May 17, 2002

This column's title is dedicated to certain individuals at a certain competing site. No offense intended to those who currently work there, who I'm on nothing but good terms with (you all of course know who you are :).

Plagiarism is a serious issue. Just because we're on the internet doesn't mean we can just throw away all the rules and say it's okay to steal content from a "smalltime" site. Looking in the mirror and telling yourself, "no one important will find out" doesn't change the situation. Have some dignity and source properly. I've used Translingo enough to know that it's not exactly reliable for accuracy.

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Everyone Bad It Is Text Taking

It tends to happen again and again, whether it is in high school, university, or in business day by day. Why create your own work, if others have already done it to you? Why should little Jack spend days in his school's library searching for books and articles for his recent paper, if a nice fellow has already posted it on the internet? Copying it, changing some expressions, adding one or two sentences here and there and voila, Jack's paper is finished. Just too bad for our little Mr. Clever, that his teacher isn't as dumb as he was thought to be. Sadly, he also has internet access and some searching skills just to end up finding what? The exact same original article little Jack "borrowed" for his paper. On the day of the announcement of the results, to clever Jack's surprise, his mouth just won't shut anymore upon looking at his score. Instead of the A he was expecting, a big "F" is written on his paper. Below in bold letters he reads, "plagiarism."

While at school or university, there are teachers and lecturers keeping an eye at their students' papers, and in business, governmental agencies' patents enforce the protection of intellectual property, there is no authority to enforce such laws on the internet. The world wide web is a place of almost indefinite opportunities and heaven for thieves of intellectual property like little Jack. However, let us not be too harsh with the little boy, who probably has enough trouble spelling a word like plagiarism. Let us consider a fansite not run by little Jack and his fellows, but by young people in their early 20s. Young adults, who by all account have graduated from high school and should know the meaning of the word plagiarism.

Before we continue with our story, let's take a short break and talk about something entirely different. Japanese grammar. Yes, you have read correctly, Japanese grammar, or to be more precise, sentence structure. No need to worry, as I have no intention in turning this into a lecture, but rather just illustrating a tiny little detail. For the Japanese, it is the most usual thing on earth, but for a poor foreigner trying hard to learn the language comes one of the greatest obstacles: elliptic sentences lacking a subject (note: personal pronouns such as "I", "he" or "she" are sparely used in Japanese). For a Japanese listener or reader, the context is clear, so there is no need to mention the subject again, while the diligent foreign student will spend minutes in search of that particular subject, only to find it being mentioned three sentences above. There are lots of different possibilities to translate a sentence like "taitenshi mikaeru no sabaki wo ..." You might translate it a bit freely like "the verdict of Angel Mikael..." or "the archangel Michael's judgement..." Why a news editor from a site that has absolutely nothing to do with this one, except that it covers the same games, comes up with exactly the same translation as the original author is indeed a coincidence. But what if someone doesn't believe in coincidence and starts wondering why an article, that was written two days after the original article was posted on this site not only offers the same translation of this Japanese sentence, but also lots of other odd similarities? Applying a tiny little bit of reason to this case, he or she might indeed be tempted to think of little Jack.

Who or what is to blame for this scenario? Coincidence? The guy who coincidentally came up with the same translation as the original author? Or the author himself, because he was honest enough to mention his source and thereby giving anyone the chance to avoid sourcing him (and instead just use the original Japanese source, while "relying" on the translation work of RPGFan's news editors)? Lots of questions, but sadly there is no easy answer. Or is there? Little Jack would have received an F for this "coincidence" by his teacher, but on the internet, there is no such authority to prevent the theft of intellectual property. For the time being, a force inspired by incapability and laziness called plagiarism will continue to haunt RPGFan.

- Professor Gast

Before anyone cries foul, since I'm expecting some people to start babbling about professionalism: this is an editorials column, and you can speak your mind here. Editors not excluded. If you want to rant away here in a similar fashion, I'll be glad to post your article, so long as it's written of essay-length and isn't completely profanity-ridden. Profanity IS allowed though. Just mellow out before writing.

