Problem Players

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What is a problem player?

Simply put, a problem player is one who breaks our rules.

We aren't a community heavy on rules, but we are heavy on enforcement of those rules. Why? Because the resulting community has the sort of people who behave in a way that improves the enjoyment of our membership.

We really only have one way of dealing with problem players, and that's banishment. What is banishment? It's removal from the system in any capacity forever.

This always causes consternation when applied. Nobody minds removal of players who cause serious havoc, such as breaking the G rating, but the permanent removal often seems overly harsh when it's for a minor infraction.

Well, we don't use it generally for a single minor infraction (though of course, we can). In fact, what usually happens is that someone breaks some rule and we tell them "You shouldn't do that; it's in the rules, see this reference."

We don't keep detailed lists of when people break minor rules and get warnings. Why not? Because we're not staffed and funded to perform the same documentary requirements that General Motors or the United States Postal Service has, because we don't have unions, because we're a free game site and because such is over-kill.

Eventually, someone who repeatedly breaks minor rules "percolates" into our attention. Thus, consistently causing rule breaches ends up resulting in removal -- in banishment.

We banish rarely because we have problem players rarely. There's no pleasure in banishing someone. It's not a power trip. It's always harmful to our community. From a simple perspective, it always drops the player and usage counts.

I do not post all the "gritty details" of when someone is banished. Doing so just causes records that follow them for life online. Instead, I refuse to talk about why someone is removed. That drives players crazy -- tough. If you're the one removed, at least you know that I'm not gossiping about you.

Without knowing the details of a banishment, it's very easy for people to think that the one bit they do know is the reason. It may be, but likely is not. However, that doesn't stop players upset that their friend was removed forever from thinking it was "excessive" or "inappropriate" or "overly severe" and confronting our management over the issue.

To which the only response possible is "I'm sorry, I can't talk about the details of the case."

People have proposed that we have some form of mediation, jury and trial, review, etc. We have attempted these things over the years. Once I had a non-staffer player who had the job of standing up to me when players were frightened of me, for instance. We even used to attempt record-keeping on problem players.

In the end, we ended up with gossip files and "classes of players" that were in the know of "dirty little secrets" and those who weren't. This was a disaster too.

In other MUs that tried having juries and such, popular players got away with things and unpopular players didn't. That I flat out refuse to countenance. Popularity has no bearing on our system here.

Now, because the process is, effectively, opaque instead of transparent it's very possible that there could be errors.

However, the MUCK has many advantages over reality. In particular, the MUCK has logs. System logs. So, we don't ever suffer from lack of evidence. If it happened, it's in the logs. We don't really need the whole "motive" thing that law enforcement needs. We just need to do know if something is or is not what was done.

That leaves us subject to errors of judgment. And, as painful as this is to many, that's just the way it works. It is a judgment call if we consider an offense serious enough to warrant banishment. It's a judgment call as to if there's been "enough" of a pattern of minor rules-breaches.

There is no way to defend a judgment call, so we don't attempt it. We always have the facts within the game and judgment is the responsibility that goes with the authority of running the game.

Those who find this type of dictatorial power unsettling are right. I wouldn't live in such a system in the real world. But, every time you step into a business, they have "the right to refuse service to anyone." One might attempt suit claiming they are breaking equal protection/equal opportunity laws, etc., but fundamentally, private businesses and companies have the right to "fire" customers.

This system is clearly run with a corporate mind-set (and via an incorporated non-profit). So, truly, this is not a country, it's a business that provides a sandbox in which to enjoy yourselves. Should you become one that the business thinks is harming the sandbox, you will be asked to leave. It's as simple as that.

Why forever, though?

Because it's easier to enforce and it solves the problem "By what means does someone known to cause problems demonstrate they are now reasonable?" There's no way to know. There's no answer. The only possible way is to say "Try and see." That wouldn't be so good in "serious" cases (nobody wants a pedophile who is removed to be given another chance) so it becomes another judgment call. By simply making it forever, that is eliminated.

Is it fair? I have no idea what "fair" means outside of the theory of probability. I don't work that way. It's consistent, it's published, it's known, and if one wishes to participate in the system, that's a consequence.

Given that of literally thousands of members over more than a decade of service we've banished less than 50 people the rate of incidence is low enough that being banished is something only those who are "pushing the rules" need fear. And those people should fear it. If they're going to change, they should do so. If not, there's no reason to expect the banishment will change them either, or a suspension.

This is a distasteful subject. Emotions are always high and there are always people hurt because friends are removed. But, the reality is that players do cross lines and do get removed. Now, in one place, this document serves as a better reference to the details.

This is how our system works.

Brian Jones

Otter, Chief Wizard, Redwall MUCK

See Also