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Role Playing (Games) Your Rights Online

Online Game Event Sparks Player Riot 758

Grimwell Online is carrying a story entitled When does an Online Game go too far?. It details a post to a news group about a world event in the newly released A Tale in the Desert 2. The online game, which simulates an ancient Egyptian culture, was full of angry players after a developer-run event used openly discriminatory language against the female gender. Details on the event can be found at the ATITD2 Wiki, and commentary can be found on TerraNova.
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Online Game Event Sparks Player Riot

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  • Ancient Egypt? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by _Sharp'r_ ( 649297 ) <sharper&booksunderreview,com> on Friday October 22, 2004 @03:57PM (#10602549) Homepage Journal
    Right, because it would have been so much more realistic for them to portray ancient egypt as "gender-neutral", right?

    Maybe they were just going for authenticity?
  • by mekkab ( 133181 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @03:59PM (#10602577) Homepage Journal
    As for the "societal implications of this behavior" This territory has been covered before [], years ago. The analysis done, the poor quality undergrad papers written (by me), its done.

    As an in-game device to create tension and conflict; awesome. Job well done.
  • SWG had Riots too (Score:1, Interesting)

    by MrFile ( 194025 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @04:03PM (#10602635)
    In Starwars Galaxies there where a few player riots that brought servers down. I dont recall the reason for them, but they where also brought on by user frustration.

    This even caused SWG to make a "no assembly without player event" policy.

    In the future i think we are going to see this more and more, as mass groups of people get upset at sites, games, etc, they will be able to take action just by logging in.
  • Views of a player (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kathgar1 ( 730100 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @04:03PM (#10602646) Journal
    While I did not personally attend the event, I have heard quite enough about it. The trader did not come from Egypt, but a foreign land. I've discussed this event way too much as it is though so I do not feel like going into it a length now. BTW, you already killed our wiki
  • by Unoti ( 731964 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @04:06PM (#10602676) Journal
    Actually, Tale in the Desert lures a much more mature audience than your average massively multiplayer game. There's no hacking and slashing, there's no way to be super elite. It's a cooperative game, where the players work together to advance their collective technology. When I was playing, I personally found that the people playing Tale in the Desert were emotionally more mature than what I've seen in Asheron's Call, Lineage 2, Ultima Online, Everquest, Shadowbane, and Star Wars Galaxies.

    While you may be right that the problem here was borne of immaturity, it's certainly not because this game attracts a more immature audience than other games.

    Perhaps a better title for the article would be "When Political Correctness Spins Out of Control."

  • riot? how? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zed2K ( 313037 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @04:13PM (#10602758)
    How exactly do you riot in a multiplayer online game? I mean run around yelling? Can they destory buildings and burn fields? Storm the castle?

  • explanation of event (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chollowayss ( 653233 ) <`knightmare' `at' `'> on Friday October 22, 2004 @04:13PM (#10602767) Homepage
    In the event, the trader was from a far-away land, not Egypt. He was role played as a trader from a land where women were considered property, and was just expressing his beliefs. And really, I don't see how it can be considered sexist since many males play female characters and vice versa. Another point that can be made is that there has been "sexism" in the game since it was first created, since female avatars have always been able to weave canvas and linen faster, as well as reproduce certain vegetables and vegetable seeds better than males. It's strange that only once the tables are turned do we hear the complaints.
  • Re:SWG had Riots too (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AceCaseOR ( 594637 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @04:20PM (#10602855) Homepage Journal
    This [] what [] you [] were [] talking about? (same event, but from different sources) So far there haven't been any mass player 'porting by administrators to my knowledge. Does anyone know if this is not the case?
  • Rise up! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ryen ( 684684 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @04:23PM (#10602892)
    Over thousands of years women have been treated as the 'lesser' beings, unable to vote, own land, etc.. etc.. etc. But I dont remember ever hearing about women quoting a disclaimer, a EULA, or the lack-therof. Instead, women have empowered themselves and have won liberation.

    If these women want to be treated "equally" during a time (Ancient Egypt) where the game most likely accurately portrays them as "unequal", then they should be playing the game as women have been subject to sufferage for many years.
    Keep the whining, the finger-pointing, and the who-said-whats in the game where it is meant to be and work it out in there. After all, its a game, so my advice to these women is: WIN!
  • by Morpeth ( 577066 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @04:28PM (#10602959)
    I'll take the woman's side, since most people are either making a case against her point, or just flame-baiting.

