Category: Gaming

Is MMO Toxicity Simply a Reflection of Real Life?

As an MMORPG enthusiast who enjoys peeking into human psyche, I’ve often found that MMOs are perhaps one of the greatest platforms for conducting experiments and observing the many personalities humans possess. Quite frequently, I’ve heard it suggested that MMOs harbor toxic environments, rife with trolls and bullies, especially in guild culture. In this article, I’d like to examine any truth to those statements, and whether MMOs are uniquely conducive to toxicity, or simply a medium of extending our true-life personalities into virtual worlds.

Multiplayer games provide an astounding look into sociodynamic behavior – players who are thousands of miles apart, bonding or dividing over common creeds and goals. For example, players in MMOs can form groups called “guilds”. The actual mechanic name may vary depending on the MMO — they’re called cabals in The Secret World, for example — but guild is the general term. Generally speaking, they’re simply a way for players to form permanent groups, and often revolve around common causes – related to gameplay or not. I’ll explore that latter scenario later in this article.

The size of guilds can range from a handful of players, to several thousand – the largest corporation in Eve Online has 11,880 members as of writing. Interestingly, online games didn’t have guilds in the early days, because there were too few players. The earliest online games, known as MUDs, did have them; but the concept was seen as just another differentiator, in the same way that idiosyncratic healing strategies or the presence of currency were. There weren’t friends lists: the games were so small that you knew everyone anyway.

Today, guilds serve to divide the player base into smaller organizations. However, it’s been posited that they may hinder game immersion – owing to drama, elitism, and a general level of toxicity. Because there are real people behind the screens, real life biases can and often crop up in these social environments. I’m not speaking simply of online bullying, though this is often a major contributor.

Take for example Houses in the online game Achaea. Because Achaea is highly role-playing enforced, the guilds revolve around in-game fantasy concepts, such as protectors of Nature, or evil knights in service to Lord Sartan. Players join these guilds to expand their character’s story, to take part in enhanced roleplay, to leave real life behind and engage in a fantasy world. Yet more often than not, players complain of elitism, bullying, and out-of-game communication channels where players gossip about each other’s personal lives, and then bring these biases into the game itself.

Now what’s truly fascinating is that in games without hardcoded methods of forming player-organizations, people do it anyways. Take a look at Agar.io – an extremely simple yet popular online game. It is fairly devoid of plot, storyline, or any sort of hardcoded mechanics that would reward player groups. The goal of the game is to grow your cell, represented on screen as a colored circle, by feeding on pellets and smaller players. It is a literal free-for-all, with no mechanics for player grouping.

Ironically, players found ways to divide themselves into teams – through online names or cell colors. In fact, Agar.io became a center of political advocacy during the 2015 Turkish elections. Players were naming themselves according to political affiliation, and grouping up to battle players on the opposing spectrum. This highlights an obvious, yet intrinsic value hardcoded into the instinct of mankind – the desire to form like-minded communities. As Plato suggests, unless human persons congregate in groups, they could not survive, or if they could survive, they could not go beyond a minimal, animal kind of existence.

It’s worthwhile remembering this when considering whether or not guilds in multiplayer games are responsible for toxic environments. This piece on MassivelyOP, titled “Dealing with Toxicity in MMO Communities”, reached out to game developers, asking how toxic behaviours could be minimized in MMO games. The majority of responses focused on different aspects of the root causes of toxic behavior – competitive gameplay, the anonymity of the internet, and ultimately human nature. The responses seemed to reach the same conclusion; that humans are inherently toxic towards one another, and only extreme community moderating can begin to solve the problem.

The idea of competitive gameplay as the root of toxicity is an interesting theory, however. Because competition is indeed ingrained into the very cores of evolution. Without competition, there would be very little reason to evolve as species – and while “peace on earth” may be a desirable dream for mankind, it’d make for extremely boring gameplay. In fact, real world history remembers the conquerors – the Genghis Khans, Alexanders, and Napoleons of the world. Were Genghis Khan an MMO player today, he would certainly be accused of “trolling” and “toxic attitude”, as he raped and pillaged his way across game servers, with his guild of Mongolians. And yet, isn’t that the point of MMO gameplay, to a degree?

I know I’ve seemingly veered off into a separate subject than the sociodynamics of MMO organizations, but perhaps not – because as long as we retain that “conqueror” gene, that basic human instinct to categorize ourselves into like-minded groups with the goal of expansion, organizations will always be an element of multiplayer games, hardcoded or not, for better or for worse.

