cidjen: It's an interesting theory that I don't feel I can quite comment on as I haven't thought through the rammifications or evidence. I will pointed out that in many discussions I've had Miho is accepted as a Dark Magical Girl (and is classified on TV Tropes as one.
On to ethics, however, as two of you have responded positively. I'm going to focus specifically on the pre-MT relationship between Piro(goeth) and Miho(M0h) here. I'll try not to get too wordy about it, and cite things as best I can, but you might want to put on some extra padding, cause this is going to be a word wall I'm dropping on you. (And 1500 pages of comic to extract data from. This may take a bit. It's a good thing I loathe New Years...)
So lets start from this point: How did things start? To begin with, let's look at Miho. Because of the important role Largo had within the story we can surmise one of two things. Largo's lack of Japanese language skills tells us a lot about Endgames that are quite relevant to Miho here. We can conclude that Miho was choosing to play a game with a primarily English speaking audience. Largo would most likely not have been as successful in the game if it was primarily Japanese. Further, given that Piro recounts that Miho was destroying THE GAME
, and not just his server, we can also surmise this game was small enough and intimate enough to not have, or need, multiple servers.
So what does that tell us about Miho?
There are plenty of games in Japan she could have been choosing to play. But she deliberately chose to engage in, and exploit, a game that had little to no presence in Japan, and even had a quite intimidating language barrier for most native Japanese speakers. She was deliberately attempting to create distance for herself. No one who could get to her in the physical world would ever know to try to find her, and anyone who did get to know her in the virtual world had no realistic chance of being able to track her down in the flesh. To my mind, that meant she was very deliberately attempting to carefully control and divide her selves. She was tired of being the sick, dying girl, and never wanted anyone to realize that was who she was in meatspace. M0h was her chance to get away from that and be something male, powerful, strong, and dangerous, (even godlike, as her game was to, essentially, be the cruel, evil deity that was destroying everything around her as a direct reflection of her having lived
or so as the one being repeatedly destroyed by the world around her
.) and everyone who could ever possibly "know" her in Endgames would never get to know otherwise.
Piro managed to successfully blow that to hell and back.
But that gets us into the first bit of ethics. If Miho did not want to be found, but only to be M0h, then how did Piro find her anyway? Well, he told us himself. He grabbed contact info from a forum he was a moderator of.
Now, given the lengths she had gone to to hide herself and keep this world and that separate, it is unlikely she just casually made her contact info public on the site. Many sites allow you to hide that sort of stuff and only make it accessible to moderators for verification purposes. Now maybe she made a mistake and forgot to hide that info. But with Piro as a moderator there is plenty of room to wonder. Especially given his next confession. He hounded "him" for a week.
Now, at this point Piro still thinks he is dealing with a male, and society is less judgmental of repeated attempts to get someone's attention when they are NOT responding back. Despite this, if we take all gender and sex out of the consideration, Piro basically hounded someone who was trying to avoid blurring the lines between meatspace and the virtual world using information he may not have had a legitimate right to in the first place. And Miho, after a week, and likely in a moment of physical and mental weakness, gave in because (and take it from someone who would know), sometimes when you're hurting you are desperate for anything that can shift your focus away for a moment.
So there's an interesting point of ethical thought. Piro did that out of worry and concern for a fellow player. He was simply trying to reach out and see if that player was okay, and be reassuring. But he did so in a way that has a lot of questionable methodology, even to potentially stalkerish levels.
Once he'd breached those defenses, though, it seemed like a good thing.
By making it in, he was now someone she could turn to and talk to, and get it all off her chest, without being the smothering presence of those she was fleeing to Endgames to get away from. She can talk to him without feeling pressured, judged, or any of the things she was running from.
But I need to divert briefly to remind you of something here. All of this is what Piro is TELLING us. We aren't seeing the story through an omnipresent, impartial narrator. We are seeing what Piro is willing to share with us, through his own self-perspective. In fact, the entire comic, from panel 1, to know, never shows us a single thing from the perspective of an omnipresent impartial narrator. [URL="https://megatokyo.com/strip/132
",]Fred even warned of this early on,[/URL] (though in joking fashion). So we have moved perpetually from one person's perspective of the world, to the next, to the next, and never gotten to actually see Tokyo for ourselves. We can trust NOTHING to be an unbiased truth in this series. (Which is part of what intrigues us.)
So when Piro is making himself out to be a selfless hero who nobly made the choice to risk being called out for abusing his power just to see if someone was alright, and who became the shoulder that person could cry on, is that the unvarnished truth? Or is he giving us the sanitized version he wants to believe about himself?
