Fallout 76, the online multiplayer game set in a post-nuclear war world, will punish players who harass and kill others by adding a bounty to them. Just like in real life. Kinda.
Anyone who’s ever played an online game knows how the unceasing rage that comes from being harassed by a troll on your server. You’re just trying to play the game and some higher-level jerk flies down, one-shots you, and runs off. Trolls can get away with this in games because there’s no one to stop them. If you walk up to someone on the street and punch them in the head, you could face retaliation from other passersby on the street, or law enforcement could be called. There are consequences. In online games, there’s often no such consequence.
Fallout 76 wants to change that by implementing a system that punishes negative behavior. Players are obviously able to opt into player-versus-player (or PvP) combat. If you kill a player who has opted in to PvP, then you’ll get a reward. If you kill a player who has not opted into PvP, however, then a bounty will be placed on your head.
Players with bounties will show up with a red star on the map so other players can either avoid them or, if they’re seeking some communal justice, go hunt down the player and kill them right back. There’s even a revenge bonus for the initial victim if they take down the person who killed them.
There’s no telling how effective this system will be—games like EVE Online and Grand Theft Auto Online use some form of deterrent system to varying levels of success—but it does represent a fascinating approach to trollish behavior. In addition to giving the player meta tools like avoiding a specific player (which Bethesda is also implementing), it uses in-game incentives to encourage cordial play and discourage being a dick.
Bethesda is taking similar considerations with its nuke mechanic. In the game, you and a group of other players will be able to access launch codes for a nuclear missile silo and drop a bomb on part of the game map. This sounds like the ultimate troll. However, getting the codes will be an arduous task, and the site where the bomb drops will spawn important loot and materials. So unless you want to spend a bunch of time and effort to give some rando the rewards for all your hard work, there’s not much motivation to nuke other people’s settlements just for fun.
This more closely resembles how bad behavior is discouraged in real life. You can’t click a button to avoid someone in person, but there’s generally a social contract that (usually) keeps people from doing minor bad things. And really bad things are rarely worth the effort. Which is why bank heists are a popular movie genre but rarely occur in real life.
That being said, as in real life, there’s almost certainly going to be someone who decides the risk is worth it. Whether because they think they can get away with it, because the benefits outweigh the costs, or just because they think it’s funny. Time will tell if Bethesda’s approach will result in a better experience for everyone or if it will just result in coordinated griefers who band together to insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions.
So, yeah. Just like real life.