Thus, I posit that MMOs are not uniquely conducive to toxic environments, because toxicity already exists all around us in the real world. It’s simply that it’s easier to notice toxicity in virtual worlds, and we expect someone, like the administrators, to do something about it. Because when MMOS are seen as an “escape” from the real world, yet simply offer a mirror reflection of the real world in virtual form, it’s a very real reminder of the harsh world we live in, and thus the point of playing these games as a form of escapism becomes severely moot.


Bio: Katie Green is a passionate video game millennial with a background in writing. Currently working at CrazyGames, one of the fastest growing browser game websites in the World.

The 10 Cool Free Games for Your iPhone

The following is a guest post from James Johnson.

A few years ago, news broke out that teens now spend nearly a third of their day on their phones, engaged in a variety of activities from texting to watching videos, checking social media, and of course, playing various games. Later that same year, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services published reports showing that teens spent more time on their phones than other age groups, and with other reports from the BBC claiming that teens spent more time on media than sleeping, it seems rather overwhelming how much phones have pervaded into teenage lives.

Or does it? Any teen with a smartphone can tell you that the device can be like their best friend, providing access to the world at large through social media and other apps. They’re not just great for keeping in touch with friends however, as a wealth of gaming apps are available even for those who don’t want to spend a dime! Developers constantly churn out great, innovative games, transforming mobile play and taking things to the next level.

Of course, for every gem in the app store, there’s also about a hundred rather useless apps, like the Hold On App from IMAK Creations, whose mechanics are simply to keep a button held for as long as you can.

Don’t waste your time (and data allowance) downloading games that you won’t really enjoy. Here are our picks for the Top 10 Free Games for your iPhone, in no particular order:

1. Modern Combat 5

If you’re a fan of shooter games and wish you could take the console experience to your phone, Modern Combat 5 is a clear example of how well this can be executed. With great intuitive controls, high-end graphics, and multiple play modes to boot, it’s by far one of the best shooters on the smartphone to date.

2. Bitcoin Billionaire

When cryptocurrencies exploded into financial markets, it was every technophile’s dream – a chance to make millions through your computer? Who wouldn’t want that? Unfortunately, mining Bitcoins is a lot tougher than it looks. With Bitcoin Billionaire, you can at least pretend like you’re hitting it big. It’s easy to play, and all you really need to do is tap on your screen to unlock investments and upgrades so you can make more money faster.

3. Crossy Road


Mom always said to look both ways before crossing the street, and you can put your skills to the test with Crossy Road, a game that puts you in control of a chicken trying to, well, cross the road. The goal is to reach the farthest point without waiting too long to cross the street, as a giant hawk will take you if you spend too much time plotting your next move. You can collect coins and buy or unlock new characters to use – from an emo goose to Doge! Think Frogger, but cuter!

4. aa

It actually feels like the developers got a little lazy when it came to naming this game, but make no mistake: aa offers a great experience for all players who try it out. The goal is to stick the pins into the circle in the middle. There’s no time limit, and all you really need to do is time your taps right, but it’s addictive and because it doesn’t require an internet connection, it’s pretty convenient too!

5. ff

Yes, ff was made by the same people who made aa, and the premise is quite similar, but worlds tougher: you stick the black circles on the lines already sticking out of the main circle in the middle. It takes a lot more coordination, but successfully clearing a level also means a bigger sense of fulfillment!

6. Bread Kittens

Do you like bread? Do you like cats? If the internet is to be believed, these two things are some of the most adored and cherished things of our generation, and the people who made Bread Kittens have put them together in a nice little app that’s reminiscent of Pokemon! The idea is to travel around Catlandia taming different breeds of cats, and then baking bread to either feed them, or equip on them. That’s right, they wear bread around their heads!

7. The Voice: On Stage

If you have dreams of becoming a star and feel like your big break could be right around the corner, you might want to download the official The Voice app. It takes karaoke to a whole new level, allowing you to upload your recordings to Starmaker Studios, and join different contests to compete with other home singers for potential stardom. It has some paid songs, but there are plenty of modern and classic songs available for in-game currency, which you get from completing recordings.

8. Vainglory

Looking for something more competitive and hardcore? Vainglory is one of the best MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arenas) created for the mobile phone – a stunning achievement in high-fidelity graphics and intuitive controls that even give some PC games a run for their money. It features an all-star development team and a dedicated engine, and with thousands of different builds possible, you could spend hours and hours on the game!

