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Jester’s Trek: Yuppie Nuremberg defense

March 13, 2014

Before I start wading headlong into the swamp — and trust me, over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to bury you guys in “EVE player behaves badly” stories — let’s talk about a positive. But even the positive stories on this topic have to start with an EVE player behaving badly… in this case, several of them. The positive aspect here has to do with CCP’s reaction. I’m going to be talking about CCP’s reactions to this stuff quite a lot where I think it bears.

The absolutely brilliant comedy Thank You for Smoking — and if you haven’t yet seen this film, fix that — has a funny phrase to talk about this: the “Yuppie Nuremberg defense.” This is, to wit: “I know what I did was wrong, but I did it to pay the mortgage.” As players of this game behave more and more badly, CCP’s GMs and Community Team are going to have to make difficult moral choices that would give an ethics student pause. And no matter how they choose, they’re likely to make someone mad. When an EVE player behaves badly, does their lack of a response to one of these situations drive off a customer? Or does their interference with the situation “interfere with the sandbox”?

These aren’t easy choices and I don’t envy the Community team the need to make them. Let’s talk about one where they made a tough — but, I think, the right — choice.

Most of us know about Jita scams, but they continue because they work: no matter how old any given scam is, a player out there falls for it. Yesterday in Jita, a self-described new player fell for one of the standard market manipulation scams based on the Margin Trading skill. These scams are almost as old as dirt but again, they continue because they work. In this case, the new player fell for it to the tune of a billion ISK. Again, this happened yesterday.

Go ahead and laugh. Get it out of your system.(1)

The victim bemoaned his fate in Jita local and started warning others about the scammer. Predictably — smelling blood in the water — several of those present started trolling the victim into the ground. So the chat log I linked above is mixed with dozens of other scammers plying their trade punctuated by this guy being laughed at by a half-dozen actual people. “I’m a new player, asshole,” he says to one of them. Seconds later, he receives “Welcome to eve, asshole” as a response. He himself is accused of being a scammer and making up the story, trying to play on the sympathy of the locals. Bounties get placed on him (“it’s a reward for being a twat”, he’s told). It goes on in this vein for quite a while: “look at captain white knight here”, “he thinks jita scams are real scams”, plus general laughter at the victim.

Finally, the victim says “i am going to go blow my brains out in my garage. bye everyone”. He’s told “dont miss”(!) (sic). He disconnects.

I take a moment here to briefly remind you: this is the community that you are part of.

The victim tells the story of what happened next on Reddit:

Hey guys, so I am writing to you right now because the police literally just woke me up (4:30 am here) asking if I play an online game called EVE and that CCP games actually contacted INTERPOL (I live in Canada- that’s x-country police work right there) who then contacted the RCMP who just dispatched two officers to my house because I said I “was going to blow my fucking brains out” in Local Chat at Jita because of a loss earlier. I imagine the follow up text (body disposal, cleanup) that another player and I were openly joking about made itself to the report however the officers were kind enough to only mention the fact I had said I want to end my own life in an online video game. The officers then asked me if I have a history of self-harm, and if I had any firearms in the house (no, to both) Lesson learned here? Watch what you fucking say in an online game! Even when you say something to somebody specifically, someone may take it out of context and get fucking INTERPOL involved. What kind of international suicide watch list did I unintentionally end up on?

That’s the CCP Community team making a hard, necessary, and correct choice. CCP VesnaPrishla states:

This falls under general policies of most MMOs and if it even helps prevent suicide of one person out of 100, its worth it. We are sorry if you had a bad experience regarding this and we hope you will understand the reasoning behind it.

Far from being angry, the guy replies:

If anything, I should thank you guys… If it had actually been a real case… You would have saved my life.

CCP Falcon adds:

We take all cases of this nature extremely seriously, and contact the appropriate authorities whenever a case like this arises.

We would far rather wake someone at 4:30am and make sure that they are okay, than hear that someone had harmed themselves and we hadn’t responded to either a cry for help, or a notification from a concerned member of the community that someone had expressed an interest in harming themselves.

And this is the correct choice. Moreover, it is the right one. The Yuppie Nuremberg defense is no defense at all when it comes to this kind of situation.

Now, thank Heaven this was not a real suicide threat and this player is OK. He was joking, CCP took it seriously, and that was the right choice. Another Redditor, a non CCP employee in a similar job, put it this way: “I’ll gladly take 20 pissed of players that rage at me afterwards if it means I can save 1 dude’s life.” Yes. I’m glad the Community team is willing to be proactive in this situation even if some of those on Reddit bring up the specter of Big Brother. It’s the right thing to do. So thank you to the CCP Community team for doing it!

But let’s also not forget how this started. More to come.

– Ripard Teg