Reading Reaction: A Rape in Cyberspace

I’ll admit, I’m surprised our first reading reaction is on not only a piece written about a MOO, but about someone (famously) griefing one. I may not really be old enough for the MUD phenomenon, but I did manage to jump on the tail end of it thanks to the discworld MUD (which still exists). I have to agree with what’s-her-name on a lot of points regarding the online experience. Things that happen in what seems like the most disconnected medium possible, a text-based online “game,” can in fact have a very real emotional impact. I will say, however, that using the word rape nowadays seems strong for what actually occurred. I can appreciate that back then it was a fresh new experience, and the novelty may have lended the incident greater meaning to everyone involved. There’s no doubt that Dr. Jester’s behaviour would be criminal, even psychopathic in the real world, but his impersonations pale in comparison to modern griefing.

As I freely admit to using MUDs in the past, I must also admit that i’m a part-time griefer myself. The art has developed significantly since the days of LambdaMOO, however. Impersonating another user like he did would just plainly not have that kind of effect anymore except on the absolutely most uptight users out there. At best, he’d be mildly irritating. That said, we have tools that Lambda was notably lacking at the time. Mostly though, we’re used to people being dicks online. It’s just a consequence of anonymity: We act on impulses we normaly wouldn’t, because there quite simply aren’t long-term consequences. I could literally write an entire book on griefing just one game and all the forces and motivations at work. Obviously I’m a bit short on space for that kind of depth on this blog, but the core argument is right there.

Post Author: george.burnett

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