Friday, 17 June 2011

Natural Selection of Elitism Online

Being a long time game player and now considered a veteran of the internet age (having been online in one form of another since 1994), not to mention being a programmer by profession.  I've come to the conclusion that computer games, like World of Warcraft, World of Tanks and even Starcraft II are becoming a Darwinian style battleground naturally selecting for the most obnoxious, self-righteous, selfcentered, dictatorial, demanding elitist jerks.

Its been many moons since I was a competitive player in any online game, not because I can't dedicate the hours, not because I'm shite or have a crap PC.  I'm in fact tooled up to fuck and have been a member not only of large successful WoW raiding guilds but also been a member of a Top 10 placed UK Clan playing the Day of Defeat FPS.

Years ago I played these games and the impact others had on me was minimised, either through the fact that games weren't very social, or that if push came to shove they were communities of people who knew one another.

But, with the vast numbers needed to sustain raiding, with the vast numbers needed to prop up the chosen few I believe people are turning the idea of an online community, which by tradition has always been free, into a money making idea.  But acting snobbish, by being rude, by basically forcing their will on others.  And these are the jerks, the ones who either think they are the community, or whom actually do pull the strings behind the green curtain.

And all these people, in my experience, are just as rude, annoying and selfish as I am describing, they have to be to keep order, they have to be to keep themselves in power.  It's all becoming rather like the playground bully mentality, each day you log onto your game just to make sure there is a clan/guild channel into which you can say "hi".

So why are these people running their own little universes behind games?  Well, some are clearly doing it because they want to be part of the game itself.  Certainly that's how things were around most all half Life modder communities paying DoD and CS.  But, now-a-days their seems to be other avenues... such as money making.

With the advent of gold buying/selling, with the advent of accepting paypal (for example) donations often clan leaders are pushing their members to make purchases (in such games that allow purchases - e.g. World of Tanks) through certain suppliers.  They even sometimes barefacedly ask for money.  Sometimes one can understand this, such as clans needing to run voice servers.  But with the cost of servers and bandwidth out there being relatively low what is going on behind the scenes?

I have an example (which I am allowed to share with you, so long as I keep is annonimous) where a player of a game was a member of a large guild.  They wanted a certain item from a certain boss, and had been with their guild for sometime trying to raid and receive the item. They had the points needed to claim it, and to their viewing they had put their time in, been a social member of the group and had earned the right to say "hey, i have the points, I'd like that item".

You know what the loot master said to them?... $50 and its yours.  And you know what... my friend sent him the paypal transfer... and the guy never gave the chap the item.

He has sinced stopped playing that game, and like me is in MMO limbo.

That is just one example of how bad situations can get; and for a gamer that chaps story brings him out pretty low.  At the end of the day he's stopped playing that game.  Yes he did something stupid, he did something crazy.  But he did it out of desparation, to turn the hours upon hour he'd sunk into doing nothing (aka playing this game) mean something to him.  That time meant nothing to me.  It clearly meant nothing to the guy in charge of the looting that night.

But it meant something to the player, and it means something to the game providers bottom line, because that chap has stopped subscribing to that game.

So, I wonder whether there is not room in the MMO space for a game which does away with the seeming law of the jungle that is the current social interaction channels.

An example of that need came up long ago (some what tongue in cheek) but during the fiasco which was Perpetual Entertainment going bust and the rights of Star Trek online being passed to market.  There was an MMO live blog, reported at the time by the great Jeff Green.  It was fun, and one chap was reported to ask whether him being who he was (i.e. a Star Trek officianado - aka nerd/geek/whatever) would equip him to survive better in that game?  The answer upon release was a resounding "NO".

However, that person sounded slightly above average in intelligence, he sounded like he had a select group of people with whom he would end up playing Star Treck Online with... I wonder which way his group went?  Elitist Jerks, or nice guys?  Which way did their jungle drive their social interaction in that game?

Because that is the other selection pressure on these Elitists, it feels to me that the younger they are, the more then want, and the more they want the faster they want it... this is maybe a good explanation of the current generation of Teenagers out there... consequently though this speeds up the elitism.  Because whenever something good arrives, say an item drop, they want it before anyone else can have it.

So, why do I bring this all up?  Well, I've just been thrown out of a clan.  Well, when I say thrown I mean, when I logged on last night I no longer had the clan tag after my name, and when I went to the Forum - the place to talk about the game - I was told not to ask... Pretty arrogant if you ask me... And the only reason they can get away with it is because I'm just a name, just a bit of text on a screen, I am nothing to their every climbing the ladder of achievement, I am a rung onto which they can stand.

And you know what, I don't like it.  I'd prefer to stay at a low/mid level at something than to tread on someone else to climb higher.  This is true both in games and in real life.  Unfortunately I am in a minority... but hey ho, lets see what the next half of 2011 brings... might there be a new game out there with a more be and do, than achieve and go, mentality??

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