Why is it so much fun to be a jerk?
I doubt anyone would disagree with noted scholar John Gabriel’s theory above. We’ve all experienced people being jerks in online gaming. That guy in Call of Duty who insults your genitals, the rage-quitter in Defense of The Ancients, that one forum troll you hate… it’s something that’s just accepted as part of today’s modern online culture. It’s even gone so far as to start conversations about cyberbullying in the general public.
Now I’m not generalizing, a friend of mine prides himself on his near-saintly behavior towards others in online games. I’ve met many people who were perfectly pleasant and enjoyable to play with. I usually attempt to do the same. However, there’s one game that causes me to become a complete jerk, and I love it… and that game is Eve Online.
My entire focus in Eve is piracy. The group of people I play with spend our time flying around, looking for helpless people to jump on and attack. If we get to blow their ship up, cool. If we get to blow their escape pod up as well, even better. We celebrate killing people who are weaker than us, and cheer when we get hatemail or people post bounties on our heads. Granted, we also enjoy evenly matched PvP fights, and look for those as well. However, some of our favorite kills are against groups of helpless miners or players who have no idea what to do when we attack. Angry chats are shared on our forums; we revel in causing other people loss, even our website has a tracker of how much monetary damage we cause in each kill.
For example, last night I found a new character killing NPC pirates in a belt. I decided to grab a cloaking ship and sneak up right next to him, then uncloak and let loose with my autocannons. After a quick kill, he escaped in his pod and sent me an in-game mail full of anger and profanity. Of course, I shared this with my online corp members and we had a laugh. Later that night, I found him again and proceeded to chase him across the system until he fled to hi-security space. This followed with another angry in-game mail, which was subsequently shared with my friends. To that player, I was the jerk ruining his time and costing him money. I’m the bad guy… and I like it. Part of the enjoyment comes from making people lose time and money, and the anger that comes afterwards.
Piracy is considered a completely legitimate way to play Eve; we are definitely not the only ones out there blowing people up. However, the question still remains: does this playstyle make us jerks? Some, like our victims, may wholeheartedly agree. Others see it as a way to enjoy themselves. Often, I hear the excuse of “it’s just a game” thrown around, and I can’t help but disagree. I think that my enjoyment of causing people grief, even if it’s just in a virtual space, says something about my personality. Somewhere, deep in my head, I like pissing people off, and I would bet that most people would feel the same way. You can chalk it up to human nature, or culture, or whatever… the fact remains that part of me enjoys the unpleasantness I cause.
In the end, does this make me want to change my ways? Hell no. I love being a pirate, I love screwing with people, and most of all I love playing Eve Online. Some players enjoy creating things, or playing the markets to make money, or running empires in the far reaches of lawless space. I’ve found my niche in this game, and it’s blowing other people’s stuff up. If I harvest some tears in the process, even better.