I think we should be talking more about how we treat each other and what's going on in the community

TetchtaTetchta Member Posts: 792 ✭✭✭✭
edited July 9 in Harpy's Head Tavern
This is kind of a weird post, and I’m going to do my best to be concise, but I will probably fail, so bear with me.

When I first came back to the game, Aetolia seemed a lot less toxic than I remembered. This was, of course, an initial impression fueled by limerence and pretty stark memories of how openly horrible people used to be to each other. And in many ways, this impression was decently correct. The entire IRC Mafia era seems to have ended, as has a lot of open hostility.

But it’s an incomplete impression, and after having been in the community now for, off and on (it’s not me, it’s you) about a year and a half now, I think I’ve, after many bumps and bruises through the way, finally gotten a bit of a grasp on the current state of the community, it’s issues, its toxicity, and how we should possibly be addressing it.

Before I go on, though, let me ask you if this sounds familiar:

Someone, apropos of nothing, posts something. Something vague. Maybe it’s an entire thread titled something vague like The Reality of it all… which contains several paragraphs, or maybe it’s just a simple post in Mildly Irritating comprised of just a few lines; in either case, the contents of the post are entirely vague, borderline nonsense if you don’t know the full context. And you think to yourself “what on earth is this about? Is this about me? Is this about anything at all? Someone I know? An org I know? WTF is reality?”

Sometimes there’s clarifications of some kind. More often than not, however, the context is lost to the wind for all time. This can be particularly alarming if the original post seemed to be about something quite harrowing or severe. “Is someone being abusive? Is there something I should be worried about?” you ask yourself. Maybe you reach out to people you know who may know more. Maybe you learn something. Maybe you just get static. Or maybe someone posts screenshots clarifying the context, or references a log that has become ubiquitous. Or maybe you just float on into the ether forever ignorant.


Why am I bringing up these scenarios? Because I think they’re probably something we’ve all experienced in one way or another. They should be relatable. And they’re important to look at more closely because of what all of these things are: echoes. Echoes of an event, of an action, of something someone said, of hurt or distress caused. And, generally, I’d say that 9/10, maybe even 19/20 times, this is all we ever see: an echo. An echo of something that happened in the dark that stays in the dark.

Well, I’m here to take the stance of “maybe we should stop letting things that happen stay in the dark as a community.”

Aetolia is a small group of people, all said and done. True secrets are incredibly rare, and things spread like wildfire. I think it’s safe to say that, while the above situation I laid out remains true on the forums, that 19/20 things remain in the dark, this doesn’t mean that they remain secret. Aetolia has a surprisingly diverse and interconnected web of whisper networks and, generally, not much goes on that you don’t hear about, if it’s big enough. And in a lot of situations, whisper networks can be very effective; but there’s one thing that they’re very, very, very bad at: encouraging personal accountability.

If I do something to you, like, say, metagame with others to get you punished ICly by planning the entire thing OOC, or say something exceptionally nasty about you in a web while you’re not online (or just aren’t a member of that web), and it gets back to you, and understandably upsets you greatly--well, that sucks. So what’re you going to do about it? Make a vague post that’s like “I hate when people conspire OOCly to ruin my time online :(“? You could. But what does that do to me, even if I know it’s about me? I’d argue nothing. I read it, have a good chuckle, go to my confederates and say “haha, look at this post hahaha” and move on to keep doing what it was that I was doing, consequence-free, reputation intact. Even if a bunch of other players also know I did it, it largely doesn’t matter because I wasn’t forced to address these things publicly, so there’s always going to be a niggling doubt.

Or think of it the other way around:

You think I did something like the above scenario to you, make the post, tell your friends, and everyone you talk to knows it’s about me, except for me. Then my reputation ends up tarnished without me being able to really do anything about it.

Ultimately, this pattern helps nobody.

There’s lots of reasons the community model is the way it is. Rocking the boat is uncomfortable. The facade of tranquility helps ease that discomfort for a lot of us. It’s also, generally, against the rules to talk about these sorts of things publicly; generally, the onus is on the bad faith actor, or someone who did a crap thing, to come forward and say “hey guys, I did a bad.” How often does that really happen? And, the thing is, these facades of tranquility don’t come without a cost: they allow bad behaviors to continue unchallenged, and what’s worse, they sacrifice the victims at the altar of peacekeeping.

