Hello again bog,

It’s been a while since my last post, but I have been up to a lot lately.

First off, my Thesis draft is complete, so of course I always have a lot to talk about in terms of social issues in games.

Second, I finally got my website up and running at http://www.jfountaine.com though I am still getting some of my previous work up there.

I also bought my tickets and got my arrangements set for GDC Online, really looking forward to a couple of talks that are going on there. A lot about narratives and MMO communities, hoping to speak to some more experienced individuals about my ideas and see what they think.

Also since starting the Game Production Club at Full Sail I’ve been working on a lot of small projects to get producers and developers to come in and speak to students about their experiences, as well as provide advice on how to get into the industry, that has been fun. We have a producer from Germany Skyping in next week, I am looking forward to that, we are completely revamping the way the club works and making it more awesome than ever before.

Also I am organizing a huge event at Full Sail for the Extra-Life campaign to raise money for Children’s Hospitals if any of you kind onlookers would like to help us out, my personal goal is $200 since I am not sure what to expect, but out team is shooting to raise $5,000, the link to donate is: http://www.extra-life.org/participant/36909

It’s an awesome cause so I am looking to see what the turnout I get is.

Any how Ill have some more relevant posts in a couple weeks either at GDC or after GDC, depending on how busy I am.

P.S. If you are going to GDC and wanna meet up, feel free to contact me through my website 🙂

 

-J

 

 

Aggression in video games, where to start…

Recently I have discovered some studies discussing co-op in violent video games and their affects on aggressive behaviors. A popular study that have been conducted multiple times before is to have people play certain games, one group typically plays a violent game and the other group plays a nonviolent game, and then they give the people 2 letters and ask them to finish the word. If they finish the word with something associated with anger or violence (KI – Kill, etc.) it generally tells us that they are in a more violent or aggressive mindset.

The studies I found involved cooperative game play and found that people who played violent co-op games (Halo and Halo 2 were used) we found to be friendlier or more cooperative with other players, as opposed to the players who played the single player campaigns of the games, or played strictly single player games.

That’s cool an all, but aren’t those games the ones we typically see issues with when it comes to players being dicks to one another?

I suppose if a group of people who know each other, or who are in the same room are tasked with playing a game cooperatively they will be nicer to each other.

That’s not the way the real world works. Games like Halo and Call of Duty have team multiplayer, they have co-op, however, in the online multiplayer they still pit players against each other as individuals. People need to get the highest kill count, or “that asshole stole my kill!”. Granted, teams that communicate, and work well together, and focus on success as a team tend to perform better and also tend to play better with others, but those aren’t the people we need to worry about.

So, interesting study, but I do take some issue with it, what is important to me is that people are looking into it and that there are results.

On that note, I feel like games like Portal 2 and Mass Effect 3 do a wonderful job of getting gamers to work together. Portal puts people in a position where they must depend on each other to proceed through the level. Mass effect puts players up against a common AI foe, although there is the sense of personal achievement.

When it comes to aggression in games, and influencing player behavior the way information is delivered can greatly affect the way people react to games. Positive reinforcement in games will do wonders to improve player relations. Studies have shown with children that by changing the way in which you present information will change how it is perceived. For example “If you don’t clean your room you won’t get ice cream” versus “If you clean your room I’ll give you ice cream”.

By taking punishment out of the equation the child is more likely to clean their room and do it without arguing. Small things similar to that, rewarding good behavior, rather than threatening punishment upon good behavior might help with the way people interact in online video games. Granted, I discussed how I approve of ArenaNets’ actions with the player bans, and I still stand by them. To some extent if we as an industry are going to start expecting people to act a certain way online, we need to begin enforcing it, although punishment is fairly ineffective without rewards. That is to say, we need to reward good behavior if we are going to punish bad behavior.

Simple, right?

 

J

Hello everyone, a busy week it has been indeed.

I know in my last post I said that I was going to discuss aggression in games and ways to mitigate, but while conducting my research yesterday I took a break and defaulted to Gamasutra.com when I happened upon an article about ArenaNet (Guild Wars 1 and 2) and their response to players within their games acting like assholes. I lit up when I saw this, perfect timing and a perfect example for what I am doing.

