Anyone who suffers an excess of faith in humanity should check out out online gaming.
Few examples of why power over others can corrupt are starker than scenes of players being robbed of their pants at gunpoint in DayZ. While no one should stop playing or avoid gaming online because of Internet trolls, those players can stoop to disturbingly creative behavior for their own amusement.
Sometimes these incidents are as funny for the victim as the perp, but the chief takeaway here is that virtual play spaces are where misanthropes get creative.
A prominent example of digital misanthropy is the oft-cited legend of the DayZ Party Bus. There are several variations of the phenomenon, but they all involve a player (or group of players) being forced onto a bus at gunpoint by a better-armed group.
Sometimes the hostages are used as zombie-bait, other times they’re just meant to sit there while their captors tour Chernarus. Other times players are lured aboard by the promise of weapons and safety, only to be turned into the bus’s permanent residents by gunmen who have way too much free time.
Not every well-armed band of vagabonds has a bus, though, so many DayZ players resort to simply capturing players and using them for everything from scouting zombie-infested buildings to target practice. Adam Ruch, an Australian gaming journalist, live tweeted his ordeal of being captured by five heavily armed players and being used to scout an airport.
Ruch’s incident is a good example of how these situations can be funny for the victim, as he decided to go along with his captors instead of simply logging out. The result was one of the funniest live tweet sagas in online multiplayer history (though, unfortunately, the page has been removed).
The Arma II mod version of DayZ was the foremost source of digital misanthropy for a long time, but the standalone version’s delayed development has allowed other titles to take its place. Rust, developed by Garry’s Mod creator Garry Newman, is replete with stories of logged out players getting robbed by bands of naked bandits wielding rocks and sticks.
Far less mundane than those incidents was Bro Team’s Boys of Rust series, in which he and fellow YouTuber Circumsoldier took it upon themselves to be the “police” of their server. Brote used law enforcement as a pretext for murdering other players and confiscating their items, occasionally deputizing those who made adequate offerings to the Rust Police’s “protection” fund.
These examples serve a grander purpose than provoking laughter or pointing out antagonistic behavior: they offer a fascinating glimpse into how people behave in a world without physical consequences.
The proliferation of trolls and tricksters on online games suggests that, given the opportunity, people have few compunctions about amusing themselves at the expense of other people. If Thomas Hobbes was alive today, he might very well cite the DayZ Party Bus in his treatises on why life is nasty, brutish, and short. Most trips on that party bus certainly are.
Then again, gamers online can occasionally showcase much more touching behavior. When Carrie Fisher tragically passed away at the end of 2016, players of Star Wars: The Old Republic set up a memorial to her on the in-game rendition of Alderaan.
The event made national news and demonstrated that, though online spaces are full of trolls and misanthropes, so too can they be home to kind people intent on maintaining a decent community… sort of like real life.
There are two ways to combat misanthropic behavior online. The first is to recognize that, though a lot of trolling is done with the intent of actual malice, some of it is also performed simply to provoke comedy.
Stealing someone’s pants at gunpoint is a parlor trick more for the troll’s own amusement than a serious attempt to hobble the player’s progress. That so many victims of the trolling, like Adam Ruch, go along with antics like hostage-taking demonstrates that online interactions can be funny for all parties involved.
The other important method to bear in mind when putting up with this behavior is simply to ignore it best as possible. Sure, it’s frustrating for a player to have their house in Rust or ARK gutted while they’re logged out, but retreating in fear of truly malicious trolls only surrenders the games’ worlds to them.
Continuing to play in the face of misanthropy can be a challenge sometimes, but the best way to deal with such an inevitable fact of online gaming life is to laugh at when possible and ignore it when not. Meanwhile, the DayZ Party Bus rolls on and the Rust Police continue to assert “civil forfeiture” on the possessions of their “constituents.”