The Gray Moral Morass

You may or may not have been following the whole EVE cyberbullying thing.

Syncaine being Syncaine, he is both morally repugnant and technically correct in his deconstruction of the argument. What exactly can one do in defense against the emotional blackmail of “I’m suicidal?” Is that not carte blanche acquiescence to every situation, including purely PvE concerns of “loot didn’t drop, so I might as well”? And what about the in-game incentives CCP purposely built into EVE to encourage competition, subterfuge, and retribution?

So, on a whim, I decided to check EVE’s Terms of Service. And I don’t even recognize what game they believe it’s for (emphasis mine):

As an Eve Online subscriber, you must observe and abide by the rules of conduct and policies outlined below, as well as the End User License Agreement. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in the immediate termination of your account and you will forfeit all unused access time to the game. No refunds will be given.

1. You may not abuse, harass or threaten another player or authorized representative of CCP, including customer service personnel and volunteers. This includes, but is not limited to: petitioning with false information in an attempt to gain from it or have someone else suffer from it; sending excessive e-mails, EVE-mails or petitions; obstructing CCP Employees from doing their jobs; refusal to follow the instructions of a CCP Employee; or implying favoritism by a CCP Employee.

2.You may not use any abusive, defamatory, ethnically or racially offensive, harassing, harmful, hateful, obscene, offensive, sexually explicit, threatening or vulgar language. (Alternate spelling or partial masking of such words will be reprimanded in the same manner as the actual use of such words.)

3.You may not organize nor be a member of any corporation or group within EVE Online that is based on or advocates any anti-ethnic, anti-gay, anti-religious, racist, sexist or other hate-mongering philosophies.

4.You may not use “role-playing” as an excuse to violate these rules. While EVE Online is a persistent world, fantasy role-playing game, the claim of role-playing is not an acceptable defense for anti-social behavior. Role-playing is encouraged, but not at the expense of other player. You may not create or participate in a corporation or group that habitually violates this policy.

Did I pick the wrong ToS? This is for EVE – EVE – right?

There was also Rule 9:

9.You may not advertise, employ, market, or promote any form of solicitation – including pyramid schemes and chain letters – in the EVE Online game world or on the website.

…but after some thought, it was probably intended to prevent IRL pyramid scheme spam.

So, assuming that CCP enforces their own ToS, there clearly are lines in-game actions can cross, the people behind the pixels are protected to an extent, and it is not the exact free-for-all that it is made out to be. That said, I do wonder about the degree of dissonance between the “no harassment” policy and in-game bounties, war-decs, and general grief potential. Is there any evidence that CCP has acted on this policy before? Is it harassment if I get shot down by a Goon ship every time I enter Goon territory? They just won’t leave me alone!

Incidentally, here is Blizzard’s stance on harassment on PvP realms:

Ongoing Harassment
The Ongoing Harassment policy does not apply when there is a PvP resolution available on a PvP realm, as physical confrontations are considered a facet of PvP combat and players in opposing factions are unable to communicate verbally. Characters have the ability to address their conflicts through combat and GMs will only involve themselves in extreme circumstances.

In related news, the deal will probably be over by the time this post goes up, but did you know this happens:

Cheaper than most F2P games!

That’s… almost tempting. And kinda ridiculous at the same time.

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Posted on March 29, 2012, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I played EVE a few years ago and their policy may have changed, but formerly most “in game” things were permitted. Harassment via chat was met with the same thing it was in WoW “Ignore the offending user, report if they continue.” It is a VERY broad and selectively enforced for situations like this.

    I am also working on the assumption that CCP’s policy for Fanfest is that the game’s TOS is fully in effect at all events they host.

    Though they aren’t going to say exactly which grounds they punished him on I would assume it was a combination of term 1, and the last term:

    29. You will not encourage others to break these rules or any rules set forth in relation to EVE Online’s game service or web site.

  2. A TOS is there to protect the company as much as it is to steer how people play. This way they can always point to the TOS if things are going bad for the company.

  3. What a strange blog post, Azuriel.

    It reads like you’re tempted to play Eve because it’s full of cyberbullies and it’s on special offer.

    • In retrospect, I could have worked on the transition a little better. :P

      For the record, I have been interested in EVE for a long time. I have a huge soft-spot for sci-fi, cyberpunk, and so on – had this trailer been for a movie, I would go see it. I have simply never bothered to pull the EVE trigger because:

      A) No one seems to describe the fun of the moment-to-moment gameplay (e.g. the pushing buttons part); and
      B) The game seems openly hostile to solo play.

