Policy Rework: Player Complaints & Bans
I'm also fully aware that I stand a high chance of being lynched for this, but it really needs to be said. I honestly don't care - I can't be the only one who feels this way - If I am, that would be a real shame indeed for the gaming community.
- #1 - Preferential Sourcing / Bias: As it currently stands, a player with a better reputation or popularity index can inherently be considered as a more credible source of information regardless of the accuracy of that information, which in the absence of logs hinges only upon said player's aforementioned perceived credibility. Unless you want to promote an insular, divisive culture, hard evidence coupled with impartiality of judgement are tantamount; regardless of personal feelings on behalf of the Moderators. Without those things, you have the sort of situation that exists now - whereby interactions with better-known players are a worrying prospect due to the looming threat (imagined or otherwise, it makes no difference) of being branded for 'Harassment', purely because you happen to like the same playby or because you happen to play an ICly abrasive character.
- #2 - [Lack of] Transparency: Complaints regarding players, presented by other players, are handled in a (perhaps unintentionally) 'secretive' manner with no indication of what evidence has actually been presented to lead to the final ruling, and why that information is relevant to the matter at hand. This is because most complaints are handled in private messages - a task made a great deal easier when one knows the GM in question rather well. By extension to this issue, the very act of handling complaints in this way is inefficient at best, where one has to personally message all parties involved - waiting for them to be online, or otherwise 'un-busy' enough to give you, the Moderator, the answers that you want.
- #3 - Deliberation: Sometimes, issues will end up stewing over for several days with staff all 'agreeing' that something should definitely be done, but nobody actually mobilizing to resolve it (I know this from past conversations with Moderators regarding unsolved matters) - whether this is due to being busy or otherwise, it's not really a good thing for anybody? Or perhaps this is due to difficulty tracking the workload of each GM, or because a collective decision is required? Even so - being that all Moderators are held to the same standard, does a decision really need to be unanimous for the majority of cases?
- #4 - Outright Dismissal: Occasionally, whether the accused (or indeed, the accuser) will be heard or not can purely be down to a roll of the dice - a roll influenced in part - but not entirely by the specific person contacting the GM. From first hand experience I know that the GMs do discuss matters with the person in question and allow them to defend themselves and present their side of the story, but I have evidence to suggest that there are some players this does not apply to at all. Moderators do state that they will seek to remain unbiased to the best of their ability - and I'm sure this is largely the case. However, if that is true, you still need to appreciate the fact that being ignored frequently or not consulted on issues that pertain to yourself, comes across very badly, regardless of the truth. Seeming is being, which lends itself to my point regarding transparency.
If you're a player, whether this post is really relevant to you depends entirely on your perspective - I will be honest here, this stuff probably doesn't matter to you, because you follow the rules and try to get along with everyone, yeah? Well, you'd be right in that - until the point where you're not, and you are suddenly the butt of an accusation which you feel is unjust or untrue. Your friends all abandon you, because they think you're X or Y - and because being seen to support you would look very bad for them. Nobody ever believes this will happen until it does. And when you find yourself in a situation like mine, and those others who this thread is relevant to, would you prefer things to be done differently to ensure you get a fair deal?
- #1 - Player Complaints Sub-Forum: In order to promote a healthy, transparent environment where all players of the server can clearly see recorded incidents (barring those of a more 'personal' nature), readily access the cases to present relevant evidence of their own. A GM can select the case, post that they are handling it - all the evidence is already provided for them, anything else that they deem necessary is at their discretion. The accused can either respond to that thread or be interviewed privately. Idyllically a Moderator need only take action based on what lies before them (unless it's not enough). I suggest a sub-forum like this one, which should speak for itself. Let there never be any confusion as to why a person is being punished. 'You know what you did', while there is a chance that you may be correct, is not a satisfactory answer particularly when a person, and those close to the case in question, remain puzzled with the outcome.
- #2 - (Habeus Corpus!) Accusation > Evidence > Witnesses > Action: Equally, I understand that all cases cannot necessarily be dealt with publicly - either due to a personal, embarrassing interaction or because an issue in progress requires a more immediate resolution. For this, we still have Discord and GM Help, as ever. With that said... It should be standard policy in such a situation for evidence to still be presented, including logs, statements of any witnesses, and a statement from the accused player giving them a chance to present THEIR own logs. If this is already standard policy, it is NOT being enforced - or if it is, then it is done so selectively and dismissed when convenient. It is also never enough to provide a one-word explanation as to why a person is being punished, unless of course you are exceptionally lazy and are treating that person dismissively - in which case you absolutely should not be a member of a team that (supposedly) enforces server rules FAIRLY and WITHOUT BIAS.
- #3 - Rehabilitation vs Punishment: Why do people become Moderators? There are many theories behind this, but only one correct answer (for those that deserve to hold the title) - because they want to promote a healthy environment where all players can enjoy the game without interference, or negative behaviors of others. Healthy is the operative segment here, and when players do step over the line, the intention should be to correct their behavior, advise them on how they can change, administer a fitting punishment and hope for the best. This means believing in the capability of other players, to change. This means dealing with every situation on an individual, objective basis, where previous transgressions cannot be used against the accused. By all means, a person's punishment can, and SHOULD increase with severity if it is a repeat offence, but treating a person like a criminal, because of their past mistakes, is a self-contained spiral from which a player with a sordid history cannot escape REGARDLESS of whether they are trying to change or not, BECAUSE the accusations and rulings of others acting on bias alone CONSISTENTLY label them as the villain, ADDING to the list of transgressions that may or may not even be true to begin with.
- #4 - By default, administrators are under no obligation to explain anything to you: This is wrong. On every conceivable level. This needs to be removed - the GM team absolutely must be able to provide clear evidence that the decisions they have come to are fair and just, because an unwillingness to explain a situation that is neither embarrassing nor a great deal of effort to do, could very well be considered an admittance of guilt in and of itself. I'm not talking about providing a reply the size of this deplorable post of mine, I'm talking about literally telling a person what they have done wrong, and how you know they've done that.
Bear in mind, as an aside, that far larger roleplaying communities such as World of Warcraft and Star Wars - The Old Republic, flourish (yes, flourish) with very minimal GM support, if any. Of course, we do need our GMs because they work very hard to produce events for us, but I'm talking about player moderation here - a role which involves unpaid, unpleasant work.
I'm not saying 'leave, we don't care', because that isn't true. What I'm saying is that right now, a very just argument can be made that Moderators are doing far too much additional work which would frankly be unnecessary if players could simply put on their adult trousers and resolve disputes by ignoring one another, finding a compromise or even something as simple as rolling a dice. If we're going to have a moderated community, it needs to be done right - not this childish game of Chinese Whispers we currently see, played in the shadows by individuals who are arguably just as bad, if not worse in some ways, than those they report to GMs.
To re-iterate, the system currently in place is NOT one that promotes a healthy community - something which, I have it on good faith from one of the GM team, we are aiming for. Even just one or two of the changes I've proposed may improve interpersonal relations and lend a degree of transparency to disputes between players which in turn will in itself act as a shield against questionable behavior - something that players inherently know will be publicized in a TRUTHFUL manner.