15 Minutes of Shame: Social Irresponsibility in World of Warcraft

Facebook application authorsExclusively old-school raiding guildsAnthropologists.  The WoW Insider feature column known as 15 Minutes of Fame puts a weekly spotlight on individuals from all walks of life, and gives them a moment to be heard and recognized by the WoW community.

Lego EnthusiastsBlog Commenters.  Real-Life World ExplorersFellow WoW Bloggers.  These individuals are the epitome of the variety that encompasses the WoW subscriber base, and the thread that ties them together is that they are all paid subscribers.  And as such, they are all subject to follow the Terms of Service and End User License Agreement, both known as the TOS and EULA respectively.

And then a WoW botter came along, and suddenly this esteemed company didn’t seem so esteemed.

After the break: rules, responsibility, respect

Botting is Bad, Mmmkay?

For those of you who don’t know, botting is the act of using a third party to control your WoW character.  This normally entails the use of executable programs, also known as “bots,” to perform actions that would normally require first person input, such as use of WASD to move, or to right click an object to ineract with it.  GLIDER is one such program.

How does this fit in with the Terms of Service and the End User License Agreement?  Simply put, it does not.  The EULA allows you to install and use the game, provided that you follow the limitations outlined in the agreement.  Under section 2b of the agreement, the subscriber agrees to not “use cheats, automation software (bots), hacks, mods, or any other unauthorized third-party software designed to modify the World of Warcraft experience.”

It is as cut and dry as that one simple rule.  You break the rule, you are legally not allowed to play, and are not entitled to be a WoW subscriber.

I have no qualms against such individuals as people, nor do I feel any resentment or hostility towards them.  However, I do have a legal obligation to report botters and other individuals who act against the TOS and EULA.  Above all, I am an advocate of following the two agreements, and encouraging others to do the same.

More Than a Social Obligation

Having said what I feel about botting and other illegal activities, I hope to speak as little as possible about the article that WoW Insider posted about botting.  Perhaps they did not intend as such, but their 15 Minutes of Fame article featuring the WoW botter appeared to, upon first impression, glorify the use of bots.  This one particular interview question certainly stood out:

Incredible?  Incredibly Illegal is more like it!

Incredible? Incredibly Illegal is more like it!

As far as I can tell, WoW Insider is a family-friendly website, and takes measures to ensure that their content is at least work-safe.  But if a naive youngster or teenager stumbles upon this article after a long, excrutiatingly boring session of grinding, there is a good chance that this impressionable mind would consider looking up google for a bot.

Not only are these naive individuals exposed to said illegal activity, but also leading them to a realm outside of Blizzard’s account security jurisdiction, leaving them vulnerable to keyloggers and scammers.  Ironically, they would lose their accounts to the botters that they were trying to emulate in the first place.

Furthermore, this article even reaches out to naive WoW parents.  There is an interview question pertaining to the botter’s own children, who are 1 and 3 years old.  The botter admits to use of his program to obtain vanity pets that he can show to his kids, one of them taking particular enjoyment in seeing the pets, and slightly suggests that he turned botting into an educational experience for his kids.

Cute, yes, but does he know how to say "Permabanned?"

Cute, yes, but does he know how to say "Permabanned?"

At the moment, I’m not a parent, but I aspire to be one and start my own family someday.  And when that day comes, I hope to be able to teach and lead by example.  However, such is not the case for all parents, as there are those who are naive as well. 

Heck, even The Guild, a very popular web video series, features a main character falling under the “unfit-parent-slash-wow-addict” stereotype.  What would happen if Clara, the mage/mother read this article?  Knowing her character, she could definitely consider botting so that she could pay attention to her children a little bit more.  But of course, she will get banned, and not only does she suffers, but the guild as well.

For a website reputed as a great source of WoW related information, and home to a group of outspoken authors, this article really stuck out like a sore thumb, and I surely hope that this isn’t reflective of their attitude towards the game.

