Tobold's Blog
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.
Comments:
You forgot to mention that the Mittani apologized meanwhile and repayed him all his losses (11 billion).

Just for completness. Doesnt make this right though - but shows what Eve really is in this 0.0 level space
 
Doesnt make this right though

Oh, I wasn't even discussing right and wrong here, because there the borders between virtual life and real life become even fuzzier. If you and me find ourselves in a cantina in SWTOR, and I say to you: "Your mother was a Bantha!", am I role-playing in character or am I insulting you personally? I could well imagine a situation where purely in-game one powerful corporation starts an all-out hunt against a single player who betrayed them, without that crossing into "morally wrong" territory.

What I am looking at here is situations where the action both clearly is "out of game", and covered by actual laws, not just fuzzy notions of right and wrong. Starting a Ponzi scheme in EVE might be morally wrong, but completely legal. Having a video on the internet asking for a specific depressed player to be hounded into real-world suicide probably isn't legal, although that might depend on the jurisdiction you're in. And it clearly left the "it's just in-game" sphere.
 
I don't think mixing legal issues with things a company doesn't forbid their players to do makes any sense, really.
 
This story to me is all about hardcore players not knowing where the boundaries are and where things 'cease to be a game.' I like to think that normal people would know these things.
 
I wonder how old this Mittani guy is. That sounds like the thing that would some like an awesome joke to a socially awkward teenager.
 
News: The Mittani just resigned from CSM7.

I like to think that normal people would know these things.

You just went and called all hardcore players "not normal". ;)
 
I don't think we can chalk this up to youthful indiscretions, his day job was a lawyer.

Tobold: Link? Apparently the official forum is down. His twitter account does mention falling down on his sword, but that was posted before the apology.
 
The player who was the subject of all this is alive and well and in fact barely mentioned the incident.

Until someone convoed him and explained he had no idea anything was happening except that a bunch of goons turned up to try and gank him.
http://paste.pocoo.org/show/571748/
 
Did you see Mittens aplogy?:
https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&find=unread&t=86980

A pretty decent and honest apology in my opinion even though the event itself was inexcusable and certainly waranted his resignation.

I am particularly struck by his distinction between Alexander Gianturco the human being and the Mittani character he plays in a video game.

I am sill confused myself over the whole issue of the morality of playing "bad" in a multiplayer game. On the one hand if everyone was nice to everyone else all the time we may as well give up every comeptitive game and every competitive sport. On the other hand griefing is a form of bullying and does hurt people even if you are only doing it "in character".

By the way when did you become Tobold Stoutfoot?
 
By the way when did you become Tobold Stoutfoot?

Probably a consequence of the Blogger integration within Google+.
 
Nils,

How is the things a company forbids its players to do in-game not a "legal issue"?
 
Ah, the broken telephone effect. The Eurogamer article StrategyInformer used as a source only mentions the intent to resign. And his latest post says that he's still discussing whether he should resign with the CSM. Seems like CCP's waiting whether he'll do so. If they want him out, they can always refer to the "carry themselves in a manner that sets an example for other players to follow" clause.
 
I was first struck by the "intends to resign. He may well be forced to resign, but it seems to me like you are considering resigning or you resign. A paragraph email to CCP would take care of it. In particular, he told the person in question (IIRC in the talk he mentioned scamming 7 people out of $1000+ ships), he "intended" to give them a ship. I am not sure that I see a commitment from him he "intends" to resign as being completely reliable until after the resignation.

If I said something horrible and untrue about my neighbor in a blog, there are legal consequences. Nor is "free speech" universal; certain discussions of past German governments are illegal in some countries. UK has strict libel laws and there are comments that can even be capital offenses in certain theocracies. Do any of you think that these things which are illegal or have civil liability are any less illegal if they are done in the chat system of a game than if they are done in a blog or twitter??? I.e., it seems quite obvious to me you can commit acts in EVE that are illegal IRL.

All of you are currently right and may be forever, but I am not quite as convinced that "Starting a Ponzi scheme in EVE might be morally wrong, but completely legal." I am certainly not advocating increased government regulation.

My opinion is laws are created by judges and politicians and common sense is not that much help in deciding what is legal. In the last day in the tech press I have read that a UK man was sentenced to 56 days in jail for what he tweeted, "UK MPs Threaten New Laws If Google Won't Censor Search" and a "Japanese court ordered Google to turn off autocomplete."

I think there is an increasing argument that virtual goods have "value." Certainly I would be unhappy if someone stole my WoW gold or TOR credits. And ISK is easier to argue since it has a computable cost. And D3 easier still.

Certainly destroying a $6000 ship in combat is not illegal. Is it legal today to behave in bad faith in order to steal virtual goods worth enough to be a felony? yes. Will it always be like this? …
 
I read the apology thread.

