There are many things that happen in gaming that as a player you may come across. Every once in a while you might have the displeasure of dealing with a community member who takes things to another level.
This guide will deal with CyberStalking.
Although much of this information will also pertain to corporal stalking, I will be more focused on the net in how to respond. Stalking is harassment; Aeria Games takes this subject very seriously.
First, What is a Stalker or CyberStalker?
A Stalker is a person who engages in the willful, malicious, and/or repeated following/harassing
of another person. A CyberStalker is a person who does the same, only using electronic means to monitor and contact the other person.
The fact that cyberstalking does not involve physical contact may create the misperception that it is more benign than physical stalking. This is not necessarily true. As the Internet becomes an ever more integral part of our personal and professional lives, stalkers can take advantage of the ease of communications as well as increased access to personal information. In addition, the ease of use and non-confrontational, impersonal, and sometimes anonymous nature of Internet communications may remove disincentives to cyberstalking. Put another way, where a potential stalker may be unwilling or unable to confront a victim in person or on the telephone, they may have less inhibition sending harassing or threatening communications to a victim. Finally, as with physical stalking, online harassment and threats may be a prelude to more serious behavior.
Who is a CyberStalker?
A cyberstalker can be anyone, including unknown members of online communities or forums. They are generally someone who has a close personal tie to your online alias in some way. That being said, it could be someone who: you have helped once and now has a crush; an ex-In Game BF/GF or Guildie/Clan Member; someone you reprimanded and reported; someone who read a post you made and dislikes what you said/where you stand; someone you killed in PvP; or maybe someone who just has lurked in the background and wants power/control.
There are also many cases where you and cyberstalker do not have any relationship, or are nothing more than casual acquaintances. In these cases, the motivations are generally the personal enjoyment of the cyberstalker, who takes pleasure in causing you distress, embarrassing you, or making you the subject of ridicule or further harassment by others.
Recognizing a Stalker:
Most stalkers present themselves as very nice people. They are friendly, usually offering to listen to your troubles and always there for you when things go bad. Then things begin to change
(this can be relatively quick or after a long time of knowing the other person).
Some starting signs:
- When you are busy they may start pouting or become annoyed/angry
- They start to act jealous (this is a part of when control comes into play)
- They may throw “tantrums” of varying degrees when things do not go their way
- Start trying to make you feel guilty for letting them down
- Things start to become YOUR fault (never theirs)
Eventually, when the stalker feels they now have enough power/control over you they start to push the boundaries. This is where they will force you to the point where you rebel which causes them to become angry. In turn, they begin a pattern where things become your fault and manipulate you using the fact that “you hurt them”. Slowly they build your breaking point till they will consume your life (like a leech) until they have their fill of blood and then hook onto a new “obsession”.
During this time period you may feel something is wrong but might not be able to place it exactly
. This is when you should really start to think about the relationship with the other person.
Why do they do what they do?
A big part in combating stalkers is understanding them. They generally get a thrill of getting different reactions out of the people they have chosen as targets. Exerting control and making things your fault in a cycle that progressively gets worse and worse until your breaking point is their objective. They are the ultimate trolls.
Tendencies of the Stalker:
- Change identities and names frequently
- Fake email accounts and/or Aeria Games Accounts
- Harass the innocent (easy prey)
- Uses “Disguises”
- i.e. one account to befriend you with and another to use the information found to harass you with a separate account and/or watch reactions
- Try to become the “top or leader” of a group (or close enough to) to start turning innocent against innocent
- Pretending to be an abuse victim
- Many times when the information is given on this subject to multiple people, it varies with each person they have been talking to… this is a good indication of deception.
- Plays the Victim Card
- This is different from pretending to be an abuse victim in the fact that they look for the weakest among a group and closely befriend them using rhetoric that will make you feel and care for them closely or relate to them. They want you to care about them; they want you to love them; they want you to cry for them and their situation. Slowly isolating that person so that they consume them, and then disappearing in one way or another (faking a death or ending the friendship, etc).
The main reason is reaction(s). A stalker will take enjoyment in seeing a reaction
to certain event or thing they say.
Types of Stalkers:
The five types of cyberstalkers are the Vindictive cyberstalker
, the Composed cyberstalker
, the Intimate cyberstalker
, the Obsessive Stalker
, and the Collective cyberstalke
- The vindictive cyberstalker is a type of cyberstalker that is malicious. Offenders in this group harassed or threatened victims far more often than offenders in the other groups. This group was more likely to use spiteful tactics that were intended to continuously harass victims through excessive spamming, messenger, and email bombing.
- The composed cyberstalker targets victims in a calm manner. The cyberstalkers in this group harass victims to cause constant distress through a variety of threatening behaviors.
- The intimate cyberstalker group pursues victims based on infatuation and obsession. This group is the most diverse, because some of the offenders had a previous relationship with the victim in some way (Guildie, Clan member, in game friend, etc).
- Obsessive stalker often do not see what they do as wrong, or malicious. Many will proclaim feelings of love for their victims. These types of stalkers are possibly the most difficult to deal with as well as the most dangerous overall, as they do not give up very easily, and will often say and do things to manipulate you to do as they please (more extreme cases of this type of stalker may even threaten suicide and self harm, and these can be very real risks if the person isn't emotionally stable).
