Every time someone in the world does something horrible and is also a gamer, the media makes the most of it. I don't want to cite specific examples here because these acts don't need more press, nor do I want to point out the connections with gaming. I'll leave that to the always entertaining Jack Thompson, Virtual Ambulance Chaser.
I do think that it is natural for humans to try to find the "why" behind horrific crimes, it is just unfortunate that our hobby is the current scapegoat. We don't know what television shows the criminals watch, what books they read, what music they listen to (though all of these have been scapegoats in the past) -- but the media makes sure to mention if some kind of video game is involved. And that is another product of human nature: The Witch Hunt. When we think we've found the reason, we generalize it to every act we don't like. I haven't read that video games are responsible for global warming yet, but it's only a matter of time.
With MMOs becoming pop culture and Wii's becoming commonplace in homes that were formerly console free, the gamer population is growing. This means that more "normal" people will be playing video games with us... and so will more criminals. Along with these, our MMOs are being infiltrated by more of every other kind of person. Stay at home moms who are over the median gamer age? Check. Politicians? Check. World champion athletes? Oh yeah. More straight people. More gay people. More young people. More old people. And of course this also means more rude people, more cheaters, more virtual thieves, more hackers, more inconsiderate people -- more people we would all rather not be around. For the sake of using one word for all players who ruin our fun for the sake of increasing their own, let's call them Funsuckers.
So what can we do to limit our exposure to Funsuckers? There's always the isolationist route: play our MMO like it's a single player game. We can turn off global chats and only do content we can solo. I don't turn off global chats usually, but I do often solo my MMOs. I find that my game time is so precious that I really don't want it marred by the antics of Funsuckers. But the most fun I've had playing WoW has been in groups or Battlegrounds and the most fun I've had in City of Heroes was doing Taskforces, so I'm really limiting my own fun when I do that. And even when I do solo, there's still someone ganking me or "helping" me with mobs or petting my peeve.
That's the real problem. Just like in real life, you are going to have to deal with Funsuckers when dealing with people. And you can't change people. All of your yelling and complaining and arguing is not going to keep a Funsucker from sucking fun -- unless the incident was a mistake or misunderstanding and the person you are dealing with isn't a Funsucker at all. (Then who is the Funsucker, if you are yelling at some nice person who just goofed?) But there are some steps we can take to limit the ill effects of Funsuckers:
Lead by example.
People in glass houses... Do unto others... Instant Karma's gonna getcha... We've had this preached at us forever. But it really does work. The more you do to contribute to a positive environment, the more other non-Funsuckers will have the courage to do the same. You can't change other people's behavior, but you are 100% responsible for your own. I don't mean to get all judgmental on people in global chat or argue in whispers with a beggar. I mean, in the course of your having fun, make sure that your fun is not infringing on someone else's. Treat people the way you would like to be treated in real life as well as in-game.
Don't complain about cheaters and then take advantage of an exploit. Don't go off on someone for being racist and then use the word "gay" derogatorily. Even if nobody finds out that you bought gold, you are perpetuating a non-fun atmosphere by supporting goldfarmers.
Don't rant and argue publically.
If you are in game, play the game. Don't argue in Barrens Chat. Don't correct the spelling of the global channels. Don't lecture the beggars. You are actually doing some funsucking when you take up global chat with out of character debates. Just move on and have fun. Which leads us to the hardest step of all...
Don't let it bother you.
I fail on this a lot, both in real life and in-game. But when I do succeed and let things I can't change just roll off my back, I feel much better. After all, when you let things eat at you, the Funsuckers win. I have a real-life Funsucker neighbor who smokes outside my window. When I asked her nicely to smoke just a little farther away, she lied to my face and still smokes wherever she likes. The apartment complex management is useless in all situations including this one. The only thing I can do to change this situation is move and that's not currently practical. Every time I get angry and spend any time thinking about it, she wins. It's the same thing in-game. If I get ganked repeatedly in a PvP heavy zone like WoW's Stranglethorn Vale, getting upset about it isn't going to make it stop. I can turn it into a bit of fun by getting on my main, recruiting my husband and getting some revenge. Or I can go quest elsewhere. But stubbornly trying to get my Nessingwary quests done with gritted teeth isn't going to do anyone any good except maybe my dentist. So the best thing to do in a Funsucking situation is to try to remove yourself from it as quickly as possible, calm down (breathing techniques, a nookie break, a glass of wine, etc.) and then go back to having fun -- in a different area or character or game.
I don't understand the fun of cheats and sploits and spending real life money for virtual stuff I don't really own. I also don't see the fun of killing the same players over and over, spending hours begging for cash in major cities and spamming global chat. And if doing these things isn't fun, then I don't understand wasting time playing a game that you aren't enjoying. So I have a hard time seeing the side of the Funsucker.
I do see the fun of practical jokes, even if they are at my expense. I don't get angry at the jokester, just at myself for being so gullible. I don't consider jokers Funsuckers, though I know some people do. And that's the "problem" with non-Funsuckers and Funsuckers alike is that we all have different ideas of fun. So if we attempt to maximize our own fun while not infringing on anyone else's and try to have a sense of humor when our fun does get sucked, I think the virtual worlds will be better places even with all these noobs moving in.
Robin Torres juggles multiple characters across multiple MMOs, two cats, one preschooler, one loot-addicted husband and a yarn dependency. After years of attempting to balance MMOs with real life, Robin lightheartedly shares the wisdom gleaned from her experiences. If you would like to ask Robin's advice or if you have a story you wish to share, please email Robin.Torres AT weblogsinc DOT com for a possible future column.