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Jan 04, 2006



>I don't remember having that sensation with pen-and-paper games back in the late 1970s: that was all geeks all the way down.

I've only read and heard about about pen and paper rpgs, but I thought the participants were invite-only.. Assuming that's the case, would the relative anonymity of MMORPGs account for the misanthropic and griefing behaviours to some extent?


Ah, accusations of "powergaming", the last resort of the loser ;-)


I've never thought that misanthropy correlated with powergaming; rather, I think it correlates with lack of consequences, and at high levels of instrumental play, there's a LOT of consequences. If you annoy people, you don't get to go on the raids, which means you are shut out of advancement. So your value to the community had better be a net positive. I think all the games that force player interdependence tend to reduce grief play.

FWIW, the percentages that the operators typically see of "misanthropic behavior" hover in the 1-5% range.

That said, one of the characteristics of the type of guild you are operating within is a tendency not to interact with random strangers, to eject those who do not fit in, and so on. To what degree do you think your current observation is biased by being in a "gated community"? I've always had a concern over cliquishness (and thus group homogeneity) in MMOs.


Worse... what does it mean for us Introverts, even in the game world. WoW looses it's appeal for me much above level 40 for the very reason that all you extraverts out there seem to think that the game takes off at that point.

Sure, I've grouped, I've done instances, but that's maybe 10% of the time I spend in Kalimdor. Blizzard has succeeded in producing a game where I can't succeed, with a built in glass ceiling. Ah well. 1-40 is still fun.


Regarding unpleasant behavior.

I finally just read "Freakonomics" (Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner), and was introduced to the idea of a "frown power" campaign to fight bigotry. Attributing the idea mostly to political newpaperman Stetson Kennedy, they described it as simply encouraging people to frown at folks who made bigoted remarks.

The subtlety of a frown makes it powerful because people are willing to use it. You can frown at somebody walking by on the street or sitting at another table in a restaurant without (in most cases) fear of getting into a heavy confrontation. It expresses disapproval in a way which is likely to be remembered but unlikely to make someone impassioned.

That subtlety seems to be missing in a world of ascii and animated emotes. If I express my disapproval for some behavior, it's a very concrete disapproval. That means folks are less likely to do so, and more likely to raise hackles when they do.

Just a thought based on something I was recently introduced to.


"If this guy and I were both in sixth grade together, he'd steal my lunch money and smack me into a cinderblock wall for good measure."

About that, try a french server if you can. I'd wager it goes for other countries too, i just happens to have experienced the us (EQ) and french case (Wow).

My impression is that the assertive+immature+bigoted types are fewer and, well, more generally frowned upon.


I've noticed a distinct sense of "Those other guys are weak and pathetic" mindset regarding The Other. In the case of WoW, it's on roughly a dozen different levels (other guilds, other faction, other server, other playstyle, etc.).

In Dragonrealms, where the vast majority of the players are contained to one server, but generally choose to call one area of the world their "home", it becomes a matter of geographical location.

Crossings, the newbie city, is widely regarded as a haven of immature and idiotic persons, a font of contamination and commonly derided as "cursings". Most other areas have different atmospheres, and since there are fewer low-level creatures to gain experience from, are dominated by high-end players. The islands, in particular, since they sport the highest level creatures. The islands make it a habit to deride the entire mainland: none of this localized ridicule for them.

I've seen and dealt with my own share of annoying players, some of whom are high-level players who have learned the art of PKing--including how to ensure that they have "consent", as per game rules--and refined it down to a science, and remain immature and aggravating.

Beyond this, I suppose I don't have any useful contribution to make. =)


I wonder if isn't, in fact, axiomatic that a successful social grouping, focussed on co-operative activities (a server's dominant raiding guild) simply *cannot* survive if made up of misanthropes and anti-social smacktards?


>Worse... what does it mean for us Introverts, even in
>the game world. WoW looses it's appeal for me much
>above level 40 for the very reason that all you
>extraverts out there seem to think that the game takes
>off at that point.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but if you're introverted, what on earth are you doing in a social MMOG? I can't fathom getting anything more out of soloing in WoW than out of playing one of the many vastly superior single-player RPGs out there- and if I crave being able to talk to my close friends, I can play in windowed mode and have a Google-talk window open.


