Something unfortunate happened after Destiny 2 launched on PCs. A lot of people found themselves banned with no warning. People had no idea why such things were happening. Some claimed they did nothing wrong, beyond using programs like Discord or Open Broadcaster Software. Given that these bans were permanent and it didn’t seem like Bungie offered a good way to seek recourse, many were concerned. In the time after, a statement was issued clarifying things going over security in the game. But it begs a question, are companies getting ban happy?
Security in games is a serious issue. We don’t want people hacking or cracking things. We celebrate people who deserve bans getting them. In September 2017, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds celebrated reaching the 150,000 cheaters banned mark and mentioned it banned 8,000 cheaters alone in a 24-hour period. Which is great, but it leaves you wondering if all were rightful and justified. In a world where such large swaths of people can be banned, particularly in a 24-hour period, how many could be undeserved?
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t have developers and publishers holding players accountable. Bans are needed in many cases and people need to know there is that threat looming overhead to keep people in line. But, at the same time, companies need to have policies in place to keep things fair. We need to have defined guidelines in place. People need to know what could or couldn’t be a problem in a game when they play. Transparency is critical when one wrong move might end up leading to someone not being able to play a game ever again.
Blizzard has been doing things rather well with Overwatch. It is gradually tightening things up as the game continues to grow in popularity and success. Each month, we hear about new measures that will be taken. Advance warning is given about what new behavior won’t be tolerated. We have definite ideas of how we should or shouldn’t behave in a game. When bugs come up that have resulted in false bans, things have been resolved relatively quickly. We know what could merit permanent bans in advance, so we can avoid such behaviors. And when it comes to more serious assaults on players, the complete bans go to repeat offenders who have proved they are guilty and caused problems multiple times.
But even a company like Blizzard has made mistakes. When it came to the 2017 Halloween event, it suddenly decided that spamming voice lines would be a ban-worthy offense. We didn’t know this until someone actually received the ban for it and went to the forums to complain. It was only then that Blizzard’s Scott Mercer confirmed that the person showed poor sportsmanship, killed their character, didn’t help the team, and spammed voice lines. While that was only part of the problem, it turned out that sort of action fell under the “Any form of hateful, discriminatory, obscene, or disruptive communications. Threatening or harassing another player on either team is also unacceptable, regardless of the words used” behavior that could result in a ban, even though it wasn’t stated ahead of time.
The solution is for companies to be aware and fair. Know that systems aren’t always fool-proof and be willing to talk with players. There should be records that let you see what caused bans to happen, and be able to show if they were or weren’t deserved. Make sure all rules are clearly defined ahead of time. If people have lists ahead of them, they can see what should or shouldn’t be done and can’t complain if a mistake does lead to a ban. Be willing to accept that people make mistakes on all sides, both those play and make the games. Don’t be ban-happy; do your best to make sure only the offenders who really deserve it are punished.