The Weekly Dish – Karmic Vengeance

The Weekly Dish – Karmic Vengeance

No one likes mean people, but unfortunately there seem to be an awful lot of them running around the gaming scene. In this week's column, we look at a number of stories featuring vengeance and punishment for jerks and ne'er-do-wells in the world of video games.

Making Mean People Pay—Literally

During a recent interview, Valve president Gabe Newell discussed a theoretical improvement to current online gaming payment systems. Newell said that current video game payment methods, such as retail boxes, monthly fees, and microtransactions, are broken. His reasoning: they involve a single payment model for every customer instead of focusing on the optimal payment method for individual customers.

Newell certainly isn't the first person in the industry to think this way, and some online games have been adding flexibility to payment methods for years. For example, Dungeon & Dragons Online customers can choose to have full access to all game content via a monthly subscription, or to consume the game at their own pace by purchasing content via microtransactions. However, Newell wasn't content to stick with that kind of payment flexibility.

Newell's proposed application of flexible pricing involves charging customers a different amount of money depending on how much fun they are to play with online. He noted (focusing on small-group online games like Team Fortress 2) that some players will show up on a game server and add value to the overall experience by being skilled and fun to group with. Others are annoying and often cause other players to leave the server. Newell suggested that the most fun and popular players could receive copies of games for free, due to their past behavior and the value that they add to the community, while obnoxious jerks would be charged full price and might even pay extra for social tools like voice communication.

Now, Mr. Newell probably wasn't entirely serious, and such a system would be extremely difficult to maintain fairly, but he has a point. Griefers, abuse-spewing poor losers, and other scourges of the internet make games less pleasant for everyone. I'm sure just about everybody who has played an online game has met at least one person they wished could be punished for extreme antisocial behavior. Would a payment system like Newell suggested strengthen online gaming communities and encourage cooperative behavior? It's food for thought.

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Amazonian Revenge

Finally, some truly silly gossip to report in The Weekly Dish!

This tidbit comes to you from High Voltage, developers of Conduit 2, and a game reviewer named Michael Murdock. It seems Mr. Murdock wrote a rather scathing review of Conduit 2, using phrases like "lackadaisical trash" to describe the shooter. The harsh remarks, plus a score of 1 out of a possible 5, had to sting a bit. But apparently the folks at High Voltage noticed a book plug at the end of Mr. Murdock's review byline and saw an opportunity to return the favor.

It turns out that Michael Murdock is not only a video game reviewer, but the author of a not-well-known fantasy novel titled The Ruby Dragon. This book received ten five-star reader reviews between 2008 and May of 2011. Suddenly in May, four 1.0 reviews appeared on the book's page, complete with colorful insults about the book's quality. It seems that Conduit 2 Creative Director Matt Corso had sent out an e-mail encouraging High Voltage staffers to review Mr. Murdock's book, and those folks were none too impressed by what they (may have) read.

After this story leaked to the public, High Voltage apologized and most of the one-star reviews were taken down. Still, this entire episode is an example of why those of the gaming industry need to up their level of professionalism. Reviewers should find ways to write about games they didn't enjoy without excessively abusive verbiage, and game developers just need to learn to turn the other cheek and let their games speak for themselves. Trying to get back at a reviewer never makes you look good, and I'm not saying that just because I'm a reviewer myself.

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ISWYDT (I See What You Did There)

If at first you don't succeed, legislate, legislate again. That's been the motto of the U.S. Congress on quite a few issues lately, and now it's being applied to copyright law. A defeated copyright protection bill known as the Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act (COICA) has been fixed up and resurrected as the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property bill. It's a mouthful, but it certainly has a snappier acronym: PROTECT IP.

The PROTECT IP bill aims to put the chill on websites distributing pirated material by allowing the government to prevent credit card payment processors, search engines, and ad networks from working with said sites. It also allows for affected copyright owners to bring cases directly against pirate websites without requiring the government to act as the prosecution.

PROTECT IP appears to be a stronger and more reasonable piece of legislation than earlier copyright bills for a few reasons. It contains a specific definition of the kind of site that can be targeted for copyright infringement, and it does not allow private suits against internet service providers or search engines, thereby protecting those businesses from fighting expensive lawsuits from rights holders. Instead, it aims to damage pirate websites directly, even allowing penalties to follow a site if it changes domain names. Still, freedom of speech organizations have criticisms of PROTECT IP, saying that its provisions that encourage search engines to "self-censor" pirate web sites raise First Amendment concerns.

Whew, that's a lot of karma for one week. See you next time, and remember to play nice, or Gabe Newell just might karate-kick your wallet.

By Becky Cunningham
CCC Contributing Writer

*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*

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