On Verant's Banning of Mystere


Just about every gamer board in the world had lit up recently concerning the news about Verant's banning of a player from Everquest. Almost without exception, every post is against Verant. While I don't necessarily support the way they went about it, I understand their decision... and hesitantly support the outcome. Here's why.

For those of you who haven't heard about it, Verant (company what runs Everquest) recently banned a player named Mystere. Why? Because he had posted fanfiction on EQVault which involved the Everquest world. The immediate reaction is to lambaste Verant. How dare they ban someone for posting fanfiction on a non-Verant server? How dare they? Of course, when you realize that what he was posting was fanfiction involving the brutal rape and torture of a child, the story shifts a little bit.

Still, most people remain supportive of Mystere at this point. After all, this is a free world, and if he wants to write about that, then so be it. Who is Verant to tell him what to write, and what not to write, especially when it involves a non-Verant forum.

I'd like to propose a different way of looking at this.

Everquest a haven for stalkers and perverts?

Verant has an image to uphold. And that image is one of being family-friendly, to a certain extent. A great many of Everquest's players are, no doubt, children. And if the word got out that an Everquest player was posting child pornography on the Internet, how many parents would immediately yank their kids off the Everquest servers? How many players would they lose? After all, if they do NOT ban him, aren't they supporting his right to be a child pornographer? Isn't Everquest then a haven for stalkers and perverts? What child is safe when that warrior coming to save you is actually coming just to fondle you?

Granted, the kneejerk reaction on the part of Verant is going to piss some people off. But above and beyond any argument anyone cares to lay down about the First Amendment (and you won't find a bigger supporter of that than me), the simple fact remains that they have the right to do whatever they want with their system. You do not have the RIGHT to play Everquest. They let you play. And if they don't want you to play, they won't let you.

Now, they can't simply start banning people for no good reason. Imagine the hissy fit the government would have if Everquest started banning all black players, or all Jewish players. But who's going to argue if they ban all players who post kiddie porn on the Internet? No one. Especially when the government is currently chiding Hollywood for marketing violent and sexual movies, stories and games to children.

I've run into this very situation on my MUD before. We had a player who would routinely wander around and role-play the physical and sexual abuse of all our female players. After losing a few of them, we finally decided just to ban the jerk. And we were all much better off for it.

In closing, don't look at this as the big bad corporation banning the little fanfiction poster guy. Think of this as a company that markets to families and children banning someone they, and most parents, will perceive as a writer of kiddie porn.

I won't argue whether or not the story in question was, indeed, child pornography. I'm only arguing that in many cases, perception is reality. And it's pretty obvious what the perception was here. But what's your perception? What do you think about all this? Let's hear what you have to say.

My apologies. Mystere is, evidently, a female. Not that this changes anything. Just noting.

My perception, having actually read the story, is that the 'child' was 14 'seasons' old. Many who support Verant claim this means 14 'years' old. If you have ever played EQ, you would know that there are no children there (other than the ones Verant makes you kill for quests and experience). By 14th level (also commonly refered to as 'seasons') your character has been out in the world hunting and killing for a long time. Yes the story was graphic, but it also had a big warning at the top, so you didn't have to read it if you didn't want to. Also, in the end, the victim wins, and kills her captor.

Verants attitude is hypocritical. Look at the cover art for the Kunark expansion - high elf girl in chains, with a leering Iksar (lizardman) over her. Any dungeon in the game, and all the evil race towns, have bits of elf and dwarf hanging from chains and roasting over fires. Sure they are 'just cartoons', but this whole thing is about a piece of fiction.

Remove the story from the site, sure that's their right. Ban Mystere (a female character, a male in RL) - waaaay overreacting. A quiet e-mail or two and no one would ever have heard of this story (sorry Mystere) which was on a dead thread 3 months old. Now, Verants 'customer service' takes yet another hit.

The thing is Verant's creation Everquest (tm) has the same sick sort of thing buried within the game. Mutilated bodies hung from hooks, quests that require the heads from a pregnant mother, gods of hate and fire. Even the history of the dark elves leads most to the conclusion that torture, rape or anything evil is ok against those of good. This is what Verant is afraid of. Mothers taking notice of whats in the game already, not fan stories made by RP'ers.

