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«media matters Battlefields of Negotiation Control, Agency, and Ownership in World of Warcraft rené glas amsterdam university press Battlefields of ...»

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75. From wowwiki.com (http://www.wowwiki.com/Theorycrafting). See Paul (2011) for a historical overview of the practice of theorycrafting before World of Warcraft.

76. I could find no virus infections, keyloggers or other malware on the three computers on which I had installed World of Warcraft. To this day, I still have not found a conclusive answer to how someone could have gotten access to my account details. Later that April, Blizzard and Adobe released a statement that old versions of Adobe Flash Player for browsers had vulnerability issues potentially targeting World of Wacraft players and their accounts. This might have happened, but a definitive answer remains elusive.

77. A narrower definition of what happened to my account is cybercrime, a crime committed against a computer by means of a computer. These forms of computermediated and computer-oriented crime, including “phishing”, are on the books in the real-world law of many countries (Lastowka & Hunter: 123-133).

78. IGE’s long-time CEO, former child actor Brock Pierce, became notorious for his allegedly sordid history, including ‘the purchase of illegal drugs, child molestation, the transport of minors across state lines and the death of Pierce's dog at the hands of the “Spanish FBI”’ as well as running a dotcom bubble company into the ground, for which he fled the US (Cavalli 2008).

79. IGE’s involvement of acquisitions and other takeovers is difficult to track. Several “exposés” written by mostly anonymous sources provide a “paper trail” of news items and other bits and pieces of data, showing that IGE had created a new company, RPG Holdings, to function as a friendly looking front through which to buy websites and networks like thottbot.com and mmorpg.net in 2004. These sites became part of the freshly created Zam.com network, to which popular MMORPG database allakhazam.

com was added in 2006. Another company, Affinity Media, swooped in in 2007 to become the new owner of Zam.network and IGE. In this period, WoWhead.com, the third biggest WoW database, was purchased as well as several Korean gold-selling websites (see for example "Advocate" 2005; Looterslounge 2008).

80. The owner of the databases after the acquisitions, Affinity Media, publicly stated that it was ‘no longer in that business’, but new rumours and evidence kept emerging that showed the link with IGE was still there-some even claim that IGE is the secret owner of Affinity Media (Edan Van Zelfden 2007).

81. The person or persons responsible for plundering my goods actually made a new character on my account called Gouyun. Either this person was from Asian/Chinese descent, or this nametag cheekily hinted at the prejudice that all hackers/bots/gold farmers are from China.

190 battlefields of negotiation

82. Rate of exchange taken from MMOBUX – Advanced MMOG Currency Research (http://www.

mmobux.com/, data retrieved 8 May 2008).

83. If anything, we are looking at what Dibbell considers ‘the emergence of a curious new industrial revolution, driven by play as the first was driven by steam’ (2006b: 297).

84. Names in this and following conversation excerpts have been changed for ethical and privacy considerations.

85. Take this forum post by a community manager as an example: ‘In our continued efforts to combat cheating in World of Warcraft, more than 105,000 accounts were closed and over 12 million gold was removed from the game economies in Europe, Korea, and the US in the month of November. The closed accounts were associated with activities that violate World of Warcraft's Terms of Use, such as using third-party programs that allow cheating, and farming gold and items. These types of activities can severely impact the economy of a realm and the overall game enjoyment for all players’ (posted by “Thundgot” on the official forums, 22 December 2006). Posts like these occur every few months, revealing to the community that Blizzard is indeed watching closely.

86. There is a strong similarity here with the matter of welfare epics discussed in chapter two. As game and rhetoric scholar Christopher A. Paul notes in relation to welfare epics, due to ‘the consistent use of language such as ‘‘work’’ and ‘‘earn’’ to describe the effort and reward structure in WoW, it can be argued that WoW players consider themselves paid in epics’ (2010: 169).

