TED Conversations

Gary Riccio

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Community Organization and Impact in Online Games

We would like to have a conversation about interpersonal interactions and relationships within the communities that organize around online games. Our intent is to create a "natural laboratory" for this TED conversation by grounding the conversation in contemporaneous experiences of gamers that both reflect and influence the attendant community experiences. We are exploring this as a form of "participatory journalism" (see e.g., http://bit.ly/MgDdwA)

Use your browser (not the search utility in the panel at the upper left of this page) to find key words that will direct you to important topics in this conversation to date. Visitors can then reply to the relevant post or write an "original post" (OP).

* raw person or raw individual
* identity or persona or self
* self efficacy
* leadership

* engagement
* communication
* second-person standpoint
* communities or commitment

* respawn or one-life or lobbies
* mental health and wellness
* hard conversations
* civic hacking or civil hacking

* friends
* teach or learn
* civilized
* the long tail

Community interactions also can be interesting and consequential outside the context of the gameplay around which the community organizes. We believe this potential for games is poorly understood by the general public. Yet there is an intense and general curiosity about what occurs in the interactions among gamers and in the impact of gameplay in society.

Our claim is that there is "no neutral" in the effects of significant interpersonal interactions that occur in online games. Games have prosocial effects or antisocial effects irrespective of genre (e.g., first-person shooter games).

We are exploring this topic in a variety of forums such as:
http://griccio2103b.wordpress.com (e.g., tags: prosocial, violence),


Closing Statement from Gary Riccio

Our stated intent for this TED Conversation was "to create a natural laboratory for this TED conversation by grounding the conversation in contemporaneous experiences of gamers that both reflect and influence the attendant community experiences."

We refer to this kind of conversation as "diaβlogue." This is distinguished from a web-Based LOG of one’s own ephemeral opinions. A diaβlogue utilizes multiple communication platforms to create a distributed and decentralized collaboratory for systematic development of capabilities. It thus is a synthesis of best practices in “continuous beta” and "open innovation" (see http://tinyurl.com/Riccio-diaBlogue).

A diaβlogue removes walls between insiders and outsiders, it tends to eliminate the distance between presence and remoteness, and it blurs the distinction between first-hand and second-hand experience insofar as it provides all networked participants with inescapable accountability for their impact on each other and on their respective situations.

This TED Conversation built on what had been mostly oral communication between behavioral/social scientists and informants in and around a particular online game community over a two-year period. It has created a collaborative journal that is open to the public and, to the extent it is edifying, for the public good.

The TED Conversation did, in fact, both reflect and influence the contemporaneous experiences of gamers in the Division IGR. This collateral impact is documented at www.thedivisionigr.com as well as https://twitter.com/D_IGR and https://www.facebook.com/THEDIVISIONIGR?ref=hl. We believe we thus have made some progress in developing or at least promulgating a new form of participatory science journalism (http://bit.ly/MgDdwA).

While our intent was to build bridges between communities of practice rather than to draw a large audience, we are pleased that the open conversation has drawn outside interest ranging from "Linked Wellness" to "Blended Learning."

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  • Mar 7 2014: Rockstar’s latest Grand Theft Auto installation has taken a very interesting line on the war against party poopers. Certain actions while playing online are awarded either good sport or bad sport value. Blowing up other players cars or leaving games while they are still going are all considered bad sport behavior. Given enough bad sport “points”, the player is “dunced” or removed from public servers and forced to play in a server only for bad sport players. I have often wondered if there is any order and civility in these servers. Rockstar made the choice to not ban people for being bad sports but to put them all together. If only other games would do the same thing. It raises the question if enough bad examples are purged will the community go into remission and start fixing itself? Would the bad sport servers be filled with people trying to get back into public and acting civilized, or would they just embrace their fate? I have to believe that there would be some people that I would never play with if other games adopted this system. I have to remain positive that remove enough bad eggs and we can get back to the wholesome and quality community of the past.
    • Mar 9 2014: I've been involved in trying to direct or "steer" a community in a collaborative and positive direction that benefits the objective play mechanics in some of these games. The truth is it can only work where people share similar values and seek to gain a similar experience from the activity. The surprising part is there are those that share the same value for exploitation and what others consider "bad sport behaviour"

