A Player's Right To Privacy
by Selina Kelley
"It's OK to snoop players, they're all going to cheat anyway."
Are they? Does having the assumption that all players will cheat give any
one person (or group of people) the right to snoop a player? I don't
know, but I know that whenever the topic of snoop comes up, I get an
awfully sick feeling in my stomach.
The Saint is always snooping around and well, making lots of money.
I'll be honest, I've snooped people. At one time, I snooped a lot. There
was this heady sensation to having the power of knowing what people talked
about, knowing what they did. There was no justification for my snooping
someone, nothing that I could ever really say to convince myself that it
was "OK", but for some reason, it was difficult to stop.
I've always felt that snooping is wrong and that it is a gross invasion of
privacy. Difficult as it may have been to stop snooping, once I had done
that, it was as if a great burden had been lifted from me--the burden of
guilt. Guilt that in some way I had violated my personal integrity and
had violated the trust that was given to me as an "overseer" to the mud.
I was introduced to the snoop command at a relatively early "mud age". I
was a mere player and a victim of the "Evil Witch Mud Co-Admin" [tm] and
her "snoop" command. I didn't really understand what it was or how it
worked, I just knew that somehow, a person was able to see what someone
else typed. Once I became a wizard and a member of a "Balance" team, I
was directed to snoop people to ensure that the mud remained balanced. So
I did, diligently. In the beginning, I felt uncomfortable, but soon it
didn't phase me at all. A few times, I caught conversations between
people that were concerning me and couldn't find it in myself to turn off
the snoop. Sometimes I heard good things about me, sometimes bad and in
my own (at the time quite immature) way, I got my revenge on anyone that
had mentioned anything "bad" about me.
I began to snoop constantly. For nearly four months, almost every minute
I was online I had an active snoop on someone. When they logged out, I
just switched to a new person. I was oblivious to the "wrongness" of
snoop and would have laughed if anyone had mentioned it to me.
What stopped me? I think it was a realization that I was turning into a
person I didn't like. I started hearing things about me that were more
bad than good and I hated that. I took out my anger on some very good
friends and as a result I lost them. From that day forward I vowed to
never snoop again.
I broke that vow only once. It was just a few months after I made it and
I snooped someone a couple times. I felt justified because I was told
they were stealing code, but it still made me feel dirty, even when it was
proven that they were, in fact, stealing code.
I don't like snoop. I'm like an ex-drug addict who has taken the 12-step
program, no longer craves and will never turn back. I feel it greatly
diminishes the enjoyment of not only the snoop-ee, but ultimately the
snoop-er as well. I've removed every instance of the snoop command from
the mud I am currently on. I've also made it quite clear to every new
player, every new immortal, every single person on my mud, that any
invasion of privacy is wrong.
I believe in freedom to play and that freedom includes being free to say
anything you want to someone without fear of being "watched". I believe
that for me to enjoy myself on a mud, I have to be able to state, without
doubt, that no player on the mud I am on will be snooped.
Many people don't understand why snooping is wrong. I've heard many
for snooping - to fix bugs, to track balance, to catch thieves - but I
believe for every argument given, there is a solution that does not
involve snooping. There's always a second option, always an alternative.
It's all about ethics. How would you feel if you found out your boss
tapped your phones? Or if your wife/husband/significant other put a bug
in your clothing to see if you cheated on them? Sure, in some cases it
can be legal (police phone-taps for example), but the ethical questions
that arise out of such an act are enormous.
There has to be an amount of trust on a game. If you make a thousand
rules, there are a thousand ways to break them. If you have a snoop
command in the game, it will be used. No matter what restrictions are in
place, there is always a way to get around them and a way to insist that
it's "OK" because of "XYZ-lame reason".
I don't begin to be a person who is lily-white, who knows the answers, who
can preach to someone about snooping, privacy and the rights of players,
but I do believe that the privacy of a player is tantamount to a
successful mud. The more comfortable a player is on your game, the more
likely they are to bring their friends to play there too.
I'm almost two years snoop-free and proud of it. Sure, it might not be an
quick, or simple thing to achieve, but I think being snoop-free lends an
integrity to a mud and to its staff, that few muds can claim.
November 1999 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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