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Banned Sims Online Chronicler Bites Back 48

Thanks to GameSpot for its interview with Peter Ludlow on his recent banning from The Sims Online following his documenting of tawdry dealings in the MMO title. He discusses the interesting, if unintended griefing dynamics that have sprung up in The Sims Online: "You are given tools to mark individuals as friends (green links) and other individuals as bad (red links)... clans can emerge that will deploy the red links as weapons to control property in the game and extort in game currency from users", and why exactly he was banned from the game by Maxis/EA ("They say it was a TOS violation, but that hardly seems credible"), before concluding with his concerns over the title: "It's as though [EA] bought a shopping mall that was supposed to have all sorts of content for children and homemakers, but then let gangs and prostitutes run the place, and let scammers stand in the doorway and intercept everyone."
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Banned Sims Online Chronicler Bites Back

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  • long as you don't stare into the random bitmaps.

  • by Ieshan ( 409693 ) <> on Thursday December 18, 2003 @02:21AM (#7751778) Homepage Journal
    Philosophers tend to dabble in theory and metaphysical far more than the physical.The statement:

    Creatures that game (whether playing house or war gaming) could arguably have a clear selectional advantage...

    Is a clear indication of this.

    He seems to be implying that /. types get more sex? He's been playing the Sims waaaaay too much.

    • To the contrary, given his statement that everything is a game, one might assume that he's talking about the game of social interaction, which Slashdotters are stereotypcally bad at. In a sense, finding an ideal mate is a game in itself, and species that play this game (as opposed to mating indescriminatly) tend to have an evolutionary advantage, as healthy qualities are passed on.
    • First off, your counter-example is slighly misworded. It should be something allong the lines of "/. types are better at sex", rather than get more sex. Just because one bear wrestles more often than another, doesn't mean they won't be in the same number of fights (enhanced aggressiveness aside). The one with more practice should, logically, be better at fighting though.

      And secondly, just because particular games may be poor representations of real world.. *ahem* "activities", doesn't mean his theory is b
  • Perhaps their online world needs police? =P
    • Re:Heh... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Goldberg's Pants ( 139800 ) on Thursday December 18, 2003 @04:03AM (#7752182) Journal
      I play TSO. I quite like it. I've not been scammed, but my wife has. Turned out okay in the end as the ratio of nice people far outweighs the scum, and she wound up far better off than she was prior to the bastard, Ryan Hummel (he plays on Interhogan), scamming her. (If you see this shit, make him an enemy. He's a cunt.)

      I think this person needs to quit whining. The original article he posted was lame, and it seems a large number of people don't believe it was genuine, me included.

      The BIG problem with the game is the enemy thing. If Maxis just removed that, that would cripple a lot of the extortion artists overnight. It servers absolutely no purpose in the game other than to be abused.

      It's funny though, Maxis make a big deal about banning this guy for what he's posted, and yet if you complain about the scammers, Maxis send you a form email about gentlemans agreements etc, and how they have no control.
  • SIM RIGHT? (Score:2, Insightful)

    It's suppose to be a SIM right? Well... That shit happens in RL also, but you just cant see the friendly/unfriendly markers above peeps heads. Be kinda cool if you could though.
    • Re:SIM RIGHT? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MachDelta ( 704883 ) on Thursday December 18, 2003 @03:56AM (#7752161)
      Yeah its a sim. The difference is, in the real world someone can (and will) punch you in the teeth if you're being a dickhead.

      Like, could you imagine a "gang" of 14 year olds trying to push people around at a mall?
      Kid: Hey asshole, this mall is OUR turf. $50 or you don't enter.
      Me: ...excuse me?
      Kid: You heard me, bitch! The money or you get the fuck lost.
      Me: Sorry, i've got shopping to do...
      Kid: Fuck you! -- Get him girls! Use your unfriendly markers!
      Me: What the hell? Get outta' my way! *Starts grabbing kids and hurling them into the fountain*

      Oh yeah, and thats another thing - if I really started tossing kids around at the mall, i'd probably have a little organization called the Police to deal with afterwards. (Maybe you've heard of them?) AFAIK, they don't have those in TSO.
      But hey, I can't blame the players. With no cops, and no fear of physical harm, i'd prolly be pimpin hoes and sellin crack too! :)
      • So you are only controlled by the constant threath of being found out and the risk of being put in a little room with a guy called bubba eh?

