or What's in a Name?
Time to wade into this one. Here's what the current meta-game hubbub is all about:
"you can also be banned for impersonating or falsely representing another player, group of players, character, or NPC entity."Is this a response to meta-game activities going on inside New Eden? I doubt it. In fact, it really doesn't have much to do with every day Eve Online play at all is my guess. This is being done to protect a completely different aspect of CCP's business; an aspect that's not even fully realized yet.
Let me throw a few names at you. Can you figure out how they're connected?
If you guessed they were Eve Online players, you are only partially correct. These are some of the best (and highest paid) professional video gamers in the world. In the quickly emerging eSport industry, these names rank up there with more traditional sports competitors with names like Stauback, Earnhardt and Ryan. The only difference is those last three names are legal names; not pseudonyms.
And therein lies the problem. How can you build an industry and market on something that has no legal standing? What does it take for a pseudonym to have legal standing? Well, according to the U.S. Copyright Office, you just have to check the appropriate box on the copyright request form. But that only applies to the individual, not any company or team looking to leverage that fame for other purposes. What must they do to protect, grow and profit from competitors known more for their in-game name than their real name?
Well, I don't know. I'm not a lawyer. But I do have a goodly knowledge of the writing trade and that experience tells me the issue is fraught with mines.
Let's look at the case of Robert Galbraith. Robert Galbraith wrote a crime novel called, "The Cuckoo's Calling." It sold 8500 copies, had a sequel already lined up and two movie offers. It was a smash success, but that's not why it's in this blog post. Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for a much more famous author. He is actually J.K. Rowling. Now, J.K. Rowling did this for other reasons than to get a lot of sales. She did it to prove she was more than a one trick pony. With critics already doubting her writing chops, she felt she had no choice but to go with a pseudonym. If she had called an editor's office and said, "Hi. I'm J.K. Rowling. Would you publish my book?" you bet they'd have published the book - regardless of how good it was. That's my point. Name recognition alone would have got her the nod and merit be damned.
Read further down in that LA Times article if you haven't already. See the author Jane Somers? Her book was rejected. It wasn't good enough. Afterwards, the agent who rejected it found out Jane Somers is a pseudonym for Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing - who is well published by the same agency. Had the reviewer known, he would not have rejected the book - by his own admission. See, a famous name can get you through the door and will bring you benefits just because the name is famous - even if the book itself doesn't make muster.
In televised media a pseudonym is not so problematic, as everyone will recognize the star on sight. But what if you couldn't actually see the star? What if I pretended to be one of these stars in social media, or by phone, or in another online game? What if I then solicited endorsement contracts? Wouldn't the company I approached be more inclined to say yes if my name was famous? The examples above say yes. That is what identity thieves count on. That's why it works in game. That's also why it works in real life, and real life is what this change is actually about.
How do you combat identity theft? In real life, you have a legal right to your name. Identity theft is illegal. The jury hasn't even convened on the issue of online gaming pseudonyms. Until such a judicial precedent is set, you have to actively protect the pseudonym system. You have to extend some form of legal protection to them. These new changes do just that. It also shows CCP is setting itself up to be an actor in the greater industry of eSports that is beginning to emerge. It is, to me, obviously part of their overall plans to expand the Eve Online universe - and I welcome it.