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Motives, methods, and morals: Towards an informed anti-cheating policy in massively online multiplayer games

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  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Motives
    1. Economic motives to cheat
    2. Network design and the motivation to cheat
  4. Methods
    1. Client side state manipulation
  5. Morals
    1. Points relevant to the policy
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

World of Warcraft and other massively multiplayer online games have become immensely popular in the past few years. Their growing popularity, advanced player-driven economies, and often reinforced social and political tendencies have yielded an interesting if troublesome set of problems. Cheating, which among other things includes the use of artificially intelligent ?game bots? and/or the manipulation of objects on the local client, is the quintessential thorn for game developers and developers have responded with both legal and software-based countermeasures. I propose a holistic analysis of cheating in World of Warcraft, highlighting how network architecture, economic opportunity, and game design contribute to the problem. The analysis will indicate certain deficits from both gamer and developer behavior and propose reasonable policy suggestions for this growing but ill-understood problem.

[...] Massively multiplayer online role-playing games: the past, present, and future. Comput. Entertain (Mar. 2008), 1-33. DOI= 10.1145 / 1324198.1324207 Golle, P. and Ducheneaut, N. (2005). Keeping bots out of online games. In Proceedings of the 2005 ACM SIGCHI international Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology (Valencia, Spain, June 15 - 17, 2005). ACE vol ACM, New York, NY, 262-265. DOI= 10.1145 / 1178477.1178522 Webb, S. D. and Soh, S. (2007). Cheating in networked computer games: a review. [...]

[...] Cheating in online games just doesn't appear to be that important an issue. Next to race relations, corporate America, and gender politics, the issue of cheating in the world's most popular online game (ever) does not seem to be a pressing concern. But if it's not on the ethicist's write about? list, perhaps it should be. There are good reasons for engaging the issue now, while it's still an issue that can be discussed from many academic disciplines. One is simply that cheating in MMOG's is itself economically and politically motivated. [...]

[...] In leiu of this stated purpose, it is necessary to evoke what I consider to be a guiding principle: what counts as useful policy is policy that acknowledges the aforementioned elements (i.e economic, network-related, and design-related influences) to cheating. Just as importantly, useful policy might one day correlate these elements with the major tools available to users who act in accordance with one or more of the influences. That said, what is immediately relevant to policy here can be summarized as follows: one's use of a tool ?intended? for cheating does not constitute participation in the act itself This is particularly represented in the discussion about the gold farmers' plethora of tools. [...]

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