    Are there any boundaries in role-playing? Some people seem to say no. Well, what if someone dresses up for an SCA event or Halloween as some offensive type character, and starts going off on someone in way most people would view as inappropriate (say, a person in a KKK costume and using the "n" word towards blacks/african-americans, etc.) Is that ok?

    Since we don't live in ancient egypt, should we behave by today's standards in-game -- totally, partially, or not at all? Does role playing imply total immersion in character, or are there limits?

    I also acceptable behavior should be very clearly defined so players know what to expect. I'm not well informed about the game, but I'd be curious what their policy states.

    There was an incident years ago in EQ I think where someone playing a Dark Elf, either roleplayed or wrote about raping another in-game character (not a NPC, it was a PC acct). I recall it was quite graphic and, to me anyway, disturbing. I believe the player was banned, some said it was role-playing, others said it crossed the line. Was a huge debate. Thoughts?

    Ok, some stuff to mull over -- I think it's an interesting topic as mmorpgs and rpgs continue to get more interesting and immersive.

  • Re:Morons! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AceCaseOR ( 594637 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @04:30PM (#10602989) Homepage Journal
    As a role player, I've played racist character (both for human races and various clans and/or species), sexist characters (try playing a 150 year old vampire from the deep south with*out* being racist and sexist), sadist, psychotic, mentally deficient, masochist, martyr, zealots of various natures, and members of the opposite sex plus a dozen races, species and creature types.

    There was a long discussion/flame-war on about this - specifically, what to do when something in-game ceases to be fun for the players. Specifically, a poster had given an example where, in game, a player had stated his intent for his character to rape an NPC (and a further intent to role-play the rape). The other players had stated that they did not want to be a part of this and did not want the player to continue with this course of action. The player did it anyway, so the other PCs killed the rapist PC.

    Another poster on the group, a regular named Peter Knutsen said that the players were immature for letting their in-game feelings get in the way of the game, and for punishing the player for playing his character, even though the player with the rapist character's insistance on in-game rape was ruining the experience for everyone else. Flame war ensued.

    You can read the thread here []

  • Re:Uhmm.. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 22, 2004 @05:00PM (#10603366)
    How about not playing if it offends you so much?

    Let's try an analogy. Suppose you have a favourite restaurant. You eat there regularly. Then, one night, when your food arrives, suddenly the manager walks over to your table and urinates on your plate.

    Would you just shrug your shoulders and go to a different restaurant? Or might you perhaps display a slight amount of disgust at his behaviour?

    These people are paying for this game. You know what? That means they have a right to complain when one of the organisers suddenly changes the rules in a pointless and extremely offensive manner.
  • Re:Whaaaaa! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 22, 2004 @05:11PM (#10603484)
    This incident didn't happen in Egypt! It happened far away, outside of "progressive" Egypt, but don't let that stop you from being insulted.
  • Re:Ancient Egypt? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by operagost ( 62405 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @05:14PM (#10603515) Homepage Journal
    The Egyptians must not have been so hot on Nefertiti - after all, they hid her away in a nondescript tomb unworthy of a queen and someone broke her arm off to obscure the fact that it crossed her chest in the traditional resting position of a pharaoh. That's a little stinky.

    Arguably, it could have been because of Akenaten.

  • Re:Whaaaaa! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by metlin ( 258108 ) * on Friday October 22, 2004 @05:19PM (#10603572) Journal
    True story - we were working on a project for an Augmented Reality class, and it involved a real experience set in one of Atlanta's historical venues, the Oakland Cemetery. So mind you - this is a story set in the south, during the war and at a time when slavery was not merely common but was encouraged too. Anyway, we build this story and a world of a Black Slave woman who is "used" by a confederate soldier, and leaves her pregnant. You would not believe at the indignation that -this- simple story generated.

    We had historical facts to prove that several such events had happened, and that this was common for that day and age.

    But no. Stupid idiotic feminists in class with nothing better to do made a protest against the story - and what was the worst part? Our team had a girl in the team who was the person who had actually come up with the story.

