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Pirates are well known for their aversion to meeting new people. Stranger danger killed more Caribbean sailors than sharks, and players in Microsoft’s new piracy simulator Sea of Thieves are dealing with that threat by putting their crewmates in the brig for no good reason.

In Sea of Thieves, you can matchmake to join a crew of up to three other people to form a random band of jolly ol’ scurvy curs. This is great if your friends aren’t online, but it also means you have to deal with the intricacies of human interaction on the internet. For a lot of people trying to go into a 4-person crew as a solo player, this means you could end up spending significant time locked up for the crime of taking up a slot that a 3-player team is trying to save for a friend.

Developer Rare has designed Sea of Thieves so everyone has to work together to ensure the ship is running smoothly. To encourage people to stay on task, the studio included the brig system, where players can vote to put people into a cell on the bottom deck of their galleon. You can’t break out of the cell, and there is no limit on how long you can spend in it before you are automatically freed. Or at least, the 80 minutes I spent in a brig was not a limit for my first time in the game earlier this week.


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And I was not the only one who spent some time locked up on the high seas.

This might seem like a problem, but I hope Rare doesn’t remove the brig system. It isn’t that much of a problem. You can always just exit the game and matchmake in with another crew of randoms. I also think it is a clear indication that you don’t want to play with those people anyway. Finally, I kinda prefer it over kicking players. Put them in the brig and make them want to quit on their own.

That’s something I actually took advantage of. Sea of Thieves is in a closed beta, and partying up with friends wasn’t working well. We were able to get three in, but our fourth couldn’t get in before a random got paired with us. But after a couple of minutes in a watery jail to think about their life, our unwanted pirate quit and left an open slot to get our crewmate onto our ship.

It’s silly, but in a game that is so much about teamwork and online interactions, I like the psychological ramifications of the brig. I also want to see how we end up using it to punish friends to see if we can break them of bad habits.

Pirates are very big into negative reinforcement and the correctional system.

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