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Stir: The BanHammer

THE BANHAMMER

What is a Ban Hammer?  The Urban Dictionary defines it like this:

Rockstar issues last chance warning to Red Dead Redemption cheaters.

Banhammers are fearsome weapons wielded by the Admins, a race of genetically enhanced people who have been created to serve and to protect online communities from the evil that fills the internet. The Banhammers are mighty weapons, and must be used carefully, as whoever holds one of these weapons have power over the accounts of all others.

While there is always an uproar when stories hit the media about a company resetting accounts or blocking users, I can’t believe that most of those who get banned know it’s coming, and know it is most likely deserved.

When gamers use online services, they agree to abide by the rules set forth by that service to keep the community hospitable for the masses.  This agreement is a legal and binding contract usually called “Terms of Service”.  This is a rarely read, often skipped step in the signup or setup process for all online services and games.

Let’s take a look at what very few gamers bother to read.  This is directly from the Xbox Live Terms of Service agreement.

Microsoft threatens to permanently ban anyone playing an unauthorized copy of Halo: Reach.

The Xbox.com Web Site may contain bulletin board services, chat areas, news groups, forums, communities, personal web pages, calendars, and/or other message or communication facilities designed to enable you to communicate with the public at large or with a group (collectively, “Communication Services”). You agree to use the Communication Services only to post, send and receive messages and material that are proper and related to the particular Communication Service. By way of example, and not as a limitation, you agree that when using a Communication Service, you will not:

  • Defame, abuse, harass, stalk, threaten or otherwise violate the legal rights (such as rights of privacy and publicity) of others.
  • Publish, post, upload, distribute or disseminate any inappropriate, profane, defamatory, infringing, obscene, indecent or unlawful topic, name, material or information.
  • Publish, post, upload, distribute or disseminate any topic, name, material or information that incites discrimination, hate or violence towards one person or a group because of their belonging to a race, a religion or a nation, or that insults the victims of crimes against humanity by contesting the existence of those crimes.
  • Upload or otherwise make available files that contain images, photos, software or other material protected by intellectual property laws (or by rights of privacy of publicity) unless you own or control the rights thereto or have received all necessary consents.
  • Upload files that contain viruses, corrupted files, or any other similar software or programs that may damage the operation of another’s computer.
  • Use any material or information, including images or photographs, which is made available through the Xbox.com Web Site in any manner that infringes any copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret, or other proprietary right of any party.
  • Advertise or offer to sell or buy any goods or services for any business purpose, unless such Communication Service specifically allows such messages.
  • Conduct or forward surveys, contests, pyramid schemes or chain letters.
  • Download any file posted by another user of a Communication Service that you know, or reasonably should know, cannot be legally distributed in such manner.
  • Modern Warfare 2

    Valve offers L4D2 and apology to users auto-banned from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

    Falsify or delete any author attributions, legal or other proper notices or proprietary designations or labels of the origin or source of software or other material contained in a file that is uploaded.

  • Restrict or inhibit any other user from using and enjoying the Communication Services.
  • Violate any code of conduct or other guidelines which may be applicable for any particular Communication Service.
  • Harvest or otherwise collect information about others, including e-mail addresses, without their consent.
  • Violate any applicable laws or regulations.
  • Create a false identity for the purpose of misleading others.

Your use of the Communication Services is also subject to the Code of Conduct.

Microsoft has no obligation to monitor the Communication Services. However, Microsoft reserves the right to review materials posted to a Communication Service and to remove any materials in its sole discretion. Microsoft reserves the right to terminate your access to any or all of the Communication Services at any time without notice for any reason whatsoever.

Microsoft bans users with modded Xbox hardware.

While wordy, it’s pretty straight forward.  If you want to play in their house, you must be respectful and follow their rules.  While they MAY look the other way occasionally, they can and will send you packing if you get out of line far enough to get their attention.

Games with online connectivity also have their own rules called codes of conduct.  This is from Rockstar Games, makers of the excellent Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto series:

You agree, by using the Online Features, that:

  • You will only use the Online Features for lawful purposes, in compliance with applicable laws, for your own personal, non-commercial use;
  • You will not restrict or inhibit any other user from using and enjoying the Online Features provided hereon (for example, by means of harassment, hacking or defacement);
  • You will not use the Online Features to create, upload, or post any material that is knowingly false and/or defamatory, inaccurate, abusive, vulgar, obscene, profane, hateful, harassing, sexually oriented, threatening, invasive of one’s privacy, in violation of any law, or is inconsistent with community standards;
  • You will not post, upload, or create any copyrighted material using the Online Features provided hereon unless you own the copyright in and to such material;
  • WarHammer bans hundreds for gold farming.

