Wednesday, August 27, 2008


When we were kids, one of the tests of our concentration and dexterity was to simultaneously pat our heads and rub our stomachs in a circular motion. I'm not quite sure of what is involved in accomplishing this feat, but most people can do it (for awhile, at least) though there was always a kid who couldn't manage it in a group that gave it a try. Given that most kids couldn't keep it up for long, I imagine it's about focus.

Over the weekend, my CH demonstrated incredibly good concentration as he was relaxing and playing one of our favorite multi-player on-line games, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction (LOD).

If you look at the picture, you can see that he's got each hand on separate mice controlling two characters on two different computers simultaneously. I have enough trouble controlling one mouse with my left hand, let alone keeping tabs on a mouse's action in a game. The only thing that makes this a little more manageable is that the characters he controls move close enough to one another that he can track them both on one screen.

My husband was controlling two characters at once because he wanted to "rush" them. Rushing means that the player wants the characters to advance and develop as quickly as possible. This is a fairly common thing to do when someone has played a game for a long time and no longer enjoys the lower level play as it isn't very challenging once one becomes proficient in the game.

In Diablo II: LOD, one of the fastest ways to rush is to join what are called "public" games because the experience comes faster if the game has more players (8 is the maximum). A public game is open to anyone who wants to join so you end up playing with strangers. Playing a multiplayer game with strangers can be a very enjoyable experience or immensely disheartening. Sometimes you get chatter which is witty and fun and sometimes you get ugly, racist nonsense or unnecessary criticism of other player's playing ability or character "wealth" (or lack thereof).

The biggest pitfall to playing a game with strangers is that many multiplayer games have the possibility of allowing "griefers" to ruin the game experience. A griefer is someone who goes out of his way to cause difficulty or destroy the game playing experience for others. One of the most common ways this is done is for a vastly higher level character to enter a game with new characters of very low level and declare hostility on them. The high level character is well-equipped and has between 10-20 times more life (hitpoints) as the characters he's trying to kill. There's no challenge in killing the other players for griefers. In fact, they aren't interested in challenge, they are only interested in causing others to suffer.

In Diablo II: LOD, there are several ways to grief. One is to go hostile on players and hunt them down and kill them or to go hostile and cause a bunch of formerly cooperative players who were enjoying a good game together to abandon the game. Another, more subtle and insidious way, is to find out what sort of quest a player is doing and then complete the last portion before they can fulfill the steps leading up to the final challenge. Doing this disables their ability to complete the quest. Last night, my husband experienced this when someone blocked the entrance to a chamber where players were to face a big boss that had to be killed. A team of griefers actually performed this. One of them went down stairs to kill the boss and the other stood in front of the entrance so other players could not get through.

I've often wondered why griefers do what they do. Why would anyone extract pleasure from spoiling the fun of others? When you don't operate from a similar mindset, it's hard to grasp their motivation. I've always concluded that it's just like any other form of bullying where a person preys on a weaker party to feel powerful and compensate for their feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth. A lot of griefers justify their behavior by claiming they're "training" people for the fact that they'll have to deal with jerks in real life. However, I believe this is a weak justification and is telling of the fact that the griefers themselves have suffered unfair attacks in other areas of their lives. They seek to rationalize their pain by viewing it as a helpful process rather than their projecting their anger onto innocent targets just as someone else has done to them. It helps them distort their reality so they don't have to feel like victims and gives them a feeling of power to couterbalance the helplessness they felt when they were victims.

When I've discussed this on occasion in gaming forums, I've been accused of making too much of anti-social behavior in situations which "don't matter." That is, behaving poorly in an arena which is virtual and has no real consequence aside from upsetting people who are trying to relax and have fun isn't the same as behaving badly in real social environments or "real life." I agree, but not in the way the argument is meant.

I believe that real morality and personal ethics are conveyed only in situations that are of little or no consequence. If you have something at stake (social rejection, promotion at work, possible arrest), your ethics are not under any real test as you are acting for reward or out of fear of censure and not from your moral center. I think that the way you behave when no on is looking and when you can't be held accountable is a reflection of your true ethics.


'badmoodguy' is mike said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you. Those that bully people from behind the confines of a computer screen are more than likely cowards that cannot cope with the real thing in their outer-worldly lives. Since they can hide behind an avatar and ruin the experience for others, they get a charge that they would otherwise not be able to have.

This douchebagguery is not confined to online games, but online everything. Trolls on discussion boards are my biggest pet peeve. I am sure, however, that if I were involved in online gaming I would find that quite a bit more irritating.

You have now reminded me of a series of incidents that happened a number of years ago that I will have to put in a blog entry. It is funny how some of your posts stir up ideas for my posts. Hope that my riding your coattails, as it were, doesn't bother you too much. :)

Orchid64 said...

Trolls don't bother me too much because they're easier to ignore. You can't really ignore disruptive people in games as they have the capability to inhibit your actions. I guess that makes them a step up on the "jerk scale" from trolls.

The main problem with trolls is that there are always people who fall for their bait and allow a discussion to become side-tracked. Of course, sometimes they are subtle enough that you're lured in slowly and don't realize what is up until you're in pretty deep.

The main thing I always hated about these people is that they'd have a long debate with you and at the point where they could no longer "win" any points in the discussion, they'd say 'ha, ha, I never meant my original statement. I only wanted to get you juiced,' when clearly this was a change due to the fact that they were drowning in the sea of points being made by others which made them look bad.

Regarding your "coattails" comment, I'm flattered if I inspire a memory in people and they want to share it. Feel free to ride away any time. :-)

I only dislike it when people mainly use my posts as a springboard to make posts "disagreeing with me" in such a fashion that they distort what I say (generally overly-simplifying or picking and choosing random portions rather than taking issue with the true purpose/point). I don't like it when people essentially use my posts as a "strawman", particularly when I'm not even saying what they imply I'm saying. This is pandemic in web discussions, of course, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Vin D. Alsace said...

Blocking your husband from entering the cave to kill the boss was a metaphor for griefers' inability to get a girlfriend in real life. I'll let you surmise how the cave metaphor works. :D

Orchid64 said...


Next time I'm in a game and that happens, I'll definitely remember that.

Thanks a lot for the laugh!