      Not that I would necessarily avoid grouping/social play or anything, but the days when I have to log on Thursday nights at 9pm and play for three hours straight (or get called on a cell phone at 2am because a POS is out of reinforcement) are probably over. At the same time, I bought LIMBO for $9.99 and got a whole three hours of gameplay out of it. What’s $6.80 in the scheme of things?

      I passed, though. I can wait for all the new ship/skill changes CCP is talking about.

      • Well, i’m playing it after WoW got too boring with LFR, and it’s pretty easy to solo – at least as far as PVE content accessible to one-month-old newbie is concerned (lvl 1 to lvl 4 missions, trading, exploration).

        More fun and much safer in group, sure, but nothing significant stopping you from soloing.

        Still, waiting until Inferno might be justified.
        As far as i see, many newbie-friendly features and even minor but important interface improvements are extremely new. Just a patch ago they renamed all equipment and implants from arcane like “Zainou ‘Deadeye’ ZGA10″ to far more reasonable like “Zainou ‘Deadeye’ Sharshooter ST-901′ (where Sharpshooter is name of skill increasing same parameter, 9 – implant slot, and 1 – “grade” level, usually equal to relevant stat percentage increase). And changed names of missile launchers to clearly reflect which missile types they use.

        Clearly they are slowly getting better, and there is more to come.

      • I had Eve on my list of “to test” games, but it keeps being pushed down for more or less the same reasons. Also, I’m not a PvPer, so the only interesting part would be the economy, but then after filling my pockets, what?
        Add that the image of the game is steadly going down, looking less and less a fun game and more and more the cesspool of MMOs, and that for all the attention it gets, it’sirrelevant when it comes to subscription numbers…. WHY exactly would I want to try it with all the other titles out there?

        BTW the “pushing buttons” part appears nowhere probably because it’s an irrelevant part of the (meta)game, Eve looks a lot more about politics and alliances than individual game-play. At the same time, take the offer you showed us and let us know :)

      • I’m enjoying Eve. I’m usually a fairly hard target as the main focus of my operations is in WH space and even there I’m usually cloaked.

        But in high sec I’ve been killed lots of times, sometimes because I stupidly triggered something that gave them the right to kill me, sometimes suicide ganked. It doesn’t bother me much, it’s just an occupational hazard of afk autopiloting.

  4. I’m not sure who it was now, but in one of those threads someone said (paraphrased): “civilization is measured by how we protect the low-hanging fruit”, as in it’s how we look after the weak that defines who we are as a species. I love that idea a lot.

    It IS frequently emotional blackmail but what is truly lost if we acquiesce? Occasionally someone will get away with some childish nonsense without being called on it*, but occasionally someone’s life might be saved. I don’t see the existence of the former as being a more weighty matter than the latter. The vast majority of functional adults are not going to pull the suicide card every time something happens that they don’t like, and again even if they did I still don’t see why that is more important than a general policy of not taunting strangers to their death.

    Or, to bring it back around in this specific case: what would have been lost if The Mittani had never mentioned the fellow? That’s more of a rhetorical question, and something I’ve been musing over myself lately. I am clearly a bit more.. civic-minded than Syncaine, but I don’t really understand his logic on this one.

    • Mittani’s actions were clearly dumb, because he telegraphed his intentions as “harass this guy because he’s suicidal.” But what if he never mentioned the guy’s in-game name? The controversy would not exist. What if Mittani merely wanted to “call the bluff?” Is scamming someone in-game a moral action as long as they’re able to handle it emotionally? And what about all the suicidal people who never say they’re suicidal? Should we be avoiding any competition or confrontation in the off-chance a life is saved thereby?

      Again, Mittani crossed a line. But… where is the line exactly? Are we forever stuck in a “I know it when I see it” situation? That seems depressingly vague.

      Syncaine is correct insofar that anti-harassment provisions contradict the very tools added in-game to specifically harass people (bounties, war-decs, sovereignty, etc). I don’t agree with his “anything goes” conclusion, or the infantile Social Darwinism, but he has a point vis-a-vis PvP.

  5. But what if he never mentioned the guy’s in-game name? The controversy would not exist.

    Well quite. That crosses the line.

    Sadly Eve may now be unplayable for the person at the heart of all this. Many Test/Goon players, outraged at what they perceive as the unjust punishment of the Mittani have said they’ll camp him into permadock.