There’s also an entrenched attitude among some people that exposing these sorts of things, even into the whisper networks, is itself somehow worse than the behavior being exposed. I’ve spent a long time trying to dissect why this is, and I have a few theories, some charitable, some less so:
  • It can be panic-inducing to be exposed when you weren’t planning on it, regardless of whether the reasons for it are valid or not. That’s it. As someone who was exposed to the entire game for my marriage pranks (still sorry for that, by the way!), even though I deserved it, it certainly raised my heart rate more than a little.
  • The classic “It’s out of context.” This is, I think, an invalid concern disguised as rational. Can things be taken out of context in a way that makes you look unfairly bad? Absolutely. But I’d say it’s far more common for someone to claim something that paints them in an unfavorable light was “taken out of context” when it was, in fact, the full context.
  • It’s a violation of trust/the sanctity of the space. This one is a bit more complicated, and at times can be completely fair. There’s lots of people I DM from the game on the regular who, if I wanted, could make look like terrible jackasses just from taking things out of context (the above), but even then, like, when you’re friends with someone, you can both say things that occasionally have bad optics; sometimes it's temporary, you clarify later. Or maybe you were just venting. Or maybe the two of you have a mutual understanding and shared language that allows you to be imprecise while still having total clarity of understanding.

    There’s a few problems with spreading the ”it’s a violation of the sanctity of the space” idea too far, however. For one, some people think spaces that clearly aren’t sanctums are safe places. A communal web where you just go “'clan raiders tell web” to get in is hardly a secret society with its own secret knock, governed by Omertà. For another, a lot of people confuse “ranting” with “just saying whatever terrible thing I want and also making actionable plans to do something to someone else.” A rant is “Lin is such a bloody butthole I want to staple his tongue to a piece of marmite toast.” “I’m going to find Lin in game, farm PK cause, chase him around for no reason, and otherwise grief him because he did a Roleplay I Don’t Like” isn’t a rant, it’s a vendetta.
  • “It’s only done to cause drama.” I have a less charitable read of this, because what these sorts of things do is, instead of “just causing drama” (what even is that?), it’s causing conflict. Or, rather, it’s bringing to the forefront painful and regrettable things, things that we likely have to confront one way or the other. We have to confront our own actions and defend them (or, even more rarely, apologize!), or the ostensible victims have to face the possibility of their assumptions being contradicted. I think calling it “drama” minimizes some of these issues too much, and only serves to attempt to reframe crappy things we’ve done as less-severe than they actually are. I can’t think of many instances of this sort of conflict being ultimately bad, in spite of the short term discomfort that it’s caused involved parties and onlookers. What’s more, I’d argue that, once you say something crappy about someone else in a public or semi-public space, you’ve already relinquished your control of how far the message goes. You made the decision to type something, think about it, and hit enter. After that, it’s no longer yours. Conflit of this regard, at least I think, would serve only to make us think a little more carefully about what we say and why we say it.
  • People with a habit of saying bad stuff have an invested interest in shaming people who bring crappy stuff to light. My least charitable explanation, but I’d be remiss to skip it.
This post may come across as me saying “we should name and shame people all the time” which isn’t my intention. That said, I do think we are all too ready to just ignore the crap said in toxic discord servers, or in the “heat of the moment” in our webs, or wherever because having the conversation openly causes a degree of discomfort to us that we don’t want to handle. And I do think that by allowing these issues to go unaddressed, they are likely to just remain a problem, and lead the subjects of these events and the perpetrators both less-well-off than they otherwise would be. I can’t tell you the number of times I would’ve been relieved to hear that some thing that someone said about me was taken out of context or was reductive. Or the number of times I wish I hadn’t felt alone when it felt like a ton of people were against me, even though what they were doing was clearly wrong.

I know some of this is filled with a lot of the vagaries I rail against, but I’m also not particularly enthusiastic at the prospect of getting banned again any time soon. But I know that someone recently got an admin warning for even referencing a log that recently spread (Hi! I spread the log! And I don’t feel bad about it :smiley:) even though a lot of the behavior in that log was repellant and way worse than saying “hey what you were doing was uncool, Person A and Person B!” And that doesn't really sit right with me, and I think we should talk about it, and also be more free to talk about things going on in the game that are toxic and/or harmful (even if we're wrong about it!)

But, hey, now I’ve laid my cards out on the table, failed to be concise (lol 1.9k words), and am now open to being contradicted! Have at it!

