Star-Fired Beef

A Counter-Rant


Disclaimer: This is in response to Izlain’s post/rant here. I’ll echo his disclaimer and warn of probable inflammatory content below. I tried to not be too personal, since although his rant is what I am responding to, it is really a proxy for wider points I want to make, so you can and should read it with a general ‘you’ as well as a specific, Izlain ‘you’. This started out as a reply to his post but kind of got out of control.

I see why you’re angry at the implication that your character is under attack. And for the most part, it’s justified. But so is the criticism. It’s not the enjoyment of PvP that is being criticised here. It is the enjoyment of certain behaviour. You acknowledge that you’re being an asshole when you behave in that way, so if you enjoy being an asshole, why would you expect people – especially people who don’t know you intimately – to not judge you on that? For the record, your descriptions of your own actions that you term “asshole” behaviour are reasonably tame. Ganking, without context, is always asshole behaviour. Having more skill is not. Deliberately drawing out games that you’ve already won in order to gloat, is. Attacking someone from another team/faction usually isn’t, though there are rare situations that are. Camping someone out in the world, definitely is.

I don’t care that you spent your day looking after your relatives, just like I don’t care that Eri is a childcare worker (and a good one, I assume). That has no impact on, nor is a justification for your behaviour in games, just like it would have no impact on nor be a justification for going to a restaurant and verbally abusing the staff there. You being a nice person in general, which you seem to be, does nothing to mitigate your behaviour in specific circumstances. Your character is built upon many choices and actions over time, and if people only see some of those choices or actions, then that is how your character is going to be perceived. If you want your character to be seen in a certain way, you have to make choices and actions that reflect that. If you are happy with the idea that you might be seen as an asshole by the people you interact with in game or on blogs, because you engage in or defend your right to engage in those behaviours, fine. But you don’t get to then cry foul when you are actually accused – directly or indirectly – of being one.

“At the end of the day, a virtual character in a virtual world is still nothing but a bunch of pixels on a screen, and though a real live person is controlling said mass of pixels, if they are so incapable of separating their emotional stability from their avatar, I don’t think its me with the problem.”

Yes it is you with the problem. The “it’s just a game” defence does not fly. The fact is that there IS a person that you are interacting with. How you treat them has real world consequences. If you don’t know them well enough to know that they will react positively to your behaviour, then you shouldn’t be acting that way towards them. You could behave certain ways towards Eri or Doone in-game, because you know they will understand your intent. The question is, why do you want to behave that way towards strangers who have done nothing to you? I understand and agree with going after people who provoke you in revenge, but why would you initiate it?

I consider myself to be in the same category as you when it comes to the nerd/”jock” split. I have a history of sport, though not any longer due to a knee injury. And I enjoy PvP. But I have always hated that trash talk element of sports, especially team sports. It is always personal to me. I never engaged in it, and I look down upon those who do. There is a difference between friendly banter and trash talk, and many sportspeople don’t know that there is a line at all, let alone where it is. I know you don’t follow it, but in the cricket world there has been an effort made in the last few years to clamp down on trash talk, which we call sledging. More and more people recognise that it is harmful behaviour, not only to the spirit of the idea of sportsmanship but to future generations who look up to these people as role models. You call the culture of trash talk or sledging, societal norms. That is exactly the problem, they should not be the norm. They are the remnants of an obsolete model of masculinity that contributes to the continuation of toxic behaviour, both online and offline, in games and on the internet at large. PvP in games should NOT be following in the cultural footsteps of (especially team) sports.

Your personal experience of being griefed simply made you more motivated. Whoop-de-doo. It still wasn’t a pleasant experience. It didn’t make the game better for you. Many people, myself included, would consider it a reason to leave the game, even if only temporarily. The more it happens, the more likely it is that the exit from the game will be permanent. The fact is that griefing is not a desirable experience in a game. To imply that there is something wrong with the person being griefed if they don’t “man up” and “get over it” is just begging them to leave the game entirely, and to badmouth it to their friends. If you want PvP games (or servers) to be more popular and successful, then allowing players to be driven away by griefing and other asshole-ish behaviour is a poor strategy.

