Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Power Gaming

I've been avoiding talking about the whole "Terms of Service" changes brouhaha because part of me felt it was a tempest in a teapot and filled with players overreacting and GM posts missteps that only infuriated responses. I think the dev post by GM Grimmi makes it clear that although the rules may not have been universally applied in the past, they were there or close enough to it that the change is not a radical departure. I don't see the current ToS as an attempt to curtail any reasonable activity that was goign on before the change.


We'll talk about this post on in a moment but first I'm going to go into story time. This is a longish one but I will tie it back, you'll see.

My first passion as I turned from a boy into an adult was Warhammer 40K tabletop miniature wargaming. Eventually I created an internet forum for like-minded people in Ottawa and it turned into a pretty large community of warhammer gamers, we're talking in the 50 active members range on the forums where I was the operator.

I was a driving force of events in the area. I organized megabattles, tournaments, trips to Gamesday in Toronto, and eventually put my web programming expertise to use and created online campaigns. I had a lot more free time back then, and no MMOs to distract me.

The Good Old Days... Long Gone
One of my later campaigns was to be more cutthroat than previous ones. I encouraged people to be sneaky, spy, plot, offer bribes, etc. I wanted the campaign to be more than just a structure to have battles, I wanted it to be a competitive campaign with full on metagaming. Shades of Eve online, I know. I created the map with fog of war so each player could only see the spot where his forces were and would need to communicate with allies to find enemies and work together to defeat them. It was pretty involved and required a lot of cooperation and intel to succeed.
Campaign Map

Enter a player I'm going to call The Monk.

The Monk was a quintessential power gamer, i.e. he created his armies with only one goal in mind: winning. He min-maxed the unit and equipment combinations for the maximum power and the minimum cost. He was very successful at rules lawyering and finding any and every loophole to allow him to defeat his opponents. He rarely lost and not many people liked playing against him.

Now, I've set him up as an unlikable person but really he was not alone, there were a number of power gamers and while he was the best he was hardly unique in his approach. Once you knew what to expect from a player of his type you could change your style and try to match him. I didn't like his style perhaps but he was not evil; he was just very very concerned with winning.

My latest campaign was heaven for him. Here he could apply all of his competitiveness in a no-holds-barred campaign and I, whom he had butted heads with in the past over his tactics in games, had given the blessing to go nuts with it.

About 20 people divided into three factions were in the campaign: The Imperials, Chaos, and Eldar. The Monk was on the Imperial team (mainly because he loved his overpowering Dark Angels Ravenwing bike-only army, natch). I created private forums for each of the factions to communicate and coordinate within and things seemed to go alone really well for a couple weeks.

Then a player for the Imperials came to me and told me that The Monk was giving information from the Chaos camp and that he boasted of getting this information by logging in as one of the Chaos players. I went to the Chaos player and asked him if he was feeding the information to The Monk or if his account had been hacked and he insisted it was the latter. It later turned out that the chaos player had used a computer at school and didn't properly log out of the forums as he left and The Monk, being at the same school, had taken advantage to read the private forums.

I was not happy. While I had encouraged metagaming in the extreme I felt this went too far. Worried that my past encounters with The Monk might be biasing my position I asked the other moderators what they thought and what should be done and we came to the agreement that this was too far. I kicked The Monk out of the campaign.

Needless to say, he was not happy. There was some heated back and forth, charges that I was out to get him, etc. The most relevant thing to this post, however, was the charge that I said anything was allowed in this campaign. I replied thus (paraphrased from memory).

While its true that I said 'anything goes' in this campaign I shouldn't have to say that hacking someone's forum account is not included in that statement. It is never OK to hack someone's account! You may have followed a strict interpretation of the rules I laid out in the campaign, you violated the spirit of the rules of the community, and as moderator of the campaign and these forums, I cannot stand by and pretend that that level of behaviour is acceptable.
* * * * *

Back to Eve. In the article I linked above, there is a section I want to highlight:
There was one day where I happened to look at the EVE WIki for some information about a certain alliance’s history. One thing led to another, and in similar fashion to my random YouTube excursions, I ended up on the page of the well-known player C. To make things even more interesting, I noticed that – in the true fashion of a wiki – the page was editable. I spent the next few days scouring the forums and content pages for anything that would indicate that false information, or scamming with help of the forums, would lead to a punishable offense. I determined that there were no precedents that I could publicly find, and decided to go to work.
Much like The Monk, the author of the article and perpetrator of the scam that purportedly prompted the change of the Terms of Service knew what he was doing could be considered too far. But he felt that he covered his bases by looking for rulings against what he planned to do. He may have followed a strict interpretation of the posted rules, but I think (and apparently CCP agrees) that he violated the spirit and intent of the Evelopedia rules, if not the actual letter.

1 comment:

  1. It is impossible to write rules which in the letter cover every possible situation and outcome - it it were possible, we wouldn't need courts, or judges, or lawyers, only big-ass checklists. It's the same reason why shops reserve the right to refuse service without any explanation.

    And people who rule lawyer should stop and consider why lawyers are not exactly a liked profession - because the lawyer's job is to interpret the law literally, and put 'spirit' and 'common sense' aside.