Adam denies botting and says that his performance was adversely affected for a period in November by a change in his medication. Prior to that his level of play was normal, he said, but the medication change caused his play to be so poor that it was noticed by other players who reported him for potential botting. Wargaming’s Automated Anti Bot System then monitored his performance and determined that he must have been using software to play for him, in violation of their rules, which resulted in a permanent ban, with no chance for appeal. Indeed, his repeated attempts to explain his situation were met with the same message: our decision is final.
In an effort to resolve his situation, Adam opened a thread on the World of Tanks forum and explained his condition, sharing his disability with the community. He said the topic quickly became “hot” and that, while some people were supportive of him playing the game, roughly half of people responding were not and that he soon regretted that he had revealed his health situation.
I contacted Wargaming to ask about their policies and procedures for suspending or banning players. A spokesman declined to comment, instead pointing me to the WOT End User License Agreement (EULA) and Terms of Service (TOS), which lay out different levels of punishment for various offenses. The TOS do say that “severe acts” (which presumably includes botting) can lead an immediate account closure without warning, as happened to Adam. Nowhere in the EULA or TOS is an appeals process mentioned.
Wondering if this “no appeals” stance was normal for MMO games, I asked Amber Skinner, the community manager for The Secret World, a survival horror MMO game developed by Funcom, about their policies. She told me that they also consider botting to be a major violation, which can lead to permanent banning. Funcom, like Wargaming, uses an automated process to identify, and punish, users who are botting. But, unlike Wargaming, Funcom does allow users to appeal punishments. “A player can contact us... and appeal the suspension, “ she said. Which is good because, as Skinner told me, “There are the occasional false positives,” that happen with the automated system.
It’s easy to understand why botting would be a serious violation in such a game. It’s also easy to understand why automated systems are needed to identify rule violators in games where millions of people are playing. However, the “no appeals” stance seems unnecessarily harsh and unreasonable. Why not allow people faced with permanent banning - especially people that paid money - to at least argue their case? Some may actually have a valid case, like Adam.