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= http://doi.acm.org/ 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= http://doi.acm.org/ 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. [...]
[...] Methods: What tools exist for these activities and why should they be considered novel (e.g., how are the hacking tools used in WoW's case really that different from cheat tools of previous generations of games?) Morals: What morals can be drawn and/or what can be brought to bear on the much larger question concerning the appropriation of informed policies? Use of “informed” here implies policy that draws on ethical, economic, and technological insights in order to project policy tailored at the level of the individual/organization. [...]
[...] Mastering a \pattern" is an important source of enjoyment, and games with infinite variations are perceived as chaotic" or noisy and poorly received by players. In essence, their position is that grinding is necessary because it is part of the psychological appeal of the game itself; the promise of character progression (reward) is legitimized in the punishment (the grind). If behavioral psychology is alive, it's alive in the design of MMOG's such as World of Warcraft. The crucial point is not whether grinding is tied to the psychology of game design, but whether that it already is imparts some justification for certain activities the industry is so quick to label as “cheating” and “game-ruining.” Hoglund and McGraw (2008, pg. [...]
[...] In short, second generation online games such as WoW require the world to be consistent, that is, relatively similar for its users. That said, given the advanced interfaces and graphics engines a realistically rendered world requires, it is also necessary for game clients to be loaded locally. This presents somewhat of a dilemma from the perspective of network design: how can the processing requirements of a 3-d world be delivered centrally? Surprisingly, it can. In order to produce a coherent and logically consistent world, MMOG's require that users' interaction and replication of the virtual world be mostly loaded locally through their own machine. [...]
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