Reports of class warfare in Fallout 76 were probably overblown, but far from fabricated. The recent introduction of Fallout 1st, a paid subscription service offering cosmetics, conveniences and (not-so) private servers, has created something of a rift.
At first that just meant the odd subscriber got attacked by people in bear costumes. Now the subscribers are fighting back, with 300 of them joining a clan called the Apocalyptic Aristocracy. This involves flouncing around in fancy clothes while semi-joking about looking down on peasants. It's all good fun, apart from the toxicity.
I know about the clan thanks to Polygon, who investigated the Aristocracy by talking to various members as well as one of its founders, "VectorZarak". It's an interesting dynamic:
"The anti-subscription players had become very toxic, so much so that players could not even discuss the private servers or the bonuses that came with them without being insulted or yelled at. What started as a joke quickly turned into a safe haven, where players who had subscribed could openly discuss Fallout 1st topics without being attacked.”
It's not hard for me to imagine people being arseholes to those asking innocent questions in public chat, or on forums. We are talking about videogames.
The enmeshment of meme and irony into online culture is often trying, but this makes for an interesting case study. Playing up the silliness of a class divide in this context seems a neat way of diffusing tension, until you remember we are talking about videogames. There are people who take it too far, like Mr. Jeremy Singer here:
"I really enjoy getting under someone’s skin and then at the end hitting them with the good old, ‘learn to laugh, it’s just a joke and only a game’ to later double down on my trolling."
I do like this, largely because its yet another example of Fallout 76 players turning something shoddy into roleplaying fun. But Poe's law is a thing, and you've got genuine unpleasantness fuelling the tendency for ironic statements to bleed into genuine belief. In this instance that phenomenon is probably only having a small impact on a fraction of the Aristocracy's membership, but the whole dynamic resonates with broader cultural problems both in and outside of games. People: stop being unreasonably awful to one another.
There, fixed it.