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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 24.1 > Online Gaming

Online Gaming

A Virtual Experiment in the Dark Side of Human Nature

EVERY AGE HAS ITS OWN FORM OF STORYTELLING, AND video gaming appears to be a defining narrative of today’s culture. Most of us grew up in a gaming environment, whether it involved playing Nintendo in the living room or hauling a bag of quarters down to the local arcade. The term “gamer” is no longer useful as an identity. After all, games are for everyone. Video games enthrall the masses, like good music and fine art. By providing a world with authentic characters, a riveting story, and a stimulating setting, a quality game immerses players in the story, allowing them to briefly forget the troubles of everyday existence. Gaming offers a sense of control, allowing players to envision and create a world of their choosing. When complemented by a well composed soundtrack, the experience can be utterly intoxicating. However, as more and more people enter the sphere of online gaming, hackers and scammers lurk in the shadows, salivating at the prospect of including us in their perverse virtual experiments.

Whatever the game may be—baseball, Monopoly, or a game of poker with friends—cheaters will always look to prosper. The zero sum nature of competition— or the perceived zero-sum nature—drives people to bend the rules in order to gain unjust advantages and, ultimately, emerge victorious. From an evolutionary perspective, cheaters seem to have an immediate advantage over cooperators. Assuming evolution favors any behavior designed to spread one’s genes, men may benefit from spreading their seed in, shall we say, a quantity-focused manner. Their offspring may then go on to exploit more people, and also reproduce higher than average due to their advantage. Eventually, however, they will start exploiting each other, and then the system breaks down. In the short term, however, cheaters certainly can prosper.

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About Skeptic

BEHE’S LAST STAND COLUMNS The SkepDoc: Is Low-Dose Radiation Good for You? The Questionable Claims for Hormesis, by Harriet Hall, M.D. • The Gadfly: Define Your Terms (or, Here we Go Again), by Carol Tavris ARTICLES Making Gasoline from Water: John Andrews and the Invention of a Legend • Online Gaming: A Virtual Experiment in the Dark Side of Human Nature • Duped by Data Mining • How Science Will Explain and Fix Fake News • The Cult of Falun Gong: A Dance Troupe and Victimhood Raises Big Money • The Opioid Epidemic Misunderstood • Why the Human-Centered View Has Not Served us Well • Behe’s Last Stand: The Lion of Intelligent Design Roars Again • Straw Man on a Slippery Slope: The Case Against the Case Against Postmodernism • A Disproof of God’s Existence REVIEWS Reviews of: The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure; The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe: How to Know What’s Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake; Investigating Ghosts: The Scientific Search for Spirits; Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post- Facts, and Fake News; Hoax: A History of Deception: 5000 Years of Fakes, Forgeries, and Fallacies; Truth’s Fool: Derek Freeman and the War Over Anthropology JUNIOR SKEPTIC Quest for the Truth about Dungeons and Dragons