Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Monday, December 9, 2013

Transparency

2013 has been a year full of controversies among the player base both small and large and I want to wrap up my commentary on a couple of them before the year ends. With that, let's talk about EveCorpration1231533.

You see, a few months ago the CEO of Blackwater USA Inc. -- a member corp in Pandemic Legion alliance -- contacted me to let me know their corp had been renamed by the EVE GM team, their name having been "deemed offensive." Would I be willing to get involved to help them out?


Now this is a situation that CSM members dread. Other than the NDA, there's no formal "rules briefing" that you get as a CSM member. But I was told informally by any number of people both before and after I was elected that CSM members are discouraged in the strongest possible terms from getting involved in the player petition process and anything associated with it. And after thinking about it, I decided this was a good idea. While the CSM exists to support the player base as a whole, little or no good can come from CSM members interfering in situations affecting a single customer, or a small group of customers. CCP has to be free to run their individual player relations as they see fit without showing bias or favoritism. So when individual players come to me asking me to get involved in these kinds of situations, 74 times out of 75, I have apologetically said that I cannot.

But this one cut kind of close to home.

I've worked with a lot of members of BUSA before when I was a member of Gentlemen's Club alliance. More than that, I had flown with them, and knew a few of them personally. This was a situation that struck me as rather unjust, just on the facts of the case. And I'd been interested in writing a piece about how unevenly applied the GM's policies on name impersonation are. And I'd been dying to write a piece about the transparency of this process. The situation struck me as a good opportunity to kill a lot of small birds with one stone. I could write a piece about the process without getting wrapped around the axle of this one particular case. So I went out an interviewed a number of people about the issues involved (including CCP Manifest and members of the Community team) and I wrote my piece. And I was happy to see it was well-received. It was one of those journalistic little pieces that looks easy but was much harder than it looked because it had to operate within a lot of tight constraints.

About a week after the piece went public, BUSA got their name back thanks to the intervention of senior members of the GM team and the Community team. Cooler heads prevailed in that situation and I'm really glad for it. Sometimes CCP does get it right on the second iteration after getting it wrong on the first. We as players sometimes don't give them enough credit for that.

But the transparency/consistency issue does remain. CCP's most recent annual stockholder briefing book includes the following text about one of their cornerstone principles, transparency:
We earn trust through honesty and openness. We are open-minded and respectful of our customers and co-workers. We confront problems directly and discuss issues in a straightforward manner.
Like many corporate mission statements, these are words that often have a lot more to do with CCP's actions in an ideal world as opposed to the real one. As players remind CCP again and again, actions speak louder than words.

As part of the research for the original piece, I started two side bits of research:
  1. I asked players for their own experiences with the renaming process; and,
  2. I sent in a petition of my own, listing 15 EVE corporations directly named after terrorist groups, criminal organizations, and real-world corporations collectively responsible for the enslavement or death of thousands of people.
What I collectively found out was that the process continues to operate on a case-by-case basis specifically without transparency. And that's a real shame.

Lots of players sent me lots of stories about corp, alliance, and character renaming. Of course many of those were focused on individual cases that were hard to judge. But over time a pattern emerged and it was obvious that the quickest way to draw the ire of the GM team on this issue is to have a corp, alliance, or character that seems to support three things: rape, racism, or Nazi Germany. That of course is not very surprising. But issues of real world trademarks, real world criminal groups, famous in-character player names, or even the real world names of CCP employees generally draw lesser or no responses.

When the CSM met with CCP CEO Hilmar Petersson at the summer summit, I teased him that I'd encountered him in New Eden. He laughed.

As to my list of 15 corps named after terrorist groups, criminal organizations, and real-world corporations collectively responsible for the enslavement or death of thousands of people... corp and alliance names I personally found offensive? It's been more than two months. None have been renamed.

So for the time being, the status quo remains. I'm glad that BUSA got their name back but the process that prompted them to lose it in the first place is no closer to being made more transparent.

12 comments:

  1. so rape, racism and nazi stuff gets renamed and everything else doesnt? doesnt sound that bad to me.

    btw impersonate is a reason that gets an instant renaming too. got an example where i personaly sent a petition and the next day i logged in the problem was solved.
    i sent the petition just to test it, didnt even know that its forbidden befor those threadnought around that eula change happend and i still think thats a kind of stupid rule for eve.
    havent heard anything about this for a while, wasnt ccp thinking about changingthat rule or something?

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's not just CCP, other game companies have similar issues.

    Once upon a time in another game I had a character named Obama bin Laden.

    Everyone who ever commented on the name thought it was hilarious. Then a couple years later someone petitioned it and suddenly with no warning I was forced to rename the character.

