while being provided the tools from which to fasion an immovable object, the solution is self-evident!

  16. http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2009/07/loyola_university_professor_be.html#4222901

    5) Twixt’s research plays a role by examining another realm of society, but his results are predictable.

    It’s not surprising that people get upset when you’re mean to them without reason. On an unmarked curb, it’s legal for me to park 5 feet away from the cars in front of and behind me, but it’s simply rude to do so. If I did so directly in front of hundreds of different people who were looking for a parking spot, it’s not unreasonable to think that these individuals would be angry with me. I would say that’s completely predictable. It’s also not unheard of for such individuals to threaten others in such a situation. The fact that the anonymity of the internet allows such hotheads to go more extreme with their threats shouldn’t exactly come as a shock to anyone either. Thus, while I think research into the societies of online communities can be interesting, I don’t think Twixt’s can be classified as such.

  17. I have been playing CoX for about a year. I have never heard of “Twixt” before and became aware of your study only because of an article posted on NOLA.com (‘City of Heroes’ character ‘Twixt’ becomes game’s most hated outcast courtesy of Loyola professor, posted July 6, 2009.)

    I am curious to hear your reaction to the article. There are numerous claims the article makes (including referring to you as the game’s “most hated” player) that, with what I know of the game, leave me scratching my head:

    1) Do you really consider yourself the game’s “most hated” player? (You are quoted in the article as saying “You became the most hated, reviled player,” but is unclear to me how literally you are speaking.) Based on what evidence?

    2) A portion of the article states that: [i]When Twixt celebrated his victories, lobbing messages like “Yay, heroes. Go good team. Vills lose again,” in the game’s chat box, users like Hunter-Killed responded, “U are a major sh–bird.”[/i] Is this a fair characterization of your interaction with folks or were you perhaps more aggressive?

    3) The article also states: [i]Myers was stunned by the reaction, since he obeyed the game’s rules.[/i] Surely, as a “one of the first university-level professors to study video games” you predicted that the physics of a virtual world and what is socially acceptable for players to do within the physics of that virtual world are two different things. You’ve said it yourself in that you were “shocked” players would use a chat channel to yell at you and were equally disappointed in the use of the chat command to block your communication. You were also upset when other heroes teamed up with the villains to eliminate you, although they did it with full support of the mechanics of the virtual world.

    4) Your support the assertion that teleporting other players into drones is “within the rules” because the developers didn’t address it. (From the paper: “Droning, on the other hand, was equally clearly an acceptable tactic as determined both by the game design and as confirmed by lack of moderator intervention on any petitioner’s behalf.”) And yet Issue 13, the software update in which you initiated your departure, contains changes to stop this very tactic. If the creators of the game saw fit to change game mechanics in response to a player activity, does that not at least indicate that a “grey area?” has been entered?

    Thank you for your time.

  18. No matter how you feel about his play style, the reactions of those he mentions were obviously disproportional to the situation. No one who acts within the guidelines of the game should be subject to that level of abuse – no matter how aberrant his or her actions are.

  19. The fact that you keep saying you’re not angry and that you feel sorry for Twixt is very interesting to me. If you weren’t bothered by his actions and you feel sorry for him, then why did you post a nearly 500 word tirade? You’re bitter and angry about his actions; just admit it and move on because nobody cares.

  20. I just said I was angry, mainly at how idiotic people have become here believing his garbage. Who said I wasn’t?

    I posted facts, and people will scream. You post something that actually contains english, people will point.

    Read the line again, you’re just proving you fools will snap at anything for silly “lulz” as you would put it.

    And you can just look up my name, and it’s linked to a site for my bloody home address, and email. I just said to use “common sense”, so do it. I just want to see if you people would cry more here then actually saying hi in an email, and this just proves it.

    Checkmate. ;)

  21. Ahaha, damn, wrong line… gota pay more attention.

  22. I just said I was angry, mainly at how idiotic people have become here believing his garbage. Who said I wasn’t? I know how to leave things in a game, but if someone like Twixt wants to drag it out in publicity, then sure, I’ll follow… just not his words.

    I posted facts, and people will scream. You post something that actually contains english, people will point.

    Read the line again, you’re just proving you fools will snap at anything for silly “lulz” as you would put it.

    And you can just look up my name, and it’s linked to a site for my bloody home address, and email. I just said to use “common sense”, so do it. I just want to see if you people would cry more here then actually saying hi in an email, and this just proves it.

    Checkmate. ;)

  23. If it is any good.

  24. This, and many other analogies, seem to attach no particular importance to a *game.* I do. I see games as particularly important aesthetic experiences that should not be conflated with more mundane and meaningless activities, like, for instance, parking your car. The critical issue is not rules, it is *game rules.*

    I am very strong proponent of play and games. The theme of the paper was that online games are being turned into something else, something worse.

  25. I would not know whether I have heard of you or not, since I don’t know who you are exactly.

    However, I do believe the newspaper article overstated Twixt’s infamy. Personally, I was less aware of the extent of that infamy than its intensity.

    I’ve played very recently, in i13 and onward, and ive droned lots of people. It is difficult not to be disappointed when you see comments that consistently misrepresent/misstate the mechanics of game play. It muddies the conversation to the point where it becomes unintelligible.