As I mentioned previously I am looking at addressing social issues within gaming and I meet a lot of resistance in that area with people denying it as an issue. As you can imagine, it is quite refreshing to see a larger company recognizing the issue and also doing something about it.

Essentially what it came down to, if you are raging on another player, have an offensive name, or are cussing and swearing and calling people names or making obscene comments in public chat, zero tolerance, you will be banned.
If you exploit anything in the game, you will be banned, in fact, there was an incident where ArenaNet permanently banned 3,000 + players for taking advantage of a weapon vendor exploit (purchasing hundreds of weapons in order to get upgrades faster for dirt cheap), and temporarily banned anyone who exploited it to a far lesser extent.

 

 

 

 

 

Its all over the internet by now and I am just adding my voice to the choir, and I think it’s a damn good thing that they are doing. What’s more, the GW2 community is extremely accepting of it. After browsing the Reddit page where people were allowed to ask ArenaNet reps about their bans, many people understood why and even apologized for it.

“I thought it was funny, it was most definitely stupid and offensive, and I have now learned my lesson. I think this punishment is fair and I can’t wait to get back in game and start fresh. Keep up the good work!” said one player who was given a 72 hour ban for the name “Adolph Critler”

The gaming community is extremely childish and I think to some extent gamers will do a lot just to see what they can get away with. As seen in the above quote, someone knew what they were doing might have been offensive, but once they got caught they lightened up, realized that someone IS watching, and was completely accepting of the ban.

I fear that a lot of developers are far too worried about their bottom line in terms of implementing such procedures, but as an industry we need to stop allowing racist, sexist and just general offensive behavior from going unpunished. We don’t allow it in public social spaces, why should the fact that we are on the internet make it any different. It is also important to note here the difference between swearing, and offensive language. There are profanity filters, they are there for a reason, people are allowed to cuss, and people can choose whether or not they see it ( I personally never care enough to turn off the filters unless I am in the options menus for some other reason) however, a profanity filter can not stop the intentions from some of these players from being read.

ArenaNets’ actions have done a lot to show that the gaming community and industry is ready to start growing up. Quite frankly, the people that have an issue with their response to these situations, I’d rather not play with them in the first place, if they are offended and quit the game, so be it.

I should also mention that their twitter exploded with support following these events with people commending them on their effort and expressing their interest in buying the game, if only for their commitment to community.

On a side note, I’ve been nominated for the Lieber Blog award…I’ll get to more on that later 😛 (Thanks Chris Taylor)

Aggression. Next Time. I Promise.

J

 

Sources:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolpinchefsky/2012/08/29/arenanet-goes-on-the-offense-with-its-guild-wars-2-offense-policy/2/

http://www.reddit.com/r/Guildwars2/comments/yxx3m/suspensions_for_offensive_names_and_inappropriate/

http://gamasutra.com/view/news/176713/Guild_Wars_2_This_is_how_you_do_community_management.php

So, again in my endless quest for knowledge, I have been looking into a well established construct known as Deindividuation.

To keep is brief, it’s the concept that in large groups, or even in uniform, people have a tendency to lose their self-identity, in the case of the group, they tend to act with the hive mind, rather than their own. One extreme case of this comes from Oklahoma University in 1967 where a disturbed college student stood atop a building and was threatening to jump to his death. There was a large mass of student outside who seems to get caught up in the events, and as a group they all chanted “Jump! Jump!” … Guess what happened? Yeah, guy jumps, he dies. (UPI, 1967)

Was individual in the group of people thinking “Oh man, how cool would it be if this guy killed himself?” No, but as a large mass of people who have a certain sense of anonymity, certain inhibitions are lost and group mind takes over.

Another study showed women dressed in outfits similar to the KKK administering electric shocks to study participants, it was shown that these women were more likely to shock the people more frequently, and for longer durations than women who didn’t have their faces hidden and were wearing name tags. To further explore these results, another study was conducted in which women were dressed in nurse outfits, in this case there were much more critical in how they used their new-found power.

What can we gather from this?

Perhaps the outfit we put on has an effect on out behavior! Whodathunk?

