“EVE Online sits on the frontier of social gaming, providing an entertainment environment like no other. The vibrant society of interacting and conflicting communities, both within the EVE client and without, is the driving force behind EVE's success. However, the anonymity of Internet culture combined with a competitive gaming environment encourages in-game behaviour to spread beyond the confines of the sandbox. Where is the line?”
— Blog Banter 37
One of the problems with drawing lines in the sand is that such lines only provide another arena for some people to play a new game. When you draw a line and say, “this far, no further,” these people are going to stick their toe over the line and see what consequences will arise. How far can they push the boundaries before invoking some consequence from a “higher authority”? For boundary-pushers there is no “cheating”: if the rules of the game don't expressly forbid some behaviour, obviously that behaviour is allowed. Thus they will engage in verbal and physical harassment during social chess matches, goading their opponent into making a brash move quickly. For these people, name-calling and telling people to kill themselves is just part of the game. “The line in the sand” is clearly at that point where you get in trouble from the government of your realm, and that's the only line that counts. These people are sometimes misconstrued as “sociopaths” when they are merely “ultra competitive.”
Aside from boundary-pushers there are people who play EVE Online as a casual pursuit. They're not particularly interested in alarm-clock ops where they wake up at 4am to join a caravan that may or may not do something interesting during the four- to five-hour operation (and many people would suggest that arriving at work late and sleep-deprived means you're taking your game far too seriously). For these people (let's call them “polite gamers” to contrast them with “boundary pushers”), the purpose of a game is to share an activity with other people. If there are competitive elements in the game, the competition is between the skills of each player with respect to the objectives of the game: thus a game of chess between polite gamers would more likely involve fireside chats and social drinks rather than name calling and goading. The polite gamer who feels they are not winning might actually compliment their competition on a game well played.
At what point does aggressive behaviour or board-flipping cease to be “part of the game” and become “a manace to society” or a threat to the wellbeing of others? There are very obvious limits involved where game-induced behaviour turns into crime: stalking, harassment, theft, robbery or assault and battery to name a few. The boundary-pushers will insist that these are the only boundaries that count: “it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye.” The polite gamer will suggest that the boundary exists in that nebulous area where the game ceases to fill some criteria of fun, entertainment, challenge or compelling play. Thus to a polite gamer, there is no “line in the sand” to be drawn: there is simply, “you have done something which makes me not want to play with you at this time.”
CCP has, however, drawn a line in the sand of their own. Even though CCP had to be pushed by a wave of negative publicity to do so, they wrist-slapped Alex Gianturco with a 30 day ban for his drunken, boastful suggestion that other players should harass a particular player into committing suicide. So at least we know that there is a line in the sand where goading turns into public, Internet-broadcasted incitements to harass others. The polite gamers will be thinking, “that was shameful behaviour, I'm glad I don't have to interact with that uncouth churl,” while the boundary-pushers will be thinking to themselves, “would it have been okay if he wasn't caught on camera?”.
My opinion is that polite gamers and boundary-pushers can coexist in EVE Online, at least up to the point where polite gamers can no longer escape boundary-pushers by changing corporations, moving to a different star system, or logging out of the game. The polite gamers are quite happy to make decisions for themselves (because they have brains) while the boundary-pushers are quite happy to make decisions for others (because they have no compassion). In the middle will be the squeaky wheels of people who aren't bullies themselves, can't make decisions about their own fate, and may have been given some horrible advice (such as “talk to them”) on how to handle bullies, complaining that CCP accommodates and encourages antisocial behaviour.
Antisocial behaviour is pretty much par for the course in a player-versus-player combat oriented game. To suggest that a virtual world modelled as a dystopian future filled with intrigue and betrayal should somehow cater to people whose idea of “antisocial” is “uses rude words in public,” is heresy. Most of us learned how to deal with bullies or other unpleasant people at school: there is the Invisible Man's approach of ignoring them and staying out of their way, or Ender's solution of inflicting such violence upon them that they cannot strike back. These are viable strategies in EVE Online. Getting mouthy and complaining to “higher authority” are not viable strategies for dealing with unpleasant people in EVE Online.
If you feel that there should be some agreed “line in the sand” in terms of the entire gamut of acceptable behaviour, with meaningful consequences from some “higher authority” for stepping over that line, CCP has some words for you: Harden The Fuck Up.