    Blah. Feminists are funny people, they'd protest for something like this when their argument has no basis whatsoever - would they rather have us portray black women as plantation owners? It was a HISTORICAL story - how else did they expect us to set it up as?

    End result? We ended up with a politically correct story set in times - and it was so out of place.

    I mean, these same would not raise their voices when women in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries are being abused, and when flesh-trade is so rampant in Asia. But they'd raise hue and cry over a graduate class project.

    Bleh. Stupid females.
  • by neurogeek ( 824576 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @06:01PM (#10604065)

    Well since you jerks at Slashdot have stampeded all over our Forums and Wiki, depriving me of some late Friday afternoon entertainment before leaving work, I will have to comment on the "trader Malakai" event here.

    Background. ATITD is an odd MMORPG of ~2000 players, English French and German speaking, from 6 continents (at least). The player base tends to be literate and older than usual MMO's. Roughly half of the attendees at our recent player meet were women. To Teppy's chagrin, many players do not distinguish between their real person and their avatar. According to an anonymous survey on the Forum, most players have the same gender as their avatar.

    Event summary. A system-wide announcement that the trader Malakai from foreign lands is walking to a easily-accessible destination in the world. (Announcement implies that Malakai is being played by a game master.) Malakai has some useful, some unique, and some worthless items. Malakai is dishonest in trades. Further, he won't trade with women (avatars), calls them slaves and inquires about purchasing one. Egyptians become angry, handing Malakai dung and other items to prevent him from further trades. One citizen posts a very upset post to the Forums, stating that said citizen is a black woman and found the trader's behavior personally offensive. A debate ensues.

    A noblewoman searching for Malakai arrives, claiming that Malakai has stolen the items he is trading from her family. Some people who have traded with the noblewoman give the stolen goods back. Now hunted by both Egypt's citizens and his countrymen, Malakai disappears.

    Effects? A huge debate ensues on the Forum and in-game. Some women are absolutely offended by this event. The GM who ran Malakai gives a lame description of what was supposed to happen at this top-secret, hastily put-together event. Offended by this top-secret event, Egypt's best roll-playing GM quits the game. Perhaps three dozen others quit as well. Pharaoh ("Teppy") interviews one of the quitting players (who won't give her real identity). During the interview, Pharaoh fails to justify this event on any firmer ground than his whim.

    My thoughts. Malakai was a poorly concieved character who would have been a lot more interesting had the whole events team been involved in creating it. The GM who ran Malakai is a great coder but a sadistic, yet dull role-player. I hope that in the future he asks for help in creating these evil characters. Sensitive and difficult issues are worthwhile to address in our little society, but hurting people in order to address these points should not be necessary. IMHO, the main problem with this event was that it hurt some people in order to make a larger point.

    Another poster pointed this out, but it is sort of late to complain about sexism. Female avatars had a slight advantage before this event, now they are slightly adversely affected by this one event. I do hope this event brings these issues to the front, because there are some real issues of balance between the genders that should be addressed in the game.


  • Re:Whaaaaa! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by feidaykin ( 158035 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @06:01PM (#10604067) Journal
    Not only were women free in ancient Egypt, recent archaeological evidence suggests that the Pyramid of Kufu wasn't built by slaves but rather by skilled workers who were treated very well. They were provided with relatively advanced medical care, even as far as successful amputations in the case of a crushed limb. One of the main sources of motivation among these workers was a friendly rivalry between camps, with one camp attempting to get more work done than another in a given day. Workers actually left some graffiti inside the Pyramid supporting this theory (the ancient graffiti was discovered when treasure hunters used explosives in the inner chambers). The graffiti was basically a sort of "We got this done ahead of Team B because we're the best" type of boasting. All this points to not slaves motivated to work by the whips of their masters, but workers who were not only treated well but prided themselves in working. So basically, our perception of slavery in ancient Egypt is extremely exaggerated.
  • by ssand ( 702570 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @06:22PM (#10604260)
    In context it may be justafiable, by playing a sexist "evil character." However, people must realize that many people don't roleplay in the game. So to them, it can be considered harrassment/descrimination targeting them. Further more, this is from the GMs/implementors, giving the game producers a very poor image.
  • Re:Whaaaaa! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Feanturi ( 99866 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @06:23PM (#10604269)
    There is the sort of lack of wisdom in antagonizing your players at such a base level, in tension with the creative freedom of the developer to create discomfort.