Moving on. When, in the story, we get to the point of Miho cutting her hair, Piro lets something slip. He's already said at this point that he has come to suspect Miho was a girl. So when she mentioned the nurses were mad about the hair, he asked for a photo. Why? To confirm his suspicions. Which he confesses to Kimiko.
"So she showed you that she was a girl. Which she knew is what you were really asking about."
"Yeah. Something like that."
Now this gets into yet another interesting area of virtual worlds and relationships. Something that has particularly fascinated me about the use of online communication and marginalized groups is the performance of sex and gender. (Warning, this next bit gets a bit technical and jargony). In the absence of a physical body we find ourselves faced with a quandry that we normally haven't experienced in the physical world (with certain noteworthy exceptions). We're not "sure" who we are talking to. Is that a boy? A girl? I've seen a LOT of dysphoric "kneejerk" reactions to this situation from people in virtual worlds, and even been on the receiving end of them in interesting ways.
Generally I've seen three reactions from people:
1: What you see is what you get. If you are in a virtual space and someone has a female avatar and female name, then you are dealing with a girl. (Yes, girls exist on the Internet).
2: What you see is potentially a trap because someone is deliberately trying to fool you for their amusement and your humiliation. If you are in a virtual space and someone has a female avatar and name, you need to plumb the depths and test and protect yourself because people are out to abuse you. Test. Everything.
3: What you see is all that matters. The person behind the keyboard does not matter. They didn't come here to be the meat monkey. They came here to be the person you see before you, and that's good enough.
Now in this case we have an interesting situation. Piro (a bio-male, but with certain traditionally feminine behavioral patterns) plays girls online. So that would make you think that he's definitely a #3 type. After all, he would get it. And nothing he's ever done implies he is the reason #2s exist. He's never struck us as the sort that plays girls because he wants to make a fool of anyone (or because "if I'm going to be stuck staring at a butt it might as well be a cute butt").
And yet, when he got the chance, he seized it to confirm that the male M0h was played by a physical world girl. He pulled a #2 despite being, himself, a G.I.R.L. (Guy In Real Life).
Given the way their characters were already interacting thanks to the emotion stats, was it just an attempt to better get to know someone he was coming to know separate from those characters? Or was he starting to have concerns that he himself was developing feelings for someone presenting as a male and OMG gay!!!?
Yes, this happens.
Again, I have been involved in RP as a female in a romantic and even sexual relationship in virtual worlds. It often can lead to some very powerful and real emotions for the meat monkey behind the electronic sexy avatar. As long as NOTHING of the real world has bled through many of us can contain this, just like Miho was attempting originally. But if that boundary has become fluid, and you are getting glimpses of the meat behind the pixels, how much of what is in world begins leaking out into meatspace? It becomes complicated. And I have seen people get hurt for real because of things involved with their characters leaking out into this world. And it's shocking how often it's because of something like "Wait. You're a GUY?"
Piro has confessed just how powerfully he relates to his characters
. So when the emotional stats said that Pirogoeth was falling for M0h, how much of that was really the stats, and how much was Piro
empathizing with, or even projecting through his avatar? Piro admits to the truth towards the end of the story. "She (Miho) was a made up character and I had fallen for her like a sad loser."
He didn't say Pirogoeth had fallen for M0h. That would be She and Him. No, he specifically pointed out "I" had fallen for HER.
The romance divide between meat space and virtual world had shredded into so many ribbons. And (according to Piro), he, the player, had fallen in love with Miho, the player. Which can and does happen.
Which leads us to another interesting ethical consideration. In this case we do know that Piro was single, so we don't really need to examine "is it cheating if it is virtual" (and I won't, because I could rant and rave about a LOT there). But we do have one important and interesting point.
Piro had pictures of Miho. Okay, so what, right? He didn't have a photo of a girl with her hair cropped mercilessly short. He had "All those embarrassing photos"
that must have come from "M0h" and not from his laptop no no never ever.
Piro had "embarrassing" photos of Miho. Not of M0h. of MIHO. And if anyone still thinks they might not have been as bad as all of these
There relationship had progressed to the point she was willing to send the sort of photos that cause shock embarrassment and shame if they get out in the public. A girl trying to completely separate her terrible real life from her virtual escape was sending real world nudes
to someone from that virtual escape. That's a LOT of trust on her part.
And a potential legal problem for Piro.
Remember, this occurred at least two years ago
(comic time) and Miho is STILL in high school at this point (in this incarnation.) And if anyone thinks she was faking the school thing, Junko recalls otherwise
. Now, we could be charitable and say her heart condition caused her to be held back, and is, therefor, 20. But that would require she be held back at least two years, and thanks to Mr. Ibara we don't need to believe something that likely. He points out
that now, not two years ago, now, Miho is still a minor.
