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The Lawbringer: 5 ways trade chat can get you in trouble


Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Running parallel to the games we love and enjoy is a world full of rules, regulations, pitfalls and traps. How about you hang out with us as we discuss some of the more esoteric aspects of the games we love to play?

There's this place downtown that I know. You've probably been warned about it -- a seedy place of corruption, danger, intrigue, questionable math, and Tempest Keep runs where the Ashes of Al'ar are on reserve. You'll never be able to link Thunderfury last. This article is not for the faint of heart, so if you are easily offended, I would advise turning around 180 degrees and walking away. We're talking trade chat.

This week, we talk about five ways trade chat can get you into some trouble with Blizzard. From naming violations to impersonating and scamming players, you can strand yourself out on some pretty thin ice with the GMs at Blizzard by violating the Terms of Use. For the sake of everyone else in game, don't.

A brief history of trade chat

World of Warcraft's trade chat phenomenon started back in The Barrens. However, long before you baby MMOers called it "Barrens chat," we had Lake of Ill Omen (LoIO) chat. LoIO chat was the proto-Barrens chat, created from a conglomeration of characters leveling after the initial starting zones in the first EverQuest expansion, The Ruins of Kunark. The experience of LoIO chat was pretty much what you would expect -- rampant moronic comments, idiotic questions, political discussion on par with Jersey Shore and racism. Sounds familiar, right? There are probably so many more examples of the trade chat of yore, and I hope you all have an excellent trip down memory lane remembering them.

From the blossoming bud of the EverQuest flower came the seeds of World of Warcraft, and with it, the continuation of the time-honored tradition of general chat, a zone-wide forum to be used for communication among fellow adventurers to alert them to massive add trains, forming parties and whether or not anyone was camping the frenzied ghoul. The Barrens became one of those famous conglomeration zones in WoW, a meeting place for players who had just finished what usually felt like a solo gameplay experience. New people means new encounters. New encounters means new ways to screw with people. Barrens chat was born.

Some time into WoW's history, Barrens chat moved to the city-wide trade chat channel, mostly because the player base was largely at the level cap and just not hanging out in The Barrens anymore (for Horde players, at least; Alliance characters, from what people tell me, moved into Ironforge at an earlier point). Trade chat allows for some business to happen, sure, but mostly, it is one giant violation of the Terms of Use, Blizzard's stated rules of play that govern the behavioral usage of the client.

Breaking naming conventions

While naming conventions aren't usually ban-worthy, having to be confronted by a GM about naming issues and forced to undergo a name change can mark your account in a not-too-great way. Forcing Blizzard to intervene with you in any way, really, is detrimental to your status playing the game. Remember, Blizzard doesn't really need a reason to boot you off WoW; it is within Blizzard's rights to disconnect you for any reason it can come up with, fair or not.

I decided to come up with a name that would break as many of the naming conventions as I could at once. You can find the list of rules concerning naming conventions here. (I don't have to type them out, as I'm sure you don't want to read it.) After some contemplation, I came up with Xmosesmetzenx. Not only does the name break the religious name rule and the leetspeak clause, but I'm also impersonating the great Chris Metzen. The name never got through the filters, of course, but what did was Myzzheroin. Naming yourself after illegal substances is also a big no-no and will most likely result in a name change and mark on your account.

Where does trade chat come into this? You had better believe that those stalwart ladies and gentlemen will make your life a living, name-reporting hell the second you step foot into trade chat -- and I really can't blame them for it.

Scamming and defrauding

There are two schools of thought on scamming and defrauding. What happens if you scam someone out of something after advertising in trade chat? For instance, I am a blacksmith and I offer to craft you some Boots of Kingly Upheaval for materials plus a generous (cheapskate) tip. After receiving your materials, I promptly log off. I'll be reported and, if it can be proven that I scammed the materials from you, I am sure I'm going to be in some trouble, much in the way that those who ninja-loot against set raid loot policies in pickup raids can have the items taken away and returned to their rightful owners.

The second type of defrauding comes from in-game casinos or gambling, which have been absent from the game for a long time. Blizzard cracked down on advertising these money-making schemes in public, but private games are not against the rules. Scamming, however, will still get you in trouble because of Blizzard's own logs.

Anal [Heroic Leap]

Really, do we need to talk about how this meme works? It's a pretty self-explanatory trade chat phenomenon, in which a string of linked abilities combined with the ever-hilarious word "anal" create (and I use the word loosely) amusing and quasi-raunchy sentence fragments. But is it against the rules? Maybe.

Blizzard's stance on offensive language is that offensive and disruptive language is determined to be so at the sole discretion of Blizzard Entertainment. Period. It doesn't matter how many people were offended or whether or not you thought what you said constituted an offending statement. If someone complains, and complains enough, about what you said and Blizzard deems it offensive, welcome to Warning Town, Population: You. How do you prevent this? Stop being a tool in trade chat.

Personal information

We discussed a little bit about harassment and personal information a few weeks ago, but it bears repeating that posting someone's personal information into trade chat -- or any other public channel, for that matter -- is an offense against the terms of use. Don't do it.

Posting someone's personal information in public can even be used as evidence against you, including ramping up the severity of the harassment. It's one thing to personally berate someone in private until they can't take it any more, but to actively invite more harassment through personal information proliferation is damning to the core. If someone is posting your personal information, document the offenses, take copious amounts of screenshots, and alert a GM.

Gold prices cheap xxxxxbuynowxxxxx cheap gold for u now square square diamond

Advertising in trade chat is a good way to get on a lot of people's ignore lists, including the big-daddy ignore list over at Blizzard. Gold farming companies deal with this a lot in that once their accounts are flagged as gold sellers and advertisers in game, Blizzard steps in to ban the whole lot of them. Don't get caught up in an aggressive campaign to fight gold sellers.

Advertisements for websites and other non-WoW-related business should not be announced into trade chat. Don't run the risk of getting flagged under other advertisement policies. The language in the terms of use says not to disrupt the "normal flow of dialogue" in chat, but really, what has the normal flow of dialogue in trade chat become these days? For your sake and the sake of your account, leave the advertisements out.

Trade chat is a murky place. Blizzard has shown that it's not afraid to patrol and be proactive with its enforcement of policies in public channels. To keep your account's status in good standing, use trade chat for what it's there for. And, again, you'll never link Thunderfury last.

This column is for entertainment only; if you need legal advice, contact a lawyer. For comments or general questions about law or for The Lawbringer, contact Mat at mat@wow.com.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

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