- Collective cyberstalkers consist of two or more individuals who pursue the same victim (rare on Aeria Game’s Forums from my observation).
Sometimes, there might be a stalker that doesn’t just take on one victim but a group of specific victims... Let's name them "Community Stalkers". This could mean an entire Guild (or any group of players) or a specific part of one
Example: IRC Shaiya Shoutbox Trolls – Females Only
Now, to the nitty-gritty… How to deal with Stalkers.
The key thing to remember about dealing with stalker(s) is to remain calm, keep a level head, and to ask/get help with dealing with it.
- First of all, when you realize they are a stalker or believe they might be, Stop Reacting! As reactions are what they look for and crave. Make it boring for them by being a “dead pan”. When it is no longer fun, they will stop as it no longer has any thrill for them.
- Always save and/or Screen Shot conversations. Make sure you keep logs/journal on what is happening along with dates and times.
- Do not crop or doctor these images
- Block them from all channels of conversation.
- Warning: some stalkers take great enjoyment of finding out other ways to contact you (through friends or your new YIM or SN). It will give them a thrill act as detective.
- They may also try to contact you from another Alias, posing as someone new.
- Converse with your friendsand GameSages. Even if they aren’t experiencing the same issue as you are (and some may be), you will find support (something anyone going through such a situation needs)
- Compile all data you can find, including separate screen names/aliases they may have
- Keep complete and exact data (as much as possible)
- Talk to a GameSage – never be afraid to do so in such a situation
- Talk to a GS especially if more than one of you are having this issue; even if it is only you, notify a GS to keep them abreast of the situation
- I suggest talking to a GS before writing a ticket for helpful tips on reporting and keeping logs as many times the stalker will harass you only on third party content
- Write a ticket with all the information you have and can gather
- If things go above and beyond Aeria’s reach or things have escalated to the point where you are afraid of physical harm, DO seek help from the local authorities. There are federal laws and regulations on stalking (cyber or physical) in almost every country.
Look for a GameSage, they should at least be able to back you up and help you out when such a situation occurs. Write a Ticket
and pass the RT number onto a GS so they may forward it to a GameMaster.
Ticketing a Stalker
When you have gathered enough evidence from your logs and journals on the incident(s), write a concise report to the GameMaster team using the “Contact Us
” form. It might take more than one follow up with additional information but it is worth it. Aeria really cares about your safety and wellbeing. Stalking (cyber or physical) is serious business
! When you have finished a ticket on stalking, I suggest passing the RT number to a GameSage so they may refer it to a GameMaster.
* Remember to Not Crop your SSs when using them for reporting purposes. They should not be doctored in anyway so the GM team can properly evaluate them. *
What to do if Cyberstalking turns into stalking in real life (i.e. they find your address, phone number, etc).
- First - Stay Calm and Do Not Panic
- Panic and mayhem is what the stalker wants
- Second - If they have your phone number, call your network provider. They should be able to block the number with no charge after you tell them your situation.
- Another viable option is to switch the number you currently have over to GoogleTalk and then request a new number from your regular phone provider. GoogleTalk allows you to block incoming calls etc and you can keep your number for when this issue blows over.
- Third - Make sure you Document All Calls/Times/Emails/Letters/Threats etc... anything that can be used to show what they were doing.
- This is part of why Screen Shots and keeping logs/reports/journals is so important
- Fourth - Call the authorities. There are international and many national/state laws against stalking (virtual or physical). Do not be afraid to use this option!
- Show them the information and data you have gathered when they ask for it. They should be able to provide you with resources to correctly deal with the problem.
- If anything starts to move into Real Life (they try to contact you etc....), go to the authorities. This is a serious situation.
- Do your best to limit information of a personal nature on the internet
- Including Photobucket Accounts etc when linking images (which is easily traceable if you use any information there; I suggest making a separate account just for sharing items on the web with your specific Alias)
- It does not take much for a stalker to find your phone number if they persistently go after it.
- Keep your YIM/Skype/Name/Email off of your Aeria Games profile
- Just be wary and diligent. Not all people are bad on the Internet but there are a few that you need to keep your eyes out for.
Often the most difficult aspect of dealing with stalkers is the emotional manipulation. I know many of you are extremely compassionate people, and stalkers WILL use that against you. They will guilt you, blame you, even try to make you feel responsible for the situation. The best thing to remember about that is: These people are often emotionally (and sometimes psychologically) unstable. They will say ANYTHING (ranging from "My grandma died" to "I am HIV positive" - yes, I've actually heard that one) to try to make you go along with what they want. As tempting as it is to give in to these people, to feel sorry for them and to comfort them, this is exactly what they want. Always try to take a step back from the situation and think about it. Try not to let your feelings rule your actions here, as this is what they are counting on
I hope you never have to come across such a situation. It has happened in the past but is not generally thought of or brought up in conversation topics. Yet it is something I feel is a bit neglected. I want you to be prepared to face such a challenge or issue if the need arises.
With any luck, this will never have to be used but if it does I have faith that it will help at least a little.
With much Love,
Some more information:
- LordRapthorne - for additional information
- Andaro - for coming up with the name "Community Stalker"