So Piro, who was a college student at the time (if I recall correctly. I can't remember where the source of that was to look for it I do recall that his presumable age mate, Largo, failed out of college.) had what we can presume were fairly naked pictures of a Japanese Minor. One can argue that "well, he didn't know". But pictures of a 15-16 year old girl don't usually look like pictures of a fully developed legal girl.
And then there are the chat logs. Chat logs that must have been "interesting" enough to cause Miho to flat out PANIC
when she learns Yuki has read them (and were so lurid she covered Kobayashi's eyes while blushing
Thanks to the virtual world, Piro has gone so deep down the "Dude, she was HOW OLD?" rabbit hole with a girl he had ample opportunity to get to know meatpuppet to meatpuppet without the virtual world intermediary that he has some pretty serious ethics questions hanging over his head.
Of course, now that I've basically blown Piro's innocent act out of the water, what about Miho?
Oh, this girl is an interesting bundle of considerations to unwrap.
On the face of it, it seems straight forward. I've already pointed out how she appears to have deliberately cut herself off when things began to get too strong in the physical world. She did so with Junko, at the very least (enough so for Junko to take advantage of Ping's literal photographic memory for some paybacks
). More recently she appears to have done that with Ping as well, and possibly Yuki. She cuts people off HARD when she starts feeling herself connecting too strongly. So she dove into a virtual world and walled herself off from being knowable when she dove into Endgames. In fact, she even went so far as to try to make herself the most hated person in the game. I can surmise that this was, whether intentional or not, an effort to ensure no one there could get close to her at all.
Then Piro came along and managed to turn the tables on her.
What are her issues here? What did she do in the virtual that have the real world ethical considerations.
Well, if Piro had a good chance to figure out she was an underage girl sending lurid photos and engaging in virtual sexually explicit interactions (but might, MIGHT have been able to avoid actually confirming it to himself) she had NO such excuse. She knew exactly how old she was, and had a pretty good clue about what that might mean for the individual she was sending them to. This has influenced her view of Piro heavily. What do I mean? She specifically calls Yuki "your underaged fling
" with a facial expression that says she BELIEVES what she is saying. She believes Piro WOULD have a sexual fling with a minor. Why? Because she's BEEN the underage fling. But it wasn't a fling to her. (More on that later.)
Of course, that leads to an interesting personal theory of mine. We know that Miho thought Piro was a girl while she was playing with Pirogoeth. In fact, she didn't figure it out
until two years later, urlwhen he appeared in person
. So think about that when you add up what I have previously said so far. She clearly had a deep enough relationship with Junko (a girl) for it to embitter the class president enough to use a classmate she is responsible for to get revenge. She was fascinated with Ping, and appears to be avoiding her desperately now that she realizes just how real a girl she is. And, most importantly, she had what the evidence strongly says is a very sexual connection with Piro WHO SHE THOUGHT WAS A GIRL.
My personal theory is that Miho spent a while deeply closeted, and LASHED OUT at anyone who put her in a position to question that. No, I don't mean she's a lesbian. But I think the case can be made that she is bi
but is angry at herself about that fact, which has colored EVERY INTERACTION SHE HAS HAD WITH PIRO. Because she fell in love with a girl. Cut it off VIOLENTLY. Then realized she was a he. And now realizes she still is in love with him, failed to cut it off successfully, and gets confused by the fact she is in love with the guy she fell in love with as a girl. It hurts. Every. Single. Time. it forces her to confront her own sexuality.
So yes. We have the fact that Miho, regardless of the sex of Player Piro, was definitely in a relationship
that could seriously compromise not just herself, but a legal adult. And she didn't put the breaks on it until she realized that it MEANT something for her. That, virtual or not, it was quite real
But wait. Is it really a big ethical question in her case? Yes, she's an underage Japanese school girl in a cute fuku NOW. But she is much older than she looks
. Her status as a tragic avatar people can fall in love with as a romantic ideal and mourn over has had her around since an age where an Irish girl spoke Gaelic
and could fall in with pirates,
"]LIVE A FULL LIFE[/url] Then watch the pirates she loved die because of he
r before she, herselfdied
, and died
, and died
, and died
only to come back again each time for the fanboys
to get to enjoy again. So, at least from her perspective, was she really putting Piro in a bad position regarding legal age of consent in two different countries?
And now, all of those consequences are coming back to roost, all those ethically questionable decisions are coming back to haunt them. And they are learning that, "the feelings we have in games are real
". And so is the hurt.
Go back and reread the story with all that in mind, and see what kind of story you see now in regards to the innocence of Piro, Miho, and yes, Kimiko as well (who KNOWS about sex in game environments
, knows how REAL it is for people, and still accepts both Piro and Miho's past with calm.)