It appears that a Bioware fan has been temporarily halted from playing his copy of Dragon Age II after copping a forum suspension. Which is weird since, you know, Dragon Age II is a singleplayer game.
According to a post on the Bioware forums, user v_ware had his account suspended for a period of 72 hours for allegedly saying "Have you sold your souls to the EA devil?". Whether that's actually what he said, or that's all he said, we're not here to judge. We're not forum referees, and what caused the ban is beside the point.
What does interest us, though, is that because v_ware's forum account is linked to his EA Store account, the ban not only stopped him from downloading content for his new game, it apparently prevented him from installing and then playing his new copy of Dragon Age II at all.
BioWare community rep Stanley Woo wrote in response to v_ware's complaint:
1. BioWare community bans are forum-only and can be for as little as 24 hours. These bans should have no effect on your game, only your ability to use all the features of this website/community. these bans are handed out by BioWare Moderators as the result of our travels around the forum and/or issues reported by fellow community members.
2. EA Community bans come down from a different department and are the result of someone hitting the REPORT POST button. These bans can affect access to your game and/or DLC.
Because the BioWare community now operates under the same umbrella as all EA Communities, community members here have all explicitly agreed to abide by and be governed by both sets of rules. Consider it an added incentive to follow the rules you say you're going to follow.
Sure, the ban is a temporary one. It's not like he can't ever play the game. But since when did it become acceptable to stop a person playing a singleplayer game for their conduct in a forum?
A similar issue popped up back in 2008, but then, we were explicitly told by Electronic Arts that "Players who have been banned from EA Forums are not automatically banned from online access to their other EA games".
Woo's comments (and v_ware's complaint) that "these bans can affect access to your game and/or DLC" seem to contradict EA's earlier assertions.
Granted, this is a unique situation. v_ware is being prevented from installing his game because he bought it from EA's own store, meaning it requires account authentication; had the game already been installed, then he'd be able to play it and there'd be no issue. So it's not like this is going to happen to people on a regular basis.
The fact it can happen at all though raises questions over the level of control a publisher has over a gamer's "property". Had the player been suspended from an online game for his conduct in said game, then that would be seen by most as acceptable. It's a relevant punishment.
But restricting access to a singleplayer, offline game, even in an incidental situation like this, is a problem. EA's consolidation of online accounts can be a good thing in some cases (I appreciate the convenience of EA Sports games knowing who I am because of my gamertag), but in cases like this, it's also a cause for concern.
Not to mention serving as an example, if ever one was needed, that in 2011 a video game is never truly and 100% your property.
We've contacted EA and BioWare for clarification on the policies regarding forum bans and game access, and will update if we hear back.