I'm an introverted, casual player of World of Warcraft. Vykromond, imagine yourself to be an introvert in the real world. Would you rather be in a world filled with nothing but objects and AI-controlled automatons, or would you rather be in a world filled with real people?

A world filled with avatars controlled by other real people is simply more interesting than a single-player console game. This is true even if one is a solo player, but I've noticed that many non-solo players don't seem to have considered this point.

Also, I'm not a complete introvert in the real world. I'm married, have a set of dear long-time friends, have friends at work, and so on. But in the real world, as in WoW, I have little taste for grouping with others in the sort of flat, uninteresting context that one finds in a group quest. The virtual world falls very flat for me, compared to all the ways that I can relate to others in the real world.

There is also the more WoW-specific consideration that a great many WoW players seem to be underage males. I'm a 43-year old male, and I find the idea of hanging out with teenage boys online uninteresting. If I did find that interesting, I'd be a little concerned about myself.


I also have recently joined the best Horde guild on my server. It was a long, twisted, strange journey (I now have 3 level 60s) to get there.
It has been fascinating. First I started off in a small guild of people that were just friends from a local game company. The guild was very small and I found myself never grouping with them. Basically it was a (rare) chat channel. I didn't really do instances until I was 55. By then I had switched to a guild that had a completely different mindset. While the previous guild was focused on doing tradeskills and making money off the auction house, this new guild was very obsessed with obtaining blue items. Everyone was decked out in blue items and calls for instance groups went out all the time. I didn't know it at the time but I had found a great example of a leveling guild. Anyone could join, I became an officer in the guild, we promoted sharing very strongly. You could not sell stuff to guildmates and good items would be saved for people and mailed to them. The guild had alot of kids in it, alot of actually really bad players but nice people. I left that guild when rampant greed made our early MC runs hell.

After that I started drifting, and fell in with a great group of people that happened to live near me and played late at night as I did. This was a small guild of about 15 people. Many knew each other IRL. And they introduced me to ventrillo.

Ventrillo made me realize that at least half of those people typing in broken "plz" leetspeek were adults. Previously I'd been dismissing those people and using that type of typing as a warning sign to get out of the PUG now! This guild had a nightly "schedule" of running an instance a night. Nothing formal it just became the time we all logged on. The people were exceedingly generous, and we got everyone insane amounts of loot and obtained whatever they wanted. Immense fun to play with such skilled players.

Only the healers in that guild could raid (they had an alliance with my old guild) so after several months I moved into a powerguild. And I mean power. These people are hardcore. They play constantly, they are decked in purples, have a full website and are highly respected in pvp and are on the bleeding edge of pve content. The first thing I noticed was the guild was much more "mercenary" than any of my previous guilds. If something dropped that nobody needed it did not go to the guild bank, it got rolled on and sold in the AH. Certain items were banked in order to make special items for tanks and the like. There are priorities on all loot and you better not be a doofus on taking gear that isn't great for you. Selling to peers is encouraged. People are very hungry for loot and sometimes screw each other to get it. The guild chat is also very...crude. In ventrillo, however, I realized that these people are a solid core. They are very mature and have great and patient leaders. Their speech is very articulate, nothing like guild chat. They have little tolerance for mistakes but understand they happen. They are considerate of people and make them feel a part of a greater purpose, appreciated, and are not just using them to advance themselves.
This guild uses dkp, but one thing I haven't seen is if the raid is full you can be on a waitlist to get in. You get full DKP while you are waiting. This is incredibly powerful and smart move. It ensures less hurt feelings about who can go on the raid and it ensure people are around to fill slots that open as the raid goes.

I've found this guild much much worse at running instances, I call it "raid sloppy". They are spoiled by their power and so people will do moronic things in instances (like pulling the BRD bar.. grr, wiping in UBRS.. wtf?). However in raiding they do not mess around at all and are incredible. I've never been in such a high end guild before. I have to say there are jerks and wonderful people its a matter of hanging with the people you like. There are also more..unstable.. people than I've seen in other guilds. Not sure why this is. Could be the level of obsessiveness that the guild demands.


