The latest Contains Moderate Peril podcast was dedicated entirely to Eve Online and brought up several interesting questions about the community surrounding #Eve. One facet in particular that caught my attention included the question of #ethics within the game. As with any game, and especially the more sandbox-style games, there are certain things that a player can do that are not necessarily against the rules of the game, but may have other consequences (blacklisting from other players, all out declaration of war) or none at all, depending on whether you get caught or not. There even seems to be an element of admiration for those who know the systems and networks within the game well enough to be able to get away with certain types of unethical behavior, and perhaps even thrive because of it.
To me, this brings up all kinds of psycho-babble questions about the human condition and the blending/mimicking of the real world within the virtual. Do our actions in-game say something about our character in real life? Would someone who would try to “get away” with something in order to get ahead in an MMO be more likely to do the same within your workplace? Or is gaming just a way to fantasize about things that we would never do in real life because the in-game consequences are arguably trivial compared to real-life relationships and reputations?
A wise old sage (Jeff Goldblum) once said “Just because you could doesn’t mean you should” (paraphrase). I know, I know, nobody is getting eaten by fictional Hollywood dinosaurs, here. But the blurry line still bothers me. Is it cheating on your spouse to suggestively flirt with somebody in-game? On voice chat? On a video call? All virtual worlds, in some sense. Is it ok to stab somebody in the back in order to get a promotion at work? How about in order to move up within your Eve corporation?
I’m not trying to pass any judgments, but I do prefer to play it a little bit safe within the virtual space. Heck, I don’t even feel too good about rolling a creep in LOTRO or a sith in SWTOR. I suppose that means that I see my toons as an extension of myself in some ways, and guide their in-game actions accordingly. I prefer to cooperate with others when there is a greater good at stake, not merely for my own benefit. I’m not sure how I’d feel if I knew that I could count on my kinmates to leave a dagger in my back at the first opportunity that it would benefit them to do so. In my mind, there is a fine line between people in the real world and those same people manipulating a virtual environment. Sure, the consequences may not be as dire, but are consequences the only things that guide our behavior in real life? If actions reveal character, do in-game actions do the same?
Eve doesn’t sounds like a game that would appeal to me, and not only because it would take way more time for me to learn that I currently have to spend. If the environment is similar to what it sounded like in the podcast, then that’s just a little too much in-game reality for me to contend with.
Featured image by Dan Mason on Flickr