    I dealt with the hero/vill collusions as soon as it was clear that it was the game designer intent to allow it. I. E., I stopped teaming — which is stated in the paper, btw. I did not leave threatening msgs/intimidate/etc. I played the game.

    See another comment/reply I left somewhere that explains the language I used. I think “lowlife slimeball farmers” was just about the height of my linguistic aggression(s).

  26. Most complex games or sports have elements of etiquette and other sportsmanship rules that are practiced by the majority of the players but are not specifically written in the rule books. If you choose to act outside of those commonly accepted boundaries then you pay the penalty of being an unpopular player. You may not be breaking the rules, but no one will want to play with you.

  27. This has all been extremely fascinating to read, thank you – I’ve been playing MMORPGs for about six or seven years now and unequivocally count myself as being part of “The Carebear Brigade” (this means that I usually turn tail and run at the first sign of PvP, in case anybody’s wondering). I only played the beta of CoH (the subject matter / setting was of little interest to me), but I took part in PvP in ‘EVE Online’ during the beta and for about a year or more of retail: I can’t help but imagine how this “social experiment” would have gone down there, for example. Twixt’s “behaviour” is what a game like EVE is more-or-less founded on, and I could reel off the names of players (mostly from m0o, for example) who were far more aggressive and unpleasant to deal with than Twixt could ever have been (certainly from what I’ve read here and elsewhere anyway).

    Like I say; it’s extremely interesting… I hardly see CoH as one of the more “hardcore” PvP MMOs out there, and I’m hardly surprised at the player’s reactions as a result of this. My only “complaint” about this study would be in regards to the playerbase of CoH itself as much of this seems to be angled towards “the online community” as a whole, rather than the “type of people” who play certain MMOs in the first place: All of these games have markedly different playerbases and I feel that this should be taken into account here (although all research has to start somewhere, I guess). Twixt’s behaviour (whether or not permitted by the EULA or the mechanics themselves) would be considered “the done thing” by many in EVE Online (and even applauded, to be more to the point) yet he may not be so welcome in, say, ‘Free Realms’ for example (I do realise that the mechanics of the latter wouldn’t really allow for the behaviour in question, but I’m using this purely as an example of the different types of gamers that different games attract).

    I myself would be more interested in regards to how this relates to demographics and game development, such as how much a playerbase ultimately forms a game or how much the game mechanics themselves attract a particular playerbase. As 3-D says above; many an online game has been “nerfed” because the playerbase that builds up around it was probably not the intended target audience. I’ve seen many a good MMO beaten senseless with the nerfing bat simply because many of the players couldn’t get to grips with the complexities of the gameplay. This led to the developers “dumbing down” the gameplay and before you know it you have a game that’s neither fish nor fowl.

    Anyway, I digress. This has all been very interesting to read, whether I agree with what took place or not (I’ll keep that much to myself). I am kind of sad that I didn’t stick with CoH after the beta phase now, though :)

  28. Professor,
    If you had engaged the villain players in some actual PvP they might have given you some respect.
    Instead you chose to tele-frag people, regardless of what they happend to be doing in the zone. Maybe players don’t enjoy one sided ‘fights’.
    I guess Twixt is a coward.

  29. These rules of etiquette are normally enforced to insure that game rules are followed, not that game rules are broken. My interests in this case concerned rules of etiquette that were in OPPOSITION to the game rules. This is a much more interesting case than the one you reference, dont you agree?

  30. This is a misrepresentation of Twixt’s behavior and another example of the labeling process I mentioned in the paper. Twixt was much more active in RV than any of his opponents. In general, Twixt’s opponents tended to sit in one place and throw taunts in broadcast. Tp’ing them out of their static defensive positions (and killing them) tended to be met with the same cries of “cheap” as tp’ing them into drones.

  31. I don’t think City of Heroes is percieved by most players as a ‘hardcore’ PvP game.
    At best it might have a few hundred dedicated PvPers.

    The rest of the folks in the PvP zones are just casual players who wandered into the zone to to see if it would be fun to fight against another player (the actions of Twixt would chase them off). Going into a PvP zone for a bit of casual PvP and getting continiously tele-fragged is about as much fun as ramming a rusty screwdriver in your eye.
    There would also be some farmers (for which you can blame the devs) because of the rewards on offer. Being tele-fragged would get them seriously upset, though I’m sure some of them would not be adverse to a straight up fight. The same goes for people in the zone looking for exploration badges.

    I wonder what your experiment would have turned out like on a World of Warcraft open world PvP server. I suggest rolling a priest and using mind control to drop players off cliffs and see what results you get.

  32. Another good way to get a reaction would be to go around killing the quest givers on a WoW PvE server.

  33. Did you feel that the lolFite clubbers, badgers,farmers and casual crowd were abusing the zone?
    Are you aware that the only ‘Serious PvP’ in City of Heroes takes place in the arena?
    Did you try your Teleport Foe tactics in arena?

