Cyber Bullies in Games

Matthew Moore, 15/2/14

Cyber bullying in this context would be a direct form of harassment from one person online to another. Accoding to an article on nobullying.com the rate of cyber bullying is on the rise. About twenty-one percent of children between the ages of eight and elven have been the victim of cyber bullying. Given what I discussed earlier relating to social media making targeting an individual easier, it is not hard to see that it could enable a cyber bully to more easily find targets, particularly those that play online games.

Online gaming, in the simplest terms, is the practice of playing a game over the internet. In recent years this has become a natural and welcome part of many gamer’s experience and the existence of online play is just commonly accepted in multiplayer games today. The inherit problem in playing with others online, especially when anyone can join the game and play, there is the possibility of cyber bullying.

One angle of the cyber bullying problem is that the bully may not even know that they are being a bully. One of the more well known forms of online play is the expanding genre of the massively-multiplayer-online-role-playing-game (mmorpg). In these games players are encouraged to role play, meaning, they pretend to be someone else. According to nobullying.com, “When children play these games, they often become immersed in the behavior of the game and may engage in cyber bullying without even realizing it.” The problem here is how immersed should the player get, and how should they represent themselves while they are pretending to be another person? While yes there is a cathartic effect of pretending to be someone else, it is easy to lose track of yourself, and with the online disinhibition effect a player can quite easily slip into negative behavior.

I’ve already talked about how communication through the internet can produce a disconnect between the harasser and the harassment they are giving out because of their online handle. Some games encourage a disconnect similar to this by way of role play. Many mmorpgs, at least the ones I have personal experience with, seem to not encourage players to role play with the world, but rather use this as an excuse to just be a terrible person. I should note that this is usually an unintended effect on the players, and it is limited to my perception. While it is only implied in other games that you should act differently, in a role-playing-game it is actively encouraged.

The problem comes from that players can remain largely anonymous. It can’t even be believed that one character will build up a significant name in an mmorpg, as many of them allow player to have multiple avatars. The player can have some characters that are perfectly nice and cooperative, while they can have one character made to harass and grief others.

“Griefing” is a more poignant form of negative actions in online games by way of direct player interaction. A griefer is a person playing the game that is not interested in the objective of the game, and instead focuses their efforts on making other players miserable. This can come in a variety of forms. For example, there is the action known as “camping.” When camping, one player keeps killing another player when they are in a weakened state, usually after recovering from a character death, and repeatedly kill them until the griefer grows bored, or the victim gives up and logs out.

Considering the popularity of online game among children cyber bullying can lead to more than a few problems. Nobullying.com offers some tips on what parents can do about their child being bullied or their child bullying others. These tips including such things as, knowing what games your kid is playing, talking to them about cyber bullying, and restricting your child’s access to games that have a reputation for cyber bullying. The problem is that almost all of the tips they give can only be given by the parents, and many parents tend to not be vary wary, or interested, in the games that their children play. Even if parents are, there is the inherit problem that you cannot control the actions of the other players. The only advice I can really give is to pay attention to what you, and possibly your children, are playing and to act responsibly yourself.

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2 comments

  1. Before reading this post I did not know there were so many “roles” people have while playing these online games! Assuming your games character attitude or ego in reality definitely seems possible because people already do that through social media like Facebook, forums, comments etc. I think parents being aware of how child act while playing the game would make a difference in kids adopting that bully like persona in their personal lives.

  2. Matt, I’m so happy you brought this up, this is such an issue in all around us and sometimes bullying does become part of an activity we use for leisure. I never knew that these players/avatars can do such damage and that they are intended for such things. Your post was very eyeopening.

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