P.S. since I wrote so much I likely won't be taking the time to rebute your rebuttals so feel free to go nuts.
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Message #2078 Sent By: Ictinus Received On: 10/24/2021/0:31
"Nerd."
Post edited by Tetchta on
LinRhineSryaenValorieIllidanXavin

Comments

  • LinLin Blackbird The MoongladeMember Posts: 1,850 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I have absolutely nothing to disagree about in this post. Only an addendum, a bit of advice, as someone who has been on the dangerous end of Aetolia's all-too-common backroom intrigues: your most potent weapon is patience.

    These people are almost always of a certain type. They propel themselves through the Midnight Age on negative energy. Negative energy, as a fuel source, is powerful but incredibly volatile. It doesn't sustain itself well. If you're being targetted or harassed, or someone decided to share gossip with you that you could have comfortably gone your life without knowing, it's okay.

    These people don't last. They'll make you their villain, their archetypal example of what's wrong with Aetolia, and it will never once occur to them that if they smell shit everywhere they go, maybe it's stuck to their own shoes. Almost all of the time, if you're patient, you don't rise to their challenges, you don't answer their shouts, you don't respond to their news posts, and even ignore them if you have to, they'll get bored. They'll retire their character and come back as some similar-but-different alt, where they can't get away with campaigning against you. They'll yell and scream about how much Aetolia sucks and then 100% of the time they go play Achaea instead.

    They don't last. Be patient, and although it sucks to be in the middle of it right now, take comfort in knowing you'll be here long after they're not.

    And unless you became notorious for sex-pesting newbies, no one's gonna remember why they hated you in the first place.

    TetchtaSeurimasRhineXavin
  • TirriaTirria Member Posts: 38 ✭✭
    edited July 9
    edited :not worth it.
    Tetchta
  • TetchtaTetchta Member Posts: 792 ✭✭✭✭
    I mean if you have something productive to add, I'd love to see it!
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  • TetchtaTetchta Member Posts: 792 ✭✭✭✭
    edited July 9
    Well I hope that in my 1,900 word diatribe that I made it clear that I wasn't advocating outright mudslinging, and I don't find it encouraging that that's your interpretation LOL
    A bolt of burning blue fire slams into the ground near where you stand, a warning from Ictinus. The next one may not miss...

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  • IllidanIllidan Pray AreaMember Posts: 1,178 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Saidenn said:

    So I think this discussion could be productive and personal and community accountability is a good thing. 

    Let's just be aware of how we are communicating and start on good faith when we approach discussing accountability with others. Coming in aggro in DMs or tells or web is going to immediately put someone on the defensive. Seek to understand, yeah? 

    Criticism and critique is a good thing. Attacks, flame wars, and the like are not, as they have nothing constructive. 

    So, my only input: Accountability good, communication good - be aware of how you are communicating, and adapt to your audience. Especially if you've never spoken to that audience before in a meaningful way. 

    Being fully realistic, it's incredibly difficult and takes a massive amount of maturity that most adults simply do not have (myself included) to deal with a situation in which someone is saying some incredibly toxic things about you behind your back that are unwarranted (because you've hardly ever spoken to let alone done anything to them before), outright lies, and downright disrespectful. To someone like me, respect is always given first as most of the time, I give mine first until someone gives me a reason not to. If I catch wind of someone with my name in their mouth when I:

    1. Don't know you.
    2. You don't know me.
    3. You're lying on my name.

    Any and all respect I would have shown you, or had shown you before has instantly gone out the window. I'm not going to slide into your DM's and be like "Hey, why were you saying those really mean things about me?" I'm pulling up on you like Miley what's good?

    But, in the spirit of the conversation being had, I know that isn't the best way to solve things, but I also people feel like they shouldn't just lie on other players, especially ones they've never interacted with for no reason. That in and of itself is the origin of the toxicity, as I see it. I feel like the people that instigate things for no reason, or who are known to exhibit behavior like this should be the ones that the community puts in their place. Sure, some people react badly to being treated badly, and while that behavior should probably be curbed, I don't think they should be the ones people point the finger at. It also doesn't help that in the Aetolian community, friends seem to blindly back each other or remain silent when they witness this toxicity from close friends, or worse, support the toxic person when someone else calls them on their toxicity on the sole premise that they're friends when they are objectively exhibiting awful behavior. People are all too willing to do everything but identify toxic behavior within their own circles and deal with them, but turn around to those same circles and say "Hey, look at what this person, who I initially trashed for literally no reason in front of you guys, said back to me when they found out what I did! What a jerk!"