" Verant has an image to uphold. And that image is one of being family-friendly, to a certain extent. "

You have got to be kidding...

Family friendly does not involve a father rewarding adventurers for repeatedly killing his four daughters. (Sisters Quest)

Family friendly does not involve inciting an adventurer to murder a young halfling you have made pregnant. (Lil Honeybugger)

I could go on, but please, play the game before you ascribe values such as "Family friendly" to it that it does not possess.

"I'm only arguing that in many cases, perception is reality."

Most people (myself included) do not play the game. Most people are unaware of the violent content inside the game. Most people think it's just a nifty little game where you wander around and kill spiders.

And Verant has to be quaking in their boots that now everyone's going to find out exactly what's in the game. If anything, they didn't move fast enough in getting rid of that story. Nor quietly enough, as it turns out.

10 to 1 says they wind up removing or rewriting many of those quests.

I, for one, just *love* the 'You write about stuff that scares me, so you must be some kind of sick pervert!' reactions I've been seeing all over the Web.

Quote from the gal at fault herself:

"I called CS and was eventually passed on to George Scotto, the directory of Customer Service for EverQuest. I was told that the story I had written had been passed on to them. I was told that the story was sickening and disturbing in the extreme. I was told that some council of some sort had made the decision to ban me, and said decision is immutable (George is the last in the line for appeals). The post had "many" customers up in arms and they don't need "players like (me)". "

"10 to 1 says they wind up removing or rewriting many of those quests."

That would be real funny! A lot of quests have been broken since the game began, and have never been fixed. It would be the ultimate in irony if they suddenly found the resources to rewrite and/or remove 'offensive' quests. It would be a new low in 'customer service'.

I wonder if the 'service' they think they are providing is the same as the service a bull performs on a cow? It would explain a lot.

By the way, I'm not quitting the game, because Verant won't care, and why should I deprive myself of a game which, despite it's faults. I enjoy? Game good, Verant bad.

I think that it is important to note that no commentary should be made concerning this issue unless you read the story & judge for yourself.

That being said, I have read the story & have the following comments to offer:

The story is very disturbing, but then again, we are talking about Ogres & Dark Elves. Neither the Grobb, Oggok, nor Neriak are supposed to be Niceville, Montana.

They are the respective homes of three of the evil races of Norrath. Ogres & Trolls are supposed to be big, mean & brutal & I wouldn't expect the Shadow Elves to be progeny of the God of Hate & not have a little malice in them.

If you read the story closely, it is not about rape: it is about revenge. That being said, the only issue left to debate is whether or not the recipient of the violence is indeed a minor.

As we all know, there are no children to speak of in EQ save Mroon, the cyclops offspring of the peculiar family of Karana cyclopes that all have rhyming first names.

The victim is 14 "seasons" old & as we all know, a "season" is a level, just as a "circle", "winter," and other terms used to decribe it are. As we all start off as adults in EverQuest, it is safe to venture that the victim is not a child.

While I cannot condone the content of the story on its face value, I must applaud the author for at least keeping the content within the context of the races of creatures she wrote about.

I play an Erudite & I would not expect fruit baskets from Shadow Elves if I were in the hospital, unless the contents were poisoned somehow.

I could also not expect to see another sunrise should I be captured by hungry Ogres or Trolls; I would most likely become dinner.

The recent handlings of fan fiction is are testiment to the differences between Verant (EverQuest) and Turbine (Asheron's Call):

Turbine receives fiction & loves it so much that they include the content in a patch.

Verant has a kneejerk reaction to something & seeks to erase all traces of it.

I am sad to say that the First Amendment doesn't apply in this matter as it provides Freedom of Speech against government censorship. A private company may do what it wishes.

"If enough voices are raised, Sony and Viacom and Fox would find it in their corporate interest to eliminate--voluntarily--objectionable and gratuitous scenes from their products."

