Julian Dibbell presented “Sympathy for the Griefer: MOOrape, Lulz Cubes, and Other Lessons From the First 2 Decades of Online Sociopathy,” a fascinating look at those who are “spoil sports” in virtual worlds/games. This session tapped into some very strange territory regarding play and the “rules,” spoken and unspoken, surrounding play and interaction online. Fascinating!
Following Julian, Lisa Nakamura presented “Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft,” detailing her research in the emerging stereotypes surrounding “Gold Farmers” in MMO’s like World of Warcraft. It was a fascinating discussion. I also had the opportunity earlier in the day to be a part of an informal discussion between Lisa and others regarding the phenomenon of gold farming and how the player community views it. In my early MMO experiences, such as EverQuest and Dark Age of Camelot, the player community, in my opinion, had much stronger views against the practice of gold buying, though I think the player base of World of Warcraft has a much looser view of the practice of buying gold. That’s ironic and hypocritical, of course, in light of the fact that they shun the farmers. I’ve never seen the need to buy gold in WoW, especially since the upper end of the economy is so inflated with daily quests and easy money.
Edd Schneider’s presentation on “The Temptation of Virtual Misanthropy: User Exploration in Virtual Environments,” was both funny and fascinating. Edd’s research had folks who’d never played Grand Theft Auto, try the game, however, they were told that their role was as a fireman whose job it was to protect the city from fire outbreaks. Before playing, players were warned that they should be careful while driving their firetruck as to avoid running over pedestrians, that the police would arrest them if they did, and that there existed criminals in the game that might try to subvert them from their tasks. Considering the nature of the GTA series, this is hillarious. What’s even more fascinating is how long it took before these players killed their first person, either accidentally or intentionally.