Rich A> There is also the more WoW-specific consideration that a great many WoW players seem to be underage males. I'm a 43-year old male, and I find the idea of hanging out with teenage boys online uninteresting.

Amen my brother. I would pay serious money to be on an adults-only server. Of the things that have attracted me to RP servers, the RPing has not been as important as the way the name filter keeps out male adolescents of all sexes and ages. Boy culture is annoying and upsetting to me, for reasons similar to what Tim expresses - sense memory of being pummeled.

(You non-Americans need to understand that in our country, smart kids don't take tests when they are 12 and then get separated off into schools where it is safe. Rather, unless you're really rich, you stay in with everybody else. And, because you're somewhat sensible and sensitive relative to the norm, the norm naturally beats you up all the time.)

Anyway, since I never make it to high levels in these games, I don't know whether instrumental sociality weeds out the jerks. If it does, that might explain Tim's reversion - in WoW, busy people can still reach the end game. Maybe once you've done that, the powergamer-PvP culture looks much less like boy culture than it does at, say, level 21.


Thanks for the response, Rich A.

>I'm an introverted, casual player of World of
>Warcraft. Vykromond, imagine yourself to be an
>introvert in the real world. Would you rather be in a
>world filled with nothing but objects and
>AI-controlled automatons, or would you rather be in a
>world filled with real people?

I don't see that "the real world" is analogous to any virtual construct, whether one populated by AI or people...

>A world filled with avatars controlled by other real
>people is simply more interesting than a
>single-player console game.

Why? What exactly makes it more interesting, particularly in light of the concern you raise later in your post that you don't like the social atmosphere in WoW (too teenage)?

>Also, I'm not a complete introvert in the real world.
>I'm married, have a set of dear long-time friends,
>have friends at work, and so on. But in the real
>world, as in WoW, I have little taste for grouping
>with others in the sort of flat, uninteresting
>context that one finds in a group quest. The virtual
>world falls very flat for me, compared to all the
>ways that I can relate to others in the real world.

What exactly is flat and uninteresting about WoW group quests, especially as compared to solo content? It seems rather a leap to me from a general attitude of introversion to the statement you make here.

As for the virtual world "falling flat... compared to the ways [one] can relate to others in the real world," we can agree to disagree, but more importantly: then what is so "interesting," as you said previously, about the virtual online game as opposed to a single-player game?

What keeps you coming back?


One point for Dr. Castronova:

>Anyway, since I never make it to high levels in these
>games, I don't know whether instrumental sociality
>weeds out the jerks.

I would say that it depends entirely upon the guild atmosphere. The top guild on my current main's server Hordeside, one of the premier guilds at raid progression in the game, is about as "catassy" as catasses can get (despite how much I hate that term...). There, socializing only serves to reinforce the juvenile attitudes held by the members. Yet a friend is in another of the top Horde guilds, on another server, and the attitude is completely different: more respectful, mature, etc.

I would say that in the typical guild construct, with one active leader or perhaps a small oligarchy, attitude tends to project downward: the temperament of the leader (or leaders) of the guild tends to determine the temperament of the players who "do best" in it- that is to say, those that stick around and become 'emblematic' of that guild, attracting others like themselves. In any large guild, there will be bleeding of a sort in all directions, but the usual suspects will generally be of one sort or concentrated in a few specific cliques.


First of all, the essay that leads off this thread is excellent. It's great to read such a fair-minded and articulate analysis of the powergamer experience.

But about this introvert thing.... Speaking as another member of the Introverts Who Play MMOGs Club, I'd say we play these things because they're dynamic worlds.

A rich single-player RPG has a certain amount of worldiness, which makes it fun. But once you've played it, you know it. You know the story, you know the characters, you know the settings. There's little more to discover.

In a MMOG, the players change the world in unpredictable ways. MMOGs are surprising in ways that single-player games aren't. It's not necessary to interact constantly with people to be able to appreciate the surprising effects they have on the world, and to produce small but meaningful effects ourselves. It's just necessary for the world to be rich enough to reward other kinds of activities than high level raids and uber PvP action.

