MMORPGs may maim and pwn but words will never hurt me.
In online gaming environments you may be getting shot at, impaled, or run over by tanks. But the more serious damage may come in the form of the offensive chatter bandied about casually between players connected remotely via headsets.
Racist, homophobic, and sexist language proliferates as gamers trash talk. But often such language and name calling is used, not to offend, but to distract and gain attention.
Such “Griefing” behavior is meant to be ironic. “I am not racist/sexist/homophobic,” a griefer will think, “therefore, my use of an offensive term is just a joke. If you interpret it any other way then you just don’t get it.”
But that doesn’t mean griefing doesn’t have an impact.
Lisa Nakamura — Professor in the Institute of Communication Research at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and author of the book Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet — spoke to David Weinberger about the origins of griefing, and how online communities are dealing with it.