  34. I pvp a lot and there are always those nuisances who like to stand around and just TP foe people into drones or into traps; most of which talk a lot of crap while doing so. However, a good pvp’er knows how to avoid those certain people and even take them out whether or not they’re standing next to a drone or are in their base. So IMO: the people who get mad at you and call you out and send you nasty tells, are most likely mad because they don’t know how to kill you and aren’t smart enough to counter-attack your moves. When I play, I don’t argue back or call people out because they killed me (that will only make me look weak and immature), I find ways around what they’re doing and make sure I take them out at one point or another. If I truly can’t, then GG (good game) to them. :)

  35. I would say that etiquette exists to maintain a positive atmosphere and enjoyable play for all parties, and may in some circumstances even promote behavior that would seem counter-intuitive to the idea of competition. For example: not running the score up further on a team when there’s already a large score difference. It completely flies in the face of what would be considered the nature of competition; to play as effectively as you can, to score/kill/win as best you can.

    What is considered to be ‘proper’ gameplay is entirely dependent on the mentality of the player base and less so the original intentions of the creator. A developer will never be able to predict how their game will evolve over the course of several years and billions of man hours of playtime. Exploits will turn up, imbalances may occur, certain tactics or strategies will be discovered that were never originally considered and the player base will come up with some sort of consensus as to what is acceptable and what is not. This happens to a degree in every game.

    Pretty soon I’m going to be typing one word per line D:

  36. My actions were unlikely to chase off casual players. If someone wanted simply to avoid confrontation with me, there were many ways to do that.

    Casual players were more often chased away by the same bcast obscenities and gank squads that I had to deal with and/or the other various social pressures described in the paper.

    Those who became upset with me were more often those who had pre-arranged some sort of collusion with heroes and were farming or otherwise using the zone without fear of reprisal. Most often, these sorts of arrangements were not granted to casual players.

  37. The distinction between zone and arena pvp is an interesting one. Probably too complicated to go into depth here. But interesting.

  38. I also saw “gg” used as a taunt mechanic more than once.

  39. I think what turns off a lot of the “sincere” players is not the one person TP foe’ing everyone, it’s the vulgar attitude of a lot of the “hardcore” pvp’ers. For instance, when you go into a pvp zone and instantly see all of the rude trash talk in broadcast, do you want to stay away from those certain individuals? Sometimes, because you don’t want to be involved with their harrassment and/or be harrassed by them. Or most of the time for me personally, I go after the people who ARE harrassing others in broadcast because it makes them the bigger target. They are the ones who make pvp unenjoyable with their big mouths.

    The majority of the ‘hardcore’ pvp’ers get upset if you TP foe them into drones, use inspirations, go into phase when they almost have you, disrupt duels or farmers, ect. But are those things really cheating or against the rules? Does it make you inexperienced or inferior when you find a strategy that helps you to be less vulnerable, but at the expense of others? No. Those are just some rules that have been made up by the society of CoH and other MMO games in general. Besides, not everyone has pimped out VEATS and doms and brutes with expensive IO’s that make them unbeatable. How come they get to use those, and we can’t use whatever else the game provides for us? Doesn’t make sense.

    I give you props for enduring all of that nonsense for so long. I think you made a reasonable statement in your presentation. Good work, Professor.

  40. Unfortunetly, the way you handled youself in-game, and even the chat log you posted earlier up in the disscusion is proof you weren’t killing anyone. I admit you are very well known, and have run into you on several occasions, as well as killed you.

    Standing in a group of enemies and tping them into said group of enemies, in order to give them XP debt, is a form of griefing, and is all you did in zones aside from the admitably broken “Droning”. To say you played by the set rules is a fallacy at best.

    It’s kinda like saying “I farmed AE becuase it gave me the tools to do so”, although the devs said it is off limits, and yes, you can be banned for tping into groups, i didn’t petition you, you were my favorite stalker gank target.

  41. it is a problem with more compliated games that you get loopholes like this one. A power becomes overpowered and can be used in cheap ways like this one.

    The people became mad not because he broke the unwritten rules, but he broke a rule that destroyed the game as fun experience. Those are exploits, things that the designers were not intending for you to be able to do. In any complicated game they will come up from time to time. What NCsoft should have done is outlawed the practice and threatend you with ban, as you were abusing game mechanics. Blizzard for all their faults would not have allowed this to go on.

    If you give someone $20 in real money for Mayfair in Monopoly it is not technically against the rules of the game, but it destroys it as a fun experience.

    It is playing tennis and putting up a sunshade when you play one way, taking it down when you play the other, so your opponent but not you has the sun in his eyes.

    To be fun a game should be a test of skill, this tactic involved no skill whatsoever. A good anlogy I saw on slashdot would be basketball without a shot clock. You get ahead then you just pass the ball amoungst your own team, for a low skill victory.

    I suppose it is a social agreement that you dont exploit a flaw in the design of a game, as it spoils everyones enjoyment. Quite why you were so suprised by how upset people got. In games with switched on designers the rules would have been changed.

    All in all it is “Guy behaves like an A**hole, people get upset shock!” really. What you were doing was only within the rules because the rules were badly designed.

  42. @etheric (via slashdot)

    Although I’ve never played COH/V, the word “cheat” and “exploit” have been thrown around a LOT. He uses the game in ways that are available to everyone, but most refuse to use it due to most likely some kind of personal moral code.

    From what I’ve read, it’s akin to the AWP in Counter-Strike and Infinite combos in any fighting game. Both are strategy’s that “lack skill” and “are cheap and unintended” (referring to pistol switching to reduce AWP cooldown and infinites such as iron man in MvC2).

    Using what the game gives you is perfectly okay on a competitive level. In PvP, you play to win. If you go in a PvP area and yell about being killed, it comes with the territory.

