[MUD-Dev] SOC: Will company sanctioned cheating hurt the MMO community?

Peter Harkins ph at malaprop.org
Fri May 6 14:58:49 New Zealand Standard Time 2005

On Sat, Apr 30, 2005 at 11:55:44PM -0700, Jaycen Rigger wrote:

> What the hell is the point of playing if the rich can do whatever
> they want, while the rest of us have to slog through the normal
> game mechanics to get by? Buying virtual property outside of the
> game mechanics is cheating, pure and simple. Sony could police it
> if they wanted to, but they're too damned lazy and greedy to do
> it.

> Congratulations, Sony. May your blackened souls rot in digital
> hell.

This rant reminded me powerfully of David Sirlin's description of
the "scrub" as a player who invents their own rules of conduct that
prevent them from winning games[1]. Sirlin is a tournament-level
player of fighting games like Street Fighter and observes that
there's a class of players who regard "a wide variety of tactics and
situations 'cheap'" or as cheating.


There's three sets of rules at work here: Rigger's, Sony's, and the
actual implementation of Sony's rules. Buying and selling of
characters and equipment was not prohibited in the implementation of
Sony's rules, Sony changed their rules to permit it, and Rigger
refuses to accept the situation.

Part of this is about managing expectations, but because the
intersections between the real and virtual worlds are so uncharted,
players are strongly guided by their own intuition rather than a set
of shared community standards. EverQuest's norms allowed this
commerce but Rigger (and plenty of other people, judging from the
flames I've seen) don't share them. They were content to ignore the
practice when it was "unofficial" and they could point and laugh at
people who got burned, but Sony's acceptance has left them feeling
betrayed. Their opinion used to be the official one and now it's

I don't mean to belittle these players or their feelings. I'm trying
to point out in frank language how this is an interesting and
complex conjunction of what games are, human personalities, and
human societies.  This is the stuff virtual worlds live and breath,
and I think it's the most interesting part of virtual worlds.

Perhaps Sony could have handled this better by presenting it as an
anti-fraud program, but it's doubtful. The only reason everyone
didn't want to immediately throttle Captain Renault from Casablanca
when he was "Shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in
here!" is because it was done amusingly (so the audience immediately
smiled) and because Renault was being forced by the Nazis (so it
wasn't *really* his fault).  Sony just didn't have those cards to
play, so it's hoping to trump with its "large profitable companies
can weather storms" card.

  [1] In the article linked he at first defines it scrubs as
  "unskilled players", but in later articles and posts on his forums
  he narrows it to players with this behavior.

Peter Harkins    -    ph at malaprop.org    -    http://malaprop.org
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