You say that you don’t understand why people complain about PvP when they don’t participate in it anyway. Let me offer a possible explanation. For some people, granted, they just don’t like competition at all. But many others are simply turned off by the asshole-ish behaviour that PvP allows (sometimes even encourages). I firmly believe that if that behaviour were curbed, if not eliminated, then those people would participate in PvP games. If you don’t complain, don’t let developers know why you aren’t playing their games, then you will not change anything. I definitely would play more MOBAs if the communities were better. I’m incredibly glad that Blizz did not allow chat in Hearthstone because I know the type of crap I’d be subjected to. If you want more people to play with in PvP games, you need to make it worth their while, and that means having acceptable standards of behaviour. Complaining about the behaviour of people in PvP games is one way of hopefully inspiring the changes that would need to happen to games design that would entice those people to play.

Your tradeskill analogy is a false equivalence. Combat is central to MMOs in a way that tradeskills have never been (except in A Tale In The Desert, iirc). You cannot go around most MMOs without combat affecting your experience. In EVE you can be ganked in hisec. Even in AA you can get to a certain crafting level without exposing yourself to combat, but past that point you have to obtain materials that require PvP exposure. Yes, you can still opt to spend all your resources buying the mats from the AH, but the point is that PvP has a significant impact on your tradeskill experience. The reverse is not true. You can go through the entire game without engaging with the tradeskill system, in any MMO, even AA and EVE, much more easily than you could avoid PvP combat. If you were “forced” into engaging with tradeskills in order to access combat-oriented content, then you would have a valid point. As it stands, I don’t think you do.

Again, I know that this post is a response to yours, Izlain, but you’re really a proxy for the wider PvP community in this. Your post touches on a great many issues that I find problematic, that aren’t unique to you – I’ve seen them espoused elsewhere, and I wanted to vent as well. Apologies if I got too personal.


16 thoughts on “A Counter-Rant

  1. Well it seems that the original point that got me fired up (I’m cooled off now, by the way) was missed completely in your post. The overall gist of what I was reading was people equating PvP in games to being a piece of trash in real life. That insulted me. Them killing me, ganking me, providing any sort of grief in a game wouldn’t have gotten me riled up. That’s fair game, it’s what the game allows, it’s what is expected when engaging in a competitive PvP experience.

    The thing is, I was never judged in those posts directly. I was just taking up the flag for PvPers everywhere in saying that we’re regular people, just like you. And I don’t judge you outside of the game based on the fact that you don’t like PvP (not you, just in general). So character bashing just because someone might do a little trash talk or gloating seems a little excessive. I do expect people who read my blog or listen to the podcast and have played games with me to glean a little of my character in real life, so I would expect that they wouldn’t be so quick to judge, despite the fact that I might brag about kicking ass in my game of choice.

    To quote myself:

    “I don’t make judgments about people without getting to know them a little, unless of course they blatantly say that I’m an unhinged individual based on my gameplay preference. The reputation games have gotten for being “toxic” sometimes just equates to people being unwilling to join in that type of game, and thus labeling it before knowing anyone involved. Had they some friends that played, perhaps they’d hear about the emergent gameplay and the social nature of PvP, despite the fact that it’s labeled as anti-social.

    I’m a loud asshole, but at least I can admit it.”

    Honestly, I’m not playing any MMO PvP right now, because the game I want to be playing isn’t out right now. I’ve been sticking to MOBAs and other lobby games and at the end of the day, League has more players than any other game on the market, so despite the “toxic” reputation I don’t see the numbers dwindling. It is just a game. They are all just games. This isn’t about “manning up” it’s about being realistic. If you can’t handle losing (fairly or otherwise) then I don’t think these types of games are for you. There are plenty of games to choose from, we don’t have to like them all.

    My tradeskill analogy might be inept, but let’s think about it this way: Take an MMO that you enjoy, and now make 99% of the world PvP all the time. Now instance off the PvE content. Now tell the people who enjoy PvE-only that’s all they get, and to deal it. Now that the tables have turned, how do you like it?

    • I honestly don’t think I missed your point at all. As I said, it was never about “PvP = bad person”. It was about behaviour that PvP enables or encourages, and how that reflects your RL character. I know plenty of people who PvP who don’t engage in those kinds of behaviour, and I imagine that everyone who agrees with the comments your post was responding to know plenty of those PvP’ers as well. So I don’t think there is any generalisation going on about one’s game-style preferences reflecting their character. It is about what you enjoy doing in those game styles that reflects your character.

      It’s not that PvP has a monopoly on bad behaviour. I would expect you to judge me harshly if I declared that I enjoy ninja-looting in dungeons, or sitting my mount on mailboxes or NPCs so that others have massive problems accessing them, or misdirecting mobs onto healers to get them killed. Those behaviours, I believe, reflect your character.