Whats my point?

Online video games incorporate both of these things, we have deindividuation through groups, and through character creation, we display ourselves through our avatars, who in many cases are not us. Additionally, larger groups of gamers are more likely to troll and harass than gamers who are talking one on one.

Part of my research involves finding solutions for these issues, to find people who might slip into these habits and, assuming they don’t want to be an asshole, help remind them of who they are while they play a game.

One thing that I think worked a bit was when blizzard introduced their new battle.net friends list and forum settings, where people could not hide behind their character names as much, this didn’t actually change what you knew about each player who posted, other than their name, but even that added a certain level of accountability, and made players post as who they were. Sure, Blizzard lost a lot of fans this way, but perhaps the amount of trolling on their forums has been reduced.

I would almost support this sort of thing being normal, we have social networks such as Facebook out there where just about anyone can see, at the very least, your name, so why not have gamer tags provide players names, yes this will remove the gender anonymity in some cases, but psychologically, I believe it will reduce this “loss of self” in games and allow people to become more aware of who they are while interacting with people on platforms such as XBL.

It is my personal belief that there are a lot of people out there in the gaming world who do and say things they don’t actually mean. Not everyone online is a troll whose sole purpose in life is to make other people feel like shit, but there are people who simply lose that sense of self, and need a little help in recovering that while they are assuming these digital masks.

Thanks for listening! Next issue: Managing Aggression (in games) 🙂

J

Eve Online

Eve Online

Hello again everyone,

In my never ending quest for more information about sexism in games and such, I stumbled upon this wonderful article about a women who has been playing the Massively Multiplayer Online Game EVE.  Rydis is one of the most prominent players in the game and is extremely successful despite, or in fact because of being a woman (this will be discussed). What the article highlights is simply how he felt about her position as a woman in gaming and seeming, an observation of the way she was treated as such. In her early years with an organization in the game she was given an offer of advancement (not terribly familiar with the way EVE works, sorry) in exchange for a picture of her boobs…She obliged, and was boosted for a bit.

What interested me here was how she was able to use her anatomy to her advantage. Oft the perception of gamers is a bunch of drooling nerds bumbling on the internet over any boobs they might see. Well, unfortunately for her, that’s the case.

So sure, this helped her out at first, but eventually, one can notice and change in peoples attitude, people want more “proof” that shes a girl. From what I gathered, this didn’t bother her too much, but it just shows how ravenous male gamers can be, it exhibits a certainty that women will be harassed if male games figure out that they are female.

“Female gamers are judged, harassed, and subjected to pressures to which male gamers can’t begin to relate.”

Rydis is a wonderful success story from the EVE gaming community, and I myself have known some wonderful women gamers in my days who have forged such an identity, but you have to wonder how many people pick up a game, deal with this harassment and realize that its not worth it. When you can’t speak into a mic, and share in the fun that everyone else gets to in co-op play, how long will you enjoy this game? Just some food for thought.

Also, Rydis has a delightful secret to her success despite her identity, you’ll have to read the full article here if you want to know more:

http://themittani.com/features/real-rydis

J

Alright, so I am a graduate student working on a thesis trying to solve and issue with the way women (among other minority groups) are treated in online social games. From the common sense realm, I want more people to feel comfortable playing games online (both MMOs and Shooters) without the fear of being harassed. From a business perspective, I want more people to feel comfortable playing video games, so the industry can sell more video games.

Some of you may be thinking “But Jeremy, that’s not the issue with games!” and to you I say “Nay!”

Handling diversity in the gaming industry and a issue that we have been hiding under the rug for quite some time. It is in part because people don’t know how to deal with it, hell, it’s an issue beyond the game industry that people don’t know how to deal with. There are a few outspoken folks in the game industry who understand these issues and want it to be heard, so I am here to help those people be hear, as well as deliver my two cents.

I’ve been catching a lot of flak about gender not really being an issue in gaming, but the people that say that just aren’t looking for it or are looking away from it. In my research I look into various ways of improving diversity awareness, and in addition to doing my research I will share this information with anyone who should stumble upon my blog. So strap in, enjoy, and let me enlighten you! 🙂

 

J