There’s some interesting stuff to be unpacked in a recent analysis of Conan Exiles that characterizes it as replete with griefing, racism, sexism, and general unmoderated player garbage. Equally interesting is the official response from Funcom, which is essentially “this isn’t an MMO so we’re under no obligations to moderate this stuff.” You can read that as any mixture of “we don’t want to hire moderation staff” and “we want money more than we want players to be happy” as you desire.
It’s true that Conan Exiles isn’t a full MMORPG. It’s also true that there are official servers with Funcom’s name on them, which means that there’s a legitimacy there. And it raises the interesting question of what obligations studios have to the players in this particular environment.
What qualifies as “griefing” can have a wide scope and cover a lot of things, and some of that is part of the game at its core; after all, there’s plenty of griefing behavior beyond PvP that makes a game like EVE Online what it is. And that’s not even counting servers that aren’t officially run by the development team. So what obligations do studios have to provide a griefing-free MMO environment? Does it apply only to official servers? Only to MMORPGs? Only to sufficiently large servers? When is moderation no longer the problem of the game’s owners?
After years of trying to crack the serious issue of negative behavior and toxicity among their individual communities, 30 game studios and industry leaders are teaming up to see if their combined strength can win the day.
League of Legends’ Riot Games, World of Warcraft’s Blizzard Entertainment, EVE Online’s CCP, Fortnite’s Epic Games, and Twitch’s Twitch are among those companies that have formed a “Fair Play Alliance” in an effort to combat bad player behavior. The coalition’s goal is to create a set of behavioral standards that will be shared among the whole community and help up-and-coming developers as they try to break into the e-sports markets.
“As an industry and as a society online, we’re trying to find our way. Having to be a company that steps out and says ‘We’re gonna be the ones to do this’ is kinda scary. This is an opportunity for all of us to say ‘What if we walked together as an industry?’” said Riot Senior Technical Designer Kimberly Voll.
When is it appropriate to send verbal abuse to someone you don’t know personally? When is it appropriate to tell someone that you hope they lose their job or suffer significant personal injury? The obvious answer to these questions should all be “never,” and yet a new article by small indie developer Morgan Jaffit points out that in the game industry, dealing with vicious targeted abuse is part of the cost of doing business. Development across the board is dealing with people who feel that there is a point when all of this is appropriate, even if they differ on the circumstances when it’s appropriate.
Needless to say, this has a pretty huge impact on development, and it spills over to related fields. (Is it appropriate to say awful things to a community manager over a feature you don’t like when the community manager is not a developer and had nothing to do with it?) The article cites the omnipresence of social media and the popularity of personalities who “tell it like it is” (read: spew invective and curses at top volume), and it’s the sort of thing that everyone who cares about the future of games should read and consider.
The EVE Online
community is aflame this week after alliance leader gigX was permanently banned
for making threats of real-life violence against another player following possibly the biggest betrayal in EVE history
. Some players don’t want to accept that gigX crossed a serious line and deserves his ban, and others have been asking why The Mittani’s similar actions in 2012 resulted in only a temporary ban. CCP’s official stance
is that its policies have become stricter since 2012, but it’s still not entirely clear exactly where the line is drawn.
Another side to the debate is that the internet itself has evolved over EVE‘s 14-year lifespan, and a lot of toxic behaviour that was accepted or commonly overlooked on the early internet is now considered totally unacceptable. Many of us have grown from a bunch of anonymous actors playing roles in fantasy game worlds to real people sharing our lives and an online hobby with each other, and antisocial behaviour is an issue that all online games now need to take seriously. The lawless wild west of EVE‘s early years is gone, and I don’t think it’s ever coming back.
So what’s the deal? Does EVE Online tolerate less toxic behaviour today, has the internet started to outgrow its lawless roots, and what does it mean for the future of sandboxes?
The usual trajectory in professional sports seems to be that no matter how noxious you are as a person, it’s all ignored if you play well enough. League of Legends
, on the other hand, has taken a stand; a player by the name of Tarzaned will be kept out of participating in the game’s Scouting Ground event
due to failing the standards of behavior set by Riot Games
The Scouting Ground is meant to be a way for players to find teams and sponsors by displaying their ability in an open venue, and Tarzaned is currently a dedicated jungler rated number one in the North American region. His response to being told that he was not welcome to the event was… well, more or less what you’d expect from someone who got rejected based on behavior. Still, it’s a feather in the cap of Riot Games, enforcing the idea that toxic behavior is unwelcome at all levels of play including the top.
Hello, trade chat, my old friend; I’m turning you back on again. Because the team on World of Warcraft has addressed your issues at last, so the players who were filling you with spam will not be banned, but will make sounds of silence.
The new silence penalty is being rolled out with the game’s pre-patch for Legion and will hopefully provide a useful midpoint between banning players and simply silencing those who others find continually offensive. When a player is reported for offensive behavior in chat and the report holds up under review, a silence penalty will be implemented, preventing the player from inviting others to groups, talking in general channels, or sending mail to other players.
At first implementation, the silence penalty will last for 24 hours. Each subsequent silence penalty will double, with no upward limit. Your 10th silence penalty would last for about 512 days, or just about a year and a half. So for players who just can’t stop dropping ethnic slurs in chat, there’s a means to get them to hush up. No word on whether Simon & Garfunkel play if someone under the penalty attempts to use a forbidden chat, but we can certainly hope so.
League of Legends
rulebreakers who were dismayed to learn that they wouldn’t be receiving any rewards
for ranked play at the conclusion of season five are being given a second chance by Riot Games
Starting with patch 5.18, Riot is changing the punishment system to inform players immediately as to why they have offended and will be requiring that “toxic” players go through a few normal games on their best behavior before being allowed back in ranked play.
Lead Game Designer Jeffrey Lin also confirmed that the studio will be wiping the slate clean of prior offenses for season five play: “With the new upgraded restrictions we’ll be introducing in 5.18, we’ll be resetting all active chat and ranked restrictions. Consider this a fresh start for players with any current chat or ranked restrictions because as long as they stay sportsmanlike and do not get new chat or ranked restrictions by the end of season, they’ll get ranked rewards.”