SYTYCB: WoW is Not a Zero Sum Game

This is a SYTYCB submission from Veleda, one of the top 7 finalists.

veleda-post How broken do you have to be to think that stealing from other people is okay if it’s done through a cartoon interface?!

I have a number of alts scattered across various realms, mostly to socialize with friends that have their main characters there. In some cases, my alts belong to guilds along with those friends, so I see a bit of a number of guilds from the inside.; Recently, one had it’s bank robbed of what to them is a significant amount of material. Unlike the usual situation where the thief vanishes into the shadows, knowing that they’re scum and trying to keep from being identified, the perp in this situation made no attempt to cover his tracks, and even seemed boastful of his misdeeds.

Many of you are familiar, by now, with the scam that involves asking an officer to invite and promote a character that claims to be an alt of another high ranking character in the guild. If successful, this person has stolen the identity of the person in question, and can use that person’s status to withdraw items and gold from the guild bank. This guild had been hit by such a thief a few weeks ago, and had just mostly recovered from that incident when this newest theft occurred.

One way to prevent such a situation is by having the person make the request from his character that’s already in the guild. Assuming an account that hasn’t been hacked (if the account has been hacked, there’s no need to do this identity theft routine), then the person trying to gain access can’t log onto the character they claim to be. Having been burned once, recently, the officers were wary, and asked for just such confirmation this time. Initial contact had come from a character claiming to be an alt of, say, Tinman (not the character’s real name). The officer asked for contact directly from Tinman, and soon afterward received a whisper from Tïnman saying he wanted his alt – the thief – in the guild. Did you notice the change in spelling with the accented I? Neither did the officer. While we can, in hindsight, think of more ways that this could have been avoided, we have a situation where a volunteer officer working in good faith made an effort to help someone he thought was a guildmate, while trying to be cautious.

The thief was invited and promoted on the belief that he was Tinman, and promptly withdrew the maximum amount of high value items and gold that he could, before quitting the guild. While this is a significant and demoralizing loss to this guild, there wouldn’t be a rant here if this was the end of the story. Unlike the gold farmers and other thieves, this character didn’t just vanish into the shadows. They’re still on the server. They were, in fact, seen to be in another guild. Reportedly, when the GM of the guild that was robbed contacted the GM of the new guild to warn them, he was laughed at. It seems this character is a long-time member of that guild, and periodically goes to steal from another guild. They all think this is great fun, and part of the game. Excuse me?! Just how broken do you have to be to not realize that’s wrong?

One complaint against video games is that they glorify violence or other anti-social behaviour, and thus might encourage more of that in real life. I think this has mostly been shown to be poppycock, as most people are quite able to distinguish between actions in a game and actions in real life. They simply don’t bring game appropriate anti-social behavior into real life, for the most part. World of Warcraft isn’t a zero sum game, at least with respect to other players. Yes, we sometimes kill and steal from NPCs. We even go against other players in PvP situations, but those are voluntary and even the loosing side gains honour or arena points from the encounter. Our advancement in the game never requires that we penalize other players for their participation.

So when players steal from other players, they’re no longer operating within the bounds of the game, even if it looks like cartoons. I would hope these people don’t think it’s okay to walk down the street in real life and lift someone’s wallet. How, then, can they think this is okay? How can they brag about it?

12 thoughts on “SYTYCB: WoW is Not a Zero Sum Game”

  1. Good rant here! This one really struck a cord (chord?) with me as I suffered from a similar experience not to long ago. Unfortunately, interactive games like WoW will tend to attract players like these.

  2. Sorry to hear that happened, how awful! Wouldn’t blizz be able to do something for this? Especially if there is a record that he was lying and now laughing about it and flaunting it? The guild I am in has a level for alts, that I believe has no gbank rights/privileges.

    Good rant though, I feel anger toward this jerk that did this! It’s hard to get me angry, so task well done 🙂

  3. GMs are generally willing to help with this, typically restoring the items and/or disciplining the offender. Was a GM contacted in this case?

  4. @Matticus: Thanks! And it’s chord. 🙂 Based on the notion that emotions were like musical notes, and something that resonates on multiple levels is analogous to playing a chord on a musical instrument.

    @Jen and @pudds: Yes, GMs were contacted. After I wrote and submitted this, I heard that Blizzard had restored everything that had been stolen. They’re silent on what, if any, sanctions were levied against this player, though. So, we can all calm down now. 🙂

  5. @ObiChad: Guild banks existed long before Blizzard gave us a mechanism for them. I was an officer in guild with a fairly extensive bank before the Blizzard implementation. Each of the officers devoted an alt or two to storage, and we used multipe add-ons to track the contents and coordinate with each other.

