Online Games Having Trouble With The Whole Free Speech Concept

from the virtual-dictatorships dept

I’m beginning to wonder if the various creators of online community games really thought through all of the issues they were raising in setting up the games. They were, in some sense, creating a new space, where they were acting as the government. In most cases, they have terms of service – but that’s not quite the same as a constitution. So, now, when real-life problems move across the virtual/real boarder, they’re struggling. We’ve discussed this before, and looked at how some are trying to answer the question, but Salon has an interesting article looking at the latest happenings in the Sims Online. One member has been acting as a sort of National Enquirer of the online world and posting articles to a blog. He focuses on the “bad” people in the world – the scammers and other questionable characters. There are some interesting legal issues raised by the people he talks to – such as the underage boy who plays a female character in the game and is engaged in virtual prostitution for in-game money, which can be sold for real cash on eBay. Is that really prostitution? There’s also the “Sims Shadow Government” that we’ve discussed before to try to deal with these situations in the game. It appears that they felt the real government (that is, the company that puts the Sims Online) is absent and so they’re there to fill the void. In the meantime, the folks at EA, who run the Sims Online, don’t appear to have given this much thought. Instead of dealing with these issues, they’ve kicked the reporter out and closed down his account, saying he violated their policies. In other words, they seem to be going with something of a despot government that will exile and censor whoever raises any threatening questions. That’s their choice, of course, as it is their world. However, it probably won’t get them the best reputation as a virtual place to live. How many people do you know who are actively immigrating into countries run by dictators?

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Comments on “Online Games Having Trouble With The Whole Free Speech Concept”

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Acidic_Diarrhea (user link) says:

Re: Re: It's not real life

Generally pissing off your customers is not a good idea but the company has to weigh that against any negative media attention or even a negative effect on sales of the game and subsequent subscriptions.

Finally, let’s consider the type of people who are going to get “silenced.” I would guess that the people who go on crusades in online games are the core group of players whose lives revolve around the game. Pissing them off is bad BUT if you’ve got an established game, you can oftentimes piss on the fanboys [for lack of a better word] and they still come back for more. The market you want to expand into is the casual gamer, who probably isn’t going to raise the type of ruckus where they need to be silenced. Just my $0.02

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