Keeping the sand in the box

MMOs today are broadly categorized as either “themepark” MMOs, where the primary player activity is going from developer-provided content to content, aiming for progression of their character, and sandbox MMOs where the primary content either is the other players, or at least is centered around exploring the environment and finding something to do.

Seeing as I am a fan of both EVE and The Elder Scrolls series, my fondness for the sandbox (Single-player sandbox games are different since there obviously are no other players to provide content) ought to be clear.  Elder Scrolls Online, contrary to the other games of its series and the expectations of many, leans heavily towards the themepark.  It is, however, not entirely a stranger to the sandbox with its strong PVP system, and highly flexible character creation and progression.

Elder Scrolls Online, however, has all the normal themepark restrictions on how you may conduct yourself towards other players, however.  In that regard, EVE very much stands alone.  You will find no Erotica 1s haunting the cities of Elder Scrolls Online.

One of the unique aspects of EVE is the degree of freedom it permits for players to mess up the day of other players.  Scamming, corp theft, and other dishonesty are permitted, in game.  This is the sort of in-game criminality that has to be punished by the community, because it isn’t against the EULA.  Other such conduct includes various things that will get you CONCORDed or gate gunned; the client will punish you.  CCP themselves, however, won’t.

While it’s possible to take this criminality too far and get punished by CCP for in-game actions (evading CONCORD, for example), the big emphasis of a company that allows this kind of mistreatment of one’s fellow players as part of the game it runs is on actions that take things outside the sandbox.

In this regard, the term sandBOX is remarkably accurate.  The players have the sand to play with, but once they go outside the box, they’re in uncharted territory.  While the sandbox isn’t specifically limited to the game client, and does include outside software and other tools used to facilitate gameplay, the sandbox IS limited, primarily by needing to be relevant to the play that does occur inside the client.

Trying to go outside this (for example, make real money) is a sure way to get into trouble – and that is where Erotica 1’s defenders fall afoul of the critical thinking they so rarely employ.

First, it must be kept firmly in mind that Erotica 1 posted the soundcloud of the Sokar incident, thereby eliminating any claim to privacy.  If one makes information public, one loses any legitimate complain that someone else acting on it is violating one’s privacy.

Second, we must keep in mind that the Bonus Room is the result of an ISK-doubling scam inside the game client.  It is inextricably connected – without the in-game scam, the bonus room wouldn’t exist.

Now, the ISK-doubling scam is, in itself, legitimate gameplay.  The bonus room purports to be so because, ostensibly, the player has a chance to win back their assets in spades.

This causes a problem for a number of Erotica defenders, however, because they insist that Erotica was banned for things that happened in a “private channel” (of whatever comunication software was used; I don’t recall at the moment.)

The problem is that the victim is lured into the bonus room by means of activities within the game client, is led to believe their actions in there will be compensated (if successfully completed) within the client, and the recording isn’t private once its posted for public consumption.

The privacy issue mainly is one of practicality – without public posting of the bonus room, it would be impossible for CCP to know this was taking place.  Theoretically, if CCP had been somehow listening in on the bonus room and learned of it through that means, there’s a potentially separate issue, but the fact is that the bonus room was never “private”.

Better yet, it’s obviously the result of game client actions (ISK doubling) and pretends to have potential rewards there at the end.  This ties it inextricably to CCPs product, and places it within their purview to regulate.  The “banned for private chatroom actions” argument holds no water.

Yet this argument is made shamelessly by Erotica 1 defenders, and worse, they will do so right along side people saying “but it’s supposed to be a sandbox!!”

What these people forget is the word “box”.  The bonus room takes the sand, and dumps it out of the box, creating the problem.  It’s still CCPs sand, but the players are trying to take it and play with it somewhere else – specifically, by creating real-world embarrassment and engaging in “tear harvesting” without any further potential in-game benefit to the scammer.

Just to be clear, all of these are serious problems by themselves.. it is not merely the combination of these issues that creates the problem, but each individually.  CCP does not permit even in-client pointless harassment over extended periods with no potential for gain or advantage; look up the rules on bumping.

Once Erotica has all of the “bonus room ” players assets, there’s no game-related point to furthering the scam.  It is solely done for the amusement of listening to them frusterate themselves trying to win the bonus room – which is impossible, as it has no win condition.  The player transmits ALL of their assets to Erotica, and then is led down a road paved with Sunk Costs.

This brings CCPs product into disrepute as an avenue for people with a schoolyard bully’s sense of what is entertaining (and they are bullies, even if not actually real criminals), and what puts it firmly outside the protection of “sandbox gameplay”.  It isn’t gameplay.  It’s presenting the victim with the illusion of gameplay to get them to make a fool of themselves.

Now, someone might wonder, what if it A) did have a win condition that was actually known in advance, consistent, and adhered to and B) were not “mandatory” (as in, the victim is lured in, in part due to having sent a large amount of ISK for doubling, then told they are a “lucky bonus room winner” – but they MUST participate to get back what they bet on the ISK doubling scheme).

That might strengthen the argument that it’s entirely voluntary, (and that’s for another time) but it still would run headlong into the problem of “what conceivable sandbox need is there for allowing people to make fools of themselves in real life for purposes of playing the game”?

One does not need “bonus rooms” to do ISK doubling.  It serves no purpose, and ISK doubling is plenty profitable by itself.  The simple fact of the matter is that while its connected to CCPs product, it isn’t “sandbox gameplay” – it’s using the sandbox to gain pleasure from the frustration of the victim in real life.

It’s common for bullies to exploit the rules and engage in pedantry to legitimize their bullying – but thankfully, CCP doesn’t have to tolerate it – and they didn’t.

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