In online games, devs and exploiters play a constant cat and mouse game in which as the stakes are raised, players are subjected to more and more intrusive online monitoring systems. Just to make sure we aren’t cheating and to try to keep our games free from bots, hacks, cheats, and so forth.
You will see similar issues with firewalls and virus protection programs. There is a tradeoff between safety and being able to actually use your hardware/ software unimpaired. And the other tradeoff is around false positives. That is, people who actually weren’t doing anything wrong being pegged by the system as a potential cheater. In the social care field, we talk about the tension between the roles of care vs control. That is to say: you want to support your users to have fun, live their lives, and do the things they want to do. But at the same time, it’s your job to make sure they don’t harm each other or abuse the system. That tends to make workers veer towards the paranoid side, which is a very bad thing if it ends up harming innocent users.
If anyone is following Battlechicken, you’ll be aware of her running battle with the Bioware customer service team, after having been banned from SWTOR on account of a false positive. It’s not pleasant reading, full of form emails which won’t even explain which dodgy program she was allegedly running and lack of communication from the CS team. So it’s nice to read that Bioware (finally) did the decent thing, contacted her, apologised, and reinstated her account. And they are now reconsidering how they will respond to this type of customer service issue – hopefully they’ll be able to learn from the experience.
I wonder how many players would have just quietly dropped the game, upset, on receiving the first email and not tried to fight back and argue their case. I wonder how many would have kept trying after the second and third form email.
Anyhow, props to both Battlechicken and the CS team (who are after all just trying to keep the game safe for players) and hopefully some good lessons can be learned from this.