Surveillance and invasion of privacy in MMOs

Select Parks has a questionnaire going about surveilance in MMOs. It’s an interesting dilemma. You quickly forget that your every action is being watched and recorded while playing. But I’m wondering if christo might have misunderstood something – if not, I certainly have. In the comments about ‘Game administrators monitoring players’ christo writes:

“The ability of MMO game administrators to monitor and record player
interactions out-strips any type of surveillance occurring within the
real-world. All movements, actions and conversations can be permanently
recorded and archived for later retrieval. Some MMOs use this data to help
suspend player accounts when end user license agreements are broken. For
example, if one player continually harasses another, administrators can sift
through conversation and proximity data to prove an offence has taken
place. Game companies also mine user data to help review and enhance the
game’s structure and playability”

Yeah…well I suppose the historic numerical value of gameplay of an avatar is in the interest of everyone to be available for review and keep. But I don’t think this applies to the communication levels in MMOs. From what I’ve understood (and I’ll have to dig deeper into my notes to find the source) most MMOs don’t keep the communication data for more than 3 days or so. So you basically have to complain or report a ‘verbal’ offense within that time limit, or else the developers won’t have the information to make a just (ehm…) ruling. I mean…can you imagine MMO administrators actually filing and Big Brothering (what happens when I can’t think of the verb for suveillance)every converstation had in an MMO? Jeez! Just think of the time and space that would require! It would however be interesting to see how they log and keep track of complaints. How many details of their suspendable actions do they hold onto! Furthermore are the administrators bound by confidentiality? Hmmm…interesting! I’m absolutely certain that they have random drop-ins to ‘private’ conversations, which I think is supposed to make you uncomfortable (think Foucault), but most likely they just interefere if someone complains (which I think is A LOT!!). It’s part of the ‘whining’ culture they’ve created, if you ask me! This is what happens when you create a governance that’s structured around ‘complaints’ (I’ll have to blog some more about my theories there – not really relevant here!).

Either way…looks like a great questionnaire and I can’t wait to see the results. I would, however LOVE to see a fourth subject on it! When we’re first talking about how gamers feel about the surveillance in MMOs shouldn’t we also be questioning how they feel about academics studying and analysing their ehm… ‘private’ gameplay space? I’ve heard so many grievances about journalists and academics coming in and prying into “Why, why and WHY!” – and I completely understand them!

Brought to my attention by magnificent Boing Boing

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