    You will not post, upload, or transmit any information or software that contains a virus, worm, timebomb, cancelbot, trojan horse or other harmful, disruptive, or deleterious component;

  • You will not post, upload, create, or transmit materials in violation of another party’s copyright or other intellectual property rights;
  • You will not cheat or utilize any unauthorized robot, spider, or other program in connection with the Online Features; and
  • You will not impersonate any other individual or entity in connection with your use of the Online Features.

So – you think you never agreed to these rules?  Wrong.  Your agreement is implied by your use of the service.

My advice is to stay out of the shadow of the banhammer.  Be respectful of other gamers and if you find an exploit – report it instead of abusing it.

Platform Nation writers have covered many swings of the banhammer in the past.  All of the inset pictures are links to past articles on this topic.  Be sure to take a look at those articles also.

WHAT OUR WRITERS HAD TO SAY

Jose Adrovet | Gui J | Profile |

The simple fact of the matter is…The banhammer does not apply to me, nor does it concern me. I game for fun and I treat my online interactions the same as my real life ones. If you think and feel that’s its o.k. to say hateful things online and or cheat and these things get you banned well guess what? Doing that in an anti-social setting with real people can get you in trouble also. No one should ever complain about the banhammer… if you did nothing wrong the truth will come out, but if you act like a scum bag don’t be surprised.

Microsoft sends message by resetting gamerscore and achievements of cheaters.

Scott diMonda | WCC5723 | ProfileTwitter |

The Banhammer is a great tool for companies to use against those that cheat.  Now is it good for boosting no.  I feel that the ban hammer if used properly is a great tool against those that just plain out cheat while playing a multiplayer online game.  But to be banned for boosting is a terrible idea unless that boosting gives you an unfair advantage.  Also I want to point out that the banhammer should not be “robot” controlled but it should be controlled by a physical person.  I have never be a victim of the ban hammer and not for nothing if the game developer knows there is a problem that could lead to banning shouldn’t they take measures to fix those issues in their games?

Brian Heitzenrater | FrehleyzComet | ProfileTwitter |

I totally support the banhammer. I can’t stand cheaters or exploiters and they deserve to be banned. I play games online for fun and to wind down after a hard day at work. The last thing I want to deal with is some jack-ass ruining my game because he is using a cheating device or an exploit in the game’s code to get an advantage on the rest of the people. The first time they “break the law” should just be a short ban like a couple of days to a week. But if they are stupid enough to do it a second time it should be permanently.

Jordan Silverthorne | Silverthorne | Profile |

You can’t mention the banhammer without also mentioning Bungie in the same sentence.  While some developers release a game into the wild and immediately move on to their next title, Bungie instead opts to keep a close eye on the community to ensure that players are sticking to the rules.  The banhammer should be used solely as a means of preventing exploits and unfair advantages, and for the most part Bungie sticks to that philosophy.

In the case of Halo: Reach, network manipulations and credit resets have resulted in over 15,000 users having their progress set back to zero.  Meanwhile, Gruntpocalypse and Sword Base farmers were safe; their means of obtaining credits were completely legitimate within the confines of the game.

Personally, I think resetting 15,000 players may be a little harsh.  From a marketing perspective, Bungie has just managed to alienate a substantial number of their most dedicated users.  Anyone could use credit resets, after all.

What’s most important is that modders be eliminated from the picture.  A player with an aimbot and a full-auto DMR is a complete nightmare for legitimate players just trying to have a good time.  If not for the banhammer, Xbox Live would be a hellish landscape of hackers and modders looking to get a leg up on everyone else.  The banhammer keeps things fun, and forces people to play by the rules.

MY FINAL STIR

Sony may have to swing the banhammer at trophy hackers.

Chris Forbis | MensaDad| ProfileTwitter |

Every time I see a story about mass numbers of people being banned from a service or having their accounts reset, or whatever the consequence – I have to chuckle to myself.  People know when they are doing the right thing and they know when they are cheating or taking unfair advantage, or worse, being disrespectful and offensive.  If these people have no clue that their actions can have direct and swift repercussions, then it’s about time they had learn.  “But everyone was doing it!” just doesn’t cut it.  Looting during a riot isn’t justified by the circumstance.  It’s wrong – and it’s punishable.  Granted, some will unjustly be punished, caught in the net with the bigger fish – but such is the cost of swimming with sharks – and playing online can sometimes be just as unpleasant.  So if it takes knocking a few bullies over the head with a big stick to keep life tolerable at the village watering hole, I’m good with that.

The rules for Stir are simple

I pick a topic and ask the Platform Nation writers, editors and staff to send me their opinions.  Thanks go out to all the Platform Nation writers who contributed to Stir this week.  They are all part of the best writing team in the industry and I couldn’t do this without them.

Now, drop down into the comment box below and let us know what YOU think about the Banhammer.  Have you ever been banned?

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