In Tokyo, a man has been arrested for stalking a woman using social media sites like LINE (a popular app in Japan) and Twitter—as well as the MMORPG Final Fantasy 14. As reported by Kobe News (and translated by Siliconera), the man reportedly sent over 22 messages via those apps trying to re-establish contact, while also threatening to tell her family about their past conversations.
In Final Fantasy 14, however, he was able to just follow her around. That’s down to an issue the MMO has had with its friends list system since its launch—if you blacklist someone, you’re not removed from their friends list.
This allows someone you’ve blocked to see when you’re online, as well as what zone you’re in. Bizarrely, they can also still leave messages in a message book—a player housing feature that lets visitors leave notes.
For some players, this is a huge problem. Even a quick temperature check on the game’s subreddit reveals—with posts like this one that got 6,000 upvotes a while back—a variety of complaints. Dig deep enough and you’ll find that frustration goes back years.
Harassment and stalking are still against the rules. It’s possible to notify the GMs with enough evidence. That is, however, putting a huge amount of work on a player who would, I’d imagine, just like to enjoy their game.
Until recently, that’s all been on purpose. In 2021, PCGamesN asked the game’s director, Naoki Yoshida (also known as Yoshi-P), whether they would consider redesigning the blacklist function.
“We’ve seen in other games that there are cases where [blocking someone] eventually develops into stalking because of the way that those friend lists are designed … we decided we would structure our friend list the way that it is—so that it’s more difficult for the other person to find out there’s a separation between them.”
Granted, this is absolutely a complex subject, and Yoshida isn’t just being blithe here. Some experts in the field do suggest that ignoring your stalker entirely can lead to an escalation, and that it’s better to get the authorities involved rather than ignoring them entirely and hoping they go away.
Still, one would think this is a choice that should be left to the player in question. It should also be noted that, in cases where the stalker is using alternative means (following a player around, emoting at them, leaving messages in their guest books) they’ve already figured out they’re being blocked. It’s basically just a matter of time.
There are also some understandable technical issues when it comes to stopping blacklisted players cropping up in matchmade parties, which can also happen. In an interview with MMORPG.com, Yoshida said: “Since players are unable to visibly see what’s going on in the matching processes, it may be hard to understand, but say we apply player blacklists to the matchmaking process—the matching speed will be significantly slowed if the player has many people on their blacklist. I would love to do something about it, but it would be appreciated if [players] could understand that this is a much larger undertaking than it may look at face value.”
There is hope for a change to some of the issues I’ve mentioned, though. In a Korean live letter earlier this year (translated by user Gestriden and their friend on the game’s subreddit) Yoshi P floated the idea of a revamped block function. “Yoshi-P wants to increase the Friend Limit, they are also working on an overhaul that allows people you delete to also remove you from their friend list.” Though I’ve not seen it discussed in the Q&A, it’s thankfully in the pipeline. Unfortunately for some players, that’s a change long overdue.
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