Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The limits of being without limits

One reason that EVE Online is popular is that CCP puts up a lot less limits and restrictions on how players can interact with each other. Actions which would be bannable offences in other MMORPGs, like scamming your way into a guild and robbing the guild bank, are totally allowed in EVE Online. Many fans of EVE claim that it makes the game much better that players aren't limited to politically correct interactions.

There is just a small problem with that: Interaction between players is never just 100% confined to the virtual world. Real world rules and laws apply to the communication that spills over into the real world. Just like a telephone company doesn't have the right to declare what communication is legal or not on a telephone line, a game company can't declare real world rules invalid just because some communication took place in a game or during a game convention.

Case in point is the EVE fanfest, where during an "unfiltered" panel the elected player representative The Mittani revealed a private conversation with a depressed player, giving out that player’s in-game username and encouraged the audience and viewers watching to find the player in-game to harrass them, in the hopes he would eventually act out on his depression and commit suicide. That event forced even CCP to state that: "We are undertaking a full internal review of this panel as well as the process used for vetting the panel’s materials. Even though this panel was billed as unfiltered by CCP, we expect public presentations to be courteous and professional towards others."

There are jurisdictions in which cyber-bullying is a crime. If The Mittani succeeds in driving that player into suicide, with video proof of inciting that cyber-bullying available on the internet, he could well end up in jail. And nothing that is written in EVE Online's End User License Agreement or Terms of Service is going to change that. Because at some point you just leave the sphere of the game, and the authorities don't care whether you did that cyber-bullying via e-mail, Facebook, or EVE Online. There is a limit to what degree of limitlessness CCP can offer.

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