Radio Berkman 157: Gaming Grief

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MMORPGs may maim and pwn but words will never hurt me.

In online gaming environments you may be getting shot at, impaled, or run over by tanks. But the more serious damage may come in the form of the offensive chatter bandied about casually between players connected remotely via headsets.

Racist, homophobic, and sexist language proliferates as gamers trash talk. But often such language and name calling is used, not to offend, but to distract and gain attention.

Such “Griefing” behavior is meant to be ironic. “I am not racist/sexist/homophobic,” a griefer will think, “therefore, my use of an offensive term is just a joke. If you interpret it any other way then you just don’t get it.”

But that doesn’t mean griefing doesn’t have an impact.

Lisa Nakamura — Professor in the Institute of Communication Research at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and author of the book Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet — spoke to David Weinberger about the origins of griefing, and how online communities are dealing with it.

Listen:
or download
…also in Ogg!

Reference Section:
Find Lisa Nakamura’s bio here->
Check out Lisa’s recent work here->
Lisa on Twitter here->
John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory here->

Lisa’s recent talk at the Berkman Center Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game

CC Music this week:
Scott Altham: Hear Us Now
Learning Music: Ovulation

Photo courtesy of Flickr user thenausner

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2 Comments »

  1. KG of Sydney

    July 9, 2010 @ 10:45 pm

    1

    I just wanted to mention that “griefing” has a slightly different meaning than the context where it’s used here. To “grief” another player has typically meant something more like “To deliberately target them with the intent of disrupting their enjoyment of the game”. Griefing is the point where you are no longer acting to further your own in-game agenda, you are instead disrupting someone else’s. In some games it’s very illegal, in some games it’s considered fine (as eventually griefers get what’s coming to them). It’s almost always hard to police, however, as in a game where you’re supposed to kill or destroy it’s hard to prove it’s being done just for grief.

    This is all rather tangential to the article, which other than that one word I totally agree with. But it should be pointed out that “griefing” does not explicitly mean “trash talking to distract or gain attention”, although that is very often part of it. Griefing is disrupting someone’s play.

    And I think casual racist and sexual epithets are more broad-spread than griefing, too. I’m not sure what’s worse, calling someone a “fag” to provoke a response, or calling someone a “fag” because the term is just a generic low-level epithet in your culture with no real connection to homosexuality at all.

  2. digitalekulturresearch

    August 13, 2010 @ 5:25 am

    2

    “Racist, homophobic, and sexist language proliferates as gamers trash talk. Bu…”…

    Racist, homophobic, and sexist language proliferates as gamers trash talk. But often such language and name calling is used, not to offend, but to distract and gain attention. Such “Griefing” behavior is meant to be ironic. “I am not racist/sexist/homo…

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