Blog Banter 37: The Line in the Sand
“EVE Online sits on the frontier of social gaming, providing an entertainment environment like no other. The vibrant society of interacting and conflicting communities, both within the EVE client and without, is the driving force behind EVE’s success. However, the anonymity of internet culture combined with a competitive gaming environment encourages in-game behaviour to spread beyond the confines of the sandbox. Where is the line?”
This is a complicated question – probably more suited to an Anthropologist’s PHD thesis than a blog post.
Simplistically, where the line sits comes down to accepted social, moral and legal norms. There is a field of science dedicated to this area, with legitimate means of identifying and categorising these norms.
The problem is that EVE – despite the marketing lingo, is not real.
The players connect remotely to a virtual world. They are not tied to a single geographical location. There is no consistent cultural history. They live under different legal and political systems. They have differing religions, languages, education, wealth and basic values. Even the population demographic is unusual, being mostly male and over 18 years of age.
In other words, instead of a single line in the sand, there are hundreds of lines, each as plausibly valid as the next.
When you play EVE I think you just have to accept this “flexible moral compass”, and give more leeway than you might personally be comfortable with.
While not an especially good example – it looks like our Corp recently had a hanger cleaned out by a thief. There was some disbelief and anger at this. Personally I just felt a little disappointed that the act representing less than 1% of the Corp, impacted the trust of the other 99%. The thief might have infiltrated the Corp just to steal. It might have been done by a hacked account. It might have been someone’s idea of revenge, or proving a point about security, or just plain simple greed. Whatever it was, I don’t feel the act crossed any line outside of the game.
Over the years however I have witnessed or heard multiple firsthand accounts of situations where I believe EVE related behaviour has crossed too far into the real world, even giving allowances for differing social norms. I have heard from people who have physically approached other players and threatened to assault them, or had that done to them. I have seen real life relationships systematically and deliberately undermined to further in game goals. I have seen people who clearly have emotional or psychological issues being purposefully provoked and upset with apparent intent on their wellbeing.
So I think there is a line, and the simplest way to define it (to my knowledge) is the classic Golden Rule.
It’s not perfect, but it works for most people and most situations. If you would not readily accept a behaviour being directed to you (or a loved one) in real life, then you would cross the line if you directed that same behaviour (in real life) to someone else.
(* The line image was taken from http://www.stanleywilliamhayter.com/anglais/fields_a.htm)