The above quote's from a column about the Congressional committee taking a look at violence and sex in video games and movies. I think this, if nothing else, is the heart of the matter. Sony is already on the gallows for marketing violence to kids, and they're pledging to cut back.

Suddenly, Verant (owned by Sony) happens to notice a 3-month old fanfic story which includes violence and sex involving an (at least apparently) 14-year old girl, and their game, Everquest.

Do they have any choice BUT to ask for the removal of the story? How can they NOT ban the person who wrote it? If they don't, then that awful nasty person is still in their game. And that's bad press.

Oops! What about all that other violent content in the game? Well, hm... maybe people won't notice.

It'll be interesting to see exactly what the next few weeks hold for Everquest. I predict change. But then, people have a remarkable capacity for apathy, so maybe this will all blow over.

I know this issue is long dead, but I just have to reiterate here:

The character was intended to be FOURTEEN YEARS OLD. Seasons and so-on doesn't matter - the author himself (male player, female character) had no problem informing everyone that his intention was, indeed, a 14-year old, when this issue was raised. He felt the age of the character was immaterial.

Second: EQ is rated "mature", which gives it the freedom to be slightly gory (and it is only very slightly gory, if compared to many games on the market). Anything involving violence towards children carries a very different connotation in our society. One violent quest which involved the murder of an unborn child was immediately taken out of the game following this incident. The story in question was extremely graphic, including detailed genital mutilation.

Third: there is NO first amendment issue. The first amendment protects an individual's right to freedom of speech from the government. It certainly doesn't involve a company's right to sell a product to a given customer. The only leg to stand on here is that Verant can not reject customers for race or religion, and I suppose you could say pedophiliac fiction is a form of religion... ? Heh, fat chance.

I have never read the story that you all are talking about because I was not aware of the issue until last month. If any of you have it, please email it to me. I would like to read it and then offer an opinion on it.

I read the story, and personaly I thought it was fairly twisted. I don't want to read about rape and torture, that's sick to me.

Regardless, EverQuest is a game based on killing things, over and over and over and over...

I never understand the American People. Horrible violence and death are ok, they're great for entertainment. As soon as anyone swears or mentions sex though, they're a horrible pervert and no children should be exposed to that.

No wonder we have so much violent crime here. We don't care if you're violent and kill people, just don't say "damn" or show a naked breast.

first of all, Mystere actually let it known that the "seasons" thing was in fact the age of the person of course.

Second of all, I think it's bull that they pulled the plug on Mystere. the jackass that was in charge of the whole thing said to Mystere "we don't wan't people like you playing our game"..nice.

See, the fact of the matter is that you should and can write about whatever you feel in a fictional sense without feeling threatened in any way. I don't agree that this was good business sense, because frankly, if Verant didn't make a big stink over this, not many people would have even known about this damn thing. And out of those few people who would have even read the story, I really severely doubt that those people, even if they had kids, would be stupid enough to percieve the person as some kind of molester just because of a story she wrote, and I think, and I hope, that everyone would realize that even if this person WAS a molester, that it's bad business sense for Verant to tell her that she can't play this game because of what she is. Also, she sure as hell ain't going to be coming through the screen to snatch away your kid. As you can see, I don't agree with this article's author.

Verant has no right to be thought police. You really can compare this whole story to lets say, Joe and Bob who work at Verant were overheard by a Verant boss in the bathroom talking about how they have kinky sex with their women. The boss decides he doesn't think it's morally right, and fires them both. It's just not right.

As a final note, I'd just like to say F**k everyone who has no tolerance for any sort of actions or beliefs other than their own, and F**k everyone who thinks they know what's right for everyone.

Actually, if two employees were overheard talking about kinky sex in the bathroom, they could be and probably would be fired. Most workplaces have sexual harassment policies that cover such situations.

holy crap, Vel, did you parents have any kids that lived? Am I actually reading someone who says we should have "tolerance for actions and beliefs" that include the genital mutilation and rape of underaged women?

and Verant aren't the thought police, if Mystere wants to write about raping kitty cats dressed up in miniskirts then fine, they just don't want him doing it in association with their game world nor do they want him talking about this kind of crap in their game.