87. Blizzard publicly stated that it strongly supports the goals of the lawsuit, adding that it ‘believe[s] that shutting down gold farming and real-money transfer is in the interest of all World of Warcraft players and that a victory in this case would have a positive long-term effect on the online gaming industry as a whole’ (Magrino 2007). While Blizzard did support the goal of the lawsuit, it did not legally support the lawsuit itself.

88. IGE ultimately agreed that it ‘will not engage in the selling of World of Warcraft virtual property or currency (commonly referred to as “gold,” “gold farming,” “real money trade” or “RMT”) for a period of five (5) years’, but because the setup of IGE as a company changed a few days before the lawsuit was filed, IGE was not required to change its business model (Duranske 2008a).

89. I called the main information line of the Dutch government (“Postbus 51”) to ask if my case could be labelled as internet fraud or another form of cybercrime. They found my case amusingly unusual and at first made a serious attempt to find any sort of information about it in their database. After a twenty-minute search, all they could offer was to send my case on to the Department of Justice itself in order to have experts delve a bit deeper into the Dutch law books. Unfortunately, I never received a reply.





90. A modified version of this chapter has been published as (Glas, forthcoming).

91. Blizzard’s art director Samwise Didier proudly adds to this firm rooting of the company’s design team in fan subcultures: ‘It’s like a geek squad here [...] And that’s a badge you wear with honour’ (EDGE 2004: 82).

92. According to Wikipedia knowledge, the term “retroactive continuity” originated in the early 1980s during a discussion between the writers and readers of the All-Star Squadron comic, which put famous superheroes in alternative universes. Since then, it was shortened to retcon and has spread to other media with deeply invested fan cultures.

notes

93. With its size being 2.4 gigabytes, a large part of Tales of the Past III’s audience probably saw it through streaming media. These viewers are not counted in the initial million plus downloads, making the film’s actual audience considerably larger.

94. The success of the machinima Leeroy!! (PALS FOR LIFE 2005) eclipses that of Tales of the Past III. The short film featuring the hijinks of a fictional player called Leeroy Jenkins (a character created by player Ben Schultz) has even found an audience outside of World of Warcraft’s culture. Leeroy Jenkins has become an internet meme, a cult phenomenon even referenced on TV’s Jeopardy! and South Park.

95. During the beta test phase of World of Warcraft, players already created a large variety of videos, most of which aimed at simply showing various aspects of the game in action to people who were not allowed to participate in the beta testing.

96. Other terms are more vague: ‘depictions of any conduct, language or other context deemed inappropriate by the Sponsors [Blizzard, ed.] or any of the judges selected by the Sponsors’ (Xfire 2006). Here, we see that even on the level of content, Blizzard retains the possibility to reject those practices (or depictions of them) it feels are inappropriate.

97. A Modelviewer is a relatively simple programme allowing players to view game models like characters or weapons in the game files.

98. Being vague about this matter might just serve a purpose for Blizzard in dealing with other companies, not just with the players or machinima makers. As Falch notes: ‘the benefits of actually enforcing those rules are close to zero from Blizzard's point of view, so in all honesty, I think Blizzard added them mainly for legal reasons: "it's not our responsibility if authors use copyrighted music etc"’ (chat interview).

99. To differentiate between machinima and this type of film, Lowood introduces the term game films; the difference lies in the fact that they are historical in nature (2006: 363).

As my interest lies in the means of production, I will use the term machinima to describe both, signaling differences when needed.

100. Warcraftmovies.com still lists the film’s original entry, noting that ‘This movie is no longer available due to a Blizzard request. It violates their Unreleased Content policy’ (Warcraftmovies.com). The film can nevertheless still be found on various other video hosting sites and peer-to-peer sharing networks.

101. The now defunct Nogg-Aholic blog can be found at http://nogg-aholic.blogspot.com.

102. The cartoon image can be found at: http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/8095/1604/ 1600/wallwalking.jpg. The Nogg-Aholic blog does not mention the author of the cartoon nor its origins.