      I can handle losing. I even enjoy losing if there was good competition. I think many people can. But I don’t play LoL anymore because the experience is a negative one, which has nothing to do with the game mechanics and everything to do with the behaviour of other players. Even my wins were often tainted by the abuse from the other team or some dick with a god-complex on my own team.

      I know what you are trying to get at with your last example. But isn’t that what DAoC was about? Isn’t that what EVE is about? Again, I think many people who don’t currently participate in OWPvP games would, if they didn’t have to deal with certain kinds of behaviour. If they could participate in a PvP ruleset without necessarily having to go looking for combat, and could have an impact in non-violent ways. I think they could accept the risk of attack if they knew that there was a legitimate, in-game reason for it, not just some stranger in a bad mood who wants to take out their aggression on someone, or some bully who thinks it is fun to torment others.

  2. Well perhaps you didn’t see it that way. I did see it that way, and I continue to see it that way. That was my whole point in all of it.

    I don’t participate in behavior that would be deemed “toxic” very often. I can admit that it has happened, but when it has I’ve always treated it with the “boys on the court” mentality, in that it happened during the game, and now it’s over, no harm no foul.

    I’ve played LoL for years, and I have had overwhelmingly good experiences. There can’t be that many people still playing it if it is truly that toxic. When bad things happen, you report the person (or don’t, whatever) and it’s over. The game itself is still remarkably fun so I don’t see a reason to quit.

    I’m sure you have some valid points. If we all snuggled in rainbows and played with unwritten laws everyone could agree on the gaming world would be a happy place. Unfortunately the world doesn’t work like that and you have to take the bad with the good. I choose to focus less on the bad and more on the good, I choose to play in environments where I am susceptible to people’s moods and can be the brunt of their jokes/actions. I choose to not get mad, rather to get even.

    I think it’s safe to say that we can agree to disagree on this topic.

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  4. If you are happy with the idea that you might be seen as an asshole by the people you interact with in game or on blogs, because you engage in or defend your right to engage in those behaviours, fine. But you don’t get to then cry foul when you are actually accused – directly or indirectly – of being one.

    Very on point.

    The fact is that griefing is not a desirable experience in a game. To imply that there is something wrong with the person being griefed if they don’t “man up” and “get over it” is just begging them to leave the game entirely, and to badmouth it to their friends. If you want PvP games (or servers) to be more popular and successful, then allowing players to be driven away by griefing and other asshole-ish behaviour is a poor strategy.

    And on point again. This second point I think is a place where all sides can converge. Because at the end of the day, PvP games continue to be unpopular compared to other kinds of games. And I believe it has everything to do with this “if you don’t like it, leave it attitude” which has the side effect of keeping PvPers an ever-shrinking population. Do we want PvP games or not? If we do, we need to figure out how to keep more players in the game and invite those who are curious. Not build fences and put a “no girls allowed” sign on them so we can continue to have our way. Games like EVE NEED more players and a lot of responsibility for why that game continues to struggle with this is because of it’s players and devs. They’re so afraid someone is taking things from them that they don’t see they’re killing their own game — or they’re willing to kill it in order to prove a point about how PvP should be. Don’t win the battle and lose the war! PvPers should know this 🙂

    But maybe that’s an apt analogy. PvPers love battles and hate wars. We love our instant kills. I’ve been playing LoL the past few days and one thing I had forgotten about is how individual players love to seek their own glory in the game, even if it means doing so will make their team lose. I was playing with Izlain the other night and someone on our team played as Garen, and this Garen couldn’t resist trying to carry the team and in the process killed every power play we could have made. We lost that match. This, I think, is representative of the mentality of a lot of PvPers. “me me me”.

    • Can you fix the formatting? The first 2 paragraphs were supposed to be block quotes of what you wrote in the article! THANKS

      • Sorry I am new to wordpress so I am not sure why it isn’t showing the formatting (it is definitely blockquoted in the editor). I’ll fiddle around and see if I can find out – if you have any tips I’d be grateful!

    • Hasn’t EvE had a steady population growth over the years? I don’t think they’re killing their game. Also, with LoL being the most popular game in the world, I don’t see where PvP is a shrinking population. I think most who enjoyed it in MMOs (like me) moved over to MOBAs so they could just get PvP all the time (like me). Not trying to argue, but see a flaw in that logic.

