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Nov 05, 2006



You wanna see some real-life smack... try reading the comments on some of the more partisan liberal and/or conservative American political blogs. Jebus wept... nobody is every really going to convince anyone of any position with that kind of vituperative, bilious spew... but they go on and on, page after page, same old stuff, hash-hash and re-hash... The few times I've slogged through it, I get tired and depressed just reading it. I can't imagine writing it and thinking that anyone would care enough to read it and be moved beyond just yammering out another smack-back.

Here in Buckeye Country, if you say "OH" I say "IO." Lots of smack talk seems, to me, about as clever and intelligent as that... but with the added flava of negativity and ire.



what you observed is not an attempted dialogue it's just "covering ground", "blocking out", silencing the opposing camp by screaming louder than "they".


In a game, people will call you an idiot when you are in fact winning the war.


I personally despise smack talk, but the connection between games and smack-talking is actually well established.

See Homo Ludens ch. III. In my edition it's on pg. 69. Huizinga describes rituals in several cultures, including ancient Greece, which are pretty much the archaic equivalent of smack-talking. He then goes on to identify it as a form of agonistic (competitive, or "PvP") play.



Yeah. Well. Isn't that a decent definition of "smack talk?" I was just comparing venues.

Here's a sidebar on the subject, btw. I blogged a couple months back about what we here would call "Anti-Smack Talk." I titled it "Anti Yo-Mama," after the MTV show, "Yo Mama" that's out now. My brother and some of his friends started doing, instead of, "You suck!" one-up-manship, "You're amazing!" one-up-manship. The benefits, they discovered, were real and (in the case of getting, er... "temporary female companionship,") measurable.


A lot of smack comes from uninformed opinions about conflicts - for instance, if two alliances are engaged in war, someone who just beat 2:1 odds and came out on top may run to the forums and say "hooray! I am better than these other people and beat them soundly." Another person who talked to his friend on the losing side may get biased facts - i.e. "yeah we lost some but not a lot" in order to save face or downplay the damage. These two conflicting viewpoints clash in the forum, with both sides calling the other liars in order to promote their own version of the facts.

A potential solution lies with accurate killboards in EVE. Only a handful of groups portray 100% accurate killboards, and most of them are mercenaries since their future employment hinges on their current performance. CCP provides killmails to determine who killed who. Human nature being what it is, these can be forged, altered, or ignored so it really takes a strong leadership to enforce accuracy. However, the continued innacuracy of major killboards (see the ASCN / BoB killboard disparities at http://www.killboard.net/ and http://ascn.eve-killboard.net/) keeps the forum smacktalk alive and kicking so one side can win the PR war and the support of the EVE population.

It would be interesting to see if smacktalk would decrease if a MMORPG developer provided 100% accurate kill/loss boards for groups and individuals in a MMORPG. My guess is no, that you would instead see more "cheating" accusations and personal attacks. It seems like people like lashing out at those who made them feel small or inferior.



I'd say that, in the face of "100% accurate killboards" the community would instead question the killboards, challenge their reporting accuracy, what it means to get a "kill" and whether "kill" really has any meaning (winning the battle... losing the war).

Once they've so discredited the boards' effectiveness, they'll go right back at flinging poo at one another.


If CCP (for example) did provide a 100% accurate killboard, then it would automatically become the de facto e-peen comparison method. It wouldn't matter if one alliance had a huge enough manufacturing base to easily replace losses, only that they were losing more ships.

Combat would become even more of a stand-off as people became risk adverse, and since the actual efficacy of combat would be reduced by there being less of it, people would probably smacktalk more to compensate.

I hold the behavior of people in some FPS games up as an example of this: the global ranking system in BF2142 leads to wildly aberrant behavior ingame less concerned with "winning" and more concerned with racking up points.


Dark Age of Camelot's website provides pretty comprehensive statistics on player kills, "keep takes", realm points (like PVP XP points), and other stats. Though there are lots of cheating accusations ("radar"), two other manifestations of smacktalk are players accusing one another of playing an "easy mode" class, and players complaining that the developer is incompetent to have devised a system where other people can win.


