Gamers May Need A Real-World Bill Of Rights For Better Living In Digital Worlds

Diablo III has inspired quite a bit of conversation among gamers this year. The game sold millions of copies right out of the gate, but its constant connectivity, server woes, connection issues, claims of hacking and real-money auction house have collectively inspired quite a bit of controversy.

Over at The Atlantic, writer Yannick LeJacq uses Diablo III to make the argument that the connection of a real-world economy to in-game economies forms the basis for civil society, of a strange new kind, and that doing so puts the game's owner — Blizzard — into the position of governance. And if Blizzard is performing the role of a government, he continues, then it has quite a long way to go:

Even the most radical libertarian would probably agree that a government must perform two essential functions: keep you alive, and protect your property. Blizzard, then, failed in both tasks once users began losing control of their virtual selves or the goods they had earned. To its credit, the company has already gone to great lengths to repair this. But a more pressing issue is how gamers themselves process these concerns. Maybe the arbitrary cultural taxonomy "gamer" itself is defunct. Instead, a new notion of citizenship is needed as people enter into these increasingly elaborate digital universes.

LeJacq continues the line of inquiry, musing that if Blizzard does indeed operate as the government for a loosely connected people who live in a virtual world, then perhaps the time has come for that people, the gamers, to demand better protection from their rulers. "The need for gamers to assert their rights becomes immediately apparent now that real money has been introduced to the Diablo world," he writes.

We would all agree at this stage that players who trust a company like Blizzard with their money deserve a level of consumer protection. If you give a company cash, you tend to trust them to do what they say they are going to do with it, to give you the goods or services promised in exchange for the money, and to try their hardest to protect you from being defrauded as a result of the transaction. But does adding money into a game really create a separate economy, or a set-apart world? As we rent access to games, but purchase items in them, is a new entity really formed?

I'm inclined to think not. But should Blizzard always do its best to protect its millions of customers worldwide? That almost goes without saying. If multiplayer, online games all set up enumerated rights for the players, the world of gaming might indeed be a better place.

Gamers Need a Bill of Rights [The Atlantic]


    Normally I'd scream god no at this sort of thing declaring it ridiculous. But theres now real world money at stake for lots of people thanks to the RMAH (I still think it absurd to use it but whatever...), so eh, I guess?

      Unlike real life, no one is forcing you to play Diablo. If you don't like it... don't buy it. Don't continually buy horse Armour. If you think they are introducing new features into your game that wasn't forewarned. Return it. If it is? Don't buy games which require you to do so.

        No one is forcing you to live in any particular country either (unless you're a refugee, then Australia will do their best to force you to live in Indonesia), but we still have human rights.

        The "like it or leave it" logic is a massive cop-out, I'm afraid. Its the same argument that could be used to pay workers a dollar an hour, for example. Don't like it? Find another job.

        Generally though, this is a really old idea. Ed Castronova has been saying this for years, and I believe it was Richard Bartle before that. Oh, nope. It was Raph Koster:

          Actually, to live, you must live on land. This is why Australian Government doesn't force people back into the middle of the ocean.

          If you buy a game understanding or forewarned that the game developer/publisher are within there rights to totally change the content of the game in anyway they see fit then. Then that is what you have bought. You have willing brought it on yourself.

          If you choose to work for a dollar an hour, then that should be your right. $1 is just a value. If your willing to work for it... What's the problem? Are you going to deny a persons free will into working for a dollar? Who are you to determine other peoples value? Surely that is something we all do for ourself.

        No one is really forcing you to play real life either. Just sayin'.

          Josh: lol many people I wish would take the hint...

        This argument is flawed in no small number of ways HH. Before you got on your soapbox, you obviously saw the word Diablo and ranted without reading. Well done. Fail of the day goes to you. I could care less if there was no real money involved. Now that Blizz has set up the rmah and pushes the feature, a level of service and quality control must be assured especially given frequent stories of character deletion and item disappearance due to server glitching. A lot of stores will not allow d3 to be returned either due to its serial code. Now, next time, think before typing.

          Think before you buy.
          If you buy something that can't be returned then maybe you should have not bought it in the first place.

          Why do people continually try to completely absolve them self of responsibilities and push then onto others is beyond me. Are we truly all children who need to be looked after?

            You're assuming I want to return it, you yourself created that idea lol. I never said I wanted to. You've missed the point like a blind man firing a rifle at the side of a barn...

            And to kill this pandering. self serving, and rather self aggrandising post in one fell swoop its called a 'duty of care'. When a company sets up a service that requires the transaction of real money from its clients in such a way of an auction transferring items of value, they are required, by law, to provide a duty of care to ensure said item can be claimed by the client and used as per norm. In this case, there is the ever present risk of said item disappearing, the money being wasted and no value being attained despite financial transaction being completed. In this sense, Blizzards duty of care hasn't failed as such but it is definitely being stretched. You may want to look up 'Duty of Care'.

            It's spelt 'Im arguing with weresmurf because I just want to argue a point I actually have no point in'.

        Problem with "if you don't like it... don't buy it" is that with always-on drm and getting force feed patches, the product you end up isn't always the product you bought.

          Yes, which is a problem if it wasn't forewarned and thus, you are entitled to a refund because the product you bought wasn't the product that was agreed upon.

          However, If they have taken the measures to warn users of what they are buying (DRM and all). Then you have willing purchased the ever 'evolving' or 'devolving' product.

            The box doesn't say that an authenticator is pretty much required to prevent losing everything. It doesn't say that you might not be able to connect because of the server load and hence will not be able to play. It doesn't say that there will be regular maintenance every week with regular, urgent maintenance almost every day. It doesn't say that there will be major nerfs, buffs, proactive and retroactive changes to items you will have worked and paid real money for.

            It also doesn't define what "evolving" or "devolving" is. To that extent the game could literally devolve into a version of pong with your hero on one end of the board, Diablo in the middle with that headless woman's head as the ball and say "have fun".

            Blizzard has crossed many lines with Diablo 3. Most of them individually weren't worth more than a quiet bickering and a shrug; when taken together the many, many blunders and intended sleights add up to something much more egregious.

              Thanks for your comment Mike.
              If this is the case then people are entitled to a refund to the product.

              But digital items, or using the DRM. Normally they have Terms and Conditions that you must agree to before purchasing objects. Do they have them in game?

                They do indeed have terms and conditions, however terms and conditions can be deemed invalid, and have been deemed so in a court of law when the level of service provided reaches a sub-standard level. The ongoing issue with being unable to log on (which still exists by the way, was getting it last night), provides such an issue for Blizzard. DRM may be advertised, I'm not fussed, I accepted it. I would like to be able to play the game any time I log on though unless its scheduled server maintenance time (which is stated in the terms and conditions).

    Two words: Second Life

    It's a product. They can whisper sweet nothings like every other company and get away with it. I've never seen a bathroom cleaning agent that does exactly what it shows in the ads. If they can get away with that, I fail to see how the gaming community can expect to gain any more rights in their favour.

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