    That's some textbook gaslighting, and I'm just not the one.
    They didn't listen when I said Shamans were strong in groups. 
    Aetolia Buzzwords: Bad actors, disingenuous, disingenuous bad actors, and bad actors being disingenuous. 


                                                                                                   
              
    ValorieLinTetchtaJaamir
  • TetchtaTetchta Member Posts: 792 ✭✭✭✭
    edited July 10
    Yeah, I have to sway on @Illidan's side on this one. While I definitely think all of us could spend a lot more time assuming good faith of other people (I think that alone would probably dispell a lot of the unnecessary acrimony that ripples through our community), I also think it's a little unfair to expect Full Chill out of people who have been treated (or feel they've been treated) badly by someone else. There's a whole lot of assuming-I'm-right that goes on that I'm aware of when we think someone's Done A Bad to us, which we've probably seen a fair amount of from people. It can be particularly embarassing when you're in the wrong, and I don't think we should be waving a wand that says "anybody with hurt feelings should be able to just be a dick."

    But on the other hand, dismissing people whole cloth who are in a heightened emotional state because someone was a jerk to them seems to be putting too much of a responsibility on people who are already dealing with something crappy. "Be a good victim and maybe we'll believe you" is not the default stance I think we should probably be taking. Maybe it's just me, but when someone comes into my Discord DMs to yell at me about things my character has been doing in game or to levy unfounded and unsubstantiated accusations of metagaming at me, I usually don't leave those interactions in the most chill mood on earth.

    Illi is also touching on something else that I didn't really mention in my OP, which I probably should've (but it was already so long T_T), which is that a lot of us remain silent when we see abjectly terrible stuff from people right in front of us. And while it's (maybe) not overt encouragement of toxic behavior, it certainly doesn't do anything to dampen it, and I really think we should be trying harder than that. Things like telling people it's not okay when they drop slurs and meaning it, or if you see someone getting maybe a lil too riled up after a lost lesser and veering out of "ranting" territory and into "saying things they really shouldn't," encouraging them to take a breath and take a break; all these things would go a long way to reducing ambient animosity and would probably overall help all of us, at the expense of being moderately uncomfortable for a few minutes in the short term.

    edit: this is anecdotal, but this extends to our tertiary discord servers, too. The Carnifex discord has a pretty-stiffly-enforced rule against really saying anything negative about other players, and I think it's been a major reason why it's remained largely non-toxic. Shrinking the circles where we allow such behavior is only going to be good for us, especially if they're closely related to our games (like guild-oriented discord servers). A "it's a free country, but that sort of thing isn't welcome here, and if you want to do it, you'll have to go somewhere else" attitude does a lot to minimize negative behavior, and I really think there should be more of that in places. I know more than a few people who entirely retired from the game because of stuff that leaked from guild discords (I considered it myself due to some heavy metagaming that came my way from the Syssin discord). This stuff isn't good for the game, ourselves, or others, and it'd go a long way if we saw more widespread adoption of policies (player-side) that discouraged this sort of thing.

    edit the second: apparently intoxic doesn't mean what I think it means; rip
    Post edited by Tetchta on
    A bolt of burning blue fire slams into the ground near where you stand, a warning from Ictinus. The next one may not miss...

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    ValorieIllidan
  • TetchtaTetchta Member Posts: 792 ✭✭✭✭
    edited July 11
    Xenia said:

    Ultimately the solution would take players recognizing the game for what it is and then making the decisions from there on if this is the sort of game they want to be playing. Asking questions like what is the healthiest way to approach this?

    I've been thinking about this for a while. Probably the last, I dunno, handful of hours or so. And most of what you posted I don't disagree with. All the things you said up until this paragraph are pretty solid and definitely portray an actual problem, and the source of the problem, in Aetolia specifically.

    I don't love the proposed "solution" here, however, because while it would be lovely if everyone asked themselves these sorts of questions, had this sort of introspection, I think it's a little naive to think that anybody, particularly people who are causing constant problems one way or another, will actually do that. This essentially is saying that the only way we can reduce harm in our community is to let the trash take itself out, that we just expect people to grow and learn and be better; this is more or less what the status quo has been for [insert time here]. Is the responsibility for harm on the shoulders of the people who do harm? Absolutely. Would them growing that awareness ultimately be good for them and those around them? Undoubtedly. But I don't think this is the "ultimate solution" to reducing toxicity in our community. There are definitely things we can all do in our groups that would make things better and reduce the impact of harm, and I don't think that should be swept under the table.
    A bolt of burning blue fire slams into the ground near where you stand, a warning from Ictinus. The next one may not miss...

