Region Blocking: Is It Censorship?

As some of you may remember, I wrote an article not too long ago regarding the graphically-pleasing MMO, TERA: Rising.  While my opinions on the game remain the same, I would like to acknowledge a singular disappointing feature that has been haunting me for the past couple of weeks.  En Masse, a subsidiary of Bluehole Studios, has been region blocking certain areas, stopping them from being able to access and play the North American version of TERA.

Is this censorship?  The game is Free-To-Play, and yet not FREE to play.  Least not for specific foreign countries.  My move to Bahrain has brought with it sad tidings in the form of IP region blocking.  En Masse has stated on their website that those regions in Africa, Asia and the Middle East have been denied access to their North American servers because of the inordinate amount of illegal activity that occurs in these countries, such as gold-farming and hacking.  Is North America exempt from this kind of behavior?  And if so, are software security protocols so obsolete these days that entire continents must be blocked for fear of virtual warfare?

It is true that those countries currently banned from the North American version of TERA do have their own versions of the game – South Korea is, after all, home to the creators of the MMO – but what does this mean for Americans who enjoy the game, but have moved to these region blocked countries due to work or family obligations?  Are they now forced to choose a non-English speaking version of TERA as a substitute for their home server?  And what about their friends back in the States, whom they are now no longer able to play with because of such restrictions?

While the dispute on region blocking rages on across the Web, with many taking up metaphorical arms on both sides of the debate, where does this eventually leave us?  Rumors persist that Bluehole Studios may eventually change these regulations in the future, but until then, many of us are left wondering, “Why?”.  One such solution to this matter is a VPN (Virtual Private Network) that allows one to disguise their IP address as coming from a completely different country, but many such networks either cost a great deal of money in subscription fees, or are not entirely trustworthy to begin with.

In the end, though, it comes down to many players being forced to leave a game that they love, with little hope of returning to their beloved characters and party mates.  Censorship?  Discrimination?  You decide.

Leave a comment below and share your thoughts on the topic of region bans.