[MUD-Dev] Banning Players for Off-Site Activities?

Ananda Dawnsinger ananda at winterreach.com
Fri Oct 6 11:35:04 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000

I'm going to try to keep the light-to-heat ratio high here, but I'm angry
about this issue, so be forewarned...

> From: "Dave Rickey" <daver at mythicgames.com>
> Reply-To: mud-dev at kanga.nu
> Date: Fri, 6 Oct 2000 11:21:51 -0400
> To: <mud-dev at kanga.nu>
> Subject: Re: [MUD-Dev] Banning Players for Off-Site Activities?
> Mystere wrote a background story for his character.  It was a dark,
> disturbing, and graphic story involving the rape of a Teir'Dal child (his
> character, some argument over whether "14 seasons" means fourteen years old,
> since "seasons" is a common fanfic device for describing levels) and the
> victim's revenge on the rapist.

I suspect most of us have come across characters with backgrounds just as
bad, if not worse.  A few people here may have even played said characters.
It's not a symptom of pedophilia, it's a desire for angst.

> SOE presents the "Derivative Work" explanation.

You mean 'justification.'

Mystere was banned on Wednesday afternoon/evening.  The offending story was
removed from the Vault Network boards on Thursday, at some point betweeen
10:30 am and 12:30 pm PDT.  (It was there when I left, gone when I came
back.)  It appears that it was removed by Vault Network staff when they
investigated the massive traffic hitting the Brell Serilis board.  It
appears that they were never notified by Verant about the objectionable
story.  Grrr.

> That just makes things worse.

It's hard to say that they were concerned about objectionable derivative
works when they had no apparent interest in removing the offending story
from circulation. Grrr.

> Now it's spreading out, PlanetCrap has picked it up, FatBabies
> probably won't be far behind, The Register picked it up from PlanetCrap.

I'm holding out for Salon and Wired.  Though I'm kind of hoping it doesn't
make it into the mainstream conventional media.  I'm not in the mood to be
called a pervert and potential pederast again today.  SOE's "we don't need
players like you in our game" was bad enough.

> That brings us up to date.  And at the root of all this is one simple
> question: Whose world is it?  SOE says the world of EQ, and everything in it
> or associated with it, is theirs.  Characters, fictional background, the
> works, it all belongs to them and if you use *any* of it in ways they don't
> like, they can drop the hammer on you both in and out of game.  And they are
> defining "ways we don't like" retroactively, you'll know you've crossed the
> line when you can't log in or get a "cease and desist" letter.

Here's the rub.  Sure, SOE has the legal right to do -- well, probably not
*anything* they want, and there might even be an outside chance that Mystere
could sue SOE and win, but certainly they have a lot of leeway.  But I don't
think most of us here are particularly interested in our legal right to be
as capricious as we want.  I think most of us are more concerned with how to
manage our MUDs in order to most benefit the admins, the players, and the
gameworld as a whole.

So maybe SOE's just been very generous by showing the rest of the industry a
tactic that the rest of us should avoid...?

> 1) The embedded fiction of the game can get pretty gruesome itself, saying
> that Mystere's story "harms the value and image" of a game that has a
> dismembered dwarf in a troll butcher shop is quite a stretch.

I do think that the core of the issue is that EQ so closely tests the limits
of its "Teen" rating that it cannot afford fanfic that illuminates the
underlying NFBSK(1)-ness of its nature.  Elfhide gloves?  Quests to kill
pregnant halflings?  Hey, it's all good fun, you better not try to take any
of this *seriously*!

I'm only somewhat facetious when I say that the fundamental problem with
Mystere's story is that the wrong person wins.  It's a lot safer to glorify
the villain and depersonalize the victim.  Then it's just a cartoon.  But
when the victim gets revenge, the whole thing is in danger of being exposed
as the queasily kinky fetish fantasy that it actually is.

Intellectually, I realize that the fundamental problem with Mystere's story
is actually the one sentence which contains the word "labia."  But it
*feels* like in EverQuest, only certain fantasies are permitted.  Mandated
ruby red bikinis are kosher; triumphing over a rapist isn't.  Makes me feel
like I'm not the kind of player they need in my game.

> 2) The stated purpose for EQ is a roleplaying environment, it has got
> "Roleplaying" right there on the box.  Mystere was roleplaying a dark elf
> without the disneyfication.

Roleplaying in graphical games is a thread in its own right.  ;)

> And there's one more thing, that goes a little further than I think most
> are going to be willing to go.  We keep saying "The first amendment doesn't
> apply to corporations."  There's an exception to that statement, when a
> corporation is filling a quasi-governmental role, then it is fully bound to
> respect all civil liberties just as a government agency would be (the result
> of Supreme Court decisions involving "Company Towns").  Whether it has legal
> recognition or not, the relationship of a game operator to the community of
> that game *is* effectively governmental in nature.  Right now, it's a
> feudalistic relationship, the company holds complete power over the
> community.  They have only those freedoms the company allows, and when it
> comes to mucking around with the storyline in EQ, that isn't much.

It's really interesting to think of MUDs as company towns.  The voluntary
nature of membership would negate most of the legal parallels, I would
think.  But it wouldn't surprise me if Mystere's case falls into an area in
which EQ has more in common with a company town than with a private social

Sharon Mock (Ananda Dawnsinger)
Worldbuilding Lead and Loremistress General,
(project to be named later)

(1) NFBSK -- Not For British School Kids.  Courtesy of www.snopes.com.

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