    So I named him Obama bin Ladin. People still thought the name was hilarious and though I got the occasional comment on "misspelling" Laden, I never heard another thing about it from the GMs.

    Arbitrary, inconsistent and definitely not transparent.

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  3. TBH CCP should only rename an in-game entity if they get contacted by a legally-recognised representative of that RL entity wanting the name changed, or if the name breaks a law somewhere Iceland cares about (e.g. nazi stuff for the German market)

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  4. I'm not sure if it can be transparent, as the criteria isn't objectively yes-or-no like in "don't bump emergency warping supers".

    Offensive name is something that enough people find offensive. So the decision will always be
    - what the particular GM finds offensive
    - what the cultural group of the GM finds offensive (for example everyone in the western countries know that Nazis are bad, even if he has no clue why since he skipped school when WWII was discussed)
    - what the boss of the GM finds offensive
    - what the GM believes to cause legal or PR problem to the company

    The last can be abused. For example if you report "Blackwater USA" because it's a company, it's less likely banned than if you link several articles about Blackwater USA members being accused by murders.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Last winter, Evoke had planted themselves in Syndicate for a deployment. They seemed to be having trouble loosening up and getting into the spirit of the place, so I found them in local and asked them if they wanted to set up a series of dogfights around Christmastime--Snoopy vs. the Red Baron style. I even had the youtube links queued for the music. ;) I told one random Evoke person he'd be a natural as the Red Baron, and he threatened to report me for calling him a Nazi. Way to history, random Evoke guy!

      I couldn't decide if I felt better knowing that the German education system evidently failed just as hard as the American one or not.

      ~Boiglio

      Delete
    2. Red Baron was World War One. Nazi Germany arose in the years between the Wars, taking control before start of WW2.

      Delete
  5. A game based on immortal capsuleers murdering pretty much anyone they come across for no reason beyond the search for the cries of the victimized?

    I think we need to rename EVERY corporation to a terrorist, criminal, or military name.

    ReplyDelete
  6. THE naming TOS clearly states you can't name your character or corporation after "real world military groups"

    Reflect, glorify or emulate any real-world group or organization, terrorist society, criminal elements, discriminating organizations or their leaders and figureheads. This includes the use of names of real-world military, political or religious groups.

    this clearly broke that so thats a pretty big precedent for changing the rules for friends of CCP once more

    Also it clearly states : Age of the account or character is insignificant. Players who have knowingly and willingly given their characters inappropriate names and successfully avoided detection of this infraction against the rules will not be rewarded for their improprieties by escaping reprimand.

    So once again CCP's rules only apply to some and not others

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  7. I think it is hard to draw a line.
    Whenever I cross the name "Stahlsturm", I, as a german, can't think of anything else then "SS", even their logo is just a rearrangement of the "SS"-logo. I'm fine with it as long as I don't see anyone of them spreading nazi-thoughts in local chat.
    Stay with the CFC you'll find "Kriegsmarinewerft", google for Kriegsmarinewerft and you'll find that 2,000 prisoners of the concentration camp Willhelmshaven had to work for them. Pretty sure not all of them survived.
    If you measure a name by "real-world corporations collectively responsible for the enslavement or death of thousands of people" - what about "East India Company" and what this "real-world corporation" has done to India, talking about brutal colonization, enslavement, piracy etc.?
    Now take everything that has "Inquisitor" in its name... or every history related american company (we do remember what happened to the native amercians, don't we?)
    Not talking about slavery and „Racial Segregation“ when thinking of the USA.

    I haven't done research but I am pretty sure even "Rote Kapelle" did some bad things in the past while fighting for the right thing back in WWII.

    In every single game focused on fighting and war you'll see names refering to real life history.

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  8. I never understood how organization name can be offensive, if tomorrow CCP member kills someone should Icelendic goverment ban "CCP" as offensive? Nazis, SS. Terrorists they won't magicaly dissapear from past or present, if we stop telling names of their organizations.

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  9. Despite what others might say to you about this, I thank you for your objectively both the good and bad of CCPs actions concerning this. Gives me a lot to think about.

    ReplyDelete
  10. "We earn trust through honesty and openness. We are open-minded and respectful of our customers and co-workers. We confront problems directly and discuss issues in a straightforward manner."

    Not to go too far off topic, but on the whole transparency issue, what about the whole Somer Blink fiasco? When that broke, it seemed that there was a flurry of activity, and then everything went silent, with no communication to the players as to what had or would happen. The whole issue seems to have been handled with the direct opposite of transparency.

    So, as a CSM member, can you shed any light on this? If not, please pass along to CCP our dissatisfaction with their idea of "transparency."

    ReplyDelete

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