    You also stated that it should have been outlawed and bannable like Blizzard. They did fix this however, by doing what blizzard does, and patch it (if the comments about 13 are right). Ridiculously slow in my opinion, but they fixed it. What took them so long? Ask the devs.

    From what I’ve read, the rules were not badly designed, the game was.

  43. The commentary, and subsequent responses from players, only reinforces what many of us have known all along: competitive people are (often) poor losers.

    Twixt’s exploits sound remarkably similar to those of “Fansy the Famous Bard”. Was Fansy’s experience the inspiration behind this social experiment?

  44. What he was doing was equivelent to say you have an online chess program with a bug so that if you reboot your computer on move 4 and it then credits you with a win.

    It is a similar situation. It is a way to “win” that requires no skill and has no counter really. Would you call using something like that a legitimate tactic or something that most people would agree not to do as it would destroy the game?

    You use this tactic a lot, then crow on any forums about your wins and you will get exactly the reaction he observed. If everyone did that then it would totally destroy the game experience. In that situation would you say not using the bug is a moral issue or enligtened self interest? As if everyone did it it would destroy the game.

    I hope you would agree the above is an exploit. Getting a win with no skill by exploting bad design or a flaw/bug in the game.

    I agree that what he was doing was the same as Fansy. And again has the same problem in that there was no ingame mechanism for stopping the behavour.

    And I would say that to be a real winner you HAVE to hate losing. That is what gives you the detrimination to go the extra mile, to put the extra effort in that gives you the edge. Success in general comes from talent + hard work. And there is nothing like fear and hatred of losing to make you put in the hard work.

  45. I was recently sent a link concerning Twixt and this study from a friend. I must admit that I was instantly drawn in by it. Despite being an extensive gamer, I have never laid hands upon CoH, and therefore have never heard of Twixt, outside of a board game reference. With no personal reference I find myself having to scour the internet trying to find out more about “the game’s most hated outcast.”

    I’ve always found the social aspect of games, mmo’s in particular, as well as the social aspect of the internet as a whole pretty fascinating. It is a savage society in and of itself. The internet is both one of the greatest accomplishments of mankind and yet simultaniously feels like the most destructive force to individuals, and possibly, in turn, to society. That’s a different subject I suppose. MMO’s add a whole new aspect to internet social groups by providing something more than text and uncontrolled rage. Things like graphics… and uncontrolled rage. It is amazing how social groups form in these settings. Just wish I knew why these groups seem to possess the attributes of a schizophrenic steroid abuser on a PCP binge. How can any rules seem to apply in such a volitile concoction.

    As for individuals, I find myself watching, and thanks to such programs as Ventrilo, now listening to peoples anger and hatred over things that ultimately have no true value (maybe not the best term but all I can think of right now.)People pay money for a game, something that should be purchased and paid for for enjoyment and escape, and I have seen people who treat these things like second jobs. They take this attitude to the point that they detroy their own enjoyment and cast hatred on anyone who plays for the fun of it.

    I guess that some would argue that Twixt was ruining their enjoyment. I have found though the most vocal of people in these games are often the ones who act like these are in fact jobs. That aside though, if Twixt was such an annoyance, why not simply avoid him? When I find someone who annoys me, I often simply find ways of avoiding said person and am happier for it. I admit I don’t know alot about the game itself, but from what I have read it doesn’t seem that is was impossible.

    Well maybe I’m missing the point. I’m still reading the Play and Punnishment paper, so perhaps my words are somewhat ignorant. I just have found this enthralling and felt I should say something before my attention span, no doubt shortened by years of media in general, still holds.

    I am curious though, if nothing was against the in-game rules that was done, how come more people didn’t do “droning” or whatever themselves? People can say unspoken rules, etc. but who laid those down if the game designers themselves didn’t? It seems some of the unspoken rules acctually went against the intended purpose of the game section itself. Was there a meeting? A memo? When was this laid down? Does anyone know, or is this some “just because” sort of thing?

  46. I would like to make a suggestions for your next “academic essay”.

    Tic-Tac-Toe: Wait until the other player is just about to make a mark on the paper, then grab it away from them. After all, you’re allowed to move the paper, right? Do this repeatedly until he or she curses at you.

    Hop-Scotch: Push the other players while they’re hopping.

    Golf: Make loud, scary noises whenever anyone tries to take a shot. Burp in the opposing player’s face. Fart loudly. Eventually they will throw their club and walk away.

    Trivial Pursuit: Wait until the other players are about to answer a question, then run around the table and scream until they give up.

    I can see it now! “How to play games like a jerk” could be a whole new exciting field of study!

  47. @ Premature F

    “but who laid those down if the game designers themselves didn’t? It seems some of the unspoken rules acctually went against the intended purpose of the game section itself. Was there a meeting? A memo? When was this laid down? Does anyone know, or is this some “just because” sort of thing?”

    good question(s), I think. Based on my observations: no, the rules werent laid down “just because.” The “social” rules Twixt found himself in opposition to were purposefully designed to benefit those who created them. You’re exactly right: anyone could have used the tp power whenever they wished, however they wished (within the game rules). instead, they chose to fight that tp power by creating rules to ban it, rather than exploring rules to use it.

    again, good questions.

