It will come as no surprise to anyone that as aggressive salvagers, Ironfleet gets a lot of flak from people who just somehow think it’s wrong for us to play the game our way. They want to use open space for ore storage, and under their morals, which they think universal, that means that nobody should come along to clean up the mess they are making, because, *gasp!*, in the real world, that would be stealing! ZOMG!

This game has seen extreme cases where people have even confused in-game loss with real world crime.

So I was amused, that an errant Google search brought me to this:

So I play this silly Dragon Cave game online, where you collect and breed dragons. And in the forum for the site, people come up with all kinds of topics to discuss. The latest one, that really blew my mind, was about whether or not it bothers you to inbreed your dragons, and whether you’ll keep a dragon that someone else bred if it’s inbred. What stunned me was how many people were completely and militantly against it.

There isn’t any kind of “genetic coding” in the game, for crying out loud. The only coding of any kind in the breeding is that the offspring will always be the color of one of its parents, and “rare” types won’t breed together. Everything else (gender, for instance) is totally random, except in the 2 colors of dragons that are always female (pink & purple, in case anyone wondered).

And these are imaginary pixel pets! Not real animals. Not people. Just drawings, for crying out loud. But more than one person in that forum thread seemed offended and disgusted that people would even dream of inbreeding their dragons. One person went so far as to say that morals have to be absolute, and that you should never do anything online or in a game that you wouldn’t do in real life, and that if they had their way it would be impossible to inbreed the dragons on that site. WTF?!

That last sentence, does it sound familiar to anyone? Because, these people, we have them in EVE.

5 Responses to “Morals In Games”

  1. Julian says:

    I think it was Immanuel Kant who believed that there are certain absolute moral truths. If one thing is wrong in this case then it is wrong in ALL cases, regardless of context. Within that same logic, however, one could state that it is heinously wrong to lie to Nazi’s at your door who in search of hidden Jews. Moral absolutists… Pfeh.

  2. Jim says:

    Pfeh indeed. But at the risk of going off topic, at what precise point should a society’s morals and ethics start to have legal jurisdiction over virtual / cartoon worlds? This might be of (long-winded) relevance.

    Cute baby dragons with human faces in-breeding, anyone?

  3. Julian says:

    I would be inclined to believe that societal ideas of moral, ethical behavior halts at the Terms of Use. Once they have been accepted, a society should not have the ability to punish the actions of those within the virtual world. I’ve heard the argument that Item X requires Y hours of work to obtain, hence it’s theft should be considered a crime. Yet, one could also argue that the work of the alleged thief, which could also entail Y hours of work, entitles him/her to Item X. So long as the Terms of Use have not been violated, no laws can be broken, be they moral or judicial in nature.

    The steaming, cheese filled, meat topped essence of my point is that the day a governing non-pizza body begins to regulate the actions of players of any game, within the context of that game, that body will be violating civil liberties of free speech that are found in a wide variety of nation-flavors.

    On that note, there’s someone willing to trade pepperoni-covered ambrosia for currency at my door.

  4. Marlenus says:

    To me the obvious point is that by booting up the game, the players are consenting to any in-game activity that is made possible by the game mechanics. Or, slightly narrower if you prefer, any in-game activity that is permissible under the EULA.

    If I jack truckloads of goods in the real world, it’s theft. If I jack hauler-loads of ore in EVE, it’s not theft — because the miner consented in advance. This isn’t just a legal point, it’s a moral one as well. There’s no iniquity to playing a bad guy in a game which offers (as its major selling point and sales differentiation from competing titles!) real live human badguys.

    That said, I do still believe in sportsmanship and civility. I don’t understand how being verbally nasty to people is supposed to make the game more fun for anybody.

  5. Mac Flecknoe's Heir says:

    There is a distinction between legal compulsion and moral duty that I consider highly important — I certainly don’t want any legislative body I’ve seen reducing my morality to merely following their laws. While I agree — strongly — that there should be no regulation or compulsion beyond the rules of the game within the game, that does not automatically mean that morality no longer applies — merely that is voluntary, as ultimately morality must be. Marlenus’ distaste for picking on newbies is a moral stance not mandated by the game rules or enforced by outsiders.

    Property morality, though, is another matter. Ovid identified the creation of private property as the end of the golden age, and I’m not sure he’s wrong. Locke identifies work as what creates ownership — if one puts in the labor to create or process something, one has a claim to it. But this doesn’t trump other morals. A mugger may do harder, riskier work than a college professor, but does that mean the mugger is more entitled to his money? In the game, to invoke morality to say that is “my” wreck because I did the work of wrecking it is to invoke one moral stand on property — work creates ownership — but ignores another — killing people or destroying their property or generally using force to achieve one’s goals in the face of strenuous opposition is wrong. Unless the property-protection moralists become pacifists too, I don’t think their ethics stand up to scrutiny.

    Pure miners might have a claim, but there again there are issues. What happens when half the work (mining) is done by one and half the work (hauling) by another? Does half-done work claim ownership? In farming, perhaps, but in mining where publicly available goods are being claimed by one owner, thus denying ownership the rest who might have mined it? And mining often creates public harms for private goods — think of all the accidents Ironfleet has prevented by cleaning up the spacelanes that careless miners have cluttered up.

    Finally, there’s the ethical stance that it’s wrong to make people sad, but this has got to be a universal standard, lest it slip into the fun-and-selfish it’s wrong to make ME sad. The fun of someone careless with his jetcans may be hurt when it is salvaged, but the fun of salvagers is hurt when it is not, so I don’t see any ethical imperative growing out of that.

    So, if they don’t like the rules, they should complain to the rule-makers, not the rule-followers, even if the rule-followers ruthlessly understand every letter of every rule.

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