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Friday, November 24, 2006

Respect, Virtually

There have been a couple of major events since Splines was last updated. The Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii have launched in the US, the ESA apologised for issuing a 'cease and desist' order to fellow gaming blog Bits Bytes Pixels & Sprites, and nothing what so ever has happened regarding funerals within virtual worlds. Of cause, nobody of sound, rational mind would choose to write about funerals at such a period of gaming furor.

Today, I'd like to talk to you about funerals.

In the glory days before the time of university and a receding hairline, I was loyally devoted to playing Sony's MMOFPS Planetside. The bunch of buddies I fought alongside called themselves Vanu Corporation, and I still regard their burgeoning forum as an online sanctum, to be trawled and spammed to excess.

I was informed through this forum that a prominent member of the Planetside community had recently died, and that there was going to be an online funeral held in-game at which the player's sons would speak about their father. Being as it is that Planetside involves a fair amount of weaponry, Vanu Corporation offered themselves as funeral security. Forum chatter turned to the principles of defending a herse. Anti-aircraft MAXes on the hill, extra ammunition hidden along the convoy's route, empire commanders pleading for temporary peace in an eternal war.

As it turned out, the event passed without incident; but I don't believe it is security which prevents violence at organised events within an armed virtual community. I believe two factors play the greatest roles - respect and fear. To someone unfamiliar with persistent online gaming, the very notion of virtual funerals may seem absurd. To those who have experienced what it is to know 'internet people' better than 'real people', a respectful online community can exist in tandem with non-stop killing. It is through respect and fear that an MMO gains emotional meaning; the respect a comrade can have for another will lead to wonderful things being accomplished, and the fear of shame or shunning that a miscreant may have imposed upon him should he behave beyond norms deemed acceptable by the community ought to prevent misdeeds from being committed.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that it is not through the imposition of force, but the cohesion of community, common good will prevail.

On a side note. There have been many such funerals within MMOs since the beginning of time (MMOs have existed since the universe formed, right?) and there have been many such success stories to accompany countless massacres conducted by angry funeral gatecrashers. What I'd like to know is your opinion on the moral nuances of killing those attending a virtual event. I think it would be fair to ask that if the game mechanics allow for the ability, and every player pays an equal sum to enjoy the game, why should killing attendees of a funeral not be allowed? I wouldn't intentionally spoil any event arranged to honour the dead, but I do enjoy causing mischief online and it is with some shame that I admit to allowing a sly chuckle escape when I hear about weddings being canceled due to artillery etc.

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