Can Policing Online Activity Become Overbearing?
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 “Let your brother play!”

“Turn that game off and do your homework!!”

“Lights out in five minutes, I don’t care if you ARE on the last level!!!”

Odds are, you’ve probably heard one of the above yelled down the stairs at some point in your life by your Mom, Dad, Grandma or Grandpa. No matter who it came from, it usually signified the same thing; authority figures in gaming are a huge bummer. Now, I don’t know about many of you, but my parents knew virtually NOTHING about video games and considered my activities a slight waste of time at worst (and a serious pain in their asses at best). As it was my obsession (and still is), they usually found it to be the distraction standing between me and the chore or instruction they had given me (which I probably ignored in order to keep on gaming). As a parent, I can now see their wisdom in trying to keep things balanced and in the proper perspective, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I still see authority figures in the world of gaming as a bit of a thorn in my side (or perhaps slightly lower).

However, a new breed of gamer has arisen in the digital age that has made me see gaming authorities in a different light. That gamer is known as the troll.

YOLO, Trololo and other ass-holish sounds are just some of the mating calls of the online douche bag present in the modern gaming world. It used to be, if you didn’t like the trash talking, you just turn around and walk out of the arcade. Or, if your cousin was being particularly annoying, you’d just suddenly decide to go outside and shoot hoops. Now, online play comes down to two choices: play multiplayer and ignore the obnoxious players on mic or turn off your console. That’s pretty much it. Luckily, this is where the presence of authority can provide a buffer (for which I’m grateful and appreciative of their efforts). Company’s usually do a pretty good job these days of moderating their online networks where you can either report or avoid abusive players (sometimes getting them banned from terrorizing other players as well, which is always a good feeling). The problem is you’ll never be able to completely eliminate this element, as most of us have just learned to live with it. I can’t tell you the last time I went to the trouble of filing a negative player review for someone online. Sure I’ve bumped into some who I’d love to choke in real life but, like an annoying fly buzzing around your picnic, I’ve just become a bit desensitized to them. 

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I appreciate the game companies trying to play “bouncer at the club” and regulate the undesirables, but at what point do these efforts cross over into my gaming experience in a negative way?

I’ve noticed a trend lately of what I consider overkill in the policing of online behavior. More and more companies are limiting how certain online lobbies are structured, which features are and aren’t available and how certain social content is accessed. Much of which is in the name of closing windows trolls could use to “potentially” abuse the game experience. Who can forget the massive raid that one group of W.o.W. users launched against another warring guild, who happened to be putting on a virtual funeral for a fellow gamer who had passed away in real life. Their rivals saw this as a perfect opportunity to hit them when they were most vulnerable, and did just that. This led to some members of the warring faction being warned and others even being temporarily banned from the server after reports were filed.

Now, I have all the sympathy in the world for the family and friends of a player who dies, but last I checked W.o.W. was a GAME! A game has goals and accomplishments that people seek to achieve, so why in God’s name would players simply playing a game the way it’s supposed to be played be punished? This is a perfect example of someone on the admin side of things (possibly with little bit too much stroke and not enough common sense) clearly over-reaching.

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I’m not advocating for complete free reign of our online communities, as they would no doubt delve into complete anarchy. However, I do think some know how to moderate better than others. For instance, Bungie recently announced that the voice chat of your squad for its upcoming Destiny will be limited to just your teammates, thus ensuring your big plan you just meticulously laid out won’t result in any enemy parking a vehicle in front of your exit point and spawn camping your team to death. A clear example of how oversight can be done just right, without going too far.

I see the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears as a perfect metaphor for game authority and regulation: not too hard, not too soft but the comfy bed right in the middle should be the target. Let’s hope we don’t continue to see the shift away from this that seems evident.

Jason Messer
Jason Messer
@J8sonMesser

Contributing Writer
Date: 12/11/2013

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