The Segregation of Online Communities…it’s only natural.comments powered by Disqus
Posted on Wednesday, August 28 2013 @ 16:31:52 Eastern
There has been quite a great deal of discussion regarding the under representation of minority groups in video games and in the industry as a whole. From these discussions, further topics branched off into online bullying/harassment as well as how to create an inclusive online environment for women as well as LGBT gamers and other minority gaming groups. The catalyst for these discussions seemed to be Nick’s article regarding the Gaymer-X convention which led to some additional pieces by Blake and Jessica. The latest entry to touch on the subject was Jessica’s article titled, “Jenny’s Got a Gun”, which discussed the perspective of a female artist’s interaction online with the “Call of Duty” community. I have to preface this piece with a comment to Jessica and Jenny Haniver…you are trying to seek inclusion in a community where the top echelon of players behave like…wait for it…”Look at Score. Look at Score, Bitches”. Note, the behavior in those videos are not attributed or directed at any specific minority group but this can be somewhat viewed as baseline gamer interactions for some. I use that example because it is indicative of the fact that your war may be long fought…but my focus would be more so on winning some battles.
Console online video game communities are in relative infancy. The problem as I see it is that; (1) the industry found that people like to play online; (2) they also found that people like to play specific types of games more so than others online; (3) they provided the opportunity for anyone who not only likes but purchases “Call of Duty” (or insert online heavy game of your choice) to play with anyone else who has purchased said game and has a desire to play online. When the communities were smaller this was not that significant of an issue. As the communities grew so did the diversification of the individuals you played said game with. To share a common interest in one particular facet of one’s life with another is not that uncommon but trying to get a million different people with just as many varying perspectives to have consensus on what is deemed appropriate is damn near impossible.
You see, when an individual chooses to pay their $60 + DLC Cost + ISP Cost + Possibly a Live Gold Subscription, telling them that you can’t call someone “X” (insert expletive) becomes extremely difficult. I understand, that as a female gamer you may not want to be harassed or goaded but at the same time, there are individuals who have paid the same as you and sometimes more and they whole heartedly like the trash talk…whether that be racist, homophobic, misogynistic, etc…They paid to play in that environment just as you believe you have paid to play in a less hostile/obnoxious environment. Well who is right? I think you both are and the solution is not nearly as complicated if you seek exclusion vs. inclusion.
When I go to Craig’s list to buy a couch from the furniture section I would hope to not be bombarded with pics from the casual encounters section and for the most part this works. Craig’s list understands that its users have joint interest in the site but have varying other interest and as such segregate the site’s offerings. When I first, started contemplating how best to address the need to provide separate but equal gaming spaces I considered what type of organic mechanisms could be used to have the population monitor, define, and regulate itself along the lines of “GodofallEnds”, description regarding the Tribunal system of League of Legends. But then I thought, that is pretty complicated…let’s simplify.
I then looked at Google’s safe search mechanic…maybe if we segregate communities with something close to a safe search filter with maybe only 3 categories you can create a better overall experience for more of your population as they now know what they are getting into. Here’s an example:
For the purpose of this piece the tiers would be “No restrictions”, “Moderate Restrictions”, and “Heavy Restrictions”. With different rule sets and penalties for each category. The “Heavy Restriction” category would be the most exclusive but would also have some inherent benefits, such as first access to Beta’s, Freebies given away, etc…this would reinforce positive behavior while not inhibiting anyone’s right to their specific experience as they can also choose to utilize the other categories.
First – Inclusion. Anyone can set their environmental preference to any of the 3 levels and all will initially have access to all three tiers.
Second – All players will always have access to the “No Restriction” and “Moderate Restrictions” communities ( with the exception of those perma banned for behavior outside of what we are focusing on today such as harassment and general douchebaggery)
Third – Exclusion. For those seeking to avoid said douchebaggery the “Heavy Restriction” category would be cool as the community itself would define the stringency of the rules with guidance from the developer/console manufacturer.
This system seems like it would address some of the issues associated with recent discussions while not trying to diminish the experience of those with differing community tastes. I understand that logistically it may be problematic in situations such as smaller online communities where trying to find a match on a specific tier would become difficult if the environmental preference is skewed but I leave the solution for these issues to the console and game developers. I simply wish to provide an idea of where we could head with segregatory policies which may create an overall better experience for gamers as a whole.
In closing, I think the war for a more inclusive and accepting gaming community is going to be a long one and may or may not actually ever be won, but there are a lot of small battles that can be won in the interim which may reduce some of the current headaches.