when gaming communities go wrong

The more time I spend looking at video games--especially online games and MMPORGs--the more and more strange information that comes out. As with any society, norms and oddities appear as individuals assert their place.

There's a fascinating (and somewhat terrifying) article about Loyola University media professor David Myers "unwelcome" behavior in the game City of Heroes, where he created a character that everyone hated.

Players tried everything they could to get rid of the pariah, but he kept at, apparently as research, but there had to be hint of satisfaction in his role as the most hated player--probably right until someone threatened to kill him for real.

Myers revealed his identity and his character's purpose in "Play and Punishment: The Sad and Curious Case of Twixt," an academic paper on his experiment published in 2008.

If we assume that games are their own communities and have some level of self-policing (just like open source projects) we can also assume that these things iron themselves out. In this case the community turned completely against the individual and game-maker NCSoft had to step in to moderate a bit.

This all led me to ask: does everything needs a community?

The short answer is it depends. (Note: I'd like to thank business school for that pearl of wisdom that gets you out of answering any question.)

These days every company, project, website, circus clown, and dog websites have community-oriented features that are supposed to facilitate some deeper level of interaction. While some communities thrive, others plateau and become something less than the sponsor wants it to be. That's clearly the case with the City of Heroes example above.

The onus to provide unique, beneficial features and functions falls both on the community sponsor and the users.

Users bring a wealth of materials to communities, but the infrastructure and the impetus to participate has to come from the source. Companies also have to be responsible for what goes on their communities if they want expect the group to be self-governing.

Community also takes on very different connotations when relating to online gaming versus software. In software we rarely kill each other repeatedly. Once tends to be enough.

No responsibility can be taken for the content of external Internet sites.

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