Saturday, March 28, 2009

Heads is better than Tails

There was this scientific study done a while back about social grouping. I can't find it on Google anymore, so you'll have to take my word that this is not something I made up. In this study, people were asked to flip a coin at the beginning of the study and were grouped based on whether they flipped heads or tails. The people were then given some sort of instruction and examination that was totally irrelevant to the test. The people in each test were observed talking amongst each other, and when the subject of the other group arose, members of both sides were surprisingly hostile and competitive. A lot of them assumed that the people on the other side of the coin flip were stupid and that they were inherently better. I think that (don't quote me on this one) they even mentioned that the quality of instruction was better for them than it was for the other group.

Without knowing anything about the people in the other testing group (these groups were given no interaction at all) these people immediately assumed that they were superior to the others. Better than the other group because of a coin flip? Really?

This is sort of a sad state of affairs. It seems that camaraderie and patriotism result in generally negative attitudes towards everyone else. While it's bad to only use one case study as an example, well, I'm not.

My experience in the military was such that we were trained to think we were better than the other services and the other militaries of other countries. I have spoken with friends in other branches of the military, and the attitudes are similar across all of them, even when the USMC is -clearly- better trained and more skilled than the other services!

I hope you see what I did there. If you're in another military service and are offended, I was joking. It was a joke, meant to illustrate my point. Ha ha. Laugh.

The same really is true across all sorts of boundaries. In this blog I've paralleled nerds and normal people, and I really don't want to just develop 'nerd pride' because I think it's bad if we think we're better than everyone else. Different we are, but proud we should not be.

As is typical through most of my posts, we're a ways down the page and I still haven't actually made a point. My point is that guilds are a pretty big example of this. World of Warcraft, WAR, City of Heroes, and numerous other games are factionalized. This is even worse. In WoW I'm not even allowed to talk to people of the other faction, or cooperate with them in any way. Even when I am on a server that (mostly) allows me to avoid conflicts with other players unless I desire it, the Terms of Service in WoW actually prohibit me from helping them or trying to communicate with them in any way.

I think that whenever I hear about WoW, it's always about 'Alliance carebears' or how Alliance players are retarded. I played Alliance when I played WoW. I wouldn't really consider myself retarded, and if you're reading this, you hopefully don't either. I hear some silly excuse like "most serious players switch to Horde" or some other nonsense all the time. This conflicts greatly with my WoW experience, where I saw hardcore PvPers and raiders every day in Alliance zones as I traveled the world.

What I did hear while playing Alliance though was general disdain for Horde players if the subject was breached. Most of them considered Horde players to be griefers, jerks, and exploiters (I'd consider that one to be a compliment but they obviously didn't) and made the game generally less fun. Most of them pointed at the undead race in particular, claiming that a particular racial ability of theirs (WotF, although if you play WoW it should be obvious) gave them a huge gameplay advantage that made PvP more degenerate. On alliance side, a lot of people did play 'Horde alts' but almost everyone I spoke with said that just reinforced what they thought about the Horde players.

The situation runs a little deeper though, although admittedly I never joined this drama-fest myself. Guild politics in WoW, especially among high end raid guilds, are apparently worse. Even though you CAN actually talk to them, most people still consider other raiding guilds to be stupid, have crappier strategies, are less friendly, aren't as skilled, and all sorts of other nonsense.

Even roleplayers aren't immune to this phenomenon. In fact, from my experience at least, roleplayers are worse. The City of Heroes community has numerous sharp dividing lines drawn between people in different groups - roleplayers often shun other roleplayers, typically because of lack of maturity, propensity to engage in different types of roleplaying than others, or the willingness to PvP (or not PvP). People are labelled in various different ways, all of which are subjective. Most of these labels are completely false.

Ironically, the City of Heroes community is a lot more banded together as far as the various factions than say, the WAR community - players in CoH tend to be a lot nicer to the opposite faction (heroes and villains) and tend to treat them more as equals. This is, of course, completely thrown out the window in faction-based PvP, but honestly most people never engage in that part of the game so the cooperative elements of the game tend to bring the two communities closer (most players wish they were much more cohesively integrated).

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. This light begins with you, me, and anyone else you talk to. Don't fall prey to labels. Everyone in that opposing guild isn't a jerk, a cheater, or mentally handicapped. Neither is everyone in the opposite faction. In fact, most people in those groups are probably genuinely good people. A lot of them are poisoned by this guild flag waving nonsense, and that mindset makes them act the way they do. Appeal to the common good and don't fall prey to mudslinging or insults. Rival guilds are worthy of our respect, and we should be positive and encourage them to continue to challenge us.

After all, those retards need all the help they can get.



  1. Wow, a post about guild patriotism, faction rivalry, and the general dislike of things on the "other side"... and you didn't say a thing about EVE?

    Honestly, that could be seen as a good thing. I think, personally, that EVE is a unique example of how the social boundaries between factions are formed, and then placed on an extreme scale. It's interesting, to me, that the EVE universe is made completely open to the players, and they are at no point forced to be a part of a given faction. They have to choose a race during character creation, but once the choice is made, they can fly to the other side of the galaxy and become best friends with their race's "enemy" culture, at no real expense.

    On the other hand, the players willingly form corporations and and alliances, and then wage massive wars against one another for any or no reason, and the politics that stem from these wars, or even just the possibility of a war, are one of the defining features that make EVE what it is.

    Some players actively choose to bond themselves to that early-game racial choice, as well, joining faction-only player corporations, or enlisting with their faction militia (a feature introduced with one of the more recent expansions) and teaming up with random people they've never met before to rain destruction on their mutual foes.

    And, naturally, when all is said and done, a lot of these groups flame each other ruthlessly in local chat, during wars, or on the public EVE forums.

    Someday, I'll be reminded of why I still play this game...

  2. Well, the biggest reason I don't mention EVE is because I think that I didn't have to, haha. EVE is way more crazy than WoW guilds, I mean in EVE the point of 0.0 is pretty much to take over the 0.0 universe, which automatically puts you in an us vs. them mentality. The goal for many corporations in EVE is to blow up the other guys and take over their space. So it's natural to have flag-waving and patriotism, and it's almost warranted there because they actually are the enemy and you are supposed to blow them up.

    I'm not condoning it or anything - it's like saying people in Iraq are bad because of the war or something, but it's easier to see how that sort of stuff happens in EVE.

    Man, I just made a really dangerous real life parallel. RUN FOR IT