        Intrestting. Some people claim humans are basically good but you are saying you are not. Wich suggests that the moves to create a police state with everyone being monitored is exactly the way to deal with you. Since you yourselve admit that without the police out their to monitor you you would run wild.

        Is this true? I don't know but if you look at games like The Sims

      • Re:SIM RIGHT? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jafuser ( 112236 ) on Thursday December 18, 2003 @06:38PM (#7758415)
        I'm beginning to think that places that give players more freedom to do things will have fewer griefers. Griefers like to toe the edge of the rules and play it to their advantage. They like to find loopholes in the hard-coded rules that they can climb into and disrupt other player's enjoyment of the game.

        However, I'm learning that if there are fewer hard-coded rules, then there will be fewer loopholes to grief from. The fewer loopholes, the more likely everyone is on an equal footing, and anyone can deliver paybacks, ie., "anyone can own a gun, so don't push your luck".

        For example, in Second Life, it's a completely open world, so it's very easy for griefers to pick up a script and make a nuisence of themselves. The thing is, however, regular players have access to these scripts as well, so there's nowhere for the griefer to hide when revenge comes around to balance the equation.

        On top of that, the griefers usually tend to be newbies and have not yet acquired the experience or library of scripts and countermeasures that many of the older (usually more mature and good-natured) players have, so the griefers quickly lose or get bored and go away.

        Basically, the more complicated the rules that are enforced programatically upon the players, the more loopholes the griefers will exploit, while the victims and the bystanders (even the experienced ones) will be helpless to stop them.

        If game designers would keep the player's abilities much more free and open, then the griefers will be the ones at a disadvantage.
  • by Kris_J ( 10111 ) * on Thursday December 18, 2003 @02:43AM (#7751878) Homepage Journal
    Why do people pay a subscription fee to be annoyed by other people? Take a step outside people, the grief is just the same and it's free.
  • Can't blame Maxis (Score:5, Interesting)

    by beakerMeep ( 716990 ) on Thursday December 18, 2003 @03:12AM (#7752013)
    I dont think you can blame maxis for this. This guy has lost touch with reality to some extent and was trying to force maxis into several roles that they didnt want to (and shouldn't) be in.

    But even if Ludlow was censored, is that wrong? Ludlow says so. He just completed reading a biography of Benjamin Franklin, and "the Pennsylvania Colony, at the time, was basically the possession of the Penn family. Franklin had the temerity to say to them, 'It's not your world.' And a question is going to begin to arise in some of these worlds about exactly how arbitrary and capricious game owners can be just because they're maintaining the infrastructure for a virtual community."

    This claim is ridiculous -- can he really not tell the difference between a real life colony and a virtual world? The Penn family didn't create the grass people walked on or the air they breathed. Wheras Maxis created everything. I think this shows how he has lost touch. He has taken the game too seriously and feels like he owns part of it. This is a natural recation but it's just not true in the end. It's Maxis's game through and through.

    As for the story that they reported to the authorities about hearing a kid mention he beat his sister -- I cant see why that is any of maxis's resposibility. How many people do you think talk in chat rooms an in online games about bad things they have done which may or may not be true. Also, How many people make false reports of such stories? This is role that maxis COULDN'T perform logistically even if it wanted to. And, if it did police the chat with a heavy hand people would be up in arms about it and rightly so.

    Also, he was generating a lot of bad publicity ( he was a self-described muck racker) for the game. This happens all the time and lots of people get banned from all sorts games for it and sometimes for even worse reasons like GM's being in a bad mood. It seems that his problem wasn't with the game but rather with the people it attracted. It seems like he had no problem with the game except that it wasn't the happy go lucky world that he imagined. And that's what he complained about. And those are the complaints he went around advertising by putting his site in everything.