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  • XeniaXenia Member Posts: 1,107 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Tetchta said:


    I don't love the proposed "solution" here, however, because while it would be lovely if everyone asked themselves these sorts of questions, had this sort of introspection, I think it's a little naive to think that anybody, particularly people who are causing constant problems one way or another, will actually do that. This essentially is saying that the only way we can reduce harm in our community is to let the trash take itself out, that we just expect people to grow and learn and be better; this is more or less what the status quo has been for [insert time here]. Is the responsibility for harm on the shoulders of the people who do harm? Absolutely. Would them growing that awareness ultimately be good for them and those around them? Undoubtedly. But I don't think this is the "ultimate solution" to reducing toxicity in our community. There are definitely things we can all do in our groups that would make things better and reduce the impact of harm, and I don't think that should be swept under the table.

    We'll have to agree to disagree here in that doing anything that assumes responsibility for more than myself is an unrealistic boundary to try to maintain with the game and its community. It's better for everyone if they focus more on playing the game and enjoying the game rather than trying to fix the players and besides, that's not our job to manage! As the consumer, our job is to consume the product and keep paying for it, it's IRE's job to determine the behavior and work on its toxicity.

    I will take RIOT games as an example. I've been playing off and on over the years and I've noticed they've really managed to curtail a lot of the toxicity that used to be extremely prevalent. I also have noticed they started to implement things into the game that forced players to have to spend at least some miniscule amount of time being introspective. This is a trained behavior that the game introduces and I think it's beginning to show in that community.

    Now would something like this be healthy in Aetolia or an IRE mud? I don't know, that's not my job!

    ArdentSaltzTeani
  • TetchtaTetchta Member Posts: 792 ✭✭✭✭
    edited July 12
    I didn't say we should fix players; pretty sure I said the opposite, in fact! We can't fix players! At all! That's the whole point. That's why I said "reduce harm/impact/toxcity." The entire thing is that we can't fix anybody, but we can (and I think should) do things that don't actively encourage/enable toxic behavior. Is it our "job" in the classic sense of "you're getting paid to do x,y,z?" Nope! But, I mean, like, I dunno dude it seems a little silly to be like "if bad stuff happens around me, since I'm not obligated to do anything about it, I shouldn't do anything about it."

    And I don't usually pull out this card, but comparing Aetolia/IRE to RIOT is a pretty rough comparison. We're a closely-knit group of...I wanna say no more than 500 people? Whereas RIOT has like 100 Million people playing their games. We're talking about vastly different scales here. And while I'd love for IRE/Aetolian administration to take an active role in some sort of harm-reduction policies, it's kinda outside their scope to mange microcommunities that extend beyond the game itself. They can only really do anything about stuff that has real actionable evidence and consequences in game; meanwhile, a lot of us are in these microcommunities and can 100% do even a little bit to make them better (since we're the ones who make up their population.) The admin have even explicitly stated that they have neither the ability nor the interest to police things like OOC discords, even if violent threats are made against players. So that either means we just do nothing (your proposed answer), or we do...something. That's my stance.

    I think it's much more apt to compare Aetolia's communities and microcommunities to things like WoW guilds and whatever they call guilds in Final Fantasy when it comes to size, scope, and culpability, and I think it's a pretty hard case to argue that a Guild in these games doesn't bear some responsibility for their org culture and the toxicity therein, or to suggest that nobody can do anything about problem players. I'm talking about stuff as easy as "don't say that slur, it's not welcome here," not fullblown social etiquette courses and weeks of psychotherapy.
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  • XeniaXenia Member Posts: 1,107 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Tetchta said:

    The entire thing is that we can't fix anybody, but we can (and I think should) do things that don't actively encourage/enable toxic behavior.

    Being responsible for yourself is taking action and involves making your boundaries clear (be they voicing out against slurs, negative discussions or deciding to minimize all your OOC interactions with other players) and then supporting your boundaries with actions.


    I think all the actions necessary can be reduced to this simple process:



    All these things are the strongest actions anyone can take to minimize the toxicity in their environment and if enough people are taking those actions, eventually the toxicity will be minimized.





    LinTetchtaAyastia
  • TetchtaTetchta Member Posts: 792 ✭✭✭✭
    Generally agree with that! So maybe our disagreement was boiling down to semantics.
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    Eoros
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