23,837 players were banned on Monday for cheating in H1Z1. Some players want to come back, but there's a price tag for grace: you have to publicly admit you cheated and apologise on YouTube.
H1Z1 is an online survival zombie game, as so many games are these days. This one comes from Daybreak Game Company, which used to be Sony Online Entertainment, before it was spun off.
If you've ever followed company president John Smedley on Twitter, you know he's surprisingly honest for a game executive. For example, a tweet about H1Z1 cheaters from earlier this month:
Why do these dumbasses keep using TMcheats. Have you people not figured out we ban you all?
— John Smedley (@j_smedley) May 9, 2015
This tug-of-war between players cheaters, and the game's creators has been going on for months, and it's nothing exclusive to H1Z1. All online games have to deal with people trying to break the system and ruin the fun for other people. But I've hardly seen an executive talk so openly about the process, including proposing a way for people to come back to the game.
"Dear Cheaters who got banned. Many of you are emailing me, apologizing and admitting it. Thank you. However.. You're doing it wrong. If you want us to even consider your apology a public YouTube apology is necessary. No personal information please. Email me the link. And I will tweet it. Please be sure not to reveal any info. That's important. Not trying to do anything other than highlight a serious issue."
Surprisingly enough, people started taking Smedley up on the offer. Here's the first one, which comes from a player who'd spend hundreds of dollars on the game:
I was recently banned in H1Z1 for cheating. I frequently used TMC [a cheat program] to avoid enemy players and, ultimately, I was cheating, and I paid the price for it with an account that I put $US200 into it -- buying stuff out of the crates, the crate keys, [I] even upgraded to the collector's edition of the game. It definitely sucks that I lost my account. I'd like to take this public forum to apologise to all the players that I negatively impacted their gameplay with and to Daybreak for kind of ruining the game experience for other players. Know that I will not be cheating again because that just cost me about $US260. Again, I'm really sorry. I felt it was necessary, but fortunately, it bit me in the arse. Cheers.
Some players started emailing Smedley directly, but he pushed back on this tactic:
If you want us to even consider your apology a public YouTube apology is necessary. No personal information please. Email me the link
— John Smedley (@j_smedley) May 20, 2015
Here's another one:
I got banned for cheating in H1Z1. My explanation? I got tired of all the no clippers and speedhackers and aimbotters and everybody running around. After 600 hours in the game, I just really felt like I had no other options. It's not a justification, merely an explanation. Sorry for anybody in the community who I may have ruined the experience for. It's definitely much more entertaining to play without. It's an advantage but it's no fun. Hopefully, anybody that's seed the ban wave, you'll see that Daybreak takes cheating seriously. You should just avoid it. You risk losing your account like I did. Once again, I apologise to everybody in the community, who my actions may have affected. It wasn't the right thing to do. I understand any hate I receive. It wasn't the right thing to do. Hopefully, this really just serves as a warning and a piece of advice to anyone planning on cheating: don't do it, it's not worth it, just enjoy the game it was meant to be. Thanks for your time.
Daybreak was accepting apologies until just a little while ago and it's unclear how many people the company will ultimately choose to unban, as a result of this experiment.
So far, though, Smedley says he's not impressed.
"I'll give you my perspective," he wrote on Reddit. "So far we've unbanned 3 people out of 30k we've now banned. One of which is probably about to get re-banned for taking his video private. I want to make sure it's clear there are consequences for cheating. You don't just get to make a video and get unbanned. This is a very limited time thing to try and raise awareness of what's actually going on.
"You may say 'hey there clearly aren't consequences if you are unbanning people.' Let's get back to the part where I said we've unbanned 3 people. If these videos go far and wide and it elevates the importance of getting rid of the cheaters in PC gaming, I feel it's an excellent trade."
Smedley predicts it might be only 4 or 5 people who are unbanned by the end of it.