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Via Broken Toys: A Loyola University professor named David Myers says that the thousands of hours he spent playing the online RPG City of Heroes/Villains weren't just for entertainment purposes. He was actually conducting a "breaching experiment," a sociological exercise in which "conventional social norms [are] breached and the consequences of those breachings [are] examined in order to better understand the mechanisms by which social order [is] re-constituted."

In layman's terms, the guy deliberately acted like an asshole in an online game, ignored other players' repeated requests that he knock it off, and took notes on the entirely predictable nerd rage that resulted. After more than a year of this, having successfully gotten himself ostracized on multiple game servers, he ended the experiment and published an academic paper about it, "Play and Punishment: The Sad and Curious Case of Twixt." Last Monday, the New Orleans Times-Picayune ran a story on the "dismaying" results of Myers' study.

Myers' paper offers an unintentionally hilarious combination of academic jargon, third-person self-reference, and gamer smack talk:

The inability of Twixt’s opponents to acknowledge his success in zone play was probably, on one hand, motivated by having entirely different, more socially oriented game goals. However, the degree to which villain messages and in-game claims distorted and transformed Twixt’s behavior was drastic. For instance, Twixt was able to win the zone (capture all six pillboxes for the heroes) literally hundreds of times during his year-long period of breaching play on three different servers. Twixt’s opponents, during this same period, may have won the zone, in total, less than twenty times. Twixt was normally able to defeat, on average, ten to twenty villains a night, while villains seldom killed him more than once or twice during the same period of play -- and, more often, didn’t kill him at all.

Rather than acknowledge these successes, Twixt’s opponents refused to admit they occurred: Whenever Twixt pointed to the objective results of his play, he was ridiculed and ignored. At one point, in fact, toward the end of breaching play on the Freedom server, Twixt posted verbatim transcripts of the game’s online combat log as a confirming account of what had occurred during RV play. This post drew severe criticism – most harshly from those players listed in the log as defeated by Twixt; several denied their defeats outright, others attributed their defeats to more devious or pitiable causes (including a rather long and detailed post drawing parallels between Twixt’s behavior and Asperger’s syndrome.)

Game designer and blogger Scott Jennings offers his own thoughts on the professor's experiment here and here. The professor responds on his own blog here (and here and here). The professor's former gaming comrades share their reactions here. Adolf Hitler, not to be outdone, whines about his own online gaming woes here.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 13th, 2009 06:09 pm (UTC)
Man, I should have tried to parlay my SFWA censure into a dissertation. I never thought of that.
Jul. 14th, 2009 07:10 pm (UTC)
I liked the Penny Arcade comic mentioned in one of the comments on Jennings' site: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/3/19/

Although I think that to play PvP at all you have to be kind of a dick in the first place (said lovingly, my S.O. played Warcraft PvP for many months and had a great deal of fun torturing other players). Not that I'm a proper P.C. "social" gamer either. In fact, I only like playing MMORPGs when no one else is there. My problem with the experience is, sadly, not because I am a misanthropic loner who puts Dr. House to shame - which I admit is true - but because everyone else in the game is equally socially maladjusted and that tends to make the interactions awkward at best and at worst (which is more often) depressingly abusive and immature. Maybe when it opens up to wider audience. Nah, that won't help. :P
Jul. 22nd, 2009 09:00 am (UTC)
Well, you know, the Hitler Video isn't as funny when you understand, what he's saying. Because this is a scene of a movie, I think it's "Der Untergang" and he really isn't talking about gameing...It would be much cooler, if it was real comedy and the subtitle was a translation. But in that case it's just silly subtitles with no whatsoever relation to the words he's saying. But I can recommend for example 'Producers' if you're interested in Führer-related humor ;)
Jul. 22nd, 2009 07:07 pm (UTC)
It's a strictly American brand of humor, but there's a whole YouTube subgenre of Der Untergang/Downfall video clips with fake subtitles, in which Hitler rants about everything from sports to politics.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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