I was just thinking of internet anonymity.
In my "real" life, I'm fairly well respected. I mean, sure, people think I'm an arrogant asshole - but they think I'm an arrogant asshole who's usually got something interesting and often entertaining to say.
So, when I talk with people I know, I know where I stand. I know that my commentary is heard, if not necessarily agreed with. Because most of my daily interactions are with people I know, my real-life conversations are on rather comforting footing.
I was thinking about the internet version of this.
Will Wright is a god to most gamers. If Will Wright posted to a game development forum, there would be two responses, repeated a zillion times: "Ohmygod it's Will Wright eeeeeee!" and "You can't be Will Wright, stop pretending!" Then everyone would be totally intrigued by what he was typing, although the "respected" people of the forum would pretend to treat him as if he weren't their hero and was just another fellow worthy of respect, in vague hope of getting him into a conversation which would prove they are worthy, and while trying to avoid gross grammatical errors such as clumsy run-on sentences like this one.
But if Will Wright posted to, say, a forum on how to manage your 401k plan, people would simply treat him like any newb: judge him on the content of his post.
Obviously, this is the same in real life. If I walked into a bar and started talking, people would judge me by what I was saying (and whether they were in any mood to listen). But that doesn't happen very often to most people. We rarely have to deal meaningfully with people who don't know who we are. Even when we're dealing with strangers, we've got an angle: they're asking us for help, or we're asking them for help, usually. We know roughly what position is occupied at any given time, even if it is occupied by a total stranger.
If we do go into a bar, we go in with friends. We bring our connections with us, we bring our respect structures with us.
So, in life, it's pretty uncommon for someone to enter a situation in which they are totally unknown and new.
Why is it so common on-line?
Every forum we go to, unless we're mega-names, is starting over as total newbs. It's uncommon to carry your "friends" with you, and when you do, it feels like you're using alternate accounts to beef up your rep.
I wonder how that feels, if you've got screaming hordes of fanboys. Would you relish the chance to be anonymous, or would you simply not bother with the on-line world at all? Would you post to a forum as "Mr. Wrong" until someone finally caught on that you were "Mr. Wright" - then abruptly stop posting?
How does it affect his ego, when he posts to game forums as a god, but anywhere else he posts he's seen as a nobody?
(Will Wright was chosen at random. I am not referencing anything he has actually done, as far as I know.)