Hey, Vel...

It sounds like you think you know what's right for everyone. 100% tolerance of anything no matter how depraved, twisted, sick, or otherwise offensive. And you're intolerant of people who have beliefs other than your own. So by your own argument...

F**k you.

We have freedom of speech. Read some great pieces of lit, they have lots of stories about the sexual abuse of the underaged. Try reading the Color Purple. I personally think that Veriant's choice was a poor one. People go nuts too much these days on this subject. Child abuse is a bad bad thing. BUT, that saying that people that write about it are sick aweful people is not a right thing either. People can think or write whatever they want. Basic rights of the US. We don't have to like it, but we should be tolerant of that. The only time to be intolerant, is when such acts are done in real life.

I managed to stay out of this for so long, but here it goes. Verant was in the right because Mystere used races, settings, etc from VERANT's game, which I am sure they have copyrighted up the wazoo. Therefore they are in the right for slapping him down. However, if Mystere had written that story wihtout using ANYTHING relating or tying it to Everycrack, then Verant would have been in the wrong. Mystere has Freedom of Speech, but not the Freedom to screw around with another's copyrighted material.

I agree with Verant, it's a free country, but Verant is not the government. They don't have the power to censor. They simply no longer wished to do business with this pig.

Well I think verant was very much in the wrong here about banning a player... Wether or not 14 seasons means 14 year old or whatever doesn't matter. Does verant have the right to do this ? of course they do and if he brought a yearly subscription he'd have the right to demand all his money back for the months of service he didn't get becuase he was banned but that's about all he can do ... in no way did he violate the EULA or such.

Over two years since this particular wad of dung hit the fan and there's still some critical bits and pieces that have either only been touched upon or completely overlooked.

The first thing worth pointing out is that Verant did not own or control the board where this happened in any way, shape, or form. It all went down on the Vault boards, and IGN has no official ties to Verant.

The second has been touched on, namely the bits about killing the pregnant halfling and the dismembered body parts (the halfling has been removed, the body parts remain). Also of note is the fact that similar, albeit far less graphic, stories were on the EQ Roleplay boards at around the same time. I don't recall if they were there before this happened or put there after, but to the best of my knowledge, they were allowed to stand. There is also the fact that the profile for one of their GMs, "Xatozia the Torturess," was far more bloody and graphic than Mystere's story. It was also extremely poorly written both on artistic and technical merits (you do not use "burning for 400 points of damage" if you want to maintain suspension of disbelief). Many people pointed to this and called Verant a bunch of hypocrits. It was removed shortly thereafter.

Verant's overall handling of this entire situation was just plain bad from start to finish. Verant was widely criticized as having the worst customer service in the industry at the time (a situations which has only marginally improved); this is quite a feat given the numerous scandals plaguing Ultima Online's game masters. At no point did Verant contact Mystere or IGN to say "hey, we're not too happy about this, can you remove it?" What happened is that Mystere went AFK for some reason, came back and found he was disconnected. He tried to reconnect, found out he was banned, and put in some calls. He was eventually directed to Scotto, who gave him the by-now infamous "we don't need players like you" line. Verant was well within its rights to ban Mystere, but just because they *could* do it doesn't mean they *should* have done it. I mean, it's been over two years and the issue still has quiet murmurs such as this going about.

And as a side note to the "omg he wrote child snuff rape porn he's a sick monster BAN HIM!", I would like to request that you step away from the computer and don't come back until you've learned to distinguish fantasy from reality. Do you think that Thomas Harris is actually a serial killer/canibal? The only difference between Silence of the Lambs and the story that caused all this in the first place is that one was a professionally done work, and the other was a piece of fanfiction.

Something that a lot of people are missing here, is the fact that EverQuest is a game. Yes. It isn't real. I'll admit, though, that it's a wonderful fantasy. You could play there for years and develop some of the most wonderful friends in the world... But it is still a game. The character you are playing as, doesn't actually exist. They are fake. From the robes [or armor] they wear, to the hair on their head. It's all good make believe.

