Xbox Live Barbarians at the Gates of Virtual Worlds

Despite the amazing advances in information, communication, connectivity and commerce that Cyberspace has provided us, it has one glaring defect: people can behave badly without fear of repercussions because they are essentially anonymous. Arguably the Internet has made everything better about our modern lives except the one thing that really matters — the people that use it. The first generation of Internet users were relatively polite and decent as you needed a certain level of education and income to be able to use and afford a computer back in the days before the Web.

Now that online gaming has evolved into MMOs and virtual worlds we are seeing a mass influx of the second generation of Internet users. Many of them are crude, rude and sophomoric. Why? Because they can get away with it. And it gets worse. Soon an even newer generation of gamers will be entering your favorite MMO: the Xbox Live people. What brought my attention to this was an outstanding article I found that is basically a survival guide to the types of players that one commonly encounters when using the Xbox Live at ToplessRobot called The 10 People You Meet On Xbox Live.

Here the author warns us about the common annoying personalities found there:

Seriously, Xbox Live—the #1 online console gaming service, as Nintendo and Sony desperately make there’s far too complicated—is full of idiots, most of which are the same idiots. No matter what their screen name is, chances are you’ve heard their special brand of idiocy already. Here now are ten types of people you are guaranteed to meet on Xbox Live.

Now here is a brief listing of the 10 types of Xbox Live personality types in all their comic glory:

  1. The Frat Boy Who’s Certain You’re Gay
  2. The Manic Teen Who Loves His Own Voice
  3. The Juvenile Delinquent Who Kills His Own Teammates
  4. The 14-Year-Old Racist
  5. The Redneck Who Modded His Truck
  6. The Egomaniac Teen Who Blames Everyone for Losing but Himself
  7. The 8-Year-Old Without Enough Ritalin
  8. The Late 20-Something Who Should Stop Playing and Deal with the Issue Going On in the Real World
  9. The Late-30s Mensa Member
  10. The Beleaguered Girl

Most of us that have played MMOs for any length of time have already started to notice these people creeping into the MMO community via chat channels and voice communication. If they haven’t already arrived, expect them very soon. They are the barbarians at the gates of our virtual worlds; fresh warm bodies, eager to supplant the existing culture and gladly welcomed inside by video game companies hungry for new subscribers.

What really worries me is that as these new people invade MMOs and virtual worlds for the first time, their behavior and lack of social graces will drive out the previous generation of subscribers who no longer feel comfortable. Since the concept of “churn” is so vital to the longevity of MMOs we veterans of the community may soon find ourselves an unwanted and displaced demographic. If the elders of the community are gone, then who will teach the younger generations about the basics of gameplay and social conduct?

The core of all of these problems is that some people are self-absorbed and selfish. They wantonly impinge upon the enjoyment of everyone else by their reckless behavior and hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. If the Internet is to remain a viable form of communication and entertainment then we as human beings need to start treating each other civilly. Naturally some of us do that but there are many that don’t. To combat the offenders, the people that administer the networks/games/communities must be proactive and enforce a code of conduct that makes the online games and virtual worlds an safe and enjoyable experience for the majority of their users.

The legacy of thousands of years of civilization is that we as humans have elevated ourselves because we made rules and followed them for the greater good. The only alternative is anarchy, which pretty much describes what you see in most online games and MMOs these days thanks to a laissez faire philosophy of indifference on the part of companies like Blizzard.

While the Internet has brought us closer together in some ways, in reality it’s created a bigger gap between us due to the incivility that has become the new standard of behavior. The current state of cyberspace is that we enjoy all this freedom without any real responsibility. As long as most of us remain silent and uncaring about the quality of our online communities we shall surely get the Internet we deserve.


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