Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

Honesty Does Apply

I’ve said before that, unlike many other blogs, I will have strict quality control on my blogroll. Well, you might have noticed that the Greedy Goblin just disappeared from it. I used to think of that site as a clever businessman sharing his insights on the WoW economy. In today’s post, however, he is proud of using lies and deceit to cheat a competitor out of his money.
His post, and the comments below it, got me thinking again about what anonymity does to people in online games and how one should behave in such situations.

“I lie on a daily basis on my server to get cheap raw epic gems as ‘my main needs them so i can get into a better guild’- i couldnt care less boost my profit from 20g a gem to 100g.

Its a game and if people are stupid enough to believe it – their loss.”

– Teikou, commenter on the Greedy Goblin

I get physically sick when I see comments like the one above. If you are playing an online game, you are dealing with real human beings just as in real life. It seems that large amounts of the MMO audience don’t get this simple truth, but instead hide behind their anonymity and their safety from repercussions.

Teikou in the comment above claims, like many others,that it’s “just a game.” What they really mean is that in a game they don’t feel the pressure of normal social rules but instead behave like they would if those rules didn’t exist. Morals, it seems, have never really been trained to these people. They don’t rob or insult others in real life because they know that they will be punished for it, but they don’t feel that it would actually be bad to do so. Taking people without morals and ethics and putting them in a risk-free environment logically brings the fuckwad out in them.

What I don’t get is how people can value others so little in the first place. Ever since my earliest childhood I have been taught to treat others fair and with respect. I’ve also learned that lying for personal gain (and other people’s detriment) is a terrible thing to do and that you can get by well without it. (I’m not saying that I never lie, I don’t think anyone can say that. It is the magnitude and the effects of the lie that matter.) I could start talking about how today’s youth has lost all its values and whatever, but I doubt that it has become worse. The internet just gives us all a better opportunity to show who we really are. This scares me. Some of the most brutal crimes in history (slavery, the holocaust) have been enabled by exactly such opportunities – to act without fear of repercussions.

I suppose that there are many people, maybe even the majority, that follow morals and ethics only by the letter and not by heart. Maybe humans can’t be changed to think differently. If you think you are different, have a look at how you treat people in anonymity. It’s not just a game, you are dealing with real humans out there – make sure you treat them like that.

  • I think we need to take in the context of the situation as well. Sure lying to people for profit is frowned apon and deemed wrong but no one seems to feel bad about being mean to someone who deserves it (ie sending a convict to jail, though jail sure sucks we wouldn't mind hurting ones life if they were doing something wrong to deserve it) This is a bit fo an exageration from Gevlons, lying to sell flasks.

    What Im thinking is, the person he lied to is only trying to monopolize the flask market and force people to pay higher prices (ripping them off) so Gevlon lying to him to sell a few more flasks for a fair price to the community doesn't seem so bad in the given context, more people benefiet in the long run.

    One commentor said they thought it was equal to taking mats from someone and not making their craft item, just stealing and running. Now that is the other extreme, people tend to go overboard with emotions and tend to get excited easily without taking in the entre story.

    I do agree with you and share in your morals but in this case the context makes me think Gevlon was only treating the person how they treat others, and how you treat others is how you should expect to be treated. Stealing from a thief, does it balance or upset?

  • Thanks for your comment, always happy to see a new face here 🙂

    That said, I have to comment on 2 of your points: For one, Gevlon surely isn't a person that condemns monopolists, he even gives advice on his blog on how to drive competitors out of a market. H also advocates the sale of vendor-bought materials at the auction house to scam people who don't know better – so that can't be his excuse 😉

    And then have a look at the "stealing and running" analogy. In both cases we have an agreement (or oral contract.) One is to provide a crafted item in exchange for mats, the other is to stay out of a certain market for a limited duration, in exchange for the promises that the other seller leaves then. In both cases one party breaks that promise to its own benefit while costing the other party money. How are these scenarios not identical? A lie is used to obtain money from another person. Fraud.

  • While I won't make a big fuzz about the latest escapade of Gevlon (that's the kind of game he and his money making kins are playing), I agree about your general observation about ethics – or the lack of it. It's sad to see how the anonymity brings out the worst in people. I can only hope that humanity will grow more mature and start to recognize ethics online in the future. But probably it's quite a futile hope I carry.

  • hmm, you are correct when you put it that way, i guess it just comes down to how we all view this personally. I have to say you are right that they are both fraud…I guess I just dont feel bad about the whole robin hood idea..even if robin profits and thats where the morals come into play.

    You have given me a lot to think about but I doubt I will change my stance on whether its appropriate. Trying to bully people is not how I see good use of the AH, competition is good for the economy and I feel the person deserves to lose gold by giving people the market without a fight.

    On another note, how do you feel about these tactics on an RP server? if someone threatened me to leave and I agreed but still had tons of stock I could leave all my stock in my Will to a young troll who happens to be on my account…. its just as fraudulent but you wouldn't be lying if you were in character…..

  • @Larísa: I suppose I'm making this much of a fuzz (if you can call it "much" ;)) because I haven't been reading Gevlon for very long yet (only a few months) and while he posted some weird stuff, he never did something that was morally offensive to me.
    I do share your futile hope 🙂

    @William: I tried to avoid the debate on whether controlling markets is a good or a bad thing because it is a huge topic on its own. If you think that it is bad I can see that you would advocate the monopolist to be punished. I sympathize with a Robin Hood as well, but I am pretty sure that Gevlon didn't have anything but personal gain in mind when he did this. Even if his actions were Robin Hood-y in nature, they clearly weren't so in intent.

  • I do share your general ethical concern. I do however not think that it applies to mmo's to the same extend as it does in the real life. I personally play the game because of the game… and 90% of the players are semi intelligent npc's to me. This has nothing to do with me being a bad guy but more with how I see the game. So one could say that I would rip someone of because I do not care enough about his virtual self or all that goes with the game that is not the playing itself. I am very sure that apart from the very many anonymous idiots out there there is also a fair share that plays the game for the fun where the community is more of a grey mass that does not matter whatsoever… So long story short I do not care about the population on my server… excluding the friends I made "/who guild" brings up the list. Yesterday I looted the corpses west of Stars rest 6 times while someone else tried to get a single one… it ain't my fault that droods don't have to dismount for that… he spit… I just turned and went to turn in… I must have looked very bad there… but all I saw was some random guy pointlessly running around that I barely noticed at all /care…