  48. “Social Rules”

    You went around and died (Alot) and tped people into mobs of NPC enemies, causing Experience Debt (Hindering the ability to effectively earn experience and play the game). The reason that they couldn’t fix TP foe, was, that it was a pvp issue, which they came around and revamped.

    If I were to make an accurate representation of twixt’s time in a pvp zone on CoX:

    TP Droning: 15%
    Base Sitting: 10%
    Returning from Hostpital: 35%
    Attempting to broadcast pvp: 40%

    For those outside the CoX community, this isn’t anywhere close to a representation of CoX’s pvp community, we are, in all actuallity a very friendly close-knit community, the outcasts are often just people abusing exploits, such as Myers here.

  49. @ Epsilon
    each can make claims about the other with no real resolution unless there is some 3rd party verification. also, i think, even w/ good intentions, our perceptions become distorted. the means of achieving game goals is important ( to avoid cheating), but a true game also has game goals expressed as winning conditions. when, in the past, Twixt’s play and achievements were discounted, as you have done, i tried to offer 3rd party verification through posting my kill logs. even then, however, the same false claims persisted. i do not believe it is lack of evidence that leads to false perception so much as inability or unwillingness to question previous beliefs and values.

  50. @Dmyer,

    Previous beleifs and values have nothing to do with the fact that what you were doing was nothing but griefing and to an extent just plain harrassment. The TP foe issue was an issue from the start, however, the devs have just recently gotten the ability to seperately tag things for PvP and PvE, and thus they fixed the issue. Through use of your own kill log

    “11-21-2008 15:04:58 Longbow Warden has defeated Prime Opp A”

    You didn’t get the kill, all you did was prevent this player from progressing fully in the game for maybe 30 min, now while it isn’t game altering to be sure, it is, after all, a set back, and of course, people are going to be mad. Sad part is, i have a feeling you did this to that player more then once.

    Going back to the very foundations of society, and to an extent, the earliest of organized social groups, the Golden Rule of Treat each other the way you wish to be treated, dictated the response you got from the community.

  51. @Epsilon
    This was a long time ago, but, as I recall,
    My opponent was killed by npcs because he/she was hovering nearby beyond their range while a vill hvy farmed them for loot. I used the environment to my advantage, just as he did. I dont begrudge his choice of play, although, in this instance, my strategy proved more effective.

  52. @Dmyers,

    There are plenty of players that claim that all you did, in reality, was impede their progress in the game. You did the same thing to me, a few times, but unfortunetly, i had fear and KB resist, you attempted to place me in groups of NPCs in an attempt to impede my progress in the game, you would then fail at it and then i would kill you 5 min later

    I noticed, quite frequently that all you would do would be to TP people repeatedly into the npc’s, you’re own combat logs disprove the fact that you killed things, in fact, i would be mildly surprised if you ever took a toon from 100-0 in a legit zone fight.

    As it stands, my play experience differs from yours, and your own combat logs stand to support my arguement, while i don’t try to say you are uneducated, i will commend you on finding a way to be paid while being nothing short of a jerk in an online game.

  53. “you’re own combat logs disprove the fact that you killed things”

    In fact, my combat logs validate everything I say. This is the amazing part, really — which I mention in the paper: 3rd party validation means nothing. Social peer pressure/perception means everything. If there were no combat, if RV had no pvp, if there were no true GAME, Twixt and players like him simply could not win. The lies would be too big and too unassailable.

  54. Experience debt incurred from being killed by an NPC is considered harrassment, your own combat log shows that YOU didn’t kill the person, Longbow Warden did, and I’m relatively sure that a large percentile of your combat logs look relatively the same. You never really “PvPed” per say, you just tped people into mobs and read their reaction; which is fine, but you have the pvp community looking like a rabid monster, when in fact, you should look at your own gameplay in order to figure out who’s being the “Monster”.

    Analyze your own impact on the situation, and the picture changes dramatically, I’m not expecting you to admit it here, all i expect is another twisted truth psuedo-lie to make the situation look less of what it really was/is.

  55. Hi there,

    I happened on your blog after reading an article about your research. Your work intrigues me, as I am a professor myself (in literature, so there’s not that much in common with our research methods). I’m also a longtime gamer and blogger.

    I’ve never played CoH/V, but I must say that your “experiment” in game strikes me as rather naive. First, you chose an MMO that doesn’t have a very active developer response. You would not have been able to repeat this experiment or anything like it in WoW, which has been my MMO of choice for the last two years. It seems to me that you probably scoured your EULA to make sure that whatever method of “socially unacceptable” play you chose would be within game rules–knowing, of course that CoH/V’s ruleset has a limited application to the “rules” of the game’s community. Furthermore, I would say that your method of PvP sounds like an exploit of the game’s mechanics. By “exploit,” I mean something that is technically possible, even legal, in the game’s ruleset, but probably wasn’t intended. I don’t know if you follow the WoW press, but in an actively maintained game, the rules adapt to eliminate exploits. Yes, World of Warcraft is the MMO Juggernaut–but in my mind, that makes it the best place to look if you want a balanced understanding of the interaction between custom (player determined) and the rule set (developer determined). Your game, at least so far as I understand, isn’t as actively maintained–if it were, my guess is that the guards would have been designated neutral.