Even those of us who aren't social enough to be effective powergamers can -- if the world is deep enough -- contribute to the world in useful ways. That's a reward even introverts can appreciate.

But the world has to be sufficiently deep to allow that, which is why any appearance of a trend toward simpler, combat-only games is disturbing. When only constant interaction with people is rewarded, the useful things that introverts can offer a game world will be lost because we just won't play.

That seems like a lose-lose deal to me, but that may only be because it's my ox being gored right now. If high level combat play were my thing, I probably wouldn't worry about "what will the introverts do?" either.



Why would an introvert play WoW? As the one who brought up the subject I'll rise to the occasion. It's addictive! What's the biggest rise on WoW for me? Leveling my professions, working on my kit (I play hunters, perhaps the best class for Introverts) and exploring. With my first character, a dwarf, I felt the need to go find the Elven lands around level 13. This was knowing NOTHING about WoW in general, I just wanted to explore, to be more tree-huggy. So I asked around a little and set out. Kind of the reverse Night Elf experience of going to Iron Forge. With this character I would spend hours, yes hours, simply walking around exploring. It was gratifying.

Now that I'm more seasoned, leveling my professions was a lot of fun. What can I make now? I could almost always make items two to three levels higher than I could use, just because I wanted to be able to say I could make those, as well as to use my own things rather than buying them from the AH (I sure as hell wasn't going to instance enough to get a few blues, especially under level 30)

There's something to be said for 'being alone in the crowd'. That's a pleasant experience for me even in the meat-world. Standing in a crowd of people you don't know, don't care to know and don't generally care to know you. It LOOKs like socializing, but it's not. We aren't agoraphobs, we just don't like a lot of socializing.

The thing about WoW and introverts however is that the deck is stacked against us. Sure we can have fun making little jabs in general chat, or the guild chat, but generally we're off solo questing or just grinding while we do that. We pass on Dead Mines because instancing for us is like going to a party, it's draining. There's a reason they call a party of adventurers a party. So we skip the instances, the elite quests and do a few PUGs here and there for the tough 'normal' quests we're doing. Which leads to.... inexperience when we do have to start instancing to keep progressing. Think Gnomer or Scarlet Monastery. Even with a Beast Master speced Hunter it's neigh impossible to solo those while they're still green quests. So we skip them, or we end up in a party that has kids that have been spamming LFG since Elwynn forest that are starting to understand the party thing.

The first parties are tough, especially when you're learning about tanking, aggro, and what your job is there. A few bad experiences and the Introverts go away and hide playing the non-elite quests, missing out on the blues and purples and further hurting themselves for when they REALLY need to start grouping after 50 or so. Our choices of socialization have left us with what, a decent set of home-made green gear, a few nice things we've picked up on the AH since we've gotta sell our profession stuff there, and a spec that's suited to soloing. We're ready to knock off Uldaman while it's still green, quick before it turns grey. We've become pariahs, reverted to the poor kid in school wearing hand-me down clothes and carrying our brother's old book bag.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but if you're introverted, what on earth are you doing in a social MMOG? I can't fathom getting anything more out of soloing in WoW than out of playing one of the many vastly superior single-player RPGs out there- and if I crave being able to talk to my close friends, I can play in windowed mode and have a Google-talk window open.

To specifically address this: You're right to some degree. I wish I'd stumbled onto Baldur's Gate III rather than WoW (BUTT KICKING FOR GOODNESS!). But as it is WoW is VAST and OPEN compared to other RPG's. Morrowind seemed to be pretty open as well, but I didn't get too deep into it. In WoW, I don't have to blindly follow from one quest to the other, I've got a choice of three or four zones to play in at any level, or I can go explore, work my profession, hell, just go fishing (You'd be be amazed how relaxing WoW fishing is to me) and while some solo RPGs are getting there, there's just something about the breadth and freedom that comes from a more open setting. That and I dig the Elf-music.