It's an outright disgusting read. Not because of what the Mittani wrote... but because of the virtual e-BJ he received from the community afterwards. Salutes and e-hugs and cries of, "We love you, never step down!"

Act like an asshole and apologize after?
HERO.

He personally might be taken at face value with his apology (which was poorly-timed, coming several days later and only after official investigations into his behaviour had started), but the fact is a lot of EVE folks saw nothing wrong with what he did and would behave that way themselves again in a heartbeat. Without being drunk. I played EVE for a few years. He isn't just an Elected Representative of the community... he is literally representative of the community. Not all of it... but a significant and influential part of it. The part you're more likely to encounter.
 
Actually, Teut's post and Tobold's response gave me an interesting question.

Do EVE players NOT see in-game harassment, scamming, etc as morally wrong? Thus the divide where if you say it in the real world suddenly the issue of morality is in play, whereas when something is done in game it can't possibly be morally wrong?

That's...vaguely disturbing.
 
The Mittani's apology ceased to have any meaning the instant he used being drunk as an excuse/justification for his despicable behavior.

-Michael Hartman
www.frogdice.com
 
unlimited freedom - as long as you pass under the radar...
 
It seems the incident was enough to let the Mittani step back from his CSM chair position. Rumours also tell he is stepping back from leading the Goons, his alliance.

This is major politics in Eve now which could shift the whole power of the universe.

Interesting. Just like real life incidents.
 
@Sine:Do EVE players NOT see in-game harassment, scamming, etc as morally wrong? Thus the divide where if you say it in the real world suddenly the issue of morality is in play, whereas when something is done in game it can't possibly be morally wrong?

It should be quite obvious that morals are defined by humans and the environment that they live in, and comparing two sets of moral values defined by humans living in two completely different environments is pretty silly.

In one environment, homosexuality will cause you to burn in hell for eternity, so it's banned. In another, killing a person means nothing because he respawns in 5 seconds. In yet another, stealing and scamming is encouraged. It shouldn't be something you should be shocked by when you've had so much exposure to so many different environments through games.
 
The resignation post is now up. Apparently he felt that his in-game role as the Mittani is more important than his real-life role as the CSM chairman.
 
Yeah. Totally unrepentant. Ew. Ew ew ew.
http://soundcloud.com/cptunderpants/state-of-the-goonion-march (Mittani mumble podcast.)
 
Certainly destroying a $6000 ship in combat is not illegal. Is it legal today to behave in bad faith in order to steal virtual goods worth enough to be a felony? yes. Will it always be like this? …

So why isn't losing $6000 at the casino a crime?

Perhaps what will happen is there will be more strict testing required to test someone actually understands what they could lose in game, rather than people thinking somehow their game assets aught to be protected by the legal system.
 
In another, killing a person means nothing because he respawns in 5 seconds.
Seriously dude, some states change in a database and some pixels change on a screen.

These are ignorant descriptions. Don't screw up your argument stating stuff like this.
 
Callan, you are confusing the means with the purpose. The Goons never say "we want to achieve some states change in a database and that some pixels change on a screen". They say that they want to frustrate people and make them cry until they ragequit. The stats changes in the database and the pixel change on the screen are just the means on how to achieve that purpose.

"Unfriending" somebody on Facebook is just a stat/pixel change too, but can be very cruel in specific circumstances.
 
No, I'm correcting bad description. No guy is getting killed, whether it's a state change or an attempt to bully. To try and bring in 'some guy got killed' is just screwing up the argument. Pzy has got some argument there, but I think he needs to prune this part or spoil the legit parts of his argument.

And Tobold, I think you're inclined to confuse purpose with means. Ie, to start thinking if someones bombing the crap out of someone, it's with the purpose of being mean and nasty.

Lets be clear - two chess games. In one, one player politely uses a set of moves to checkmate the other. In the second, the chess player uses the exact same moves, but he insults the other player and says nasty things, before checkmating him in the same way.

I think the second player is a jerk, but it's not because of the moves he makes on the chessboard.

If that depressed player had somehow been multi blown up by people just politely playing the game, would we suddenly decide all those people actually had ill intent because of their actions?

This Mittani guy's 'Oh, I was playing evil' when the other guys suicide would be an out of game thing - Mittani sounds like an idiot who can't seperate fantasy from reality (sadly a victim himself, making more victims), or someone making excuses to be sociopathic, or a trainwreck mixture of the two.

But the fact is that having the crap bombed out of you could occur from polite, friendly players. Yes, the opposition can be friendly and anyone who can't grasp isn't grown up enough to play. If the depressed guy was going to suicide from that, he should not play the game to begin with.

The bombing isn't the issue - it's the nasty social poison someone like Mittani adds to it.
 
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