    My point is that MMOs may have a programmed rule set, but the true, deep rules are set by the community of players. You seem to have taken advantage of a weakness in your particular game’s system. Now, when you publish your book, you will be able to make some interesting commentary on CoH/V–but not on online communities in general.

    My concern is that you influenced the results of your own experiment by looking to cause vengeful behavior in the game’s populace. It upsets me because gamers already get so little social respect. Your representation of them as cruel vigilantes is not entirely fair. The response you got was one that you provoked, and one that is only possible in the situation you chose. I regret that people chose to send you death threats. That can only be seen as a poor choice on their part. However, it is my guess that for the purposes of pitching your book, you in some way wanted to elicit the extreme response.

    Let me speculate what might have happen if you chose a less hospitable environment for your experiment. Griefing and griefers exist in WoW. However, the game’s design limits their influence. Players can be reported and banned, say, for hate speech or excessive spam. PvP is an ordinary part of the game, and as a member of a PvP server, I’ve seen all sorts of corpse camping and other “predatory” behaviors. Largely, no one cares. I don’t think Twixt would have gotten a single death threat in WoW, and I’ll tell you why. WoW’s rule set constantly adapts, from beta through 3 expansions. In response to the community-set behavior norms, we have a world where griefing is a minor nuisance with no XP loss or, say “time loss.” These things sound trivial, but they are important to many players. WoW also–in response to testing–put in an important protection for players like yourself. The two player factions cannot communicate with each other through tells. I can’t imagine why CoH/V didn’t imitate that very important policy.

    In short, your experiment does not expose the full, nuanced truth about online communities. I can imagine an experiment in which you attempted to play as a “carebear,” helping and supporting players regardless of the rule set. You might have come to the conclusion that most gamers are lovely, caring people if you played that way. That is largely my experience in game. In some ways I am your opposite–I play my character as a pacifist in a warlike world. I’ve gotten /kisses and /claps from members of the opposite faction, and I’ve also gotten killed for my pains. Still, in my game, it could never be a big deal.

    I would say that the response you got is not due to discrimination against odd or unusual people. There is no comparison to be drawn here to sexism or racism. There are much-beloved weirdos in most game communities. The response you got was probably from less intelligent gamers (certainly ones who weren’t in on the joke) who were responding to the apparent “cruelty” of your actions. Yes, I know, you played within the rules. Yes, I realize that you weren’t ganking “innocents” repeatedly without some participation on their part. Nonetheless, the conclusion I draw here is that cruel behavior, legal or not, in any community is frowned on by that community.

    To the question of “who is the schoolyard bully?” in this relationship, you seem to have concluded that it is your fellow gamers. From my perspective, this question is quite capable of receiving the opposite answer.

    If and when you publish your book, I suggest more “research” and a balanced look at MMO gaming. I don’t think this one example can prove any sort of rule.

  56. @Sydera

    I like to read long and well-formed arguments, but then there’s this at the beginning of yours…

    “It seems to me that you probably scoured your EULA to make sure that whatever method of “socially unacceptable” play you chose would be within game rules–knowing, of course that CoH/V’s ruleset has a limited application to the “rules” of the game’s community.”

    …which is false and almost exactly the opposite of what I did.

    The greatest distortions concerning my activities in rv and my conclusions based on these arise from assumptions (unfortunately widespread among those ignorant of the particulars) of my intent and a drastic and critical misunderstanding of Twixt’s play. I am trying to address these distortions sporadically here and there, as I can. My response now can only be to assert, again, a distinction between what is a game and what is not a game. This is an important distinction, I think.

  57. @ Epsilon

    “Experience debt incurred from being killed by an NPC is considered harrassment”

    You are very persistent, but take a look at the link at the bottom of this blog posting:

    http://dmyersloyola.wordpress.com/2009/07/14/just-some-twixt-related-links/

    Is CuppaJo wrong? Do you think I should continue to respond to charges such as yours?

  58. @dmyers:

    Pardon an assumption based on the press about your work. Any time something gets talked about as an “experiment,” I assume design.

    Out of curiosity, why did you play Twixt in the way that was described? Was PvP all or only part of what you did in game?

  59. The observations I made, mentioned in the newspaper article, were restricted to play inside the single level 50 (40-50, actually) fully consensual pvp zone inside CoH/V. In order to enter that zone, you had to be of a sufficient level, plus agree, in compliance with a splash screen when you loaded into that zone, that you were willing to participate in pvp. In addition to live opponents (heroes vs. villains), there were a series of npc-related goals for you to achieve inside the zone. These goals were made explicit in an area safe from all attack, a staging area, for both factions. The game was set up so that heroes could prevent villains from reaching their goals, and vice versa. I — and others — played within RV in order to accomplish these goals.

  60. From the articles I read, it seems like you were playing in a PvP battleground, except that by custom, players did not PvP. Do you have a theory on why that might be? Maybe your fellow gamers find killing others “wrong.” This is, at the very least, a bit ironic considering the way they treated you. I can see an interesting argument about morality here.

    My opinion on virtual communities is the following, and I’m quite grateful to your work for provoking reflection. They feel like real communities. I didn’t say they are real, but they are “imagined” in the sense of Benedict Anderson’s imagined communities. A virtual world and one’s identity within it is constructed much the same way as concepts like “the nation” or “patriotism.” In a way, these are all equally imaginary. It does not surprise me that the denizens of CoH/V took your actions seriously. I think that you are correct in that there is a key distinction to be made between in-game and out of game behaviors.

