October 20th 2012.
The Internet is an ever growing network that connects people worldwide at the push of a button, a growing trend in cyberspace is the involvement in Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games or MMORPGs for short. Within the MMORPG universe there exists few acts deemed unacceptable; the most taboo of such acts is known as “Botting” or “Macroing.” What is Macroing you may ask; Wiktionary defines Macroing as “the use of macros,” which are, in the MMORPG sense, any third party software that performs a series of actions on an account for the user without the user being present to provide input; essentially, macros play the game for the user, (Wiktionary). It may not sound like an issue based on first impressions; however, if examined under a microscope the true effects become crystal clear.
Many reasons exist to try to justify the act of botting; likewise many reasons exist to try to justify murder, larceny, and the sale of drugs, none of which make the acts in question any less taboo. Top reasons users break taboo and resort to botting can be found by examining the functions of the various macros that exist and, more importantly, the circumstances in which they are used. Macros can be classified into a few basic types based on the function; the most common types of macros are: “gathers” which are tasked with gathering resources en masse, “spammers” that repeat lines of text and serve as advertisers, and “skillers” which perform tasks to train various skills on an account to raise its levels.
All macros, regardless of type, are prohibited in nearly every MMORPG due to the massive advantage they give to the user of the program and the disruptions to the game itself. Macros used on single accounts are more commonly used for the purpose of leveling the account more so than any other reason; this act is seemingly innocent given the motivation is usually pure laziness by way of the user; however, the effects are present by the misrepresentation of the skill levels of the account which disrupts the integrity of the game; given the less severe nature of this form of macroing, first time offenders usually receive an account reset but repeat offenders receive permanent bans. Because of the high risk involved with running a macro on a personal account an opportunity has risen in the MMORPG universe in the form of “gold-farming sites,” sites that run large masses of macro-controlled accounts for the purpose of “Real World Trading,” the illegal sale of goods in a virtual game by a third party source. “Gold-Farming” macros are almost always of the gatherer or spammer type, to collect materials to sell and to advertise respectively. Use gathering type macros will result in a total account ban if such programs are caught being used to gather resources; herein lies a major problem, single account macro users are relatively easy to track and ban when compared to the much more serious threat of macros used by gold-farming websites; which have sheer numbers which make them a more difficult issue to handle.
Due to the sheer number of macro-controlled accounts operated by the owners of gold-farming sites the threat posed to online games is substantial; their presence in many MMORPGs akin to the game being injected with a slow acting poison that often kills it in the long run. Effects such as overcrowding of resource gathering locations, monster fighting locations, and general nuances such as chat spam are only the penetration wound. Long-term effects manifest on an economic basis in game as an oversupply of resources causes a drop in the price on the items, preventing any legitimate players from making a profit for themselves, (Wikipedia). If left unchecked, the damage done by macroing can spell doom for an MMORPG; however, the real meat of the issue often goes unnoticed.
Take the MMORPG RuneScape for example; in 2007 Jagex Ltd, the creators of RuneScape launched the first of many attempts in a continuing campaign to deter the Real World Trading problem due to the issues it caused, (RuneScape Wikia). Sites that promoted Real World Trading are often hosted from countries outside the jurisdiction of existing Internet laws; due to this semi-lawless base of operations those who ran the sites could continue their operation unimpeded by the government, even in cases which break the law such as credit card theft. Many children with access to their parent’s credit card details became prey to the vices of the thieves as a result to Real World Trading; without the ability to track and prosecute the third party sites parents turned to the next best thing, Jagex. After many years of constant lawsuits regarding the issue of stolen credit card details Jagex faced near bankruptcy before they went on the offensive against the Real World Trading organizations, an example soon followed by other MMORPG creators.(RuneScape Wikia)
The effects of macroing have a long standing effect on any game inflicted with the seemingly incurable poison; no game is completely immune to infection so long as the use of macroing remains an easy fallback for the lazy, even if indirectly manipulated by such people. As with crimes such as murder and larceny, the issue cannot be completely resolved without much effort to change the minds of any and all potential cheaters in the gaming community; it is in this sense macroing has become a social disease of sorts. However, the battle is never ending as a constant struggle between game programmers and macro programmers is ever present; the effects of such a battle may shape the way we experience the online world in years to come.
Wiktionary.org “Macroing.” Web. 8 July 2011.
Wikipedia.org “virtual economy.” Web 12 Oct 2012.
RuneScape Wikia “Jagex vs. Real World Trading.” Web 10 Dec 2007
RuneScape Wikia “Real World Trading.” Web 3 Oct 2012