Why Virtual Worlds are Coming Down on Antisocial Gaming

Griefers-708954Online gaming, especially in fantasy realms like World of Warcraft and Everquest, is a group effort. So why is antisocial behavior so prevalent?

Pixels and Policy looks at why some players seem driven to ruin the experience for others, and what it means for businesses and the long-term existence of the Metaverse.

Social and Antisocial

The creation of complex quests serves not only to expand play time for individual users, but as a means to foster interaction

among otherwise independent avatars. So what happens when an antisocial player enters the fray?

A Princeton University researcher spent two years in Second Life trying to answer that question. What's apparent is that antisocial behavior takes on a wide definition, and it ranges from the annoying to the potentially criminal.

It can mean anything from spamming chat channels to shooting other players with push guns, spawning items so quickly a server crashes, or in other worlds, shooting one's own teammates or drawing too much attention to a teammate's location in stealth gaming.

One thing is clear, however: Antisocial gaming has a serious impact on the morale and demeanor of the group as a whole, and that feeling often lingers after the original antisocial catalyst has logged off. Could persistent griefing poison a game atmosphere?

What Does Antisocial Gaming Mean?

Antisocial gaming isn't new to virtual worlds, but as virtual worlds become major business hubs (as Second Life is) or serious hobbies for millions of people (as World of Warcraft is) the financial risk of disrupting online gaming becomes large enough to draw the attention of game designers.

Linden Lab plainly states that griefing is in violation of their Terms of Service, where it clearly bans "abuse or attempt to abuse, or otherwise harass another user."

Linden Lab understands better than most how a rocky business environment means trouble for the content creators and corporate clients flocking to Second Life for a taste of Metaverse advertising.

What happens if antisocial gaming negatively impacts real-world commerce on a measurable level? What if a cabal of griefers successfully bring down several of Second Life's islands, or a game server for World of Warcraft? In both cases, real-world commerce is lost through missed purchased in Second Life and the necessity of refunding play time in World of Warcraft.

If bringing down a few islands in Second Life costs content creators several hundred thousand real dollars in missed purchases as well as the loss of any unsaved content, have their rights been infringed? Are they entitled to seek legal remedy in real-world courts, outside the Terms of Service? Give us your thoughts in the comments section.