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Feb 06, 2011



The Duty To ‘Play’: Ethics, EULAs and MMOs

In the last ten years, there has been a steady increase in the attention paid to Massively Multiplayer Online Role Play Games (MMOs) as a site of academic research. A number of large and influential academic studies have been undertaken in a range of disciplines inside MMOs such as EverQuest (Taylor, 2006), Star Wars Galaxies (Ducheneaut & Moore, 2004), Lineage I and II (Steinkeuhler, 2004) and EverQuestII (Castronova et al, 2009). Generally, these studies require the researcher to be embedded in-world, participating as a player in the game. In this paper, we ask: what bounds on research, if any, are ostensibly set by the contractual terms of service of MMOs by which all participants are bound—in particular the duty to “play”; whether this has any problematic bearing on the practice of research; and, if so, whether there are solutions to these problems? This paper will consider the contractual terms used in the End User Licence Agreements (EULAs) of two MMOs, EvE Online and City of Heroes, in order to further explore the practical implications of those terms. This paper concludes that researchers need to consider whether their research is ethical, both in terms of formal compliance with Institutional Research Board (IRB) requirements and how it may impact upon or disrupt the player community. If it does have a disruptive impact, this may take the research not only outside the notion of ethical research, but also outside of the concept of “play” authorised by the EULA itself.


While I concur with nearly all of that, I just wanted to comment that as a resident of the U.K. I did feel that the judgment concerning Paul Chambers' tweet made me materially more safe.

Of course it was a joke. It was, however, a joke that could potentially close an airport (ironically, since the cause was the airport being closed in the first place) and cause massive inconvenience to many people. It's a joke, too, that if allowed leeway could act as a smokescreen for something a lot less amusing.

I'd prefer people used more self-restraint and simply avoided making jokes of this nature, but if they can't then that's what the authorities are there for; to enforce restraint on the behalf of the rest of us who don't share the joker's sense of humour.


"That seems like using me to judge what is good sushi."

As we know nothing of your sushi eating habits, nor your ability to distinguish good food from bad, how is this a valid analogy.


Rex - mb bad. I edited out the next line which pointed out that I don't like fish at all.


Bhagpuss, I believe you're missing a major takeaway here: the reason there's ambiguity about Paul Chambers is not because of the content of his Tweet, but its context. Twitter and other social media platforms are have been shown to be analogous to performance spaces where different rules of conduct apply. His example of not calling actors in Schindler's List anti-Semites is perfect illustration. The internet is a new performance stage where the rules and mores cannot be defined as perfect analogs to the real world. Hence the problematic current situation

Also, if you believe humor ought to be censored in order for you to feel "materially more safe" then you should probably reflect on your life a bit.


This is an area traditionally covered by (for plays) "the fourth wall" and (for games) "the magic circle". Given that "the magic circle" is non-existent for people who willfully commodify the play of others, and that it only exists for regular players when they will themselves to believe it's there, there probably is a need to explain all this without reference to it, which is what your paper seems to do (I've only glanced through it at the moment); so that's good.

I covered some HR material in a talk I gave in Sweden last year, which I didn't write up but the slides are at http://www.mud.co.uk/richard/VisbyHR.pdf. Some of it is from other talks and lecture notes, as it was for undergraduates taking a HR and Games course (yes, Gotland University has one!) but it covers a wide field.

I suppose the only point from it I'd like to make here is that yes, human beings do have a right to play, but we shouldn't, in our rush to recognise this right, forget that they also have a right not to play.



What element of the right not to play are you highlighting here. I guess there are a number of issues that come up (I quickly looked through your presentation). There is:

- not playing, in a way that in no way impacts the game or other players
- not playing that does interfere e.g. standing in the filed of play / on a stage (or in an MMO ;))
- not playing but being forced to be part of the game e.g. being bumped into by players (when you are not an ‘active’ spectator)

The twitter case seems to be one where someone is refusing to play an also imposing their non-play, or at least arguing the latter case above: that play is impacting non-players in a detrimental way e.g. airport being shut down, are you pointing to the rights of non.

Is it this type of right to not play you are pointing to?


By the right not to play, I mean that whenever players start to play a game, that does not mean they must be forced to continue playing it irrespective of the effect of their stopping play on other players. If force (for example, the threat of being sued) is involved, then that would stop being play and start being something else (work, perhaps). I was making a general point, it wasn't about the Twitter case.

In the Twitter case, the guy who made the post did so in a context in which it was clear to those at whom it was directed that it was a joke. It wasn't "shouting FIRE! in a crowded theatre", in which the consequences are beyond a joke; no-one who had been reading Twitter feeds for long would have believed it to be a genuine threat, and no-one would have invoked a full-scale evacuation of the airport. It would be more like if you overheard someone in a pub saying they were going to blow up an airport; it's not even bravado, it's a statement of frustration.

Very bad call by the judge, I thought...



Basically games online is a way of finding friends around the net. In some cases kids play online to escape household chores. The other reason is they get addicted on to it.

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