      One example is the dedicated space on the SOCOM server Playstation set aside for the eSeals. This was a competitive initiative with structured events and tournament ladders. We had our own forums and Admins. The problem is the Admins had no control over the dedicated server space. These lobbies quickly became the home of exploiters and cheaters for the soul purpose of sharing, learning and practicing the exploits, glitches and cheats. These were commonly known as GNK rooms or "Glitch No Kill" which is an understood agreement to only share cheats and glitches and to not kill others on the opposing team. It was a collaborative effort to undermine the "rules" of the game to gain advantages over others. This became the shared objective and provided the entertainment for those involved.
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        Mar 10 2014: Thanks Troy and Scott for this kind of detail. The notion of community we all have been discussing in most of this TED Conversation suggests that we will have to consider many of the social structures that have been constructed in physical communities, included self governance and policing, that reflect and promote shared values. As in physical communities, it will be important to determine how to pay for, or otherwise motivate, the social structures to minimize the antisocial behavior that the vast majority of gamers who don't want in video games.
    • Mar 9 2014: Another example is the Survival game DayZ which is both a PVP and PVE game type "Player verses Player and Player vs Environment" It's not a round based game with time limits like other shooters, you start with a character with only the basic cloths, no weapons or other supplies except a flashlight.The AI antagonists are zombies which predominantly occupy areas around towns and buildings where needed supplies are located. In addition there is an element of degradation for your character and your supplies. You have hunger, thirst, your cloths and weapons accumulate ware, damage and you can suffer from injuries. The end result is your death.

      Many players when well equipped and healthy will turn on other survivors for sport, These players in the game are known as "bandits". Friends will form a group to pray on newly spawned players, or will single out individuals. There are handcuffs and rope in the game to capture players and there is rotten food and disinfectant with the mechanic to force feed a captured player.

      This activity can create the element of distrust of a met player on a server and some will KOS or "Kill on Sight" any player they meet.

      These stressors as part the game mechanic create the drama and reward for using your wits and skill. The reward is duration, the value is in your ability with the sparse equipment you can find or take from another. The end result is most everyone will eventually die and need to respawn to begin the process all over.
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        Mar 10 2014: Thanks again for more detail, Scott. The PVE aspect of an online game certainly will help to create more engagement. PVE in a multi-player (not purely PVP) can be a potent way to engage with others, even if the shared resource limitations are fictitious. How else would one explain the popularity of Farmville?
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      Mar 10 2014: Wow, Troy, this is an amazing post. It introduces an element of impact and organization in online game communities that we haven't really addressed.

      "Rockstar made the choice to not ban people for being bad sports but to put them all together. If only other games would do the same thing. It raises the question if enough bad examples are purged will the community go into remission and start fixing itself? Would the bad sport servers be filled with people trying to get back into public and acting civilized, or would they just embrace their fate?"

      The parallels with physical communities are fascinating. What an interesting natural laboratory it would be to develop various models for this kind of penalization or Balkanization and observe the personal adaptations to it. This gets to the heart of what it means to be human, as a social being, and it is the kind of question that has spurred some of the deepest debates in philosophy and religion for all of recorded history. At the very least, one would think there are business models for this kind of market segmentation based on different experiences that different demographics want from online games, most notably the social experiences they desire.

      It would be great if we can get more comments on this kind of segmentation in online games.
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      Mar 12 2014: Troy, what a great point. I am a firm believer this is the future of in-game community management. Though, I challenge Scott a bit, I think that if you categorize gamers based on good gaming behavior, and tier access to things like downloads, weapons, giveaway codes, etc. and base access on their good gaming ranking, you can motivate even the most antisocial gamer. You can also begin to target the anti community with various content to incentivize the climb out of the gutter. There is a science to be applied there. Yes, there will always be those you can't help but if the relationship between the studio and community is strong, this I believe can lead most to higher ground. A thought just came to me, imagine, for instance, if in H-Hour, one week out of the month (always random) the good gaming clans were allowed to enter the antisocial servers with weapons and capabilities not available to the anti community. Like shooting fish in a barrel. Fun scrims for the good guys, incentive to get the hell out of that server for the bad.

      Scott, on paper the way you described DayZ sounds like a terrible experience, but it isn't. Actually, I think due to DayZ's game design, the heightened sense of isolation over long periods of time in-game lends itself to a greater desire and appreciation for community in the long run. Just as it was in SOCOM 2, when not running with a clan meant you were probably going to loose the majority of games you played, no matter how good you played as an individual.
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        Mar 12 2014: The various forms of social stratification suggested in this thread could be coupled with educational offerings or resources that don't suffer from most of the inherent inequalities of traditional forms of education.


        A more egalitarian meritocracy could be achieved if there was easy access to information about the norms, mores, and privileges about a social class into which one desires to move. For online games, social mobility across more-or-less exclusive "servers" could be facilitated by mentors, stakeholders, caregivers, and good Samaritans who may or may not be gamers themselves.

        Social structures beget social social structures until some sort of sustainable equilibrium is achieved. Social equilibrium presumably would be characterized by consistency with shared values.

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