I’m going to say some revealing things about the act of Revealing Things.

In my time as a GM, I received tickets wherein people complained that another player was discussing their personal information in the public chat channels.

Now, there are strong penalties for what we refer to as Real Life Threats — where Player A finds out Player B’s location, or threatens to, or starts calling their house or their work, or — this happened to one of my friends — takes pictures of their family members and then emails them to Player B.

This is a Real Life Threat. This is the point at which you can get your local constabulary involved. This is stalking, and this is illegal in most developed countries.

Discussing another player’s personal life and details in a manner intended to intimidate them is not considered a RLT, however it is considerably out of line. The problem is that, as social animals, humans set themselves up for this without ever intending to.

Player A: “My wife’s having a baby!”
Player B: “When’s the abortion scheduled?”

Pretty nasty, pretty uncalled-for, likely to upset Player A. Player A is just so happy that they’ve got a kid on the way, they want to share the good news with EVERYONE. Player B, being your Bog-Standard Internet Troll (or as I refer to them, Bog-Trolls) sees an opening to upset Player A; some people just want to ruin the joy for everyone else.

As the GM on shift I received the above complaint; unfortunately, as offensive as it is, it isn’t considered a RLT and there was no action to be taken on it. Game companies are not the Political Correctness Police and cannot be expected to adjust every player’s rotten attitude; the amount of offense perceived depends entirely upon the target’s attitude towards people being Bog-Trolls.

We give out information about ourselves every time we type into a chatbox; internet denizens and tourists alike need to be aware that this can and will be used against them if it falls into the wrong hands. CasualPlayer3284 didn’t HAVE to tell RandomStranger3746923 that they live in Milwaukee and volunteer as an EMT. InnocentMind42 didn’t have to say in an open forum that they suffer from depression and social anxiety, George4th didn’t have to proudly announce that she’s a woman in RL, and Happy2Live wasn’t forced to tell IWillHurtYou that they’re gay.

These are all things that I have seen turned around and used against the unsuspecting poster. The question that gets asked most by support teams when complaints about the retaliation come through is, “Why did you feel the need to tell people that?”

Why DID you feel the need to tell people that?

Because everyone wants an identity. Even in the world of internet anonymity, people want to be identified as their self. They want to find people of like minds and sympathetic demeanors, people they can talk to and share with. We’re social animals, as I said before, and in the biggest forum in the world where men are men, women are men and little girls are FBI agents, we get lonely. And there’s inevitably one person looking for that vulnerable opening to use to ruin your day.

It’s easy to say, well stop giving personal information. I know a few people who have successfully managed to maintain the veil of anonymity — we’ve joked that in RL they’re porn stars or the Prime Minister — but the large percentage of people have a very difficult time separating their online persona from their Real Life selves (or the Real Life self they wish they were, but lying on dating sites about how much you really weigh isn’t what we’re discussing here).

I sometimes wish there was a line-by-line disclaimer every time a person opens an online game or an internet browser.

You are entering the Twilight Zone.
Anything you type can and will be used against you.
Please maintain a sense of humour.
You have the right to leave the discussion at any time.

Player C: “There’s this guy in my channel who won’t stop harassing me. I can’t kick him out because it’s an organisational channel, please make him stop.”
Me: “He’s not saying anything overtly offensive, and you own the channel. Talk to his CEO and let them know if the guy doesn’t stop, you’ll kick him out.”
Player C: “Are you telling me I have to solve my personal problems by myself?!”
Me:  “…Yes?”