    The biggest problem with the old system was that the holdings of each officer were only accessible by that officer. We had an officer go missing for two months, at one point, and the portion of the bank on his alt was unavailable to us then.

    The Blizzard implementation isn’t without problems, and it does serve as a bit of a temptation for thieves, but overall, I think it’s a big improvement from the old days.

  6. I’m going to take the minority opinion on this, and say that in the majority of cases, guild bank thefts are the result of either carelessness or neglect by a guild’s leadership.

    There is an individual on our server who has the reputation as being a guild bank thief. Now, I declined him when he applied for the guild I administer, I have no proof of his alleged misdeeds. Yet sure enough, it’s been reported and repeated often enough, but every time I run into him loitering in Orgrimmar he’s sporting a new guild tag. Too many guilds, in an effort to fill their membership rolls, overplay the Guild Bank as a “value-add,” and in such cases it is very easy for enthusiasm and desire for more members trump commen sense. I’ll put it bluntly: excercise common sense, and your chances of getting ripped off by a thief are virtually nil. I’ll go a step further and say that by maximising common sense and taking the proper precautions, you can further mitigate the impact of a disgruntled guildie turning into a thief.

    To illustrate, I set my guild up with the following general classifications for members.

    Initiate: Brand new, can see only the first tab of the bank (the “provisional” tab, for trade goods, consumables, bags, and other general-utility items). Can deposit, cannot withdraw.

    Enlisted (3 ranks, Corporal through Sergeant): Can see all tabs, and make deposits. Sergeants have limited access to the lower item tiers (withdraw 1 item/stack per day). Can use guild funds for armour repairs (scaled by rank).

    Commissioned (4 ranks, Lieutenant through Commandant): Has increasing access to bank, not to exceed 3 items/day at lower item tiers, and 1/day at the highest. Brigadier (second-highest rank) and Commandant (unique to GM) have much more liberal access to all tiers. Only Commandant can withdraw currency directly.

    In a nutshell, then, in order to get access to the guild bank that would be in any way lucrative (the last tier), they would have already had to put in so much time and contribution to the guild that they more or less would have ‘paid’ for the items they stole with a ton of service in developing the guild. It would take a serious sleeper agent to break the guild bank, and if they are willing to put in that kind of time and labour, I’d almost salute them (see: Guiding Hand Social Club). If they didn’t have the patience for this, they might withdraw lower-calibre items for a few days before the pattern was detected and they were either questioned or removed. And since all but the Initiate can see all the tabs, items can be freely requested through an Officer (which, in turn, counts towards that Officer’s own daily withdrawal quota).

    It may seem restrictive in theory, but it works great in practice and the Soldiers in the guild are pleased with the security of the arrangement. As GM I don’t mind a bit fulfilling ‘orders’ from the lesser ranks, indeed I am happy to see the fruits of the guild’s collective labours being put to good use!

    But even outside our guild’s model, a little common sense goes a long way.

    > DON’T give easy access to the bank for non-officers or those who have not established both time and trust
    > DO be skeptical of would-be members who ask a lot of questions about the Bank policies
    > DON’T automatically bump up alts to the same privileges as mains. Some guilds use a seperate rank for all alts, others leave them at the bottom. Ours, alts need to ‘grind rank’ just like any other main.
    > DO be cautious in sorting and stacking. Is there really any need for all your Primal Whatevers to be in a single, convenient stack? Set reasonable stack withdrawal levels, and place a few small ‘stacks’ of valuable items in the accessible tab. That way you limit your exposure. “Hey Malthorius, you’ve been taking out stacks of two Primal Shadows for each of the last three days. Did you need some guidance on how to farm them yourself?” Same applies for any stackable commodity. GM’s and Officers can always store more on their personal bank alts, and replenish the guild bank as needed.

    Yes, it’s a wall-of-text-crit, but guild administration is one of my passions. And please don’t let me give you the impression that I’m blaming the victim and exonerating the thieves.

    They’re still scum.

    But with some preparation, GM’s can minimise their risk.

    Apoptygmaas last blog post..Army Meets as the Drums of War Beat Steadily

  7. Well, of COURSE we wouldn’t hesitate to steal in real life, if it was this easy to get away with. Stealing is fun, Tankette. You see stuff that someone else owns, and if you like it, you take it. Awesome!

    Unfortunately, in real life, there are more serious consequences than in a game – so we don’t steal in real life. There are no virtual prisons in WoW, or Eve or what have you. No virtual policemen, no criminal records, no virtual sexually abusive 390 lb cellmates named Nipples. That’s why we steal in games. That’s why other folks shoot other people in games. In games it’s okay to commit crimes that it isn’t okay to commit in the real world.

    That’s a very important distinction to make.


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