I'm conducting an investigation into surveillance within massively multiplayer online games such as World of Warcraft and SecondLife. The questionnaire will take between 2 and 20 minutes to complete depending on how much information you're willing to supply. I'm interested in stories and observations so feel free to ramble.
Read more on my research below, or jump right to the questionnaire.
Many players are unaware of surveillance being conducted by game
administrators, often justified as a means to enhance game play and control
cheating. Players within some MMOs are also tracking and recording other player’s
movements, and conversely, creating methods to protect the privacy of their
own digital personas. The rise of surveillance (and counter-surveillance) techniques
and technologies within these virtual worlds is an extension of the pervasive
monitoring of individuals in real-world environments. Many real-world technologies
(such as bugging, video recording and location tracking) are being reproduced
in virtual worlds and can be classified as a form simulated surveillance.
There are three distinct types of game-related surveillance I’m
Type 1: Parents monitoring their children’s computer
As gaming environments become more complex, parents play an important role in
choosing appropriate game genres for their children, and monitoring play that
could be seen as unsafe (social networking games) or controversial (overtly
aggressive or sexual games). Whilst the average age of a typical gamer is recognised
as between 18 and 25, many younger children play computer games as part of their
daily entertainment. As networked, or MMO, games become increasingly widespread
it is critical that parents are aware of the complex social structures on offer
within these environments. Many families manage the monitoring of children’s
gaming habits by placing PCs in a central, observable location within the home.
Type 2: Game administrators monitoring players
The ability of MMO game administrators to monitor and record player interactions
out-strips any type of surveillance occurring within the real-world. All movements,
actions and conversations can be permanently recorded and archived for later
retrieval. Some MMOs use this data to help suspend player accounts when end
user license agreements are broken. For example, if one player continually harasses
another, administrators can sift through conversation and proximity data to
prove an offence has taken place. Game companies also mine user data to help
review and enhance the game’s structure and playability.
Type 3: Players monitoring each other
In social networking games such as SecondLife, surveillance and counter-surveillance
technologies have been designed by players as a way of protecting (or gaining
access to) private spaces and conversations. While game publishers have classified
many of these technologies as illegal, some players still risk bans by purchasing
and using surveillance objects to spy on other players.
If you’re interested in sharing your thoughts or experiences,
please jump to the
questionnaire. Thanks! christo