Bring the Player, not the Crass

Not only did this article stick out from the content of the website, but this individual also in my mind stood out from the rest of the subjects of the 15MoF interview format.  This individual, Draeden, has his own website.  He wrote a post about his confessions to botting, which drew the attention of many, including the staff at WI.

Reading the original article, as well as the interview itself, Draeden comes off as very opinionated, and he certainly rubbed off the wrong way on some readers, who felt he was speaking from a high horse, or was trying to have his cake and eat it too.  What he said during both posts is completely fair game, as he is entitled to his own opinion.  What really struck out at me, however, was his “abrasive tone” in his comments in response to other commenters.

His justification, as he says himself, “I respond with the same tone I’m given. Works in management and with kids, why not on ze interwebs? :)”

In my opinion, bringing yourself down to another person’s level does no good, especially when you are forced to do as such multiple times.  The thing about the “interwebs” is that the majority of people online are asses.  Just ask Penny Arcade.  But that shouldn’t justify an individual behaving so crudely to others, especially when they’re in a position of “authority.”  If such were the case, then one would have no choice but be an ass, which kind of defeats the whole justification in the first place.  If you can’t beat them, join them, right?

That being said, not everyone on the internet has that attitude, and a good number of them are featured in 15MoF.  Even our good tree friend Phae is in it.  As a fellow blogger, if I were to be featured in such an article series, I would be honored to have the privilege of being interviewed, alongside so many other interesting people.

But having a botter for company?  No, simply not.  Call me arrogant, tell me if I’m on my own high horse of sorts.  I’ll even admit to it, but I have my beliefs, and frankly I would be ashamed of myself to see it come to this.  Even if it came at the cost of removing my own feature article from the site, costing me a potential source of readership.  But hey, we’re all entitled to our opinions right?

1200 Words, 3 Drafts Later

I’ve run fresh out of ideas.  I’ve burned out on my feelings towards this issue, particularly because I’m so against the idea of botting.  But to summarize, to see such a thing featured on a reputed media outlet without any hint of not condoning said activity really grinded my gears.  Especially true, considering that the article’s previous features were far more noteworthy.

Botting is illegal.  No if’s and’s or but’s about it.  With every new patch, you drag your scroll bar down mindlessly, or spin your mousewheel furiously, to get to the end of the dreaded EULA, just so you can play your game.  One of these days, just read through it, and understand that you’ve been agreeing to Blizzard’s absolute terms in order to have the right to play their game.

It is a fantastic game for sure, and legal mumbo jumbo aside, is definitely worth the time spent, regardless of how you spent it.

11 thoughts on “15 Minutes of Shame: Social Irresponsibility in World of Warcraft

  1. I have a minor quibble with the term “illegal” being tossed about as if the ToS is somehow a part of the law of the land. It is not. Nor do I believe that one is “legally required” to report botters. I don’t actually recall being deputized.

    What is is, of course, is completely against the ToS, which is *possibly* a legal contract under the law (though it changes every time a patch comes out, and my cat agreed to it last time).

    And I’d not hesitate to report a botter. But I do not believe that I will end up in the slammer – or even banned – if I didn’t.

    But, again – botting is NOT “illegal” per se. Blizzard is not the law of the land, unless the Land stops at the edge of Azeroth 🙂 That’s a bit of hyperbole that takes away from an otherwise excellent argument.

  2. I’m really disappointed in WI for publishing that interview. Next, I expect we’ll see gold-selling ads there. Excellent article, Bash!

    @Grimtooth: “Illegal” doesn’t necessarily apply to violations of law. My dictionary (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate, 11th Ed.) says “not sanctioned by official rules (as of a game)”. Botting is “illegal” under this definition.

  3. @Kestrel,

    Technically correct, I’ll give you that, but the word has implications.

    As a legal document, the ToS is pretty weak. Else the Glider case would not have been won on a DMCA technicality, it would have been won on the basis of the ToS itself.