    I started losing interest in Star Wars: Galaxies right around the time of the Imperial Crackdown. It was supposed to really kick things up and create tensions between the factions. As a Doctor, I resolved that from the time following the Imperial invasions (scripted within the game, meant to cause a lot of death and panic among only a certain population of the game), that I would henceforth only provide my services to Rebels. Imperials or neutrals were out of luck. Well, a neutral could get service if I could be assured by a trusted source that they were truly neutral and not a covert Imperial. I should explain, to those not familiar with the game, that the services of a Doctor are very much in demand, and practically taken as a right by many players. It's hard to be known as a Doctor, because you are constantly plagued with people sending /tells insisting that you come buff their stats, as though you had nothing better to do.

    So, quite a lot of people got very pissed off, and some were accusing me of being exactly like a racist. A racist?? This is a fucking war, people! The problem was that so many players regularly socialized with people of whatever faction relative to their own. I don't know what the factions were really for other than those that particularly sought PvP action. Everybody just sort of picked a side, and picked their friends and business associates independantly of that. None of the Rebels were upset of course, none of them pointed out any unfairness, as they were getting the service. Only the people who were refused service that they felt they had some kind of right to, as equally paying customers of the game, not even considering their characters or the environment we were playing in. Or even considering that this is service rendered by a player, a person not obligated to do JACK SHIT for anyone else at all. They just started screaming "racist!" and other stupidity. Not very much roleplaying going on there at all, and just to get some peace I had to revoke my policy after a mere two days. I did manage to start an ongoing war between my guild and an Imperial guild though, with a related action. That was pretty satisfying, even though they handed our asses to us a lot, that wasn't the point.

    Anyhow, I wasn't happy with the fact that the whole game world there is just too comfortable for everyone. "It is a period of civil war", what the hell is wrong with acting like it? Everything, apparently.
  • Re:Whaaaaa! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sigma 7 ( 266129 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @06:46PM (#10604527)
    But imagine if a major online gaming, say, Everquest, backed by a major corporation like Sony....had a situation where one of the game *developers* (rather than a player) had an NPC calling players, say, racial or religious slurs (which, surprisingly, seem to evoke more outcry than sexism)...Just because the NP *character* was a bigot. I don't think that would be tolerated.
    The trick is to ensure that the bigotry is part of a plot or sub-plot, and can be dealt with in one way or another. For example, putting a bounty on the merchant that's bigoted.

    This is implemented in Arcanum, where Half-Orcs and Orcs receive open discrimination to a large scale. For example, there are some NPCs that use Orcs as slave labour for industrial production, and consider Half-Orcs to be no better than slave fodder.

    The bigotry in the game only becomes fun when the player gets a chance to mess around with the concept. For example, there is an event where Orcs in Tarant riot and seize control of a warehouse. From there, you can choose to either put down the rebellion (chaotic or neutral, depending), leave the rebellion as it is (neutral), inform the leader of the rebellion that the guards outside are trying to trick him (lawful or neutral, not sure), or to give aid to the rebellion by killing the guards (chaotic). You might be able to kill the owner of the warehouse before the rebillion starts, but I haven't seen that happen yet.

    While the options listed might not produce the perfect result, they do cover most of the actions performed by PCs and are pretty reasonable. Heping the rebellion may be chaotic, but does teach those bigots a lesson for treating Orcs as animal slaves.
  • Misplaced Outrage (Score:3, Interesting)

    by logicnazi ( 169418 ) <<logicnazi> <at> <>> on Friday October 22, 2004 @06:54PM (#10604633) Homepage
    Look people this is a fictional world. Many fictional worlds include customs which would be utterly inappropriate in the real world. Every MMORPG includes random horrible violence. Usually you kill things like goblins just because of their race. Why is this suddenly differnt.

    The ultimate point being that you can explore, and enjoy an online fantasy world without endorsing what occurs in that world. If we can't have discriminatory or asshole NPCs how do you acheive game conflict. Nothing I have seen suggests the game is *advocating* this position. I think this sort of thing can give important flavor and something for the players to campaign against.

