online consequences

videogames are presented as consequence-free sandboxes. you can try things, you can run over the pedestrians, you can do a genocide run with no real world impact. i hear lack of real world consequence is a fundamental condition of play?

which makes it unsurprising that online spaces related to videogames are so bad. you add other people to the sandbox - and of course you continue on the same habits. you do things that push other people's boundaries, to see how they react, same as you did with NPCs. but of course - that's a bad way to be. there is now consequence, there is now a community that can be harmed. i mean, actually play always has some consequence - just because it happens in the real world (as everything does) between real people. play communities are powerful and dangerous things - just ask Bernie DeKoven.

and of course, this is also true for online spaces in general. attempts to enforce real name policies, to push people away from anonymity are gesturing towards this problem - it's one overemphasized channel by which they try to attach lasting consequence to your acts online. however, your name is only one of the ways consequence is attached to action - the real thing is the totality of the design & community decisions which make people feel like they are in consequence-free spaces. because: this is not all of online, despite the way it's sometimes written about. i certainly don't feel consequence free pushing the big button to submit a visa, or a tax return, or the message that asks out my crush. or even the message that asks out that good looking person on OkCupid - and, hey, look, that's an environment without a real name policy.

this is not to say everything online should be consequenceful. consequence-light space is liberating and powerful. there's a reason that play is powerful! we need space to experiment. the idea of carnival is powerful - a space where we can see what it is like to be people other than ourselves, a space where we can imagine other possibilities. 4chan is awful, but it's also alive. it gave us many good bits of culture, and it'd be dishonest of me to renounce it in totality.

so, to sum up: consequence? sometimes good, sometimes bad. let's all think carefully about things as we design the places we live.

18 January 2017