Monday, November 21, 2011

EA's forum ban policy: How much is too much?

EA, what happened to you?
There's an article over on GamePolitics that talks about EA's Origin service and how people banned from the forums are subsequently unable to play the games they paid for.  After reading the comments and linked articles, there's a few sticky topics that I want to pick apart.

A lot of the furor over the Origin bans originates from the fact that people paid for these games, and now find themselves on the hook for hundreds of dollars, if not more.  When I look at the EA Terms of Use, It lays it out in Title 1A:

"Through this purchase, you are acquiring and EA grants you a personal, non-exclusive license to install and use the Software for your personal, non-commercial use solely as set forth in this License and the accompanying documentation." 

Surprise! That disc you think you own? You don't actually own it! You just own a piece of imprinted plastic.  The software on that disc isn't actually yours.  EA just lets you use it.  Is it legal? Yes.  Are they on firm legal standing? Yes.  Is it a jerk move? Of course.  That's just the way that they do business.
We all know this is how you feel, get over it

Apparently, not everyone has come to terms with this yet.  Forum comments across the internet seem to show a sentiment of ownership and the like.  However, software companies have been doing this for years.  Steam does it, EA does it, Blizzard does it, everybody does it.  I suppose that's just the nature of the beast.

Because of the nature of this article, and my extreme distaste for people who blatantly distort the facts (I'm looking at you, congress...), I felt that proper research was necessary before writing this article.  To that end, I spent a chunk of time wading through the EA terms of service.  While reading, I noticed a few things that particularly bothered me.  In addition to the fact that games are licensed as noted above, EA makes no difference between your Origin account and your forum handle.  In the 19 pages of the Origin Privacy Policy, the only mentions of your forum account pertain to user-generated content, in-game chat logs, and public-facing content pertaining to in-game stats.  It makes no mention to conduct on any of EA's forums.

Even more damning is the fact that the six page EULA makes no mention to forum conduct.  If the EULA does not state that your forum conduct affects your in-game experience, I'd like to think that EA would separate the two.  I, for one, enjoy a good trollolol every now and again.  There's something about people getting mad on the internet that never gets boring.  I don't like the potential ramifications.

Just to be sure I wasn't missing anything, I went to BioWare's forums and tried to create an account.  The forum sent me to an EA account activation page, which had a different Terms of Service agreement, but essentially said the same thing.

This bugs me, because of the scale of impact.  I can understand how hacking in one game can lead to a ban from all of a company's games.  Back in 2010, Aeria Games had to ban someone for hacking in Last Chaos.  Of course, this also meant that he couldn't play Twelve Sky 2 or any of the other games that Aeria operates.

Now, this little tyke decided to do what any upset hacker would do: DoS all of Aeria's servers.  I was playing Shin Megami Tensei: IMAGINE at the time, and felt the repercussions of this poor sport's actions.  It's not entirely related to the EA thing, but I'm highlighting it because of how this person got the ban-hammer.  He didn't troll the forums, he cheated.  That's a perfectly good reason to ban someone.

As far as bans on games due to forum conduct, Aeria's Terms of Service DOES say that forum posts are included in your overall account.  (See sections 6 and 7)  They are well within their right to ban you from their games because you're being a jerk on their forums.  I'm not complaining about this, because they spell it out to you in no uncertain terms when you sign up for your Aeria account.

Similar to the issues I raised in my DRM rant, being locked out of a single player game due to external circumstances is not cool.  I don't care if he was a jerk on the forum, just let the d*** troll go back to his cave! Maybe he'll leave you alone for a while!  Perhaps asking to be locked out of only the online content is too much to ask these days.  With the advent of always-on internet, even the single player parts have to join in.  Perhaps we're too connected...

Well, that's enough banter out of me for now.  See you again soon!

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