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Eric: Dude, it's a game.

stwrgl.jpgI love early morning video game news. It's never good news. It's always, somehow, some way a company we like is being crushed by the soulless forces of commerce, a company we don't like extending its vicious grip and crushing the good, decent people playing the game, or something about John Romaro getting a new job.

Today's early morning video game news is especially cheery. It seems that makers of crap MMORPG Star Wars: Galaxies had a problem with people using a bug to duplicate in-game money, which they then spread around. Sony Online Entertainment, the soulless company in question, responded by banning all characters who had used or received the fake money.

All characters.

Including all the people who received the money in good faith, had no idea it was duplicated, and would gladly have cooperated with game officials had they known.

If this were the real world, this would be like the guy at the convenience store who had the fake five dollar bills passed to him going to prison along with the counterfeiter.

If this were the real world, there would also be organizations like the ACLU to come in and demand said convenience store worker would receive his rights, make a stink, etc. so on and so forth. See... well, see America since the passage of the Patriot Act for many, many examples of the process. But that's not important here, because this isn't the real world. It's a game. And players don't actually have any rights. At all. Period. It's someone else's machine and they reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.

Friends of the banned players gathered in protest on one of the servers. Sony responded by first threatening to shut the server down, and then 'dispersing' the mob by randomly teleporting the characters all over space, willy nilly. Were this the real world, this would be like the police gathering up protesters, herding them into cars, and driving them all over the country, blindfolded, then dumping them in ditches all over this great land of ours. See the above regarding the ACLU in such cases.

Only, once again, this isn't the real world. Characters in Star Wars: Galaxies have no right of free assembly. They have no right of appeal. They have no rights of any sort. It's a game, and someone else is running it.

Does that make Sony's responses right? Absolutely not. It is an infuriating, ham handed way of treating the people who are paying you by the month. This is wholly bad business, handled extremely badly. Period. If people want to get together and protest, let them. Let them play the game any way they feel like it. And when your customer base is complaining, listen to them. It's not that hard, honestly.

However, Sony didn't handle it that way. And so we have many, many players directly affected, and thousands of players on the edges who see just how little they rate in this game. And they want to know what they can do. How can they seize their virtual world back? How can they force change.

Simple. They can't. Sony doesn't care.

But they can stop playing.

Dude, it's a game. If someone dicks you over while playing a game, you stop playing the game. If you've paid for the game, you cancel your account and demand your money back. If you're watching other people play the game and you see them get dicked over, you stop playing the game because you don't like the way people are treated, and it's just a game.

Now, the response is predictable. "I've been developing my character for weeks/months/years. I've invested tremendous time and energy into my character. I've invested tremendous emotion into my character. I'm not about to throw it all away because Sony are dicking players over. There has to be another way!"

There is.

You can accept that all of that time and investment was done on someone else's machine, and that if you choose to continue playing, you do so at the risk of being dicked over randomly. You accept that if Sony decides to remove all characters' pants to make random pleasuring themselves on characters easier, they're going to do it and you're not going to be able to stop them.

I understand how these folks feel. My City of Heroes characters have gotten to at least mid level and I truly love them. I love the game. I love how I'm playing it.

But so far, Cryptic and NCSoft haven't dicked folks over. If they did -- especially if I were one of them -- I'd find some other way to spend the monthly subscription fee. Because it's just a game, and I won't pay for the privilege of being dicked over.

The appropriate response to Sony's actions in this case is simple. There should be massive account cancellations, from people affected and from people who have nothing to do with the situation. Sony -- and more to the point, Lucasarts -- should be forced to have meetings where someone in a tie slaps a hardcopy onto the table and says "Damn it, Steve! Account cancellations are up twenty percent and new accounts are down fifteen percent. Who's the idiot who decided the way to break up protests was to teleport people all over gamespace? I have a garbage bag for him to put all his stuff in and a security guard to 'teleport' him off the premises!" Players should make it clear that their monthly fees means they have an expectation of how they're treated, and this isn't it.

Absent those account cancellations, there's not much point to discussing it. Their game? Their rules.

Check your pants on login, Rebel Scum.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at August 25, 2004 10:02 AM

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