Robert Folsom | August 10, 2012
Anger. Malevolence. Opposition. Separatism. Desiring power over people. Women rising. Magical thinking. Exclusion.
This head-spinning collection of negative social mood trends all were at work in one news item this week, which serves as singular example of how socionomics explains an otherwise baffling collective behavior.
What’s more, this story is not about war or politics or financial markets…
… but about entertainment. Specifically, what’s happening when girls want to share the fun of a certain playground that boys want just for themselves. Not just any “playground,” but a $25 billion sector of the economy with tens of millions of participants.
I’m talking about online video gaming, and the “girls” and “boys” I mention are in truth the adult men and women of the vast gamer community.
Much of the fun of gaming comes through “voice chat,” via the headsets gamers wear to talk to each other in a particular game environment. In turn, a women’s voice makes her a target.
“In Virtual Play, Sex Harassment Is All Too Real” was The New York Times headline. The story described several individual cases of male gamers mistreating their female counterparts, not as exceptions but examples of what is often the rule:
“…sexual threats, taunts and come-ons are common, as is criticism that women’s presence is ‘distracting’ or that they are simply trying to seek attention. Some have been offered money or virtual ‘gold’ for online sex. Some have been stalked online and in person.”
Some women learn to cope with the bad behavior, while others leave; but in recent months some female gamers have begun to organize and push back, with support from game designers and male gamers of goodwill.
Alas, the well-reported article did not address the deeper “why,” particularly the “why now” regarding a disturbing trend that appears to be on the rise.
Our answer begins with the three-word phrase negative social mood, but that’s only the beginning. You can learn much more in our three-year archive of The Socionomist, which includes insights in such articles as “A Game of Thrones – Almost Everybody’s a Bad Guy,” and “Melody and Music — Popular Mood.”
If you’re a subscriber, it’s all freely available — follow this link to learn more.
Andrea Dibben contributed research.