March 21, 2005

Cheating hurts everyone

When the subject of buying and selling game data comes up, sooner or later someone will point out that wherever there is a buyer, a seller will present themselves. However, the willingness to buy and sell an item does not make that item beneficial, nor does it make trading in that item ethical. Slavery, narcotics, fissionable materials, nuclear weapon technology, etc. There are very valid reasons why these items have been deemed unsuitable for daily commerce and thus illegal to trade in. True, all of these items are still available if the buyer knows who to contact and if they have the cash to pay for them, but that still does not make it right, nor does it make it advisable!

Buying and selling game data hurts everyone. It deprives the game makers of income they have worked very hard to earn (income they need to maintain, improve and expand the game world!). It deprives the purchaser of the satisfaction of achieving goals put into the game by the designers. It makes it possible for operations like IGE to fill game worlds with non-players who have no vested interest in creating a fun, entertaining environment for everyone. It forces honest players into competition with players who are unwilling to play by the rules established by the game designers. It dramatically unbalances any PvP game by breaking the character/item balance established by the designers, and it creates hyperinflation in the game economy by putting excess game currency into the hands of players who do not appreciate its value.

Cheating hurts everyone, including the cheaters, but the cheaters are too self-involved to realize the damage they are doing.

An online MMORPG is not a console game. Any action a player takes, any choice they make, even if they spend most of their time soloing, will have a dramatic impact on everyone in the game world. No matter how minor it seems to the individual player, their choices affect everyone they are sharing the virtual world with. In a console game, if a person cheats, all they've done is save some time and skullsweat (and deny themselves any real sense of achievement). With a MMORPG, especially one that includes PvP, the cheater has dehumanized their fellow players by assuming their opponents have no right to win PvP encounters.

Cheating assumes the cheater is the only one who deserves to triumph. They need to triumph because their cheating has deprived them of any real sense of accomplishment, thus they cheat, because only by cheating can they gain the satisfaction that normally comes from playing the game the way it is meant to be played. Cheating creates a vicious and virtually unbreakable negative feedback cycle that the cheater does not realize they have fallen into. They can't enjoy the game without cheating because the act of cheating has deprived them of the sense of accomplishment the game is designed to impart in the first place!

MMORPGs are not console games. They are not designed to be "beaten". A console game is designed to keep a player entertained just long enough for the designer to come up with next version. A MMORPG on the other hand, is designed to keep each player entertained for years. In a very real sense, a MMORPG is not a "game" at all, it is a hobby. The pace is intentionally kept slow, the world is regularly expanded, and the main emphasis is intended to be interaction with other players (both friend and foe). The game is designed to be slow. It is designed to be a time sink. The passage of time is designed to be part of the fun!

There are a number of people playing MMORPGs who really ought to still be playing console games. They are trying to achieve the pace of a console game in a world hundreds of times more complex, and often thousands of times larger. If a player finds a given MMORPG tedious, then the problem is not the game, the problem is their expectations. Rather than cheating, they need to change their expectations and learn to appreciate the greater complexity of the MMORPG they are playing.

If you don't enjoy a certain game, the problem is not the game.