Thanks for the replies, Bart and Gary. I think I "get it" better than I did when I made my query earlier in the thread. I may still have a few questions, but I'm also eager not to derail the topic of conversation too far from the premise of the original essay, so if I find something unresolved I'll take it up privately.


Endie's comment goes to the point: a strongly sustained guild can't survive on a misanthropic, "smacktard", griefer sociality. There are such guilds, but they're very unsticky, very prone to dissolution. This was even true I think in early UO: "no honor among thieves". Strong powergaming guilds survive off the same kind of small-group dynamics that social psychologists have studied very heavily, where people do things that they'd almost rather not (like play in a raid from 9pm to 2am three nights a week) because they don't want to let their buddies down. For that to work, there needs to be a kind of egalitarian, mature, stable group dynamic at the core of such an organization. As soon as the guild at large senses that they're just carrying water for a dictator who cares nothing for them, or as soon as the inner core acts foolishly or in ways that cost all the members reputation capital, you're counting the days until it falls apart.

But the result is that antisocial behavior is also monitored pretty ruthlessly. In my original WoW powergamer guild, the core leadership would get quite angry with members who posted stupid things to the official server forum; one person who did it several times was booted. Members were called to account if they were accused of griefing or ninja-looting by *other* guilds (ninja-looting within the guild, unless it was a relatively harmless mistake, was an instaboot).

Raph's right that this cuts down on the serendipity of social interaction within a synthetic world: a guild of this kind starts to become a total social world within the wider gameworld, and relations with the rest of the server start to attenuate. Most of your economic needs are serviced inside the guild, something which has a major impact on WoW's economy across all its servers. A few guilds are your rivals, the rest are unimportant. But there are interesting compensations to coming inside a magic circle, and not just looting ones--the esprit d'corps is a real thing, and sometimes very heady. I happened to be on one night where my guild ran through the last half of Molten Core, and then carried off two lightning raids of the "outdoor" raid bosses Kazaak and Azuergos (who are at opposite ends of te world from each other), in both cases assembling to the combat theater within 15 minutes, ahead of other guilds scrambling to do the same. Then we went and got Onyxia--and this was all in about four hours. It felt comparable to any other kind of "achievement high", and it was clear to me that you couldn't really do anything like that outside of a powergaming sensibility in a DIKU-MUD style MMOG.


E. Castronova :

You non-Americans ...

Hey there! :)


... need to understand that in our country, smart kids don't take tests when they are 12 and then get separated off into schools where it is safe.

Mmhm. Doesn't work quite like that here (you go to your neighbourhood school, usually). I'm not an expert, but i can't think of a country in this case?

I so think there's a theme here that's larger than a school organisation thing. True that the interesting guy/asshole ratio can be depressing at times in MMOG, but a pervasive queasy feeling of "bully at the other en of the modem", may be due less to the way mmog's work than to some "intelligent people are uncool, victims deserve it" u.s. peculiarity.

Corean, germany, whatever players around?


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On the Introvert thing...
I am an extreme introvert (INFP for meyer's briggs people).
Introversion doesn't mean I don't like being around other people. Introversion is an indicator of where you get your strength. An introvert is a person who's strength or drive comes from inside of them. This means that if I'm left alone, I'm excellent at entertaining myself. I'm having fun so it doesn't occur to me to look up other people as much. Mmp's offer alot of options for an introvert, and they are usually good at looking at the banquet and picking something that is fun to them at the solo level. And each time you log in you start off alone. The introvert is much less likely to be the person yelling for more people to come kill x, but they're plenty likely to respond to the call and join up and have a good time. I'm competitive, but its usually internal competitions I'm setting up, like I'd like to get a better mace or kill this tough monster or get materials to craft an x. The introverted player will rarely be the player that complains he is bored in guild chat.

I view the extreme extrovert as someone who's strength/drive comes from outside them. They are often much more overtly competitive (they are much more likely to initiate duels) and much more social as they want the interaction with other people. It feeds their engine. They crave attention, love making a big display and horsing around in general chat, and emoting during fights.
If they are playing alone they're very likely to try to start up a group in guild chat or just hang and talk rather than go farming.

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