Got to hand it to fellow blogger, Paypabak Writer, she has a habit of firing off sound bites, (Write bites? Blog bites?), that capture my imagination. The most recent, which will be a little while back by the time this goes to press, appeared in a piece – which itself was commenting on a post by Kara Trapdoor – in which Pay says:
“To play well with others is essential”
Now, I grant you that this was a point being made specifically about roleplaying in SL, and I have chopped a bit off either end of the comment, but here’s the link to the original, if you want to check it out in context – however, it’s the words shown above that really spoke to me, because I think they apply equally as much to SL as a whole, as they do to roleplay or any other niche to be found within the virtual world.
Here’s how it works: SL is a collaborative medium: Apart from a tiny minority who elect to go it completely alone in the virtual world, we are all to some extent, dependent on others. That may be to a very strong degree, as in the case of inworld families, clans or roleplay; in a looser sense, such as clubs, groups and wider friendships; or may be simply transactional in nature – creators and customers, service providers and recipients, landlords and tenants. As far as the majority of us are concerned, the reality is that our Second Lives will be comprised of a variety of different relationships with others, some of which will be tightly constrained within those boundaries, and others of which will combine or transcend them. The key point being that in any inworld relationship, whether personal or business, there will be certain expectations and standards of behaviour that will be both understood and exhibited by both parties.
Let’s take a close friendship as an example: Typically, we will expect and demonstrate mutual trust, patience, tolerance, understanding as well as empathy, compassion and at least some shared interests. Similar expectations and behaviours are expected in a strictly transactional relationship, as exists between vendor and customer: here we expect courtesy, integrity, honesty, fairness, accountability and efficiency. All being well, in either type of relationship, things will go well, provided both sides stick to their part of the deal – to play well with each other.
However, should either side not live up to expectations, or begins to demonstrate the wrong behaviours, things can turn nasty extremely quickly. When a friend betrays our trust, fails to be compassionate or appears intolerant, that friendship can be irrevocably and irreparably broken. If a merchant is discourteous to us, is dishonest, inefficient and fails to stand accountable when they should, that can be disastrous for the business and leave a very bad taste in the mouth of the customer. The shame of it though, is that such bad behaviours are rife throughout SL – we far too frequently do not play well, sometimes intentionally, with others.
I’m sure that every one of us knows at least one person from our circle of friends who has found themselves on the receiving end of a vendetta by a former friend, partner or acquaintance, or are themselves doling out vitriol and hatred for some slight – imagined or real – perpetrated against them by another. Then there are the blogs and plurks where drama unfolds daily and where the flames of ire are fanned by commentators more than happy to add their own fuel to the sacrificial pyre. We see wars being waged between store owners – not just with other store owners – but with their own customers, who are equally happy to slag off, bad mouth and abuse any designer who should drift into their sights.
We regularly hear cries of ‘fraudster’, ‘copycat’, ‘content thief’, ‘favouritism’ and ‘IP infringement’, whilst DMCA takedowns, abuse reports and flame campaigns are the weapons of choice in this virtual war in which there are no winners, just a whole bunch of losers.
And that is my underlying point: Nobody wins. The whole thing is petty, childish and ridiculous – if we were kids in a sandpit, our parents would take away our buckets and spades and send us to our rooms, or to sit on the naughty step. If we can’t play well together, then I’m afraid we don’t get to play at all!
Frankly, I’ve no interest at all in that sort of thing – I’d rather play quietly and have fun – but the trouble is, there are plenty of bad kids and bullies out there just looking for an excuse to pull our hair, steal our sweets and call us names, and it’s oh so easy to retaliate in kind. But, let’s just play nicely eh?
It’s a lot more fun in the long run.
Bad behaviour was my savior
Makin’ mischief used to make my day
I put my fist through a window pane
Super Furry Animals – Bad Behaviour