Treacherous Play

From Playful Thinking

Treacherous Play

By Marcus Carter

The ethics and experience of “treacherous play”: an exploration of three games that allow deception and betrayal—EVE Online, DayZ, and Survivor.





The ethics and experience of “treacherous play”: an exploration of three games that allow deception and betrayal—EVE Online, DayZ, and Survivor.

Deception and betrayal in gameplay are generally considered off-limits, designed out of most multiplayer games. There are a few games, however, in which deception and betrayal are allowed, and even encouraged. In Treacherous Play, Marcus Carter explores the ethics and experience of playing such games, offering detailed explorations of three games in which this kind of “dark play” is both lawful and advantageous: EVE Online, DayZ, and the television series Survivor. Examining aspects of games that are often hidden, ignored, or designed away, Carter shows the appeal of playing treacherously.

Carter looks at EVE Online's notorious scammers and spies, drawing on his own extensive studies of them, and describes how treacherous play makes EVE successful. Making a distinction between treacherous play and griefing or trolling, he examines the experiences of DayZ players to show how negative experiences can be positive in games, and a core part of their appeal. And he explains how in Survivor's tribal council votes, a player's acts of betrayal can exact a cost. Then, considering these games in terms of their design, he discusses how to design for treacherous play.

Carter's account challenges the common assumptions that treacherous play is unethical, antisocial, and engaged in by bad people. He doesn't claim that more games should feature treachery, but that examining this kind of play sheds new light on what play can be.

Pre-Order Hardcover

$25.00 X ISBN: 9780262046312 152 pp. | 5.25 in x 8 in 5 b&w photos


  • “A fascinating study in nontraditional game design. Marcus Carter's Treacherous Play includes some of the best writing about EVE Online yet published, investigating the inherent darkness of its design and the effect on its community.”

    Andrew Groen

    author of Empires of EVE: A History of the Great Wars of EVE Online

  • “As the importance of our virtual presence grows in our increasingly online world, Treacherous Play sheds light on why good people do bad things online.”

    Keith Harrison

    formerly known as Endie; contributor to Internet Spaceships Are Serious Business: An EVE Online Reader

  • “To succinctly summarize what made DayZ a phenomenon is difficult, but Marcus Carter's description of human nature and interaction captures the premise brilliantly.”

    Dean Hall

    creator of DayZ