The Daily Grind: What obligations do studios have to provide a griefing-free MMO environment?
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?