Stepford or Beaver

leave-it-to-beaverAll communities have the quirks and foibles. Whether it’s your physical neighborhood, your poker buddies, or the group of players across the network of computers we call the internet. Any gathering of people is going to have it’s cliques, and Karen’s. As communities get larger, the divisions of groups do as well. We learn this behavior from an early age, just look to high school. My school experience was actually fairly clique free (or maybe just I was), but there were still obvious groups of people who shared a similar attitude. We had jocks, and preps, nerds, beautiful people, everything in between, and everything outside of it. My experience showed that many people crossed groups frequently, and we all cohabited in relative peace and happiness. I would say that is a good measure of a healthy community. People from different segments are still able to venture into “foreign” territory, and still find enjoyable and welcoming environments. The problems arise when this type of cross-over does not result in a welcome reception.

Someone being kept out of the circle is done for any number of reasons. Outlooks on life and philosophies on societal behaviour can be so drastically opposite, that it may be impossible for some people to reconcile differences and find any common ground. A basic human reaction to difference is fear and anger, and the base response is to lash out in an attempt  to drive it away and not disturb the homeostatic comfort zone of the individual.

So, what does all of this have to do with video gaming? Well, if you’re here, you’re part of a community. A community of gamers who like to talk about and participate in a hobby. We seek each other out, so that we can all have a shared experience with like-minded individuals, reaffirming our own personal experiences (*Ding* I’m now a level 2 blogger!). The blogging community that I’ve experience so far has been more like Leave it to Beaver. We have a warm, inviting, and helpful group of people. We all do this for the same reasons (more or less) and want each other to succeed and do well. I’ve never had any requests for assistance, but if I ever did, I’d give it, and pray to God I didn’t screw a person up in the doing. If you look at a blogroll, that’s a very direct way of trying to keep connections across a vastly disparate region. The sheer vastness of the internet can be daunting, and those links are powerful way of remaining linked in to the gathering of bloggers. We have our Eddie Haskells for sure, but for the most part, we’re all just like a friendly neighbor who wants to wave to our friends and feel secure in what we do.

When you look at specific communities tied to a particular game or idea, things tend to start leaning a tad more toward a Stepfordcommunity. Not in a men-controlling-everything-and-making-robotic-spouses kind of way, but more in the way that things can appear idyllic, but in reality be a sham. Sometimes even the appearance is gone. There are only a few ways to measure of how a gaming community interacts with each other. In-game behaviour, and wherever they gather to discuss the hobby out-of-game, typically forums.

In game specific forums, I believe the reason for the aggressive, abrasive, and unwelcoming divisions of players stems from the innate conflict present in the hobby. In the genres attempt to appeal to as many play-styles as possible, games are released with a huge array of customization options for the player. From just the base appearance, to actually abilities, personalization of an avatar is something that the players want. It helps the player lay claim to a segment of the game, and have their own identity applied to it. Ownership and responsibility of an inherently ephemeral reality. Standing out and being unique helps each player to see themselves as a more concretely “real” being in the game-world of their choosing. This mutability of ability and appearance will inevitably put them in direct conflict with other players It may not be in the terms of battle, but in competition for a role, or for inclusion in the community.

Before MMOs, MOST games were played to be won. Whether linear, or free-roaming, there was a begining and an ending. With the introduction of the internet, and online gaming, finish lines became blurred, then completely erased in many cases, but the drive to “finish” remained. This need to win is what drives many players, and completionism is a very powerful incentive. It will make a person examine, re-examine, and test out the best possible combination of variables to determine the set-up to most likely bring success. “Winning the game” means adhering to a strictly regimented profile to most easily cross that invisible finish line. When players step outside that profile, and break the mold, they are no longer “playing to win”, and why in the world would anyone not play to win? That is where the clash comes in.

The inability to understand why a player has decided to neglect optimum performance to “win” at a game, is why we often see conflict. An innate desire by some players to be unique and different to lay claim to a portion of a game-world meets up with completionists. It’s playing the game to play a game (the journey) compared to playing a game to win (the destination). You see this clash of personality types frequently. You need look no further than to the forums of WoW to see this happen on a regular basis. People’s desire to play in the manner they find enjoyable will ultimately clash with a game designed to take you through a series of encounters on a treadmill of advancement. Staying on this treadmill means staying in shape, and that means optimum performance.

If I ever quit WAR completely, it’s community is one of the things I’ll miss the most. For a game that is specifically designed to create conflict and tension between two sides, the forums are surprisingly tame. You have the typically upstarts who try to domineer the landscape, but for the most part, even enemies get along. My experience has been that everyone is there to have fun, and they enjoy the hobby. Players from both sides are known to hop around to the enemies vent channels after getting stomped and coming on to laugh about it with their killers, or to talk a little good-natured smack. It’s ironic to me, that a game that is inherently based around a direct competition, fosters a community more accepting of those in opposition to the individual. Maybe it’s the fact that everyone playing is there for the same reason, and this understanding negates the resentment. Maybe the hostility gets removed when you know you have an opportunity to vicariously smash the face in of the person who irked you through the game. Or maybe by providing a direct enemy, you remove the meta-gaming competition of societal acceptance.

Anyway, that’s my sociological blathering for the day. Blame my wife, she’s the socialogy major, I study graphic design. Have a good-weekend all!

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About Shadow
Making serious business out of internet spaceships.

2 Responses to Stepford or Beaver

  1. Slurms says:

    “Blame my wife, she’s the socialogy major”

    Tell me about it, mines a speech therapist, so every time I hear someone with the slightest speech problem theres a little man inside my head going WHY DIDNT YOU GET THAT FIXED!!!AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!

    But anyways, most of our immediate blogging family has grown from WAR, and I’m happy with what we have. Even since many of us have moved on to other games, we still keep up with eachother. We may not always agree, but hey, thats each of our opinions and feelings about the topics we write. The nice thing is that we’re usually pretty civil with eachother when we disagree.

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