Ethical Gaming

The latest Contains Moderate Peril podcast was dedicated entirely to Eve Online and brought up several interesting questions about the community surrounding #Eve. One facet in particular that caught my attention included the question of #ethics within the game. As with any game, and especially the more sandbox-style games, there are certain things that a player can do that are not necessarily against the rules of the game, but may have other consequences (blacklisting from other players, all out declaration of war) or none at all, depending on whether you get caught or not. There even seems to be an element of admiration for those who know the systems and networks within the game well enough to be able to get away with certain types of unethical behavior, and perhaps even thrive because of it.

To me, this brings up all kinds of psycho-babble questions about the human condition and the blending/mimicking of the real world within the virtual. Do our actions in-game say something about our character in real life? Would someone who would try to “get away” with something in order to get ahead in an MMO be more likely to do the same within your workplace? Or is gaming just a way to fantasize about things that we would never do in real life because the in-game consequences are arguably trivial compared to real-life relationships and reputations?

A wise old sage (Jeff Goldblum) once said “Just because you could doesn’t mean you should” (paraphrase). I know, I know, nobody is getting eaten by fictional Hollywood dinosaurs, here. But the blurry line still bothers me. Is it cheating on your spouse to suggestively flirt with somebody in-game? On voice chat? On a video call? All virtual worlds, in some sense. Is it ok to stab somebody in the back in order to get a promotion at work? How about in order to move up within your Eve corporation?

I’m not trying to pass any judgments, but I do prefer to play it a little bit safe within the virtual space. Heck, I don’t even feel too good about rolling a creep in LOTRO or a sith in SWTOR. I suppose that means that I see my toons as an extension of myself in some ways, and guide their in-game actions accordingly. I prefer to cooperate with others when there is a greater good at stake, not merely for my own benefit. I’m not sure how I’d feel if I knew that I could count on my kinmates to leave a dagger in my back at the first opportunity that it would benefit them to do so. In my mind, there is a fine line between people in the real world and those same people manipulating a virtual environment. Sure, the consequences may not be as dire, but are consequences the only things that guide our behavior in real life? If actions reveal character, do in-game actions do the same?

Eve doesn’t sounds like a game that would appeal to me, and not only because it would take way more time for me to learn that I currently have to spend. If the environment is similar to what it sounded like in the podcast, then that’s just a little too much in-game reality for me to contend with.

Featured image by Dan Mason on Flickr


8 thoughts on “Ethical Gaming

  1. djpimpdaddy March 20, 2014 / 1:51 pm

    Many points in this post echo my reasons behind my choice to not play PvP. I love cooperative play, but when you add in the stupidity of other’s choices the game becomes unfun. I recall many times even trying to play Minecraft when the server was set to PvP allowed. You would be building something large and inevitably the person helping you at some point “accidentally” shoves you off a ledge. This then further fuels future paranoia and distrust when trying to complete the build.

    Would I play Eve Online? NOPE!


    • Braxwolf March 20, 2014 / 4:13 pm

      I think your big mistake was playing Minecraft 🙂 Just kidding, thanks for your comments, DJPD!


  2. seanxxp March 20, 2014 / 3:30 pm

    Interesting read, I’m glad to have provoked this blog in some sense. I agree it’s a fascinating topic, and it’s a tension I struggle with at times. A prominent Eve blogger has recently begun a series of articles on this topic, I’d recommend taking a look at those, and actually a lot of the comments too , if the subject intrigues you:


    • Braxwolf March 20, 2014 / 4:11 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Sean! I’m a longtime LOTRO Academy listener and always enjoyed your contributions to that podcast. I’ll definitely check out those links.


  3. Jeromai March 22, 2014 / 6:36 pm

    I believe some of these “ethics” are also influenced by the culture one is immersed in – what is considered acceptable behavior or no.

    In a game like Eve, the story, lore, player community and game’s design are woven together to encourage a sort of pioneer Wild West dog-eat-dog ruthless trader world, where everyone competes to be more villainous than thou, with mostly the only calming factor being fear of what that other person might be capable of doing to you. (And I believe it’s a surprisingly effective calming factor, that can even provoke the desire for cooperation or grouping up for safety in numbers and acting civil as a result.)

    In a game like A Tale in the Desert, where leaving stray newbie buildings is considered “littering” and frowned upon, and building too close to another player can get you drama and ostracism as contrasted with the more general welcome where more respectful new players are greeted with, this forms a distinctly more village-tribal culture outward face of cooperation within the community, with underlying and often unsaid competitive tendencies being unvoiced and only demonstrated in deed.

    I suppose you can compare some of this to places in the real world, countries where it is perhaps accepted that bribery of officials is an unfortunate but necessary part of doing business there, or on a smaller scale, places where it is automatically understood to tip your waiter or other service staff versus countries where it is not part of the culture.


  4. Doone March 23, 2014 / 9:54 pm

    The question of whether our virtual selves should behave differently than our real selves always leads to some thought-provoking discussion. Personally, I think how we behave in game is absolutely an expression of part of who we are. Of course, people are multi-faceted. How you behave in game is not the totality of who you are, but it reveals some truth about you nonetheless.


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