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The Ratings Game

Feb 16, 2010
Dear Professors,

Wizard101 is an amazing game, full of fun, challenge, and some truly wonderful people. Like many parents, I was drawn to this game by my kid’s initial interest. Yep, checked the ratings, E10+, looks great. I’ve played this game blissfully for hours over the last two and a half years, either with my kids, alone or with other friends I’ve met online. But I’m no longer blissful. I’m deeply saddened and disappointed. Kings Isle has done an excellent job in many respects to keep the game safe for everyone, just as they have advertised. However, I think you underestimated the one biggest variable to any MMORPG – the people playing the game. In any population, a small percentage will be bent on destruction and disruption of everything around them. They work to find the most obscure ways around the systems. You’ve seen it evidenced in many ways such as the gardening glitch and the Luska glitch as well as many less prominent others. In the early days of the game, I suspect that was easy to hide because the actual number of disruptive folks was very low. However with the phenomenal growth of the game, that disruptive population has also grown. Now there is no where safe in Wizard City’s Wu Realm and it is spreading like a disease to other realms as well. With the overwhelming profanity, sexual content including simulated acts with verbalization to clarify explicitly what is intended, racial slurs, and every other conceivable degradation of people for whatever agenda the offender favors, this game no longer merits an E10+ rating.

Now the question comes does KI want to continue with the business model that sent them to the top of their industry or are they going to change course? Recent events have left me wondering which way you will choose. Does KI gain more income from the hordes of people that come in from the Kid Friendly game promotion which is liberally advertised in primarily children’s television (and currently falsely advertised as kid friendly) or are they going to get more income by becoming a more adult site? The fact that KI is giving credence to those that claim they are being harassed because they are reported for their vulgar language and other obscenities leads me to wonder. It is your very silence on this that is the most disturbing.

At first I and others were ecstatic to hear Professor Greyrose’s reminder to young wizards about proper chatting. But then it hit me, it took more than a month after the original posting of an event that galvanized your wizarding community to action for you to say something? After all the requests for clarifications, assistance of any kind? And now the very wizards that are voluntarily giving up our time and trying to help the most, are being targeted for assault and battery and still you are silent? This is not the time for silence. This isn’t about an intellectual property or some great and grand plan that you don’t want your competitors to know about. Your silence may do more to damage the future of this game and possibly Pirate101 than admitting there are issues to be dealt with. I truly believe you are as dismayed with the turn of events as we are, but it is time for you to get off the fence and do what needs to be done. Either address the problems in the game or remove your “kid friendly” advertising and request a change in the ESRB ratings of this game.

How you choose to address this will be one of the defining moments of this game, and I suspect will be for Pirate101 as well. I truly believe you will remain focused on the E10+ rating for this game. So how do you plan to address the current problems in it? You often have pronounced that ignorance of the Terms of Use is no excuse. There is also no excuse for your ignorance of what has been going on in the game. Why have there never been KI mods in the game monitoring for these types of problems? Most other MMORPG’s have them? Why not this? You didn’t expect that just because it’s a kid’s game it would all be rosy did you? You had to know your growth would accelerate problems as well, didn’t you? So what are you doing to address this? Yes, we understand that there are programming changes that you must make and that these take time. And yes, some of the details of such do not need to be released. But there are things that could be done short term to help mitigate some of the problems. In game moderators in problem areas at all times and roving about in others would help tremendously. These should be KI staff so that there is no question as to who is right or wrong and no issues of harassment. Permanent account and IP bans for repeat offenders should be given. And the $5 unmuting processing fee idea would impact many very quickly to get the word out. Many other ideas have been presented as well, but these three would help considerably in the short term.

So what will it be KI – E10+ or something else? Communication with your devoted player base has never been more important.