[MUD-Dev] Historic lessons on fluid identity

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Fri Oct 5 14:28:42 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

Jon Lambert writes:
> Marian Griffith wrote:

>> I was simply responding to an often heard statement on this list
>> about grief players and how the lack of fixed identity made it
>> impossible to stop them from being virtual sociopaths.

> I don't think I've commented on this before, not directly as
> least.

> I think the statement is just plain false!  :-)

> Ex. I've had several grief players where I had known their real
> names, addresses, service providers and in one case their
> telephone number.  None of that stopped them from being virtual
> sociopaths.  What possible use is that information?  Knowing it
> and them knowing I knew it in no way inhibited their grief play.
> In fact they still show up every few months or so in the guise of
> a new character under a new account.

> Rather..

> I'd suggest it's the lack of real physical proximity not anonymity
> makes it impossible to stop virtual sociopaths.  That is the
> perceived likelihood of physical, social or legal retaliation is
> what stops socipathic(*) behavior.

I think that having someone know who you are is a step in that
direction, which supports Marian's observation.  Anonymity is simply
one more level away from physical proximity.  If I'm anonymous,
nobody can take actions in order to become in physical proximity to
me at a future time.  Whether directly or by proxy (e.g. a child's

Different people respond in different ways.  I'll speculate that
antisocial behavior most easily comes out in people who just don't
see a path that leads from their behavior back to any kind of
negative impact on them.  If I'm anonymous, I don't fear anyone
harming me.  If I'm not anonymous, but in a remote part of the
world, I might be a little worried, but not very much.  At least,
not for now.  And so on.  The more vulnerable I am, the less
inclined I'll be to rock the boat - to behave in any kind of
antisocial way.

I'll relate a story from Asheron's Call that really surprised me.  I
primarily play the game solo for about an hour at a stretch, just
for something to do.  At one point, I picked up a patron.  My
attitude was that if he wanted to toss stuff my way, I was more than
happy to give him the experience boost of a vassal.  I certainly
wasn't going to ask for any favors because I enjoyed the solo play.
Well, at one point we were text chatting and I observed how
frustrating it is to try to play the game and talk at the same time.
He suggested that we use Microsoft Messenger's Internet Telephony
feature.  As soon as we got that hooked up, it was like day and
night.  My patron stopped being character Bob and instead turned
into real person Dave.  He had a life, he lived somewhere, he woke
up in the morning, he paid his taxes, etc.  It was a *completely*
different attitude than I had about my 'patron'.  I considered him a
human being, but it was a fairly obscure sensation.  Hearing his
voice made it all very real and substantial.

Present a kid with the actual voice of an adult and I suspect that a
lot of kids might be a little more respectful of other players.
This won't stop all kids, but it will slow down some of them.
Elimination of anonymity is another step in that direction.  Being
able to teleport into the room with the kid in order to talk to him
would be still another.  Please, no comments on the potential for
abuse here.


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