    It’s odd, maybe, that people don’t want to play the game as intended. I tend to look at that as a design flaw–a place where the developers don’t understand their own game. CoH/V might even feel “more real” than the much larger WoW community. With less developer-based content, player-based content (like social rules that seem to contradict the official rules) takes over. Maybe in a perfect implementation of the game people would PvP in the PvP zone. Clearly, CoH/V deviated from that!

    It’s easy for me to understand your detractors’ perspective. My role as a guild master and would-be mentor for other players has largely been to encourage others to behave themselves in game as they would in real life. In other words, never to use the hackneyed “it’s a game” excuse for bad behavior. Guilds often have a set of rules that’s much more strict than the game itself. I don’t think any of my organizations would have cared about characters training NPCs onto the other faction in PvP zones–heck, in WoW, that perfectly describes the most typical Alterac Valley defense technique. PvP in WoW is simply very different–it is more common, and there are no consequences. However, I have personally enforced guild-only rules against profanity, racism, sexism, ninja looting, yelling during PvE encounters, and a host of other behaviors that are totally legal in the game world. I place a pretty high importance on custom–in my case, the particular game customs that promote civil behavior. I don’t think I’d play MMO games without some player-based customs to make the imaginary world a nicer place.

    The fact remains, of course, that your opponents stepped over the line with their responses to you. I still feel that the onus is on the developers of the game to “protect” players from threats. There should have been no avenue for players of the other faction to act like idiots.

    However, I understand that your detractors see you as the kid who stamps on their sandcastle. They built a social world with customs, and the player Twixt messed with that. I am trying to get you to see how important the sandcastle might have felt to people and thus to understand their responses. I’m not saying the way you play is “wrong”–I’m just trying to shake your notion that it was entirely “right.”

    My main worry is that your research will be used maliciously. I would ask you, when you publish, to try at the very least to be fair to your fellow gamers and take into account everything that they are. It’s not all vigilante justice and screaming profanities. You see, I am a closet gamer. I would worry about my prospects for continued employment if anyone in my department knew what I did in my free time instead of watching television. I am always stunned when I see public figures like yourself talking about or teaching about online gaming. There are already numerous articles describing most gamers as “addicts” when in fact the research says that games don’t cause anything resembling a chemical dependence. Your work represents gamers unfairly, I feel. It’s certainly not as balanced as it could be. I worry that the uninformed would read your statement “I received a death threat from a gamer” as “all gamers are dangerous deviants.” I would hate for MMOs to become illegal or even more marginalized than they already are as forms of social interaction.

  61. Wow… I’d like to read your paper on this Professor. The reaction from people just on this page reinforces your earlier assertion. Not only are they attacking your gameplay style, but they’re attacking your credentials and even your intelligence. I for one have always thought the the MMORPG “scene” was populated with whiny social miscasts (Kids who were picked on in school who never got past it), but the level of venom of these “sore losers” (Odd… what could they win anyway in a virtual world other then peer support?) is completely amazing!

    Have a great day and continue your amazing research.

  62. “by custom, players did not PvP”

    Not exactly. Some did, some didn’t. Some told others how to pvp, others just did it. I was one of the ones that just did it.

    In most cases, I believe, players did not pvp because it was advantageous, outside of the game context, for them to do so. That is, they farmed influence(“gold”) for rmt, or they wished to eliminate the risks inherent in zone play in order to achieve the rewards available through zone play (primarily loot of some kind). Some would say they wished to cheat the game.

    Investigating the community was not my main concern in entering the zone to play; it was forced upon me to consider how I might play inside the zone despite the community. This is the primary reason I concentrate on the harassment I received: it interfered with my (and others’) play.

    I have heard many arguments like yours, on this blog and elsewhere, that explain things from a guild point of view. I don’t often see explanations directly addressing these two questions, however, which would be of interest to me: Why, if your (as an example only) guild was so successful and supportive throughout the MMO, would that guild seek to dominate and control some single and isolated aspect of that MMO where there were explicit game rules operating contrary to the guild’s wishes? And, second, should there be some reason to justify a guild (or guilds) wresting control of the game rules from the game design, why must those rules be so exclusionary and, for many other players, unfun?

    One of the problems I have seen in the game studies community is that game studies research is much more often positive and supportive — even glowing — of social activities such as those you describe, than that research is probing and analytical of the mechanisms and consequences of those activities. In the case of Twixt, I feel I was able — just barely and perhaps only by the skin of my teeth (the verdict is yet ongoing) — expose some serious concerns about the price we must pay for the benefits you claim.

    You believe I have judged gamers unfairly. I believe I have judged social players — not gamers — much less harshly than I might have. The pressures on Twixt were, if anything, even more severe than I have described. And those pressures continue.

    You would hate for MMOs to become illegal. I would hate for MMOs to become more private and seemingly secure from objective scrutiny than they already are.