103. Retrieved from screenshots posted on the Nogg-Aholic blog (http://nogg-aholic.blogspot.com/).

104. Not much attention was given to this exploit removal in the patch notes. Under the header ‘world environment’ it simply stated ‘Players should no longer be able to walk on steep terrain’ and included many other changes (retrieved from Wowwiki.com, http://www.WoWwiki.com/Patch_1.9.0). Since the release of the first expansion pack, an even more severe measure was taken to keep players from reaching areas they should not (which still continued through other means and exploits). Since then, players who venture into areas they should not be in according to Blizzard get to witness their character being automatically teleported away from such a place.

192 battlefields of negotiation

105. In Last Wallwalk the Movie, we see a group of more than 80 gnome characters in an epic journey through the mountainous regions of Azeroth on the European Moonglade server. At several points, they actually meet GMs who turned up to see the bizarre parade of gnomes, one of them informing the group that ‘This area is restricted and offlimits to players I would all to ask kindly to please leave this area and be sensitive to the Role-playing element of this realm’. informing him that they thought they were allowed to wall-walk until the patch – following statements made by Caydiem – he simply stated ‘Well I am sorry Caydiem is a US CM and therefore I am asking you to please leave this area’. This shows how hard it is to manage a player community that spreads all over the world, with individual players following statements made by US Community Managers, statements not always communicated to their European counterparts. In the end, the wall-walking participants were all booted out of the game, their accounts were given an official warning and a three-hour ban from the game (Dopefish 2006).

106. Later, this communal collection part of the war effort turned out to be optional; as it turned out, the opening event would happen even without turning in these resources after a certain time. As one of Blizzard’s lead designers Jeff Kaplan explained: ‘we don't want to punish players on realms that aren't cooperating, so in a week or two the resources will start to just come in on their own’ (Schiesel 2006: 2).

107. A previous version of this chapter has been published as (Glas, 2006).

108. Exceptions, however, do exist. Sony Online Entertainment’s Everquest features a voluntary guide programme. In exchange for free subscription, these volunteers are asked to spend several hours per week helping out other players through a dedicated guide account SOE created for them. Their function is to be ‘peacekeepers’ or conflict resolution agents, as game scholar Sal Humphreys calls them, assisting in the collection of

information about player problems before sending this information on to GMs (2005:

217). However, these volunteers are recruited from the Everquest website and are effectively “paid” for their work in the game by receiving a free subscription. We can consider these players as participants in co-governance with the game’s GMs. However, as Humphreys points out, these forms of volunteerism are also a way for SOE to outsource customer service functions for little or no cost (2005: 218). As in many cases of participatory culture within commercial environments, the line between participation and exploitation is thin.

109. Blizzard did introduce the ‘Most Valuable Poster’ or MVP programme on the game’s dedicated forums for a handful of players who have proved themselves to be valuable assets to the community. As with the community managers active on the forums, posts made by MVPs are of a different colour than posts by regular players, signifying their importance and – more importantly – credibility as a source of information. In terms of power, however, MVPs are not granted more access to the forums’ admin tools. Blizzard does not make a secret of the outsourcing benefits of the MVP programme: it ‘frees up the time of Blizzard representatives to focus on their primary job duties’ (from the “MVP FAQ”, official US forums, posted by “Nethaera”, 3 July 2007).

110. Due to ethical considerations, all guild and character names have been changed to disguise their identities. The specific realm the developments took place on remains notes unmentioned for the same reason. If indicated, gender was not determined through information about the player in real life. Instead, the characters’ gender was chosen.

111. Unless stated otherwise, from here on, all quotes come from postings on World of Warcraft’s official EU forums.

112. Being a pseudonym itself and an obvious reference to the secret informant called “Deepthroat” in the Watergate scandal, the character name “Deepfroat” was not changed for this study.

113. From Wowwiki.com (http://www.WoWwiki.com/Server:Illidan_US).

194 battlefields of negotiation Bibliography

“Advocate”. (2005). A sordid tale of IGE, thottbot, ogaming, and conquest. http://www.



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