    Don't get me wrong though, I dont think he is a bad guy and I do think the newbie griefers should be banned too. But I don't this that maxis did the wrong thing either. From their perspective I could see this guy as someone who is really just there to complain about all that is wrong with people. Maybe that doesn't deserve a totall ban, but I think we should imagine what it was that HE was doing wrong before we jump down Maxi's throat with sensationalist stories about evil corporations. In the end it is they who have the chat logs and he only has his word.

    • by neglige ( 641101 )
      Wheras Maxis created everything.

      Although Maxis does provide the "grass and the air", Maxis did not create the community, which is basically what the Sims Online is all about. So there is some validity if parts of the community claim that they "created", in a way, SO. And they payed for it, too. Still I agree with you that this doesn't automagically give them the right to wield ultimate power, but I do think they should have some rights. It's not Maxis game through and through... maybe 60:40 or something
      • Although Maxis does provide the "grass and the air", Maxis did not create the community, which is basically what the Sims Online is all about.

        I don't think that's true at all. After all, the TSO community wouldn't exist without Maxis' "air and grass".

        Really, this is no different from a nightclub:

        The owner creates the environment (ambience, music/DJs, available drinks or food, games, etc). The owner also owns/controls the property (building, room, or in this case server). I don't see anyone making valid
        • I think you're making an incorrect comparison.

          Um... Maxis owns the land. Owns the bodies. Owns the building blocks. Or did they just give them all life and not even own them as such (href->nature of digital/reality philosophy)?

          Does a god own all of creation? 2 sticks grew on a tree and a human broke them off and made fire from them - which of those things/ideas/actions/results does god own? If you're not creationist, then replace "god" with the first single-celled organism - does it own nigh-every
          • You raise some interesting philosophical questions, but unfortunately they are completely irrelevant to the issue at hand (or even to how things are done in the Real World, for that matter), and utterly fail to show how my comparison is incorrect.

            A nightclub owner has the right to determine who is or is not allowed to enter. TSO (like any other MMOG, chatroom, discussion board, etc) is essentially than a virtual nightclub. You have presented nothing that contradicts that.

      • For all intents and purposes, a shared reality like The Sims Online is its own contained universe. It is a set of rules for how objects in the universe may interact with each other, be created and destroyed. Maxis created these rules, created the objects, with the intent of generating a self-sustaining community (that they, one way or another, intend to mine for "dollars", but that is mainly outside the Sims Online Universe in terms of community). The day it went live they might as well have said "Let t

    • Re:Can't blame Maxis (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Snowmit ( 704081 ) on Thursday December 18, 2003 @09:13AM (#7753114) Homepage
      Maybe I'm dense or maybe it's because I haven't ever come accross any MMOG that held my attention for any length of time but I'm really having a hard time understanding what the big deal is.

      There's this company, its set up this virtual space and you can choose to participate or not participate in it. If you choose to participate, caveat emptor. The gods of this space are capricious and malicious and there is no reason for them to act fairly aside from good customer relations. Yeah, maybe it's unfair that Urizenus had his account terminated but speaking from experience working in the billing department of a phone company, the policy to refund or not refund, to cancel or continue an account etc, has never been a fair process. It's not even a rational process. And working phone connections are MUCH more important than MMOG accounts.

      The relationship between the owners of Sim accounts and the people who provide those accounts has always been a commercial relationship and in commercial relationships your options as a customer are pretty much limited to "continue to pay" or "stop paying". If you don't like how things are going or the way you're being treated by company X then vote with your dollars and continue your research with a service that has a user model that will better allow you to do the work that you want to do. The company doesn't owe you anything else.

      As for the laws beyond the ingame laws and EULA my understanding is that every EULA has something along the lines of "In the event of a legal dispute all blah blah considered to have occurred in the jurisdiction X". So that (flippantly) solves the problem of "where is it located?" that Jane mentions above.