  63. I’ve never played CoH/V myself, so your last comment strains my level of experience with that game specifically.

    I’d say that WoW guilds don’t go against the rules. Rather, they either add rules, usually in the vein of social behaviors, or they enforce rules that aren’t usually enforced (rules against hate speech, for example, that are extremely hard for developers to police). Mind you, WoW is a constantly changing game with rules that adapt based on player feedback. My understanding of NCSoft is that they are a very different company from Blizzard. I would say that, in the context of my game, there is absolutely no motivation for any guild to break game rules. However, I would also say that “not PvPing in a PvP” zone isn’t exactly breaking the rules. It’s just playing badly, right, and making yourself an easy target. If I attack a mob and then take a phone call in another room, I haven’t broken the rules. I’ve just played badly. However, maybe the community of CoH/V feels that the design was poor or the rules arbitrary. In the case of perceived developer injustice, I can picture a rebellion brewing. Perhaps that’s what this really is, a pacifist mutiny within your game.

    This is not to say that I’ve never put a stop to someone’s fun as a guild officer. The reason to put a stop to fun is simply to protect the rights and well-being of others. Guild rules exist for the same reason that classroom rules do. If a student ridiculed another student (which has actually happened in my classes) I would put an immediate stop to it. My game personality is influenced by my classroom personality, which means that I’m sort of a wet blanket at times. Some people do find it fun, for example, to make sexist jokes during a raid. For my guild, I actually made–and daily enforce–a rule against “rape” jokes and metaphors. One could see that policy as restricting the fun that people have in game, but I think it’s worth it for the peace of mind of the women in my guild (of whom there are, guess what, only 4 out of about 50 active members). To some of the men in my guild, sexist jokes are part of gameplay. I don’t know what Blizzard thinks, but they don’t punish people for them. So, I bring my own moral point of view into my guild and educate my members about sexist language. Is this “wrong”? I have a clear opinion, but I can’t predict what you might say on the point. You could say, perhaps, that my rules are exclusionary, in that they infringe on the free speech of my guild members. I believe my extra rules to be worthwhile in that they make gameplay more gender neutral, which I view as a positive good for both men and women.

    For the record, I don’t think PvP is an evil on par with rape jokes. It is clear though, that behavior that would be unexceptional in most games somehow was in the game you chose to play. Did you ever consider switching to something with a PvP focus?

    I think that what you’re dealing with in your CoH/V PvP zone is a multifaceted issue that has many causes. I don’t think CoH/V players are any more vicious than sports fans, commuters or WoW players. If I had to point a finger somewhere, it would be at game design. As I see it, the company (NCSoft in this case) has an obligation to provide a safe game world. Clearly, if Twixt were as famous and hated as he seemed to be, developer action was necessary.

    Had I been the game developers, I would have taken the simple step of preventing cross-faction communication. That probably would have been enough to stop people from harassing you. It seems like what they were doing, with all the f-you type comments, was the equivalent of road rage. They might consider such outbursts part of gameplay and thus, not something that should be taken seriously by the interlocutor. As for the guy with the death threat? That’s scary, and I have no idea what his intentions might have been, but I think he’s probably an outlier.

    There are other things that NCSoft could have done to solve the trouble.
    1. De-incentivize non-PvP behaviors in the PvP zone. Why are players able to get rewards without PvP anyway? Remember the context I’m coming from to explain my puzzlement. I don’t participate in WoW PvP, and I don’t get the rewards for it. This is fine and dandy.
    2. Depenalize deaths. This is always a good thing for a game. I remember reading about a gamer suicide after his character died. It just does not seem to me that anything should be particularly high stakes in a game, and gamers measure stakes in time invested.
    3. Make their PvP zone truly player v. player and not PvPvE. NCSoft is trying out a more fully fleshed PvPvE system in their new Aion and I’m curious now as to whether it will cause similar issues.

    In the end, the players have little power, and it is naive to expect people to react kindly to something their customs say is harassment. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that mob rule arises in the absence of authority. It is the company that must take action. Banning individual players is not enough. Your experience exposed some serious designed flaws.

    It is my sincere hope that no one actually intended to harm you, the person. I like my road rage metaphor for this. As much as people might shout and honk in traffic, no one really pulls out their sidearm and starts shooting (or else, not that I’ve heard). I’d hate for 60 Minutes to pick up this story and firmly believe that a huge community of gamers actually wanted to kill a real-life person. There is always that one psycho that becomes the poster child for a whole community.

  64. “if Twixt were as famous and hated as he seemed to be, developer action was necessary”

    I believe we might agree, but not as to the direction of the action necessary. I remain convinced the game inside RV was fun and well-designed and ruined not because of Twixt but because of those who said he ruined it.

  65. “Why are players able to get rewards without PvP anyway?”

    They were not allowed to do this by the game rules, so they went outside the game rules with impunity and attacked Twixt’s integrity and motivation, as they continue to do. Herein is the greatest source of oppression.

    “Depenalize deaths.”

    Virtually all characters in this one zone — RV — were level 50 characters. Death is meaningless, there is no penalty, other than a (very) brief pause before continuing competition.

    “Make their PvP zone truly player v. player and not PvPvE.”

    I am unsure of the distinction here. In a PvP zone, all players are capable of attacking and being attacked. This is true of RV.

    I can say that the direction of your misunderstandings are typical and your assumptions leading to those are likely correct: If the characteristics you describe were present in RV, then why was there this conflict between pve and pvp inside RV? I agree. Why indeed? It seems as though the pve interest would have moved elsewhere, but it did not do so.

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