Online Crafting Games Attract Sociopathic Behaviour
A large trend in video games recently has been MMO Crafting games, new iterations of this idea get released day after day. Popular titles of this genre are: Minecraft, Dayz and Rust which I will be discussing in this article. These games gather large groups of players and form their own communities. These communities often have people who “grief” and use their in game powers to ruin other players creations etc. Griefing is a term used to describe destructive behavior against other players. Taking items off another player or destroying another's creations are examples of griefing. Players that do this exhibit signs of sociopathy, they often show no remorse for what they do and can even find it to be fun. It’s interesting to study this behaviour as the players do not act this way at all when in the real world.
Sociopaths are defined as people whose behavior is antisocial, and who lack a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience. It’s also known as borderline personality disorder. This kind of attitude seems to manifest itself more in video games than it does real life. A theory is that the anonymity from video games gives room for the worse parts of a persons personality to manifest. This would be because there are little to no repercussions for poor behavior in most video games. There would have to be a break made here though for real life sociopaths and only in game ones. There’s a certain amount of awareness people will have to their own actions in the real world but in the virtual most don’t think the same. I find personally playing these online crafting games that I would justify griefing or stealing. This is something I wouldn't consider in real life. Games like Rust seem ran by griefers and thieves and then it becomes almost a world order in game. This is interesting as from observing other players in game, I found that they changed how they first played the game. People I know started off by wanting to get together and build a house try and meet others. They got welcomed by getting shot on site by most players or having all their things taken in the night. After a week or so the players decided they had enough and that they would then also shoot everyone on site and take peoples stuff to get by. This triggered what is known as the online disinhibition effect whereby they gradually or entirely lets go of the social norms and rules that are typically present in the real world. This was in part caused by the unfair nature of the games players that they encountered. Consequences also exist in these games but despite that people tend to behave differently when given anonymity. This behavioral change seemed triggered by the games lack of consequence and poor community.
“We got people whose sole reason to be in a game is to effectively shut it down for anyone else.”
-Quote from a gamer on the sociopathic tendencies of some Online Crafting game players.
There are other opinions on whether Rust and Dayz players actually grief and whether or not it’s a completely bad thing.
“I'm not sure it's really appropriate to call players of a game like this "griefers" when griefing is an encouraged game mechanic. People might be momentarily upset when they get screwed over by other players and lose all their hard-earned loot, but it was the constant risk of that happening that makes the game engaging for them. I see "griefing" as entering another player(s)'s personal space and acting in an obtrusive manner that's outside the player(s)'s expectations of what's acceptable”
This makes a good point about the fact some of these games actually encourage this behaviour of taking or destroying others stuff. Taking things from other players and taking a wall out of players houses is commonplace in Rust. Some players take it a step further and place items that prevent you from ever rebuilding a house. It seems particularly mean spirited for a player to do this as it leaves the griefed with nothing to recover with and they’ll have to move on. This is an advanced version of griefing in Rust as this example shows
http://i.imgur.com/SVeTEsD.jpg Above shows where a set of stairs have been taken out and replaced with a unbreakable pole so players can’t fix the stairs
Voice and chat in these games are another way sociopathic behaviour can manifest. In Dayz and Rust you can talk to any players you meet over a headset. Some players abuse this to demean and bully fellow players as they grief them. In real life this wouldn’t happen as much. It’s the anonymity of the game that allows these people to say things they normally wouldn’t to other people. Minecraft’s chat system is global and limited to text chat. Plugins have been developed for Minecraft servers to prevent foul language.
Minecraft is a game where griefing was such a problem a large majority of servers had to disable destructive items like lava and TNT to avoid griefing. Players would burn creations that took others hours to make or take all the rare materials out of chests. This game doesn’t have an inherent griefing system in the rules but it still happens. An example of this is an adult who observed a child playing Minecraft and was surprised by what he saw.
“He finds 3 guys just building a dirt bridge across the lake and goes 'This is what I like to do for fun' and proceeds to swap to a shovel, input the fly command, dig out the dirt under the two guys FIRST, and once they fall, fly backwards demolishing their bridge. Then, waits for them to come back, once they start trying to rebuild it, dig out the ground, open the water and says 'Did I drown them?' with a hopeful voice.”
This can be common behaviour from players in Minecraft but can be disturbing coming from someone young and on a game that is aimed at a younger audience. This can be thought as a way of releasing these feelings into something more innocent. In a game you won’t be really hurting people whereas in real life you can a lot more so. The question though is if it actually is a good form of release or does it nurture these thoughts and behaviours. Chances are that any child who acts out like this in video games doesn’t apply the same logic to normal life. A large aspect of some these games is that you have the fear of losing your things. This adds to the accomplishment of building something despite the other players. Another side to griefing, in minecraft at least, is that some people actually ask to be griefed. There are youtubers who get requests to come and grief peoples servers or projects. In this way it’s like building lego only to knock it down. There can be a therapeutic nature to it when it’s in that context.
Taking a step back from the online crafting game scene you can find that some games have the opposite effect on people in that they found positives in games. Below is an example of this. The faces and expressions of the characters helped her understand it more.
“This game taught me three skills: how to read the emotions of other people, how to set boundaries, and how to handle rejection.”
-Regarding Animal Crossing and how it helped a person with Borderline Personality Disorder
Eve Online is a game with a large community of players that grief and exhibit extensive sociopathic behaviour. Although griefing is a different thing in EVE online there is still a crafting element in the game. Players can build POS’s (Player owned structures) that others will attack and destroy to spite other players. With the game there is also another type of griefing where players can do something that’s known as war deccing to kill other players. After paying in game money and waiting a day you can attack and kill players in the corporation you war dec’d and this is often done to players that can’t fight for themselves. They make sure they are at a large advantage and will destroy many of the other players hard earned ships and items or trap them for days on end. http://ockhamsbeard.wordpress.com/2011/04/11/eve-online/ is worth reading for more on EVE
In conclusion it’s hard to know whether these games can be fully attributed to the behaviour of their players. Some titles e.g. Rust/Dayz seem to encourage the griefing aspects of their games whereas Minecraft is at it’s core a creation game. Most people can differentiate a game from reality and as such will not be affected by how they are inside a game. These games don’t make a person a sociopath from play but more they can trigger or attract that behaviour from a player.