I spent today looking back at games I had played online. One major experience was the first MMO I had ever played, Ultima Online. Back in the late 90’s, Ultima Online was the largest MMO, a massively multiplayer online game, around. It was a fantasy roleplaying game with a huge number of players. You could hunt monsters, craft items, sell goods to other players, and build your own home, up to and including castles, and set up vendors to sell your trade goods to other players. That part was great. It was lots of fun.
But there were some problems. Every time you left a city, you were subject to attack, not by monsters, but by other players. PVP, player versus player combat, was not consensual. PKers, play killers, could anyone outside a city and kill your character, then they would be allowed to loot an item from your corpse. Many PKers would stand over your corpse waiting for you to come back so they could kill you again. This was much easier for them as you often no longer had any equipment, or if you did, it was your second best set of equipment.
PKers had most of the options covered. Often they had the best gear available because they had taken it from other players. If you were fighting a monster, a PKer could come attack while you fought the monster and be fairly certain to kill you before you could finish the monster, then they would kill the monster as well and take that loot, in addition to looting your corpse. There were guilds of PKers who would camp just outside of a city and waylay anyone who left the safe zone. If you did kill another character, you were marked as an outlaw, but that mark faded in just a few minutes. In fact, if you saw someone marked as an outlaw, the rules allowed you to attack them. However the PKers knew to watch their time, get you to attack them just as the mark showing them to be an outlaw was removed and then would lead you into the safe zone around the city so the city guards would kill you.
Many of you, especially those who enjoy PVP, will be yelling at me to grow a pair and just get into PVP and beat them. Well, as a casual player, I did not want PVP. Also, PVP has almost always been the realm of those who are willing to spend more money, especially at this time. This is when most people were still using dial-up. So buying a buying a 33.6K modem for a couple of hundred dollars was much easier for a family man, than paying $500 for a 56K modem or going all out and getting a cable modem or DSL. Some people could afford that and that gave them a massive advantage. The same advantage you get in many games today for micro transactions.
For those of you who don’t play games, let me give you an example of how this works. Imagine playing a game of chess where you are allowed 8 pawns, a king, a knight, a bishop and a rook for free. If you want, you can buy a queen, a second knight, bishop and rook for an additional cost. So, is your top ranked chess player the best player? Not necessarily. You can only be certain that money will change the standings giving those with the money spend an advantage over players who play for free. In most games this is represented by faster connections, faster processors, better video cards, more RAM, add to that the number of hacks for ‘botting, macroing or any violation of the EULA which should get someone banned from the game.
What about GMs, game masters, who would ban these players? Well Ultima Online had a problem there, most of their service was volunteer and could only ban people they caught using a hack. At some times during the day, you might find only one person handling complaints for hundreds of players. Problems occurred including, PVPer using hacks to insure kills, Vendors (game purchased bots) being robbed of all goods, houses stolen including everything in the house and no satisfaction available for players who had lost hours of work within the game.
At this point some of you will point out the obvious: “If you think the game sucks so badly, then leave.” I did. I went to another game, with consensual PVP, and played there. But that brings me to the reason for writing this. Imagine a game with all the downfalls of the above. You will never be the strongest player, you might find yourself being attacked by a group, and the rules are set up where enforcement is spotty, leaving you without protection and subject to strict limits as to how you play the game. Sadly, what I am describing is not a game, it is called being a woman.
Men are almost always stronger than women. Most women are fearful every time they find themselves alone, without protection. When a woman reports abuse by a man, the laws are often very much in favor of her attacker. This was something that became very clear to me as I read Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy. Prior to that I assumed women just happened to find lousy men in their lives. After reading that, I looked back over the women I have known and realized most of them behaved in what seemed like an irrational manner because there were afraid. Women I had just met might be reluctant to go out with me because someone in their past was a monster. Even though I was a nice guy, so many women were afraid of what might lie beneath the surface. As I think about my early experiences with online gaming, even knowing that the people who ruined Ultima Online for me were less than 10% of the population, I can begin to understand why women fear.