FF14 Update Includes New Harassment Rules

From Reddit
An unexpected change occurred this morning as Final Fantasy XIV went down for maintenance with it's latest patch (4.55). The terms of service for “Prohibited Activities” and related “Account Penalty Policy” and “Guidelines for Game Master(GM) Actions(GM Policy)” have changed. Detailed in a blog post at 12:00am this morning, the game is taking a turn to better mediate actions between players in the game.

Staff with FF14 have long held the position that with the game being an MMO, they didn't want Game Masters (GM) to interfere too often so as not to destroy immersion and communication between players. Unless someone was clearly breaking the terms of service with gil selling or causing severe harm to another player, a GM was instructed to act as a third-party observer and encourage players to work out the issues between themselves. Sometimes a player is unlucky enough to get moved to a literal in-game jail to hold their discussions with a GM.

The rules for reporting a player or suspicious activity have always been wishy-washy in the Final Fantasy MMO universe. If a user is kicked from a dungeon by a group vote for asking "what happened?" during a party-wiping pull, and the kicked player reports it, nothing happens to the group. It's considered a non-violation on the part of the group because all voted equally to kick the player. But if the party reported the single player for bring aggressive in chat, it's possible that he/she could receive a warning on their account.

If a person who calls out hunts (zone/region bosses) and helps spawn mobs for other players is reported, it can be considered against TOS because that player is actively resetting monsters and may be disrupting the play of others.

There is this fantastical notion that GM's are the moderators of the game, but like most MMO's they exist to help get players unstuck if they are trapped due to a glitch, or submit reports against bots. They hold very little power. The guidelines given to GM's tend to be direct, making it an easy job to fill with temps or college students looking for a part-time job and/or class credit. They're not expected to resolve issues. With the number of tickets submitted daily, they review and pass them on as quickly as possible.

These changes to the behavior and penalties are going to be big for FF14. Harassment is more clearly defined. There is a section on nuisance behavior, spamming, and MPK (monster player kill). The penalties have been extended from 3 levels to 6, giving the affected players a chance to prove their case. The policies are promising. This is the type of content gamers are looking for to help ensure that the environment they play in is safe and not ripe with toxic behavior. When you drop $59.99 on a game, and then $12.99 a month on subscription fees, the last thing you want to deal with is a person using an emote to inappropriately touch random characters (this happened to me and the player was reported, but no action was ever taken).

But these new policies won't hold up if the GM's updated rules were not made to properly support the system. GM's need to not only have new guidelines to follow, but updated training to help diffuse situations. They need to be able to recognize what is and is not harassment. They can't immediately decide on an outcome based on their personal experiences and must remain objective. GM's will have to fill the roll of counselors and psychologists in order to better assist players. I hope SquareEnix has prepared the GM's for their new roles. While the change is welcomed in today's world of online gaming, a proper support system will ensure it's stability. The GM's can not be expected to work off their previous guidelines with the new rules.