Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Death of That Which Did Not Live

Goodbye to my fakey Facebook account, M______. A friend and I used to call these secondary mock-ups "shadow accounts," for when we wanted to air grievances but not have them attached to us. A more enduring term (circa 1953) has been "sock puppet," referring to a false identity set up to deceive.

I never deceived anyone with M______. It was strictly a gaming account--some of my friends on my genuine Facebook account don't like to play games and complain when, twice a year, I invite them to join in. I created a fakey account, befriended strangers, and bulked up my support in the various online games. That's the thing: in many of these games, you cannot succeed or even progress without increasing your entourage. Many of these games are created by marketers or sponsored by them, so they have a vested interest in coercing as many unwilling players as possible to sample their wares. It sucks, but then again, nothing in life is truly free.

I had a pretty good thing going with M______. The games were getting very far and I started to reach up into the upper levels. Unfortunately, that's where the petty, vindictive fucks with nothing else to do lurk, and they wait for someone to show up so they can bully them all to hell. They impede your progress, they deplete your resources, they taunt and insult you, and then they swear vengeance when you do anything to defend/retaliate. That's pretty much the end of the game for me.

Fashion Wars was the worst, for that. Anyone who says that a government run by women would be at all superior to our current patriarchal system needs a crash educational course in trying to get anywhere in Fashion Wars. There's a wall you hit, when you start to come into some real power and, subsequently, attract the notice of the real heavy hitters in the game. (There's a second wall, which I never reached, where you lose the bulk of your defenses and the game introduces a structure which makes it easier for bullies to isolate and torment you repeatedly, indefinitely. I cannot imagine why someone would write that into a game.) If you peer into their accounts, they are mainly white trash women from 17 to 55 years of age. They form alliances and betray them rapidly, then swear vengeance when they are likewise betrayed. They are too willing to take offense at anything around them, and every struggle they're engaged in is evidence of how the world is slanted against them. And that's outside of Fashion Wars--in the game it's ten times worse because they actually have real-world time which translates to in-game power. They form dynasties and clans, and they start up campaigns to systematically harass players they dislike for whatever reason. When I was thus targeted, I quit that game.

It's started up again in another game, though, where a player four times as powerful as me has been killing my character off several times a day over successive days. There's no defense against it, there's no recourse (the game developers are supremely disinterested in this game dynamic), and there's no reason for him to stop. Even though his gain is minimal, the harassment is a real psychological weapon that I can't cope with. Right this minute, if someone gave me a wooden baseball bat and teleported me to a spot just behind the person who has made a small career of harassing me, ideally while they were logged on at their computer, I think I would hospitalize that person. I don't have it in me to kill him, but I would take a lot of joy in breaking him into pieces. I would enjoy his shock and revel in his helplessness, and I would bathe in his agony. It would not be quick, either, I would not swiftly disable him. I would give him ample reason to deeply, sincerely regret his life decisions, and then continue to torture him for several more hours. I wouldn't get tired of it any time soon and I would remind him every five minutes why this is happening. I would also make it very hard for him to go online again.

That's an unreasonable reaction and so I know it's time to quit the game. For that matter, I'm no longer interested in any of the other Facebook games: once you have a steady supply of support and can generate enough energy to completely quests and gain levels, you've essentially won the game. The game never becomes some other model where you need to rethink your strategy. It just repeats itself, making the obstacles larger and the goals more distant, but it is essentially the same thing you started with. Nitrous Racing was more interesting in that there was some judgment to your actions, and there was some amusing storytelling involved in the game (and if someone was repeatedly attacking you, it was never apparent), and I'll miss that game. I got very far in it with the M______ account, but like I said, many of my friends don't enjoy these little games and I will never have a large enough group to get very far in that game with my main account.

The only thing there is to do is terminate M______ and give up playing games on Facebook. Yes, there's Farkle, for which you do not need a large group, but that is only an exercise in frustration.

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