A LESSON IN AMERICAN HYSTERIA
Once upon a dark time in America, the House of Representatives held court to a paranoia the likes of which our Nation had never known before. Senator Joe McCarthy, sleepless over the threat of Communist infiltration of the major film studios, launched investigations into the private lives of actors, writers, directors, and producers. Some of them were die hard Communists, bent upon the demolition of our culture and replacing it with “that new thing they’re doing over in Asia”. But the hearings reached the level of insanity when individuals were branded and black-listed for nothing more than attending a child’s birthday party in which one or two suspected Communist Party Members had also been invited. Many people lost their homes, their careers – and a few lost their lives. It was a dark and tragic period of over-zealous justice, and the lesson we all were supposed to learn was thus: It is better that ten guilty escape judgement than for one innocent to suffer.
Banning by IP numbers and other unique identifiers contained with each PC, is a valid approach. It is the only way to prevent, presumably, the revolving door by which banned players can re-introduce themselves into the online game. I’m not questioning the commitment to intolerance when it comes to exploitation, abuse, and misplay on the part of players who feel that personal ethics are an optional feature. For these exploiters and cheaters, being banned from a game will be the least of their worries. The “Real World” will be equally intolerant of their “cheat to win” mentality, and they will find themselves standing before a judge, if they fail to get the therapy they require. Notice, however, that the friends and associates of these people do not normally stand trial for that reason alone.
YOUR SKILL IN TALKING SMACK HAS INCREASED BY .1%
I was participating in a Seer run event. As most Seer events are prone to do, this one quickly dissolved into a PKing, Noto hunting, corpse looting free-for-all. This event was attended by a veritable “who’s who” of Chesapeake Roleplaying. Among these guilds was the well known “Legion of Virtues” (L/V). After watching a particularly well prepared looter make off with the valuables of about 8 dead participants, I attacked him, flagging grey. I thought I was in the company of like-minded individuals; certainly they all had spotted what was going on. And of course, as most “roleplayer” guilds are prone to do, the Legion of Virtues decided to abandon the gigantic Seer induced invasion of Corwyn, and chase down my little grey hide. After being ressed, I admit that I totally lost my cool. Not over being dead because that’s nothing new. I die every single day in UO. I was mad at what I felt was a betrayal by my “fellow roleplayers”. When the player I had initially attacked accused ME of being the looter, my head exploded and I started typing with my fists. Me and Little Looter Boy went at it verbally for what felt like hours. Several people kept returning to the scene asking, “Are you two still at it??”
It was a foul and vulgar exchange as you can imagine, but I reached my pinnacle, it would seem with the following PG-13 phrase: “You fucking immigrant scum!” – and immediately, my nemesis and his companion cackled with glee. They assured me that I had just “Effed myself” and that they were paging a GM. I laughed at them. Anybody with a passing knowledge of the Harassment Policy knows that you can’t report someone after willingly going toe-to-toe with them for 20 minutes solid. Not when you can just walk away. Three hours later, I logged off for the night. How pathetic, bluffing a Gm call. losers!
The next day, I get a call from my brother, currently stationed in Germany. “Dude, I don’t play UO anymore so this must be for you. Says it’s a ban or something.” He forwards the email to me (note: the account was given to me by my brother two years ago. Why OSI still used his email address is a mystery. Suddenly, I have to reconsider all the claims I’ve heard from people who say, “I never got an email or warning from OSI. – because now it wasn’t someone else, it was Arcadian Del Sol who didn’t get an email from OSI. I got an email from my brother instead). Anyway, I said “You fucking immigrant scum” to a player, and to be honest, if I saw someone say that to a guy named Qwan Nguyen at the Britain bank, I’d probably report that myself. But here’s what really happened: This player came to a town that I call home, as an uninvited intruder. He was not there to be part of the event, and had only come to the show to be a distraction, and a grief peddler. He wasn’t a citizen of Corwyn, and he wasn’t a friend of Corwyn – he was foreign to it. This is the context in which I said what I said. And no, his name was not Qwan Nguyen – it was simply Vengeance. It might just be me, but that sounds decidedly non-ethnic. But anyway, this editorial is getting too long and I’m sick of typing – I have to wrap this up.
Clearly the power is in the hands of the accusers – and there is no method by which the accused can explain their situation, or even appeal the verdict handed down by OSI. They are tried and found guilty in absentia. All it takes is a single moment of emotional weakness, and you can go buy yourself a copy of EQ. The harassment reporting feature has gone from a tool of enforcing respect, to the ultimate greif tactic. Yes, I know that nobody can put words in my mouth, but trust me – there are those who’se mission in life is to goad you into an emotional froth, and get you to say something stupid, so they can inflict upon you the penultimate grief tactic – the harassment reporting feature.
NO MATTER HOW SMALL THE HOLE, A LEAKY BUCKET CANNOT HOLD WATER
I wasn’t sure if I was going to even rant about this, but after reading Myschyf’s well written update, I was compelled to chime in with my thoughts. Clearly, there are some flaws in this system. It is all well and good to be vigilant against exploitation, and to implement a “zero tolerance” attitude – but I have yet to see a Zero Tolerance policy in effect that has not dissolved into lunacy, expelling a student from school for bringing a fingernail trimmer into a classroom. Part and parcel with the zero tolerance is the idea that in Ultima Online, you are guilty by association. If you visit the house of a guildmate, and he lets you log onto his computer to refresh your houses or your pets – you are forever subject to his actions in Ultima Online. If he turns out to be a house looting, gold duping exploiter – expect to see your own accounts banned because that one day, you logged into your accounts with his IP number. You are guilty by association. As in the example given by Myschyf, you can be guilty of the crimes committed, literally, by the friend of a friend of a friend.
The problems with such a system need no explanation – they speak for themselves. The McCarthy era was supposed to teach us that “guilty by association” is a poor system of justice, fueled by paranoia and suspicion. It requires little to no evidence. Nobody can reasonably deny now, that Ultima Online has a “guilty by association” law in effect, and on every single level, a policy like that is a cure whose dangerous side-effects are more deadly than the illness it was designed to cure.
It is better that ten guilty escape judgement than for one innocent to suffer. I believe that with every fibre in my body. Ultima Online has asked us, “Are you with us?”
That depends on where you are trying to take us. One thing is certain, the login screen to UO should be updated to say:
“Entering Britannia. Multiplay at your own risk.”