“EVE Online sits on the frontier of social gaming, providing an entertainment environment like no other. The vibrant society of interacting and conflicting communities, both within the EVE client and without, is the driving force behind EVE’s success. However, the anonymity of internet culture combined with a competitive gaming environment encourages in-game behaviour to spread beyond the confines of the sandbox. Where is the line?“
Oh the famous line between the real world and the online world – this is what my blog is all about and hence it should be dead easy to drop a few lines with references to my older posts and be done with it. Yes?
My posts and thinking have been about my personal attitude towards the online world – as represented by EVE online. I acknowledge that the personalities and characters I meet online are the extensions of other, real people and therefore my interaction with them is as real as if I went to the gym and challenged someone to a friendly match of push-ups. For me, the anonymity mentioned in the Banter serves to mask my name, not my personality and an interaction with a person online is as real for me as an interaction with a “real” person.
There is no line. After all, people don’t actually exist. What exists are projections of people in my mind – formed by sensory input and subsequent analysis. If I go to the gym, I see people with my eyes, shake their hands and (unfortunately) smell them, they form an impression in my memory that – in its totality and in context – forms the “person” as I see it. The route the information takes to “impress” its personae is actually not that important. If I was blind and went to the gym and shook someone’s hand, of course he would be “real” to me. As real as a work colleague around the world with whom I interact daily by email but whom I never met – and actually never spoke to. I don’t dispute that this person is real. All my information about her stems from emails (=pixels) within the context of the work. This of course does limited to “people”. Our entire so-called “reality” is a construct that we constantly build, tweak and improve.
I hate this place. This zoo. This prison. This reality, whatever you want to call it, I can’t stand it any longer. It’s the smell, if there is such a thing. I feel saturated by it. I can taste your stink and every time I do, I fear that I’ve somehow been infected by it. Agent Smith
So, within this context, the Banter becomes rather meaningless. If there is no “real” world – or at least it is not separate from the online world – there can not be a line. Case closed?
Well, not quite. See, the attitude above (which I don’t include here as intellectual wank but I really do believe this btw) deals with my perception of the world, not necessarily with my interaction. If I followed this philosophy all the way through, shooting the guy in the gym with a shotgun when he beats me at the push-up contest would be as real as shooting his spaceship. And whilst I have some issue shooting people’s spaceships, I would never (1) shoot my neighbor in “real life”.
Why is that? I am not quite sure. But I think it has to do with the my “self-image” – kind of like a over-the-shoulder, 3rd person representation of myself in my own reality. This person (=me) moves within my reality and is subjected to the same rules that I subject other representations of people, laws that apply to them, apply to me. Physics of course, we all experience the same amount of gravity (2). In my created reality, shooting someone with a shotgun is not allowed. Hence my “avatar” is also not allowed to do so or he would break the immersion (3). Equally not allowed is to negatively mess with someone else’s perception of reality. While I have little scruple’s to blow up someone’s space ship, I would never aim to negatively influence what they perceive as “real world”. The Mittani saga showed just how tenuous that separation is and dancing on that line is fraught with risk. The EULA of course aims to regulate this – but as it is a legal document, it is philosophically insufficient. It creates a “bubble” in which certain things are allowed, others are not. It must fail when it aims to govern interaction outside the bubble, Facebook for example.
Lastly (really), I want to turn this around. The blog banter implies that the line separates negative interaction between the online world of EVE and the “real world”. Huh? Where does that bias comes from? Sure, many online interaction are negative. Stalking of a female player is just vile. Stealing of resources by gaining trust and exploiting it is “wrong”. But how about meeting up and buying someone a beer? Helping a guy with his dyslexia, or his fear of public speaking? Coach someone to be confident as a leader of friends, teach spreadsheet skills and help with maths? All of which I have done – clearly crossing the “line” between the real world and the online world. And vice versa, a corp mate bailed me out when my Linux laptop died on a road trip leaving me stranded, a fellow blogger encouraged me to write fiction, something I always wanted to do but never had the courage. These are examples of the many people who “crossed the line” into my real world and made lasting and positive impression on me.
Bringing it home
Whilst I don’t believe that there is a line between the real and the pixel world, what governs you in real life should govern you in-game. Don’t be an asshat, stay within the framework and respect the other person’s line more than your own.
(1) Unless in self-defense with its weird extensions to defending someone else or my genepool (=nation). Philosophically, it gets really wobbly out there. Lets leave it for now.
(2) I know gravity fluctuates wildly across the world. The ability to measure defines the deviation. In this context, gravity is constant. I have spoken.
(3) By the way – a separation of this projected self in one’s own reality from the actual person (akin to rolling your camera wide out and realizing that you are not actually the same person) is often called enlightenment. Lets not go there for now.