söndag 25 augusti 2013

Cheating and creative play in online games

I was the advisor of Per Nygren's excellent master's thesis that was published in 2010, "Fusk och kreative spelande i onlinespel" [Cheating and creative gaming in online games]. The report (in Swedish) is available online.

I was therefore quite pleased when I, half a year ago, saw a call for a workshop about research in/on the online game EVE Online. I wasn't very interested in attending the conference, but part of the purpose of the workshop was to find/encourage/generate research on EVE Online with a future book in mind.
Yesterday was the deadline for submitting chapter proposals to such an "edited collection of EVE Online scholarship". I only saw the call for proposals less than a week ago, but me and Per managed to write a proposal called "Cheating and creative play in EVE Online". The preliminary title of the book is "Internet Spaceships are Serious Business: An EVE Online Reader" and "enthusiastic interest in this project has been expressed from a high quality academic press". The whole workshop/book project has a blog/website of its own, including a page with "EVE Online literature".

Our chapter proposal will be discussed at yet another workshop about EVE Online research at the upcoming (August 26-29) Digital Games Research Association (DIGRA) conference and me and Per will get to know if we made the cut next month. As these things go, putting together a book is a long-winded process. The editors will use our chapter submissions to "form the foundations for the proposal to the publisher". The first drafts of the book chapters will then be due in January 2014 and the final drafts are expected to be due in May 2014.

We have thus submitted a short abstract as well as an outline of our proposed chapter. Here's the abstract:

In Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs), many thousands of players interact simultaneously in a single virtual game world. "Cheating" in online games is a fluid concept that can differ from person to person. Cheating can, despite its fuzziness, have significant consequences for both players and the developer.

This chapter presents the results of a qualitative investigation of experienced players' subjective opinions about what constitutes cheating in EVE Online in terms of five different categories of cheating that we posit (bugs & exploits, bots & macros, player-created programs, real-money trade of virtual objects and meta-gaming).

Our theoretical framework is based on research in psychology (Rosch 1973, 1975) and linguistics (Labov 1973) concerning human categorization as applied to the concept of cheating. We furthermore make use of Salen and Zimmerman's (2004) "player types" and Nick Yee's (2005) model of player motivations to analyze cheating in relationship to online games in general and to EVE Online in particular.

Our conclusion is that cheating is a relatively subjective and ill-defined phenomenon and that what one person perceives as cheating can by another person be perceived as an opportunity to get ahead in the game. It is, despite this, possible to discern patterns and draw conclusions regarding the perceived degree of cheating of different “problematic” behaviors.

We conclude with a discussion about who suffers from cheating and what could be done to prevent cheating.


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