    As I said, a minor quibble, and only important to anal-retentive (or is that without the hyphen?) geeks such as myself, I suspect. 😀

  4. Grimm – I’ll admit that Illegal is an odd term to use with regards to context. Perhaps if I read up more on the Glider issue, I would be able to select the words more carefully; at the time that I wrote the first draft of this post, I was under the impression that due to the results of the case itself, it was indeed punishable by law.

    Nonetheless, I still stand by the notion that botting is indeed against the terms of service, and Blizzard has a legal right to deny service to those who do not adhere to their conditions.

    Kes – I am quite sure that we’re not alone on this, that I can say. When the clear majority of the WoW readership (WI, Blizz forums, or otherwise) is against botting, it’s surprising to see an article with an apologist perspective (despite the individual’s notion suggesting otherwise).

  5. Bots are the performance enhancing drugs of MMOs. Most activities in the game are time sinks, and time is finite. Some people are just super efficient with time, some people don’t work or have other obligations so just play all the time. I’m ok with both. Botters however are blatantly cheating to gain an advantage in the game. Just as bad is buying gold from a gold hacker. . .er farmer. I would never begrudge someone something they earned, I hate PvP, if they made an achievement for ganking lowbies, at least if someone got it they had to interact with the game. This is just blatant cheating. I hope the author gets perma-banned, and anyone who attempts it gets perma-banned.

  6. Fish – It wasn’t the author of the WI article who supported botting, it was the person who the author interviewed. The individual in question has long quit WoW since then, and has gotten off without penalty.

    I simply hope that people don’t try to take a similar risk. It is quite likely that they will get caught and banned.

    I’ve been reading up on various responses to the WI article itself, particularly on the official forums. Hearsay from various posts indicate that the punishment done to particular botters varied on a case-by-case basis, mostly having to do with different GM responses on differing realms. Some individuals have gotten temporary suspensions, others have gotten banned after repeat offenses, and others have been permanently banned on the spot.

    Regardless, if I were to ever consider botting (Light forbid), I wouldn’t like my chances.

  7. @Krizz

    Absolutely no quibble agreeing that it’s immoral, against the ToS, etc. It’s the misconception of how the Glider case that was won that illustrates why I get to be so picky sometimes. Once a few people start passing it around as fact, it works its way into the fabric, so to speak.

    I’m hoping that Paul Ohm’s YANAL articles will eventually touch on this case, but no luck so far.

    http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/paul/being-acquitted-versus-being-searched-yanal

  8. I was also surprised to see the botter interviewed. When I first saw that, I thought there might be more questions that would be … well, questioning his violation of the ToS.

    I had also read the botter’s “confession” on his site. I did not like his attitude one bit. The article itself was interesting, to a point, but his asshattery way of responding to commenters was uncalled for. So, you get grief on something that was against the ToS, he HAD to have expected that. And still, there is no reason to go off on your readers.

    Plus, he just made it seem like his time (in game and out) was more valuable than anyone else’s and that seemed to be his justification for botting.

  9. btw grimm, I read that article you linked, it’s a pretty neat series that the guy is doing. There’s another ongoing one that pertains to video games and law, and it’s a weekly feature on Joystiq, one of WoW Insider’s affiliate blogging sites. It’s called “Law of the Game,” and can be found on the link below.

    http://www.joystiq.com/tag/law-of-the-game/

    And while his topics cover a wide variety of issues surrounding the gaming industry as a whole, he has not yet covered the Glider case. However, he has a few topics regarding the state of the EULA, which may directly correlate to botting (even though it mostly covers copyright infringement from my past experiences reading it). Go check it out!

  10. @Krizz,

    Yeah, I really like the approach that Ohm is taking. It kinda naturally flows from the usual IANAL conversation on sites like Slashdot. Takes all our usual geek bravado and puts it in perspective.

    Joystiq tagged for reading, thanks!

    The whole EULA thing comes down to this: the game company tries to establish a little zone in which the Law is them. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. As long as Blizz is on the defensive, they’re on solid ground WRT botters. It’s the preemptive Glider case that’s really interesting. The ramifications are pretty profound.

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