Nationalism in a Virtual World

As the game grew in international popularity, players from all over the world converged on the U.S. West server, leading to frequent overloading and lag in game play. The problem became particularly acute when Diablo II was released in Korea. Within a few weeks of its release, Diablo II sold 300,000 copies, making it far and away Blizzard’s most profitable overseas launch. This rapid uptake produced a massive influx of game players into U.S. West, causing further problems with game lag. Whereas in earlier instances, the causes of lag were invisible and consequently were attributed to the community at large, the new round of slowdowns had a visible scapegoat. The Korean version of Diablo II included linguistic customization that facilitated game play among Koreans, but which marked Korean players within the game space. As problems with lag worsened, a portion of the player base began to blame the Korean players. Language barriers in the shared game world added to tensions. Players in the United States began to think of the fictional game world as a nation-space, with an accompanying sense of entitlement to the U.S. West server domain.

This entitlement rapidly took on an ugly aspect. U.S. Players in the United States began a campaign against Korean players, both inside the game space and outside on websites and forums. They used tropes of national bor- ders and boundaries, and framed Korean players as “illegal immigrants” and “invaders.” Players began joining games with Korean players with the sole intention of disrupting game play and literally chasing them off of the serv- ers. Some players adopted racist or anti-Korean names. At one point a bug was discovered that allowed players to send a string of characters to the screen that would crash the Korean version of the game (a simple line of 255 periods). It became common to see players enter a game and send the string to the screen to clear the game of Korean players.

Perhaps most alarming was the creation of KPK, Inc., or Korean Player Killers, Incorporated, a self-described “Diablo II Community Effort.”2 The site blamed Koreans for server instability, excessively long wait times to join games, international video piracy, creating a sense of “excessive paranoia,” and filling chat rooms with “nonsense and numbers.” Korean players, they argued, sought to disrupt their enjoyment of the game: “It is also all too common for a normal, peaceful, public chatroom to be instantly filled with meaningless dribble by Koreans who desire only to piss off the Western realm users,” wrote one user.

Blizzard worked to end the problem by correcting the player-killer bug, the visible differentiation Korean players, and—most importantly, in the end— the capacity problems responsible for lag on U.S. West. The anti-Korean player “movement” lost its grounding in the system archicture.

Although it is hard to take the Diablo pogrom completely seriously as a performance of national and racial identity, it is interesting to consider where the differences from more familiar forms of violent nationalism lay. In the Diablo case, xenophobia and racism were mapped onto an unusual representa- tion of space and territory, but one that is in some respects no more “imagi- nary” than the experience of the nation itself. The strangeness of the circum- stances in U.S. West bring out the formal character of national adhesion—the requirement of an identity principle that can define the in-group (“people of like backgrounds tend to stick together, and in these games the situation is no different”), despite the manifest difficulty in this case of knowing who one’s compatriots were. The overblown performance of national identity in Diablo is testimony to the portability of the race–nation discourse and to the ease with which it is activated.


Story of when Diablo II opened in Korea and the influx of users sparked a hostile reaction from Western players.

Folksonomies: virtual reality prejudice xenophobia

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Game (0.704119): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 The Diablo Pogrom
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book Chapter:  Thomas, Doug (2007), The Diablo Pogrom, Strutures of Participation in Digital Culture, Retrieved on 2013-08-28
Folksonomies: xenophobia virtual