Have you been bad? Very bad? Maybe you need a time-out. In Final Fantasy XIV, if you have been very bad, your time-out will come complete with a chastising parent figure and a very literal jail. On the MMORPG, players who spam, boast dirty usernames or otherwise violate the gameâ€™s user agreement are sent to what players are calling â€œGM jail.â€
Inyo Ass, a tiny Lalafell fighter, was standing around in the Vesper Bay zone when he saw a Game Master. â€œDamn, I saw a GM,â€ he said to his Free Company chat before, suddenly, he was extracted from the zone. Then, he found himself somewhere heâ€™d never been before. It was a prison. Gray cinderblocks made up the floor, and the walls were dark, lit by small torches. Standing before him was an imposing figure, obscured by a fiery purple mist.
â€œHello I am GM Shepenhow,â€ the figure said. â€œI am sorry to pull you away from the game but I need to speak with you for just a moment.â€
â€œOk,â€ Inyo Ass responded. He found that he couldnâ€™t speak to his Linkshell, his Free Company or his friends.
â€œIâ€™m sorry to say that your characterâ€™s name has been found in violation of our Terms of Service.â€
â€œO,â€ Inyo Ass responded. â€œI thought that if I could make it would be ok.â€ It wasnâ€™t. Inyo Ass was told to change his username and that, if he violated the terms of service again, it would result in harsher action against his account.
Videos recording FFXIV playersâ€™ stints in so-called â€œGM jail,â€ located in the Coral Tower in Limsa Lominsa, are pretty funny. Sometimes, players run around, irreverently spamming emotes. Often, the mood is somber. Warnings can be simple, like â€œChange your username,â€ or complicated, like â€œYou have been brought here for Greeding on a Dreadwyrm Grimoire after you had agreed to only Greed on a Dreadwyrm Robe of Healing and a Dreadwyrm Longbow.â€ Players who have not been Very Bad cannot access the zone.
Hyperion995, an Au Ra warrior, was sent to â€œGM jailâ€ while he was away from his computer. When he logged in, he was in a â€œbland but very scary old brick room in which the only interface elements are the chat and the Support Desk menu.â€ He waited an hour, wondering what he did wrong. They sorted it out, but Hyperion995 remained unsure whether getting tossed in jail was the right course of action:
â€œI donâ€™t see how the GM jail is any better than simply using the private message feature to explain evidence and the consequences of reports against players,â€ he told me. â€œI believe in effective method of using the GM jail is using it as a ban system.â€
A Square Enix representative told me that the jails are intended for GMs to correct improper user behavior â€œwithout disrupting the gameplay of others.â€ She added that, â€œAfter discussion, the GM will arrange for the appropriate corrective measures, including name changes, item confiscation, item creation, or account actions.â€ GMs, she said, are trained to treat players respectfully.
The MMORPG Final Fantasy XI had a jail, too, called Mordion Gaol. Once, years ago, when player RagingPuck was competing for mobs with another party, he got so angry that he â€œtrained a line of monsters and sacrificed myself so all the monsters would attack the other party after I died.â€ He was, he explains, a teenager at the time. After the ensuing argument, he logged off. The next day, when he logged back in, he found himself in jail.
â€œYou canâ€™t leave unless the GM releases you,â€ he explained. RagingPuck was upset. When a GM finally arrived, he was told his â€œsentenceâ€ was 48-72 hours. Later, it was shortened to just a few minutes because of good behavior.
Like Super Smash Bros. 4's â€œSmash Hell,â€ Final Fantasy MMORPGsâ€™ jails are an innovative way to sequester and discipline players. But at least in FFXIV, itâ€™s personalâ€”and the reasoning behind your punishment is made clear.