      Maybe the conceptual roadblock that I'm hitting is that I don't think that rights and freedoms are natural things. I think that they are constructs that had to be carved out of an agreement between people and the State. I mean, they're a pretty recent innovation as far as Statecraft is concerned. It comes as no suprise to me that new virtual communities don't automatically come with a free set of rights.

      If freedom of speech is what people want from their virtual comunities, then they need to start voting with their subscriptions and start finding communities that have a set of moral standards that they can agree with. By all accounts the Sims Online is not such a community. Stop paying them.
      • I think the root of all these complaints is that people forget that people online are not always going to be "nice guys." They go into an AOL chatroom and expect people to help them figure out why they're 3 year old computer can't run the latest computer game with graphic specification turned all the way up. The same is true with MMO games.

        (One of many examples) In Asheron's Call 2 ALL new characters MUST go through a training area in the beginning and MUST come out through a portal which leads to the same

    • beakerMeep said ...I dont think he is a bad guy and I do think the newbie griefers should be banned too. But I don't this that maxis did the wrong thing either. From their perspective I could see this guy as someone who is really just there to complain about all that is wrong with people. Maybe that doesn't deserve a totall ban, but I think we should imagine what it was that HE was doing wrong before we jump down Maxi's throat with sensationalist stories about evil corporations...

      Look, they banned his acc
  • what valuable knowledge did i come away with after watching my ex play the sims for 4 months? basically, it goes a little something like this:

    you get to play dolls with a dollhouse you build, one that you pay for by going to dollwork, given you have the appropriate dollstats to do said dollwork, and you do this while having to interact with random strangers from godknowswhere, usa, who are also building dollhouses in other dollneighbourhoods and having dollfamilies of their own.

    to me it just seems that
  • This censorship is totally against everything I have ever read about Will Wright and his perspective on virtual communities. I suppose this proves how far Wright really is from the day-to-day operations of his infamous creation.
  • The Real(sic) Issue (Score:3, Interesting)

    by quinkin ( 601839 ) on Thursday December 18, 2003 @03:47AM (#7752131)
    The real issue here was the alleged bashing and hospitalisation of an 8 year old girl - apparently the alleged perpetrator messaged the author as he was role playing a priest.

    Should these companies be responsible for reporting such abuse? In this case they are the only entity with sufficient information to report the issue...

    A r/l analogy could end with the entity being charged with accesory, or at least accesory after the fact.

    The suspension of his account seems to me to be a attempt to remove a "squeaky wheel". Such a shame it ended up on gamespot and /. (can you spell bad publicity boys and girls?).


    PS. To be honest I don't know where I stand on this issue, but I think EA has a resposibility to at least investigate such serious allegations.

    • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Thursday December 18, 2003 @09:51AM (#7753353) Journal
      Simple. Want to know where you stand? Imagine you are the little girl in hospital and everyone thinks you just fallen down the stairs and if you tell the thruth then you are still are going to have to go home where he will be waiting for you.

      If that doesn't make it 100% clear to you then please report to the frontdesk and hand in your human being badge.

      In real life we constantly hear these stories. Care takers, teachers, doctors and neighbours who look the other way as kids are abused. Until the abuse goes to far and the police shows up in white suits and face masks to take the body away. Then we all cry foul and want to know why nobody did anything.

      Does EA have a resposibilty in this case? Well I think that a bar owner who overhears a customer talking has the duty. A teacher who sees a child with bruises has the duty. A passerby in the street who sees the abuse has the duty. But then I am a left wing cry baby commie.

      Why should "virtual" worlds be excempt from the real world? In the real world we got rules and police and judges to enforce those rules. Just because something involves a computer does not mean the laws are rewritten. Imagine a chess player coming up to another chess player and admitting beating up his sister. No-one in their right mind would suggest that this is exempt from being investigated by cops. And the organisation of the chess tournament where it happened better help the police out by providing the address of player XX.

      Oh well. I am getting upset now. Better stop still I start ranting about people not wanting to take responsibilty. Oh to late.

