We'll now turn to how role-reversals can negatively impact existing relationships.
Emphasizes Personality Differences
For some players, the in-game role-reversals led to conflicts and arguments. In many of these cases, the conflicts seemed to stem from existing power struggles and personality differences that the role-reversal highlighted. In other words, one party wasn't willing to relinquish the power that the other party was trying to take on.
I played Final Fantasy with a friend/boyfriend and he was guild leader & very much a strong leader in the game. In our relationship that was never really the case. I was usually 'in charge' in deciding what we did, where we ate, etc. I usually even drove him around in his car. It was hard for me to take his leadership in the game context and I resented it. It made things difficult IRL because I was bugged by him assuming a role that I was not used to. I think it bugged him too cuz I wouldn't submit to his authority and I think I made him look weaker to the other guild members. [F, 30]
My husband and I play together. We do seem to reverse roles in MMOs. I tend to lead IRL and am kind and friendly. He tends to quietly follow my lead. However, in MMOs he usually is deciding what quest we are on and what's next, while I'm more interested in checking out some distant object. This does sometimes affect our relationship, mostly when he gets mad at me because I'm wandering off in game or stopping to fight everyone, while he just wants to get to point A and collect B and take it to NPC C, without stopping. It is hard for me when this happens, because it is the reverse of our normal IRL relationship. [LOTR, F, 26]
A friend from the Dorm I lived in sophomore year in college played guild wars with me on occasion. In all other games that we played together, like Guitar Hero and Super Smash Bros. he was my obvious superior. He always won competitions and was the instructor and I was the student. However, in guild wars it was the opposite. I was immensely more knowledgeable in the game than him. Especially in competitive matters. It occasionally caused some abrasiveness in real life as he was not used to me taking the leadership and instructional role. [GW, M, 19]
New Power Spilled Over
Other players felt that the role-reversal in the game led to an adoption of an inappropriately condescending attitude face-to-face.
The only thing I can think of was when I was playing WoW with my ex a couple of years time ago. He was very needy in real life and I was typically very independent. He was also a very arrogant guy and was used to people not being as knowledgeable as he was. Oddly enough, he'd met his match as far as IQ goes when he met me. I started WoW because I saw how much fun he had with it ... and I was a newbie and didn't know anything about it. Suddenly, rather than being intellectual equals and him being the needy one, the roles were reversed. I had no idea what was going on and needed him for pointers, and he found himself more knowledgeable than I in one arena. He prided himself on being in the best guild and one of the most powerful/experienced/best gear on the server. And he didn't want to play with me because I was a newbie and apparently my lack of experience was embarrassing. In real life, it caused our relationship to deteriorate because he started thinking he was better than me and deserved better. I started feeling unappreciated because he carried his 'superiority' from the game into real life and became distant. [Vanguard, F, 23]
I joined WoW to play with my best friend. He had been playing for 6 months and had a character I thought was established. By being at the right place with the right people at the right time, I became a founding guild officer. Later, my friend joined the guild. My guild seniority, as well as the advantages I had through character building advice from guild mates led to my adoption of a condescending attitude toward my comparably ineffective best friend. [WoW, M, 24]
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