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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

While most people might think that people are more likely to lie and misbehave online, the opposite is probably more true. As the following graph shows, about one-third of players feel that they act more benevolent online than they do in real-life.

It is also the case that about one-third of players feel they are more aggressive and initiative online.

The internet does indeed allow people to feel less inhibited, but as this pair of graphs suggest, the internet doesn’t turn people into pathological liars and thieves, but rather, courageous knights and brave warriors whose motives are benevolent.

Posted on January 1, 2003 | Comments (21) | TrackBack (0)


More than most of your questions, this one is going to be subject to self-reporting and selection biases. Almost everyone who has played Ultima Online has suffered from the activities of griefing players. Pretty much anyone whose gotten into high-level raiding in Everquest has also suffered from guilds who prefer to compete or grab spawns rather than negotiate. I'd guess that those people are younger and more male than those who on average are participating in your surveys.

Posted by: David Watt on January 10, 2003 9:25 AM

But remember. Just because 30% of people are more benevolent doesn't mean that suddenly there are no griefers.

Posted by: Nick Yee on January 10, 2003 9:59 AM

Also, remember the questions are phrased only with respect to how respondents believe they behave offline. There was nothing in the question regarding how benevolent and/or malevolent they feel they are in the rest of their life. Griefers and jerks may feel they'd behave the same or even worse toward others offline as they do in a game, if given the chance -- that aspect simply wasn't addressed in the poll. Of course, that type of player may also simply not be bothered to take a poll in the first place.

Posted by: Kimaya on January 10, 2003 3:13 PM

I would agree with Kimaya. But what i want to say is that since it is an online game, playing with poeple you don't know, and there is no limit, no consequences for doing what you in the game, i think some people tend to let lose. I myself is a player in Everquest, and sometimes when i am stressed out in real life, i do let lose and cuss at people who have no common sense, or other reasons that a moderately intellegent person wouldn't do or say(which i don't do very often)

Posted by: Jacky Wong on January 11, 2003 1:04 AM

Perhaps I am wrong, But in some cases this question is totally moot as the game regiments a players behaviour by rewarding benevolence. This is not about free choice but about altering behaviour to better fit into the game space.

Posted by: Tara on January 11, 2003 11:21 AM

I don't completely agree with jacky wong. If you don't behave when interacting with other people, they will be unpleasant to you that moment. But if you don't behave repeatedly online, you will be appearing on the ignore list of many people rapidly. I have grouped once with someone in that situation, and after the group I adviced him to try another game or at least another server as he was the worst person I had ever seen. I also said him to try and see the game as a game, as it stays a game that has the purpose to amuse the people playing it. I have to admit that I have difficulties seing it that way some times.

Posted by: Björn on January 11, 2003 3:43 PM

I think these polls in general are a tad biased to people who would go to a site AND fill out a poll for a person.
There's 6.7% males who are more aggressive in game.
Visit a pvp server on Andred with all those 'leet doods' and you'll see quite a bit more then 6.7% of people willing to tell you just where you can go place question for directions.

Posted by: Dan on January 11, 2003 9:23 PM

Because of the anonymity, I have been more malevolent at times. I.E., if I am in a bad mood, I would show it. But because folks are more honest in their reaction to that crankiness, I have learned tons about myself, why I am in a bad mood when I am, and have improved my behavior. This has gone over into RL, too. This is true for a lot of people. If you sit in a newbie zone for a while there is a ton of flaming on the public channels. That just doesnt happen in high level zones.

Posted by: Peria on January 12, 2003 12:23 PM

i played eq only on pvp servers..i quit playing several months ago but the number of malevolent players on those servers is ALARMINGLY high ..especially the rallos zek server( the one you can steal items)
on that server i would wager that the amount of people who are more malicious and mean is more than 50% good ppl are very low in number
the statistic should differentiate between pvp (rvr) and non pvp or non rvr

Posted by: noahriding on January 12, 2003 3:21 PM

I suspect this poll is totally flawed as the brainless griefers you encounter (especially in unrestricted environments like EQ/Rallos Zek) are unlikely to fill in a poll like this ... or if they do they would probably lie!

Posted by: sceptic on January 13, 2003 5:40 AM

Most people that play on PvP servers are too young to actually take interest in a poll like this to begin with, so the numbers will be inaccurate. Just add an extra 12% or so the the 7.5% or whatever it is currently to compensate for them.

Posted by: Calrathan on January 18, 2003 12:13 PM

Is there an age breakdown on these statistics Nick?