    In a broader sense I think these outrages are not only misplaced but cause us to miss broader issues. There is no danger in the modern world that people will backslide and start treating women as property again. However, there are plenty of subtle ways in which women are kept down and oppressed. This sort of 'outrage' detracts from the real issue.

    For instance 90% of males I know, even 'liberated' males prefer to date women who are less assertive and intelligent than them. Girls who act like their male friends in assertivity and arguing about CS (or math or whatever) simply aren't found desierable. Guys who think logically are awarded with praise while often girls who do the same thing are chided for being too 'masculine'.

    Every time we waste our time and focus on one of these 'outrages' we make things worse. Men get to think of themselves as 'liberated' and supporting equality for women when in fact they are the heart of the modern problem. It is only by focusing attention of these subtle inter-personal interactions can any true progress be made.
  • by Stephen Samuel ( 106962 ) <samuel@bc g r e> on Friday October 22, 2004 @07:03PM (#10604715) Homepage Journal
    Malakai was inserted as a plot device. He was not expected to be accepted

    Consider the name MALakai -- base being mal ('bad' in french, and latin/greek -- think MALadjusted).and it turned out that many of the people who traded with him ended up losing what they traded for to begin with (so the women refused service were proabably better off for it).

    I've played in a live RPG where I came this close to being randomly attacked by a friggin GM, had an arm turned into a tentacle and told that I'd fallen in love with another character who my most recent interaction with resulted in both of us being dead. -- and that's just game creatures (introduced by the company who ran the game).

    Nasty occurences are meant to be part of any good RPG. How people respond to such distrubances is IMHO more important (malakai was (rightly) hounded out of the country).

    That the ATITD community ejected the cad the way they did says more (IMHO) about the game than that he was inserted into the plot.

    I can't get any hard data on just how bad the 'riots' were, but I get a feeling that a reaction like that was intended.

  • Re:Whaaaaa! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Erik Hollensbe ( 808 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:43PM (#10605608) Homepage
    Especially when people sell their characters on eBay.

    Seriously, NWN is really the only video game which I've seen that take the "role playing" portion of RPG and actually makes it happen.

    And I'm partially proud and ashamed to admit to beating every main final fantasy title released, some of the japanese versions long before they came out in the states. Until NWN, everything else has been an "interactive story", and until people realize that a very intrinsic part of role playing is to alter the plot in real-time, video games will always suffer.
  • Re:Whaaaaa! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NoData ( 9132 ) <> on Friday October 22, 2004 @09:20PM (#10605847)
    The fact that you think that *anything* that "happens" in an online game would *ever* make any amount of news other than those which deal with online games as a matter of course illustrates how out of touch you are with real life.

    I've never played one of these games in my life. They are "after my time" as the saying goes. However, not only do I defend my statement, but I would take my point further to say that *any* game (online or not) that featured a game character treating the player in a racist, sexist, or otherwise bigotted way would make the press. Especially if published by a big game maker. Look at the amount of flak Grand Theft Auto: Vice City received for its depiction of Haitians and Cubans [], and its violence, especially against women. When social mores are broken in a game, you don't have to be an out-of-touch role playing zombie to see that it will have political impact in the real world.
  • by Simkin1 ( 643231 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @01:26AM (#10606912) Homepage
    Normally I hate the idea of replying to my own post... but it just occured to me that things are getting rather pathetic in the gaming world... instead of going out and meeting people irl, we buy a game where the purpose is to hook people up... art imitating life or vv? ...or just a pathetic time/phase for online gaming, and PC gaming in general? Never thought I'd say this, but have we by any chance taken PC gaming a little too far in general? The other day the makers of GTA were complaining about their next version of GTA being stolen.... this coming from the makers of a game where stealing/killing/anti-social behavior is something to aspire to... a little ironic don't you think? I guess I can understand folks who want to pretend to be wizards and knights, even marines or hero's, but virtual worlds which you have to work in... I mean really... what is that about?? What's next? The add-on pack, where you have to graduate a virtual high school? and then in later versions of the game do you have to attend virtual college so you can get a virtual job after going through a virtual interview, and then do virtual work in a virtual cubicle?? ... virtual stupidity... imho.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!