Friday, March 30, 2012

Identity and personality

Tobold Stoutfoot was the name of my first AD&D character, a halfling rogue, from about 30 years ago. For the blog I had shortened that to Tobold, but with the forced integration of Blogger into Google+, the family name now appears on the blog too. Tobold is an identity I took, not the name on my passport. And having used it so long, and fought battles over identity with Google and Facebook, I'd say I have some experience with living multiple identities. What I have more problems to understand is the concept of multiple personalities, which was cited as a defense in the Mittanigate scandal. "Hey, I'm not an evil guy in real life, I'm just playing one!" Is that even possible?

Obviously I am not talking about the kind of "virtual evil" we might get pushed into in games with some sort of alignment system. I do not believe that whether you choose Horde or Alliance in WoW, Sith or Jedi in SWTOR, allows any conclusion about your personality. Playing black in chess isn't evil. Even "killing" in games isn't necessarily evil, sometimes that is simply what the game is about.

But this "it's just a game" excuse only holds up as long as we are talking about avatars doing in-game action against other avatars, with no deeper emotion involved between the players behind the avatars. That is not always the case. If you read the stated goals and announcements of the Goons, they do not just want to achieve in-game goals; they *say* they want to cause emotional damage to the opposing players. A "win" is not shooting down the enemy spaceship, a "win" is making another player ragequit in frustration.

I believe that such behavior is evil. I believe that Alexander "The Mittani" Gianturco is evil. I believe that the real person blogging under the name of Syncaine is evil. I believe that wanting to win over the opposing avatar is okay, but deliberately wanting the player behind the opposing avatar to be emotionally or physically hurt is evil. And because this wanting to hurt the *real* person behind the screen is a motivation of the *real* person committing those acts of ganking, harassment, and bullying, I do not believe in the excuse that somebody is just "playing evil". You can have multiple identities, but not multiple sets of moral, unless you suffer from dissociative identity disorder.

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