Posted by: Eolirin on February 17, 2003 10:31 AM

Eolirin - The "more malevolent" choice was negatively correlated with age. So younger players were more likely to choose that option:

12-17: 13.11%
18-22: 8.14%
23-28: 6.78%
29-35: 3.9%
35 and up: 2.9%

The "more benevolent" choice did not differ significantly with age. And the "stay same" is where we see that 10% compensated for.

Posted by: Nick Yee on February 17, 2003 11:09 AM

I cannot speak for PVP environments in OU, EQ, etc., But I have noticed a lot of the opinion held by "white" servers concerning darktide has been garnered by people entering darktide(A PVP only world), and being preyed on by the people who hang around for the express intention of preying on new, easy to kill players. I believe that should the person stay on the PVP server longer, and take death of character with good humor rather than violent flames, they will be able to relate amicably with a number of people, despite whether those people actually kill them when push comes to shove or not. I have a level 40 character on darktide. Most characters there are at least level 80, and I suck at PVP anyway. However, I still have fun with the freedom of being able to attack anyone I like and the knowledge that if, after a win, someone messages me with "stupid newb u know that was a fluke 1v1 me" I can respond with "Well, yes, it was a fluke, but beating me 1v1 wont make you die one less time :P". Though a number of people on PVP servers take losing too seriously, not really minding or taking a humorous take on character death can make thing much more fun. For me, anyway.

Posted by: Bruno on May 8, 2003 1:02 AM

I have met many griefers/mean people in game, particularly in SWG who believe that they have honor. They claim to only grief in response to other "unhonorable" acts, but are always lieing or changing what they say to defend themselves. Oddly the majority of these people seem to be adults, I would have assumed they were all children.

Posted by: Evan on January 16, 2005 12:26 PM

Well, this is all fasinating and all, but I must say lets not talk about greifers and malicious pvp behavior, but look at the one treats the npcs. NPC's we all know are non playable characters that faciliate mmorpg game play. I would bet my life that there are more people that have acted out harshly their darkest fantasies on these poor sobs than anything else. Infact, I can say my guild and I went pillaging through a NPC friendly town just to destroy things for fun and do things to NPC's that we wouldnt' do to real players. People realize that there is a real person sitting behind that avatar, and they won't do anything to them out of a variety of factors, but they have no inhibitions to destroy NPC's now do they!!! ^_^ Deep down inside, people are all sadistic, thats why we're human>.

Posted by: Kyinan on November 15, 2005 7:19 AM

Some of the people that responded they act the same as they do in real life are probably jerks in real life, too.

Posted by: Steven on August 25, 2006 8:41 AM

I try to act the same in game as I do in real life, but I do have a shorter temper. One time, after I had been camped for like 20 minutes and hearthed to stormwind with rez sickness, within about 5 minutes three random strangers had asked me to summon them, even though I had no group and would have to run around gathering up people, use one of my soul shards, and in all likelihood one of them would have screwed up the summon and one of my soul shards would be wasted. So I /y'd that I was tired of random strangers bothering me for summons and then I exclaimed that soul shards don't just fall out of my.. You get the picture.

Posted by: Tony on January 15, 2007 2:46 PM

Once people get 'into' the game their real personality and sometimes a suppressed part of them might surface. The game can be used as a form of self discovery.

Interactive games are based on cooperation. In the long run it pays off to be 'nice', to 'share' and to support others. Since you spend several hours with those people within a game session no one wants to associate with someone unpleasant, no matter how good a player they are. They will be the first to be eliminated from a group if a choice has to be made.

Posted by: Betty on August 16, 2007 4:13 PM

Having read the article and all the comments about it....

Its interesting to know that a similar survery was conducted by a group about honesty levels in social networking sites like Facebook etc.
They found out that people tend to be more honest online than in real life.
The reason being that people feel free to say and express themselves as they are with minimal fear of social forms of punishment.
However, the study does not indicate their benevolence/malevolence levels. It just indicated that people are more honest, for the good or the bad.

Posted by: Jayanth on November 8, 2011 4:54 AM

Having read the article and all the comments ...
There was an interesting behavioural study conducted about honesty levels in social networking sites like Facebook, Orkut etc.
They found that people tend to be more honest online than in real life.
Reason > People feel they can freely express themselves as they are online, since there is lower social pressure on them, lower parental policing ...
However, the study was about honesty levels, not benevolence/malevolence. People are more honest online, for the good or the bad.

Posted by: Jayanth on November 8, 2011 4:59 AM
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