      That Garen was definitely a weak link. That’s where games like League depend on other people to get on the same page, because the team is only as strong as it’s weakest link. This is why a lot of the time I enjoy playing support so I can make plays that benefit the whole team, not just my score. Being the tank is a similar role, but that Garen (whom was our tank) didn’t understand that.

      But when it comes to the MMO PvP space I’m definitely not part of the “me me me” crowd, because I haven’t been participating. I’m just trying to defend the rights of PvP players, but I’m in agreement that we need to find that happy medium where we can all get along.

    • so then, it’s not really the action that’s the issue but the attitude behind it. The way many people gloat over actions or verbally make the other person feel like a lesser player, and a lesser person. I kind of hate that behaviour as well. I too think it very toxic and something that does push people away from the pvp style of experience.

      But the action, be it ganking, griefing and thievery can be rather pure styles of gameplay and sometimes it is just about getting over it and getting on with playing. Sometime people attribute more negative connotations to the act then are actually there. SO, there probably needs to be improvement on both sides. I guess once the action negative communications and trash talking lessens than feelings of personally harassed every time will lessen as well

  5. It’s funny that we are such diametrically opposed groups in this debate. What we deem content you deem see as a problem. We are more disconnected from the avatars we use and kill and you see far more within them. The limits we deem acceptable are also extremely variable.

    Personally I don’t think either side is wrong or right in this debate. We have specific interests and play how we like. I’m just glad that we do have experiences, games and worlds that are tailored to our specific interest.

    • I don’t see us as diametrically opposed. I still love PvP, even OWPvP. I just don’t think that attacking someone “just for the fun of it” is acceptable in OWPvP. To my mind, that is what arenas and instanced battlegrounds are for. I think there needs to be a reason to go off killing reds. Take your Hasla forays with your guild. I’d be all for it if the call went out to farm some tokens for weapons, and if we ended up battling other players for territorial control, so much the better. But if it was framed as “let’s go kill some reds!” I’d be quick to pass on that. I don’t see that as desirable behaviour, to go hunting players for no reason. The only people it is likely to be fun for is the hunters – the people who get bushwhacked are just going to end up inconvenienced at best, pissed off at worst.

      As for avatars, I am not sure where i stand in relation to you guys. I see it as my proxy in the game. We aren’t interacting in person so we lose the body language factor, but otherwise it is a person I am interacting with, in the same way that I’m interacting with a person when I join a chat channel, not just a name. We’ve seen how toxic places like Twitter can get with the GG crap lately, and I’ve seen quite a few people agree that it is at least partly because the users don’t think of their interactions as “real”. I think that is a huge factor in what we are discussing here too – some people allow themselves to act horribly because they don’t think of their actions as “real”. If they aren’t really doing it, then how can it have consequences? How can it have real effects on others? That is the thinking behind the “it’s just a game” defence.

      You’re a rugby fan, aren’t you? I’ll illustrate with an example there. If I’m playing rugby, I’m obviously going to want to get in there and tackle people, get in their way, and generally make it hard for them to score tries. And I am going to expect them to have the same attitude to me. That’s fine, it’s a game, I’m not going to be annoyed at someone for tackling me or whatever. When the game is over, it’s done. But if one guy decides to go all Hopoate on me, or even the seemingly accepted fallback of wedgies, then I’m going to hold a grudge. He’s not playing the game anymore. His character is tarnished for me, and that kind of behaviour is undesirable and unacceptable. I’m here to play rugby, not get maltreated by someone for no other reason than to piss me off.

      With the exception of maybe Ali (which I haven’t seen, but I imagine he was a mouthy guy), every movie I can think of involving PvP analogue sports (usually martial arts or boxing), has the bad guys doing all the trash talk, the dodgy shit, the gloating, the power trips. The hero, whether it be Rocky, Van Damme, Daniel-san, whoever, is always, ALWAYS honourable, humble and sportsmanlike.

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  7. I love pvp and especiallt owp (plays ArcheAge atm) But I dont gank any carebears or lowbies without reason and I never trash talk. Be prepared to get judged hard in a mmorpg if u do. If y wanna do that maybee moba or fps is a better choise.

    Tho I admit that even mmorpgs needs douchebags. How boring it would be without some drama:):) as long as u are doing it with a touch of class u can get away with it, even in a mmorpg environment 🙂

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