by Pixeleen Mistral on 24/10/11 at 1:50 am
I’ve long wondered at the connection between Second Life’s endless supply of over-the-top drama and the strange psychology of certain players -- particularly those seriously invested in “defending” Linden Lab and “policing” the Second Life grid.
What is it about Second Life that attracts and retains obsessive-compulsive meta-gamerz who can’t keep their play inside the game?
Do large land tier payments to the Lab trump civil discourse even when Lab staff are swept up in an ugly cycle of Twitter/Google bombing payback as we saw with the LabRatuOut mess? After a concerted effort to attract the Lab’s attention to the recent excesses of the Justice League Unlimited, some of my friends in The Pink Hands faction are getting a bit cynical.
The golden rule seems to be in effect - those spending the virtual gold, rule. Perhaps Rod Humble is just hoping he can finish his new not-SL mobile-device-enabled game before the house of cards falls.
Meanwhile, consider notoriously toxic trolls such as Jumpman Lane, Kalel Venkman’s Justice League Unlimited vigilantes, or Prokofy Neva -- and the level of effort required to spend years tracking and data-mining other players or mounting an endless series of intensive blog, Twitter, and Google bombing campaigns designed to humiliate and destroy enemies.
Forgiveness and redemption seem to be alien concepts for some
trolls upstanding Second Life residents, which implies a deep psychological need is being addressed. What exactly is going on?
A recent article in The Economist describing how “quite ordinary people will succumb to bad behaviour if the circumstances are right” may hold some answers.
According to the article, Nathanael Fast of the University of Southern California and colleagues at Northwestern and Stanford universities ran a series of experiments to see if social circumstances around power and status have the potential to create “little Hitlers” who annoy and frustrate others for their own gratification - or are certain individuals predisposed to this sort of behaviour simply gravitating into situations where they can behave badly?
The experiments randomly placed participants into one of 4 groups: high power/high status, low power/low status, low power/high status, and high power/low status. Participants were given the option of forcing other participants to perform humiliating actions -- or not.
Those in the low status/high power group chose significantly more demeaning tasks to impose onto other participants, while those in the other 3 groups did not exhibit this behaviour.
Does this mean that the more extreme guardians of Second Life feel they are in a position of low status in real life and are compensating by harassing and humiliating those within their reach?
If, as the study suggests, the combination of low status and high power is a recipe for trouble, I am beginning to think the celebrated free social media tools which empower those dedicated to cultivating their Internet notoriety may contain the seeds of their own destruction as the "little Hitlers" of the social media use their online power to trash everyone else.
Do you still want to play Web 2.0 after watching Jumpman Lane’s Twitter assault on Stroker Serpentine, LabRatuOut’s assault on Esbee Linden, or after following Prokofy Neva’s carefully crafted Google bombing attacks on all and sundry? How do you feel after learning that Kalel Venkman is still expanding and unsuccessfully attempting to secure his Brainiac wiki data mine?
Is this the sort of game you want to play?