9. Planet Quest

Rhythm games aren’t for everyone, but anyone who tries Planet Quest will instantly feel their hook! It’s a fun little game that has you tapping in time with the beat playing in the background as little creatures dance to the music! Every planet you unlock has its own music and cute creatures, so the game doesn’t get repetitive. There are plenty of rhythm games out there, but Planet Quest is the only cosmic one worth its salt!

10. Calculords

Who knew we would ever be excited to do math outside of school? Calculords is a unique little game that has players crunching numbers in order to match the numbers on cards for troops and skills so that they can summon them in battle. The math is really what sets it apart from other card-based games, and it’s one of those few games that you can defend to your parents by saying, “I’m practicing math!”

Do you know any other cool free games for the iPhone?

Play Free Games Online Without Downloading Apps at MyRealGames.com

Looking for a little mindless entertainment but your phone can’t squeeze even one more app in its memory? Try the mobile app section at MyRealGames.com.

From the press release:

Nikolai Veselov, of MyRealGames, says, “Tablet devices are proving to be incredibly popular among gamers, and our selection of fantastic mobile games are perfect for those who won’t be caught without their tablet. The games can be played in browsers without the need for any downloads – so users visiting our site have dozens of games at their fingertips that won’t use up their data allowances on their network plans.”

He adds, “We’ll be adding plenty more mobile games to satisfy demand over the coming months, so we encourage all tablet users to check back and see if we can quench their gaming thirst!”

The selection of mobile games available from MyRealGames includes:

  • Cannons and Soldiers, an exciting arcade game with bundles of skill required.
  • Blackbeard’s Island, a puzzle title that will have your brain working overtime for hours.
  • Dragon Dash, a platform arcade game with an addictive interface.
  • Rabbit Launcher, a thrilling puzzle/arcade game hybrid that tablet users won’t be able to put down.

We messed around on the site for a few minutes, and while the selection could be a lot bigger, it is quite easy to get started playing a game and the fact that you don’t have to download anything rocks big time. Here is a screenshot of part the main page:

my real games


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Disruptus – A Brain-Boosting Game for both Teens and Adults

We received a sample of a relatively new product called Disruptus, and decided to review it for you teens out there looking for a fun game to entertain yourselves that involves actual face-to-face human interaction, as opposed to staring at a glowing rectangle all day (aka your iPhones).

disruptus
Everything you need to play Disruptus. Oh yeah people, you need people too.

According to the maker, Funnybone Toys, “Disruptus™ draws inspiration from the very important practice of ‘disruptive thinking’. Disruptive thinking is one of the most powerful ways to innovate. It has been used to create ideas and objects like digital music, camera phones, and car sharing programs.”

So the whole point of this game is to get each player to look at things in a new way, spurring their creative juices while having fun.

Disruptus has an extremely simple set-up: you get a stack of 100 cards, each of which features a different item, such as a toilet bowl or a bicycle. You roll a die imprinted with six different actions on each face. Whichever action you roll, you must do using one or two cards drawn from the stack.

For example, you might roll a “Transform.” You pick a card from the stack, and it is the aforementioned toilet bowl. All players use a sketchpad (included) or scrap paper to describe or draw their best or most outrageous concept of a “Transformed” toilet bowl (a new use for it) before time runs out in the included hourglass. Sky’s the limit here, so you could sketch something like a toilet bowl in a garden with plants growing out of it, or a toilet that has a water fountain spouting from the bowl itself. When time’s up, a judge asks each player to describe their transformation, and picks the best in his or her opinion. Score one for the winner, and the next person rolls the die.

Really simple. Perhaps a bit too simple and cerebral for typical teens to get into when gathered around socially with their friends.

So rather than recommend this as a great game for teens at home (although it could be that for the right sort of household), we think that this product would shine best in educational settings. Every classroom would benefit from having this and doing a weekly Disruptus session, as it really does force players to exercise their creativity. 

Another place this game belongs is in companies big and small. Google employees should be playing this. NASA employees as well, as it would probably inspire them to come up with cheaper and safer ways to explore space.

And we can also see the value in just rolling the die, picking up a card, and using disruptive thinking when you are by yourself in order to break out of a creative rut or simply provide a boost of inventiveness when needed.

For more information please visit http://funnybonetoys.com.