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On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Dog (but everyone knows you’re a jackass)

On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Dog (but everyone knows you’re a jackass)

October 29th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Gaming wouldn’t exist today without the internet. It has changed the way we share information, the way we communicate, and the way we live our lives, totally and completely. Gaming in particular is affected thanks to ability to play online, and to share information about games in such diverse mediums as IRC channels or blogs. Working at an ISP, I see first hand the impact of “the tubes”, and know that it would be a much, much different world if none of this existed.

The internet still continues to grow and change however, and affect our lives in more diverse and interesting ways. Social networking is an excellent example. I’ve connected with friends I haven’t seen in years thanks to Facebook, and have made deep and meaningful contacts with people over e-mail and forums. Yet at the places where social networking sites and channels come into contact with gaming, I don’t see much of a change in the way that it affects gamers’ social behaviors, particularly those they have in the real world. By that I mean that gamers are usually socially awkward, not really brave enough to talk to or meet new people, for fear that their interests that they so love will be rejected. I do not think social networking changes this basic IRL social behavior, even given that social networking is specifically adapted to let like minded people group together.

Twitter hasn’t been around long enough to have a real component or factor in gaming, or on gamers, I think. I’ll choose to ignore it for now, unless someone can point me in a different direction. The most interaction I get out of Twitter when it comes to gaming is following funny things that @cwgabriel and @wilw say. Twitter to me feels like it’s still figuring out what it’s trying to do, and I don’t think social interaction is something it’s actually good at. Two people have to be interacting to be having an interaction. Then again, there are some excellent examples to prove me wrong.

Facebook might be one of the newest form social networking takes, and it relates to gamers in interesting ways. Besides becoming fans of games such as WoW, D&D, and Modern Warfare 2, popular games have actually spawned on Facebook. Foremost among them is the omnipresent Farmville, and its spin-off/rival Island Paradise. Mafia Wars is another excellent example of a game that spawned entirely in Facebook.

Yet for all Facebooks’ ability to make people interact, I don’t think of these games as multiplayer, or indeed, particularly interactive. Maybe it’s because I haven’t played them (and likely won’t) but all that I see are applications on Facebook that try to be RPGs, rather than actual games. Really, for these applications it breaks down to “do this task over and over again”. Examples of actual games that run this scheme better? I can think of a few.

But really, social networking is more than just Facebook and Twitter, and has been deeply involved in the gaming community for a long time. Blogs, IRC channels, Forums, and E-mail lists have been influential in steering modern gaming culture, and none of these relate to real world interactions much, with the possible exception of E-mail. If you’re not familiar with it, John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Dickwad Theory(vaguely NSFW) is an excellent example of why interactions over the net break down, and why the basic social behavior of gamers isn’t significantly changed online. People who hide behind façades of internet identities have nothing to lose by being rude and abrasive, arguing about nerfs to their favorite class abilities and insulting each other endlessly. Arguments over the internet can’t be won, and indeed, are often lost by even claiming to win (see Danth’s Law). When we feel empathy for people, we tend to behave better towards them, and that empathy is lost when connections are channeled through the lens of a computer screen. Gamers are too shy to get to know people in real life, and too proud to accept people in cyberspace.

Overall, social networking hasn’t done a great favor for gamers. It hasn’t really hurt them per se, but it’s not like friending someone on Facebook or following them on Twitter is actually going to give you a social connection with them. It may give them a starting point, and connections have to start somewhere of course, but these communication methods only facilitate interactions; they don’t make them any easier or any harder, and they’re certainly not going to teach gamers Wheaton’s Law.

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  1. Snagger
    October 29th, 2009 at 20:01 | #1

    Good post.

    I did have a question. Do you actually think that gaming in general would simply not exist today if it was not for the Internet, or is that hyperbole?

  2. October 30th, 2009 at 08:30 | #2

    Don’t think I’ve actually said that here, and it certainly wasn’t my intent. I was just trying to comment on the relationship between gamers’ behavior and social networking.

  3. Snagger
    October 30th, 2009 at 10:08 | #3

    It was the first sentence of your post. I was just curious. :)

  4. October 30th, 2009 at 10:12 | #4

    Oh. Well…fuck you then. I suppose I meant, though it’s been a while since I wrote that segment, that gaming as it is today wouldn’t exist without the internet. Gaming of course existed before the tubes, but I don’t think that anything has had as singular an impact on our hobby as the internet.

  5. Lark
    November 1st, 2009 at 11:36 | #5

    “Twitter hasn’t been around long enough to have a real component or factor in gaming, or on gamers, I think.”
    Like anything on the internet I think this increases networking between gamers. My friend A. had a wide network of acquaintances and friends who she hits up for games of Left For Dead by tweeting, I’m sure scheduling raids could occur in the same way.
    Also, Twitter itself can be the platform a game. Have you tried bot-racing? Compete with your friends to see who can get the most followers with a single tweet. Hot words like “dating” and “real estate” can get you 30+ new followers in 30 minutes.

    Re-reading your point on Facebook games makes me nod a little more the second time around. They do lack an interactive element, at least the ones that I have played. Even Lexulous, the Scrabble knock-off (which I challenged you to) sometimes takes days between moves, which means that the playful quality of hunkering down around a board game with friends is completely lost.

    However, I think that your assessments that “social networking hasn’t done a great favor for gamers.” and “it’s not like friending someone on Facebook or following them on Twitter is actually going to give you a social connection with them” are completely off! FB gives a tenuous but very real connection to people who you may have met at a boardgame meetup, or through a LARP and might otherwise have no contact with. This does forge stronger bonds, especially with minimal effort put into the relationship. (By ‘minimal effort’ I do not meal constantly sending apps and quizzes to people, but I mean commenting, IMing, posting funny and/or meaningful updates, linking to things–even silly single-player flashgames–and more or less making yourself known.)

    You seem to be discounting that wild beast the Casual Gamer (a cohort I count myself part of, since I haven’t had time for a tabletop game in over a year and I’ve never been a console gamer.) Are multi-player games inherently /better/ than single player games? I bridle at that accusation, since often when I want a game I just want to put my brain in neutral and play some Bejeweled.

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