Gaming Online… for the greater good?

I stumbled upon this blog post by a student gamer at USC on a professor’s take of online community ethics.

As a gamer, however, I find that is not always the case. If the game design rewards cooperation and being nice to one another as in WoW guilds, players will do it–not for altruistic reasons, but for self interest–and if the game does not reward those behaviors, like in Halo 2, where intimidation and threats may help you win, players won’t behave that way unless forced to by the threat of banning.

Gamers are always looking for something new and when they cannot find anything else new to learn, they lose interest. To keep things new they want to share ideas with others and gain new ideas from them. This interaction essentially creates the online community. But then this idea of self- interest comes into play. Gamers want to share more because they feel they will gain more from others returning the favor. The sole reason for contributing to the community becomes self- interest and what one can gain for himself. Also, players will play how the community is set up. If the community uses trickery to gain an advantage over an opponent, a gamer will partake in this activity. If the collaboration with others is involved, they will be invested in their partners to help each other succeed. The individual essentially adopt the ethics of the online community to succeed, and doesn’t take into account his or her own ethics. This is where I feel the line between reality and virtual reality is crossed in online gaming. If one has different ethical views in real life, for example, stealing is bad, but plays Grand Theft Auto and engages himself in the community, how can that community be ethical? I hope this is clear to others, but I feel online communities do not have a clear code of ethics, nor can they ever because of the context in which games are played. Therefore, can online communities really be communities at all because each person is in it for personal interest and nothing is really done for the greater good?

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3 thoughts on “Gaming Online… for the greater good?

  1. I agreed with you up until your last question. “Can online communities really be communities…” Yes, I think they can. Not only that, I think many online communities outside of gaming host a really strong code of ethics.

    Not all online communities, gaming or not, have a clear code of ethics. It’s not written down or anything, but when honest people come together over a common interest (online communities)– ethics are shared. I consider myself to be part of only one online community which supports a musical artist. This community invests money (I pay any where from $130-$200 a year) in a musician, but in return for being part of this community, the musician gives me free music, free tickets to concerts, allows me to go to any of her recording sessions and I now have a network of her fans to rely on for when I travel to go see her concerts. I think this is as ethical as online communities get, and its definitely a community.

    Sorry, I cannot speak about ethical video games with any educated answer- I have never played a video game in my life (save Tetris) but there are definitely things for the greater good being done in online communities. My $150 isn’t buying anything in particular, but its for the greater good, because when combined with everyone else’s money, recording studio costs are paid, producer costs are paid, and so on.

  2. As I was reading your post, I took a walk down memory lane… To the days of high school. What you were describing about a gamer’s interactions with other gamers, to me, sounded like the various cliques that occur in the high school environment. For this example, I will use the music junkie clique. Say student A was into a certain genre of music and met another student (B), who also shared musical interests with student A. Well, when student A finds himself in a rut (i.e. runs out of listening material) he/she will collaborate with student B to find out newer artists, bands, etc. After awhile, more people get involved and they set standards for their music and now might try to distinguish themselves from the other students at school. People start to compromise their ideals to fit in with the group and yadda yadda…. Sound familiar?

    I think as long as the group in question is comprised of more than two individuals, is distinctly identifiable, can agree on certain things, and can coexist with each other, then by definition, it is a community.

    com·mu·ni·ty
       /kəˈmyunɪti/ Show Spelled[kuh-myoo-ni-tee]
    –noun,plural-ties.
    1.
    a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.

    Now whether or not the gaming community is for the greater good, I don’t think anyone can for sure say whether or not it is. My opinion however, is simply this: this is just like having an extra set of friends who can in a sense “hang out” with you while you play your favorite game. I guess the good that can come out of this is simply the satisfaction of interactive entertainment and a few hours of slipping away from reality. The bad? Well, it varies on the individual, but on the bigger scheme of things, you are definitely wasting time rather quickly.

  3. Not every game has a clear code of ethics. Ethics are mere guidelines to behavior conducting in the real world. In the virtual world, different games require seperate guidelines.

    As in your example of Grand Theft Auto, the purpose for the game is to steal cars. Whether it is ethically acceptable in reality doesn’t have anything to do with the game itself. Games are created as a form of entertainment and games such as Grand Theft Auto aren’t as interactive as World of Warcraft, which in turn, doesn’t require constant game “time.”

    As I previously stated, games (in any form) are created to entertain. Whether the game works positively for the “greater good” had no barring. When you focus on sports, nothing is being done for the “greater good” either, but the mere entertainment of following your favorite teammate/team should be enough.

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