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The Devil's Advocate: Botting is a Weird Word

Column By Victor Barreiro Jr. on July 05, 2013

While researching on botnets for an Internet security article for my day job, I came across this forum post on a topic related to gaming. Almost one year ago, someone wrote a personal guide to botting and the mindset one should adopt when considering using automation programs to augment one’s MMORPG gameplay.

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It was an eye-opening sort of thing to read, because I generally consider botting to be one of those things that most gamers agree is a horrible practice. At the same time, I still remember one of my earliest Devil’s Advocate pieces where I talked to the CEO of OffGamers. Real-money trading sites (that don’t ask how you got your gold) are still in business, so there must be some subset of MMO gamers who think this is an acceptable practice, not only in the buying of virtual currency, but in the automated generation of it.

Botting by the Books

For those of you who don’t know what botting is, it’s the practice of using a third-party program or some assemblage of commands or code to repeatedly automate gameplay actions. By “repeatedly,” we’re talking about the “running around a predetermined path killing things and looting them and selling the goods for gold for hours on end” sort of automated gameplay.

Obviously, game companies frown on that sort of thing. Sure you’re paying for an account to play the game, but you’re potentially destabilizing the game economy and generally giving the game a bad reputation, among other things. Most companies will likely not stand for that sort of shenanigans.

The Botting Mindset

In the post I found, which I won’t link to because it doesn’t look like a particularly safe website to visit (I screencapped the page and got the hell out of there), the poster wrote some things that I mentally held onto. I kept those basic ideas on hand because they reminded me of the full-loot PVP style of play in an MMO.

In that forum post, it is established that the botter’s mindset is about making significant gains over a long period of time for the least amount of effort and potential loss. By the poster’s calculations, buying gold from a third party repeatedly is less economical when compared to shelling out for a secondary account and the botting software, training yourself to use the bot, and then using the bot to augment your natural gaming income.

One of the other noticeable thoughts posted on the article is about being willing to risk acceptable losses for those significant gains. The author posits that the possibility of getting banned, whether it be in the near future or years later, is always there. Botters should engage in this risky behavior with the foreknowledge that they should invest in botting only what they can afford to lose.

An Unnerving Metagame

This mixture of calculated risk and negation of the fear of loss was oddly familiar, and when it dawned on me, I was taken aback. What I just read felt like the mindset of someone engaging in the metagame of full-loot-PVP MMORPG gameplay.

It was there in the contextualization of each step, from using the botting program only for personal enrichment, to engaging in duplicitous social behavior to maintain the facade of being there when a bot was using the account... hell, even the paranoia of dual-boxing just to trade gold across accounts... it was the mental and emotional metagame of Darkfall or EVE Online, translated into any game that allowed for botting. It was fascinating to reread the article from that viewpoint.

Obviously Different

I still don’t think botting is a good thing, even if you’re personally enriching yourself. For one thing, your botting money still gets thrown into the game economy when you use an auction house or money sink. Moreover, I  would really hate it if a bot started spell-slinging at a beast I’m trying to tame, killing it.

The mental exercise of forcing myself to read a viewpoint I actively dislike, and then seeing if it references any mindset I’ve ever adopted in my life, however, is a fun bit of mental calisthenics. From my point of view, the fact that someone engages in botting to be able to afford everything one could ever need in-game is a reminder.

It reminds me that people out there can share the world with me and have a completely different set of values from me even if we enjoy the exact same thing. I enjoy the journey of progression and the struggle to improve (though I may enjoy the free XP boost weekend on special holidays to make casual progression easier).

That said, if I find out the botter who kept me from taming Mazzranache back in Vanilla WoW in 2006... we will have words, that botter and I. Oh, will we have words.

Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains The Devil’s Advocate and ArcheAge columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can find more of his writings on Games and Geekery and on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.


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Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains the the Landmark/Everquest Next and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can also find him on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.

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