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The Ethics of being an Online Hero.

January 25, 2013

So, I’ve just finished watching Sword Art Online.

For those of you uninterested in Anime or simply uninformed about SAO, it’s an anime about a full-immersion VR MMO that taps directly into your brain, and a group of people who get trapped inside of it for two years by the game’s creator, with the classic hook of ‘Die in the game, Die in Real Life’.

The thing that made it special was it was written and created with the Modern MMO culture in mind, everyone’s represented, from creepy online stalkers, to greifers, to PKers from Korean MMOs of old, to the women who ply their sexuality for favors, and people who pretend to be another gender for a feeling of safety, it covered pretty much everything, and did it well.

It also covered the topic of who you are online.

This is a topic somewhat close to my heart. See, I’ve proven time and again I am an anomaly online; some weird mutli-headed beast which is to quote Hunter S. Thompson; “Too weird to live, too rare to die.” Why? Well…  because where online interactions are concerned, I am the same man on the intertubes as I am in person. I don’t change with the perceived ‘consequence free’ environment, The Murdos you see is the Murdos you get, regardless of where or when you met him.
What’s so rare about this is that as Penny Arcade so artfully put in it’s Greater Internet Fuckwad theory, A Person+ Anonymity+Audience = Total Fuckwad. The sad part is it’s true to a great degree, you’ll meet many people online and I can trust if you’re reading this that you HAVE met many, whom are quite different online then they would ever been in real life. No consequences means they can spew all the hateful bile they want, use, abuse and dispose of people like objects and the only recompense they receive is the loss of a little green dot on their friends list.

I’m not like that. And SAO makes a point that in fact, nobody is.

The narrative throughput of the entire story is varied, but one of the core ideas is the idea of getting to know someone through the internet, and how it’s no different from knowing them in real life. In fact; it’s more intimate – because online, in the safety of the internet, miles of cable and servers between you and anyone else, you witness the person themselves unfiltered.

And sometimes, it’s an ugly sight.

So, what does this have to do with World of Warcraft you ask? Well, it’s about how we do things here. What our goals are and how we accomplish them. There’s a player on my old server who I will politely NOT name because that’s nasty, and you should be ashamed for wanting that information, whom I’ve dubbed the ‘Bizzaro Murdos’, Bizzaro is a fairly good player, as good as I am at least, devoted to self-improvement and accomplishing his goals. He’s also a raging jackass. No, no kidding; he’s everything you’ve ever heard bad about online players, he’s cocky, arrogant, abusive and pitiless. Famous for his ability to guild-hop at the shortest notice if it might get him more gear, or a faster progression. I publicly clashed with this individual multiple times, why?

Well… I’m the hero. I’m supposed to.

See I sort of agree with SAO’s idea that being anonymous doesn’t change you, it simply allows your actual self to lay bare unfettered with no real emotional consequences by and large. That’s why we clashed so hard, Bizzaro was self-serving and hateful with no compassion for others, and I as a player have always tried to be the Hero. It’s the kind of guy I am, I believe in helping others, in sustaining yourself on your own strength, in giving back and caring for those I meet. Online I’m no different, where I may hold a door for an elderly person or pause in a restaurant to help a server who dropped a plate – online I’ll carry under-leveled players through difficult content, run dungeons with friends to gear them faster, give away gold and materials to people to give them a better start or simply make their day – hell back during Wrath I made a little name for myself as The Beer Goat, riding about Booty Bay and Dalaran during the Fishing Tournament dispensing Cap’ n Rumsey’s lager to all the fishermen accompanied by a bit of rhyme and a laugh. I thrive on good feelings, and he thrived on the negative. We clashed because we were opposites, I offended him and he offended me.

This has always been a little rough on me in-game, I’m sure everyone’s heard the concept of ‘White Knighting’ enough to be familiar with it, I get a lot of flak for my behaviors because people wrongfully assume I’m attempt to curry favor or in some way assert a moral high ground… when that isn’t the case, heck you might be this far in the blog post and thinking I’m doing just that with the comparison of Bizzaro Murdos in the previous paragraph.

I’d ask you to ask yourself why you think that, is anything I’ve said offensive? I speak of taking joy in other’s pleasure, finding fun in making other people happy; in standing up to those whom abuse and take advantage of others, is anything there wrong or despicable?

Careful how you answer that, it might be more telling to your personality then you’d like to admit.

So the Ethics of being an Online Hero, much like being a knight of the old code… except we get more loot, and free enchants from our friends.

Still slay lots of dragons though.

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