Todd: could you expand on players saying that the developer is incompetent for developing a way to tell who "wins"? That's an interesting idea, since I see a lot of competition in MMO games, sometimes carried out to an excessive degree, about who is better. Do players complain that since there's an objective ranking, there's no way to appeal to uncertainty by saying "my buddy is better than you"? The easy mode accusations come in all shapes and sizes, in every MMO: Paladins in WoW, flying a certain type of ship in EVE, etc.


It's actually very difficult to build a totally objective, non-exploitable PvP ranking system (here's a good article on some solutions). In my experience, PvPers derive a great deal of enjoyment from smack talking on the message boards; if you had a real, working ranking system, those guys would be out of things to post about. :) Uncertainty drives a lot of quality out-of-game discussion.


Interesting topic, but I see a potential group-emphasis bias in the notion that smack-talk might somehow contribute to group identity/motivation. I’m currently looking at different sorts of theoretical explanations that result from an emphasis on cooperative group behaviors during MMO play (in short, within most pve) vs. an emphasis on more competitive (and, I would argue, more individualistic) behaviors during MMO play (ie., during pvp). Along these lines, I would say that smack-talk is mostly about an individual positioning himself in relation to other individuals. This most often occurs in group contexts, to be sure, but the motivation, I think, is clearly rooted in self-esteem rather than in, strictly speaking, group identity.

Two (or three) related points.

1. Most smack-talk (in CoX, for instance) occurs after defeat and by the defeated. “Nice FOTM kill, noob; lotsa lag tonight; lol spine/regin; etc.” There are, of course, various sorts of saber-rattlings before any battle, but that appears to be more about nervousness than identity. Smack-talk after being defeated is very consistent, very patterned, and seems a blatant attempt to assert the unfairness of the outcome and, thus, diminish its implications (ie., “I suck”).
2. Smack-talk appears to diminish over time among experienced pvp’ers. Sudden changes in expected fortunes may result in whining in broadcast, but, by and large, those players who are new and/or yet unsure about their individual performances (and related “values”) in pvp are those players most likely to smack-talk.
3. There are definitely persistent smack-talkers, who, for instance, enjoy engaging in “forum pvp.” But I’ve observed these are more often ostracized than promoted by their guilds/groups.

I don’t think these observations are explained very well by the OP thesis.


Dave> I see a potential group-emphasis bias in the notion that smack-talk might somehow contribute to group identity/motivation.

Yes. To the extent that one can appeal to a group at all, there has to be a group. I am inclined to believe, however, that it probably gets pretty complicated. Even mobs of individuals are mobs.

Perhaps a few thought experiments.

A.) a pick-up-group in an arena game: transient group experience, individual ladders

B.) clan matches in an arena game: cohesive online group, group ladders.

C.) RL buddies and their "Death from above!" band on Friday nights: cohesive online group, RL bonds.

D.) World of Warcraft: the state of the Horde or Alliance is independent of the performance of their respective groups. Battle grounds are about individual honor points/ladders.

E.) Role-players in WoW

F.) Eve-Online wars (ignoring 1-1 pvp aspects - e.g. piracy etc): performance or prowess of the individual is often in the context of group circumstances and metrics (from post: "They're taking bigger losses in (numbers/ISK)", "Our killboards are right, theirs are wrong", "They're on the defensive/we're on the offensive" etc)


C., E., F. seem like cases with stronger group ids.

Yes I suppose in terms of numbers, most smack examples are *mostly* about self-esteem displays (How much is that also true of the RW?). Cases like Eve, might introduce into the mix more cohesive large group motivations (alliances/warfare).

Even with WoW - we still see clustering around different ideological views of PvP (e.g. The Price of Serenity). So is it all about the individual?

Going back to Andy's example of partisan blogs. Individual displays or group motivation? I would be inclined to believe both in some mixture.


:rolls eyes.

Linking flesh world politics with MMOGs is such a stretch here... there is no negative ad equivalent because in most MMOGs there is no mechanical equivalent of voting/popularity contests. Players cannot become elected officials with power over game world policy.

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