Media professor David Myers, from Loyola University, has been studying how people interact in online games. Of interest to us is his account of what happened when he started trolling people.
Myers has been studying human interaction in City of Heroes since it first launched all the way back in 2004, and with his character "Twixt" decided as part of his studies to push people's buttons. See how they responded.
Sticking strictly within the game's rules, Myers nevertheless quickly set about making himself unpopular by...doing what the game advertising itself as allowing people to do: create a superhero and battle other superheroes.
See, many players in CoH simply liked hanging out, and teaming up with each other to take down AI opponents. But Myers sought out player vs player action, and began hunting down "villains". He'd fight them, he'd beat them. And because he was good at what he did, he soon built up an impressive list of enemies.
This is where things got nasty; while initially he was gently warned against rampant player-killing, warnings soon blossomed into threats, with Myers sent messages like "I hope your mother gets cancer." Charming. The abuse eventually became so intense - he was accused of being a paedophile and of being a racist - that people were directly threatening Myers and his family, leading him to report them to publishers NCSoft.
Myers went on to publish his account in his study "Play and Punishment: The Sad and Curious Case of Twixt", which was released last year.
His findings? That it wasn't the game rules that mattered in CoH, it was the hardcore community who sought to preserve their niche little "culture". "If you aren't a member of the tribe, you get whacked with a stick," he said. "I look at social groups with dismay."