      • by Cruel Angel ( 676514 ) on Thursday December 18, 2003 @01:09PM (#7755302)
        Wow. I don't know how to respond to that without getting modded -1 Flamebait.

        But I'll try.

        Why should "virtual" worlds be excempt from the real world? Let's see... Anonymity, the cost of follow-up and international laws are the first three that come to mind.

        Anonymity online is everywhere. Sure for TSO you need a credit card. That's no promise of valid identity. And not all virtual worlds require credit cards.
        The cost of follow-up would be insane. Checking into every comment or action that could have legal implications would be insane. Every time someone says, "I'm gonna kick your ass", or slanders another person (I guess if it's in print, it's libel), or says anything that would warrant investigation in the RW, it would cost time and money to investigate.

        "But", you say, "we're talking about a little girl being abused!" Yes, and it's a tragedy. And in a perfect world, cost would be no issue. But it is. "I understand that", you say, "but we don't need to look after every case, just the 'tragic' ones." That too would be ideal. But once you look up one, you suddenly can find yourself expected to follow-up all incidents, no matter how minor. Then that can evolve into you being partly accountable for "allowing" something to happen.

        Before I get going too much on that, I'll move on to international laws. I'm in Canada. TSO servers are in the US I imagine. We are two countries that /mostly/ get along. But there are some incredible screw ups. Like the US deporting a Canadian citizen to Syria. I don't relish the idea of that same legal system thinking it is responsible for our children. And like I said, that's between countries with good relations. Now throw in counties where the laws are significantly different, or relations are a bit strained. The problems become obvious.

        One more thought. If what you said and did in a virtual world could easily come back to haunt you, do you think as many people would be saying or doing wha they do? Probably not.

        I would love to see more personal accountability on the internet. But I have no idea how to obtain it.

        • Actually, you don't need a credit card. They make game time available through game cards, which you can purchase from retail stores using cash, making it even harder to find the real identity if they don't want to be found.
    • The main issue is that The Sims Online is marketed and sold as a "family" level game. Such talk of any abuse, and the other things he mentions should be swiftly and violently dealt with!!! Look how Blizard treats even mild cheaters/abusers on their servers...and it improves the quality of the gamming to know that they will take care of you! Maxis is really screwing up here.

      I'm a huge Sims fan. I've got all the expansions EXCEPT the Online one. The whole problem with the online version is that they a

  • by Txiasaeia ( 581598 ) on Thursday December 18, 2003 @04:53AM (#7752332)
    Give me the money, and I'll spray paint you green if you're good, and red if you're bad.
  • How about you solve the problem this way:

    Don't exchange Simoleans for cash anymore. You're already paying money for the game, you're basically trying to turn a profit if you're able to make money exchanges. If you're that desperate to NOT PAY for the game, then DON'T PLAY!
    • Yeah, but there's no way to stop's been tried by other MMORGs. Once SOME people start doing it, they get all the good stuff and the normal players get left behind due to inflation by the "payers" I always thought it was a bad idea to set the Sims up as a MMORG when it should have been a giant virtual "dollhouse". you've got all the same problems of toddlers playing dolls, bullies, "rich" kids, cool kids, etc...instead of simply playing the game!

      on another note, it sounds like the Sims could us

  • The Real Reason (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ITman75 ( 671124 ) on Thursday December 18, 2003 @05:14PM (#7757644)
    Come on... If he read the Terms of Service for the game and followed the rules Then he would not have gotten himself banned. When you install the game and also when you register your game code your a accepting and following the TOS. If you break them, well certain punishments happen. His just so happens to be banned.
    • One of the things he fails to mention is that in the TOS you can't use third party programs in the game to help you make simoleans. On his website he had links to these programs. READ THE TOS YOU ASS YOU WOULDN"T HAVE GOTTEN YOU BANNED.
  • I used to like playing video games because I wanted to escape reality. As games become more and more realistic, they continue to appeal less to me.

"And remember: Evil will always prevail, because Good is dumb." -- Spaceballs