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 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) 🙂


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: