Cyber Culture: A whole new world of pain for online-game 'griefers'

 

You'll probably still be unhappy with your download speeds – but at least you'll be reassured that you're not the only one.

I'm not a gaming enthusiast, as such; I possess no multi-function gaming mouse or chunky headset, and I'm ferociously unfamiliar with the intricacies of Mass Effect 3. But I'm fascinated by the way humans interact online and particularly the trolling that occurs when playing games online in co-operative or multiplayer modes.

When you're engaged in quests or battles with people you might not give the time of day to under normal circumstances, it's a distinct possibility that you'll end up experiencing irritating death at the hands of a spotty adolescent who then proceeds to make expletive-filled judgements about your genitals. This kind of harassment (or "griefing") is the scourge of online gaming and generally leads people to restrict their gaming networks to trusted friends rather than extend it to strangers who might turn out to be racist, sexist or both.

Microsoft has decided to do something about this with a new "Reputation System" it's planning to bring to Xbox Live on XBox one (controller pictured), replacing the current five-star rating that's largely ignored by users. Still in the planning stages, the system aims to encourage good behaviour with rewards and punishments – which you might say is treating us like children, but hey... it's people behaving like children who've caused them to implement it.

If you persist in engaging in antisocial behaviour, if you're repeatedly blocked or it becomes clear that people don't enjoy playing with you, your reputation will take a hit.

Eventually, the only people willing to play with "griefers" will be other "griefers", creating the gaming equivalent of an infernal pit that you'll only be able to haul yourself out of by being incessantly nice.

The potential problems with this are many and various: how to stop people maliciously damaging your reputation out of spite, whether repeatedly beating other people at a game would be enough for them to block you, and so on. But if it works, the idea of a well-behaved corner of the internet that's free of people being unspeakably irritating, well, that's almost too extraordinary to comprehend.

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