I often think that all stories about the relations between online gaming and real life are just footnotes to Julian Dibbell’s My Tiny Life (free PDF here) — one of the great masterpieces of contemporary journalism. I was looking it over again recently and noting how, though the technologies have developed significantly in the fifteen years since Dibbell was doing his research, the ethical challenges of online life remain pretty much the same.
Take this story, for instance. David Myers is a media professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who, as part of his research, started playing City of Heroes and became so incredibly good at it — simply by following the rules of the game more strictly than others did — that his fellow players came to despise him.
Well, that’s how Myers tells the story, anyway — and the reporter he talked to bought it. But others tell a different tale. The comments on this post are pretty interesting, as is Myers’s response to the controversy. (See his other posts also.)
But really, the proper template for understanding all such controversies is in My Tiny Life. If you haven't read it you really should.