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Why Gaming Online Turns Us Into Terrible People


You can't argue with science.

I just read a summarised version of a study designed to measure reactions to a woman’s voice in a First Person Shooter game. The researchers used pre-recorded sound clips of a male voice, a female voice and one control whatchamacallit that didn’t say anything. The results were not exactly unsurprising in that the female voice received 3 times more negative responses than the other two.

The researchers decided that this was partially due to the fact that all the little gamer boys have no perception of who the average woman actually is because she will more than likely stop communicating online when harassed and thus become “invisible”. This means that the only females gamers of that dubious sort come into contact with are the ones who don’t care, the ones that fight back or the ones who, for some unknown reason, enjoy being sexually harassed and because men are apparently dumb and unsocialised, they think that all women come from those three categories.

Jenny Haniver (one of the fighters) records some of the more entertaining examples of stupidity on her blog, “Not in the kitchen anymore.” Gamers have offered her eloquent gems like:

“Spartan, Mosh, Mopie, Sprawler = Friends

RMP = Random Male Player


Spartan: Alright Peach. It was nice meeting you.

Mosh: See you later douchebag.


RMP1: That was the girliest laugh I’ve ever heard in my life.

Mopie: Was it… From a girl? Would that make a girly laugh make sense?

Sprawler: Ha ha, Jenny, you got a girly laugh!

Mopie: Ha, you’re a girl, haaaa!

Me: Goddammit.

RMP1: I like boobs.”


Anyway, I’m not here to talk about that, because really, it’s a never-ending topic and I’m pretty sure that a lot of men who read about that are going to either get defensive, make sexist arguments that they feel justifies their behaviour; or go all white knight on me and I don’t think I can handle any of those this morning. So instead, let’s try and identify what it is about the relative anonymity of the internet that turns us all into douchebags when we game online.

Psychologists and other fancy folk call it the “The Online Disinhibition Effect” and use terms like “solipsistic introjection”, “dissociative imagination” and “asynchronity” to explain why this happens. I think this sort of science-speak somewhat overcomplicates things and here is my simple version:

I myself am guilty of being one of said douchebags and self-analysis tells me that I do things that contribute to this image because I can. And because I can, really why not? The difference here is that when I do the same things that other (male) friends have done to make people mad online, they get banned and I don’t (I suspect that there is some underlying sexism going on there, but no matter). The point is, I get to be extremely annoying and bitchy simply because I’m not in direct confrontation with anyone. My keyboard is a buffer and looking into a laptop screen is definitely not the same as looking someone in the eyes and swearing at them for no reason.

The whole disassociation thing also comes in when you don’t know what I’m like in RL:


This meme exists for a reason.

This really lame, childish version of me that I’m giving you isn’t what I’m actually like all the time, so it doesn’t matter that I’m acting like I’m 12, because that’s not really me. Convoluted sentences aside, I could be a squirrel and you wouldn’t even know.


The sad fact is that it probably says something pretty awful about the human race considering that the minute we don’t have to look someone in the eyes we become the worst sort of people. And the fact that we have these extensions of our personalities means that there is a foul-mouthed 12-year-old child lurking inside all of our hearts. But I figure it’s probably ok, because we all have to let off steam somehow, and this way is probably better than stabbing your boss after a bad day at the office.


What I did last weekend.

Stephanie's Twitter | MWEB GameZone

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