So, when I hear all this talk about "It's so horrible that he wrote about raping a 14 year old" I almost choke. I'm sorry. Since when was it wrong to write about something fake? On television today, we see people being raped. In the movies we watch. It's all there. And it's the same as EverQuest... Make-believe. "Oh, but there's a difference!" You're right. There is a difference. The story in question, and others like it, don't show it. They don't show the brutality of it.

So instead, you want to make this about > child < rape? That's fine. But sooner or later you'll have to accept the fact that, as unlikely as it seems to you, things like that happen in our world. And not only our world, this fantasy world of Norrath where EverQuest takes place. You can deny the truth to yourself, but eventually you'll have to cross this bridge. To create a fantasy role-playing world, you have to create the world. Not just the good stuff. Not just the happy stuff. But everything.

Face it. Rape, as sad as it is, happens.In EverQuest, you have good and you have evil. The good people smite the evil. The evil do what they want with the good. In the end, this includes rape and all such things. The game itself doesn't show this. According to law, it can't. Right now, at the time of writing this [July 3rd, 2003] EverQuest is rated T for Teen, according to the ESRB. But what EverQuest does is open up the potential for the "rest". They've created a game where people can touch on topics such as rape, murder, religion and just about anything else.

So, the fact that the player in question got banned? I thought it was stupid then and I think it's stupid now. Unfortunately, playing EverQuest isn't a right. It's a privilage. One that they can take away whenever and for whatever reason they desire. Is it fair that they take it away because they don't like something you've done? Not to the players. But you have too look at it through their eyes. EverQuest is a multi-million dollar game. It recently reached the 400,000+ players mark. Many of those [almost] half-a-million players are children or teenagers. Their parents control whether they play or not. And I know, if I heard EverQuest was exposing my son or daughter to child rape, I'd probably get a little bit flippy. And I'm quite open about not judging before I know the facts. The truth is, most parents would just take EverQuest away, no-questions-asked. That's what Varent was doing. They were protecting their interests.

My point is, Varent was protecting it's interesting. Mystere was enjoying the gaming world. They clashed in a horrible way. And this entire situation came from a game that people know and love enough to do this kind of thing for, and get worked up about. But maybe next time, just don't say it's an EQ fanfic. Because they won't accept it for the art it is and you are just saving yourself a time of rough waters.

I cannot believe that after two years, folks are still harping on this junk...


Mystere, I'm sure, has long since moved on...


Bah, EverQuest box art once showed an Iksar molesting a chained High Elf girl (they even went on to write a comic about it!) and it has blood and guts all over in the game.

Verant just wanted to demonstrate that they're "God" because people actually become so obessed with the game they kill themselves when equipment and/or levels are lost. Grow up Verant! Actually, I take that back, Verant died years ago. GROW UP SOE!

Someone a lot smarter than me once posted:
"Mystere, I'm sure, has long since moved on..."

Only if they got a refund... (maybe not even then, some people are persistant, just for the sake of being annoying) I'd be pissed if it was me and I got banned from an only online game and wasn't given my money back... Especially given that I doubt any of this was covered in the AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) or EULA (End User Licence Agreement) of the software/servers...

So... let Verant do what they want, I just wanna know if Mystere got a refund... If _it_ didn't, _it_ should/could sue :P

(note, I'm not sue-happy, bring on the flamers)
(note2, _it_ is used to reference gender-crossing players)
(note3, this thread is probably long since dead, I just accidently ran across it searching for information on Verant and couldn't help posting, it's stories like this that keep me from playing games like that... not that I'd ever write such a story, sounds way out of my league, but still!)

Wow. I played EQ avidly for 1 year and left it 2004 before this whole story. I find it interesting how RL it became. I played it to get away from the RL consquences and for the easy wins during a hard time in my life. I guess i was thinking I might replay this. glad to read this and decided not to pay this ever again.

Your MUD right? Not the same situation at all. That person was doing stupid crap on your turf.


So do you think that all people with out-there tastes should be banned from doing what they like because they wrote some off-the-wall fan-fic? I think it's disgusting what the story's about, but so are you for defending what happened. Ass.