RPGamer has a large fanbase, probably larger than RPGFan admittedly, and currently has a much stronger fan section. I have no quarrel at all with a good number of the staffers there... I participate on an IRC network daily that is RUN by RPGamer staffers. However, so long as news articles are being plagiarized by certain individual(s), if the people in charge of RPGamer won't do anything about this problem after our having asked repeatedly to stop it, then some of us staffers here will resort to alternate, and arguably petty tactics. If you don't want to source RPGFan, fine. No bloody problem at all. But if we're not good enough to source, then stop stealing our site's translations and stick with your Translingo'd or Babelfish'd hack jobs. We're on to you. Continue denying it and pretending we don't exist, and we'll really up the ante with a nice, LONG comparison article complete with links to articles, and I'll gladly publish it for people to see, and then you can deal with more email from angry readers who already don't like you and are looking for another reason to hate RPGamer. Consider it a threat from yours truly. And I'm a man of my word.

Oh, and just think. All you have to do to avoid this problem... is to source news properly! WOW!
Respecting Opponents

Have any of you really given more than a passing glance at all the enemies, animals, monsters and bosses that you slaughter in your RPGs? I mean sure, there's always been discussion on the big guys, but what about everyone else? Ok, so the point may seem simplistic, but then again, sometimes the most simple points are the most interesting.

We've always focused on the heroes, on what they did, the trials they went through, the suffering they incured to finally get to the end of the game, and of course triumph. But here lies something many of you probably never really thought about, because quite simply, why should all those causing mayhem, destruction and death that we all love to hate gain any one bit of our respect? They killed our Aeris/th, they killed General Leo, they wiped out cities with their meer will, they marched in with their armies and razed towns to the ground...

I sat around thinking about it... then I realised one thing. We'd all like to think that we could all live through our lives with no one opposing us, no one trying to inflict pain, no one trying to extract their cruel pleasures out of other people. But then again... if we could just grab a magical hourglass and make everything all pretty and happy like it never happened, would we be better off? I'd imagine the characters at times would regret their actions and would love to see something of the sort as well.

But then, here's the question. Would they be who they are without the numerous opponents in front of them? Would Terra have been the heroine she was if Kefka and Gestal didn't have ambitions to take over the world? Would Squall have learned to love if there was no need for SeeDs? Would Maxim be no more than a casual monster hunter if the ball of light never went screaming through the sky? Would the cast of Sakura Taisen ever even met up and be what they were if the attacks were halted mysteriously from some outside influence?

To a degree, it is this conflict which makes them what they are to us. Without them going through so much pain, we honestly couldn't give a damn about them apart from face value or maybe some interest if they had any sort of personality, you know, how cute that girl with the miniskirt and tight top there is and that really adorable fluffy thing no one can really identify. If we didn't see them go out, adventure out there in one form or another, rough it up with a few inhabitants, see them jump with joy or cry, we'd just toss them off like we do with most of the residents in a particular location.

Maybe at the end of the day, one should keep in mind that to a degree, it's their opponents that make them who they are. True, one would say that it is more the fact of how these characters react to their challenges, but the fact is still true. Without Kefka gaining ungodly powers, would Celes gone out to get everyone else in such a hurry knowing that the world had finally settled and there was no further danger? Serge would have happily gotten himself a girlfriend and would be a fairly simple boy if he never got sucked in that wormhole.

The basic concept of many RPGs, console, PC and pen and paper, is simply the fact that your opponents will make you stronger. The heroes or characters may never like them, but to some small degree for the significant fights, it wouldn't be too much to say that they hold just a little respect for them. Not much, but enough to know they're not kidding about the fight.

Maybe that little bit of respect for your opponents would be what seperates the heroes from the villians. Maybe the fact that the average bad guy doesn't hold one bit of respect for the people who could or will go up against them. Maybe that is their downfall, since they fail to realise how important opponents are for them, and eventually they fail to see that until it is too late because of their lack of respect for how strong that 'weaking' once was.

Intentional or accidental, we may never know. It may be an accident, or may be deliberate, but regardless, it is an interesting point. Maybe we should learn to respect your competitors, even just enough to realise that they go through their challenges too.

- Mistress Nightshadow

I don't have much to contribute, since I hold no disagreement with any of the above. Controversy and disagreement is what makes us grow. If everyone merely agreed with each other all the time, we'd never advance as a society.

Can't experience pleasure without experiencing pain. The yin and the yang, and all that other good stuff.


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