Many of you know me as Seir and some of you know me as the player behind Seir, Justin. I'm writing on the forums today to discuss a troubling pattern that I've noticed, something that only struck me very recently as I became slowly cognizant of it. What I speak of is metagaming, the OOC connections that we establish as players with one another, and how detrimental they can be to the game on a whole when left unchecked. In some ways, I feel like this post has been due over the last few weeks; in some other ways, I feel like it is something that should have been said years ago. Regardless of the when, I am taking the time now to post on trends and activities that I, and to my knowledge, other players have noticed as well.
The first thing that some of you may ask is: "Why do you care? Why are you the one making this post?" I'm making this post for a variety of reasons: I'm a long time IRE veteran of 18 (almost 19) years now, I have achieved a fair amount of success in Aetolia having been a notable combatant, role player, order head, Speaker, Benandanti, war leader, and one of the folks that some consider to have had an instrumental hand in improving Duiran back in the day. I believe, perhaps out of hubris, that this may allow me to have more influence by being the one making this post, and as some of you may know, I have a tendency (for better or worse) to speak up when I feel like something is very wrong, even if it may cause me to be outcast as a result.
To start off, I will state that I recently quit the Aetolian Discord. I did not quit the Discord out of any "ragequit" moments, a disagreement with another player, or because I felt like a social pariah there. To the contrary, I felt rather accepted by many of the players in the Discord, but what really began to bug me over the last few weeks was how players were disparaging others, talking about IC things OOCly (and vice versa), and in my opinion: cultivating an atmosphere that made a few others feel like outcasts. Is this unique to the Discord? No, this is a problem that I've seen in the past across IRE in general, be it via Skype groups, in-game OOC clans, and a more infamously and close-to-home example: IRC. This is also not a problem exhibited by all players within the Discord, so I do not want any players to feel like I'm directly targeting them or outright condemning the Discord on a whole. I'm merely outlining some of the behaviors, patterns, and trends demonstrated by a few players in order to raise awareness, hopefully putting a damper on it.
The first I brought up is players disparaging other players. I have seen a disturbing number of folks (myself having even been guilty of it at times) utterly trashing or talking poorly about one another, those outside of the Discord, and even about certain members of the administration. To say that this is toxic is an understatement, because I do not think that some of the people complicit in this realize how much of an adverse effect it can have on that other player's experience when and if they find out. In the case of an administrator, it can cause them to "burn out" because, despite their best efforts and good intentions, some players can just react outright callously towards events or roleplay. While I am all for raising another player's awareness towards negative behavior, all this does is create a paranoid, self-destructive spiral that some of these players can never escape from. In addition, this puts preconceived notions in the minds of other folks who may not even know the player involved; however, because of people discussing this individual, they're making that person a pariah to those who don't even know them and making people less likely to interact with them in-game. In a small roleplay community like Aetolia, this can have a devastating effect. People will end up isolating themselves, lashing out harshly, or even quitting the game because they feel like there's no hope in recovering the image or opinion that other players have of them. This doesn't mean that I think players shouldn't be held accountable by their peers if they act in a manner adverse to the game on a whole... but, a group of players trash talking another routinely is lame, wrong, and deceitful, especially if done behind their back.
The second issue I brought up is metagaming. Yes, metagaming has been a long-standing issue across IRE, but I feel that it always becomes more prolific whenever players come together in large OOC mediums. Whether if it is innocently organizing roleplay with one another, discussing events, etc., this creates a number of issues. For one, it means players start isolating themselves off from one another, not viewing others outside of their circle as worth their time. Now, I know the first response to that is going to be: "Well, I just have people I regularly enjoy interacting with!" Well, I'm not going to say that is wrong. However, think about how you met those people to begin with. At some point, you both were strangers to one another who took a chance, interacted in some shape or form, and established rapport over a period of time. If you applied the mentality you have now, there's a strong chance that you're locking yourself off from people who could also be someone you regularly enjoy interacting with. Additionally, and I cannot say this enough to people who are leaders, you cannot lock yourself off. Obtaining titles in-game like Regent, Speaker, Herald, Orderhead, and even Secretary, means that you have to open yourself up. Titles are not there just to add random lines to your honours that you can circlejerk off to one another privately. They're a bit of a commitment to the organization on a whole, because you're representing that organization as a whole and you owe it to the members of the folks that you're leading to interact with folks outside of your bubble. Case in point, this is what initially made Duiran so great back in the day. We had leaders that strived to become more open, involved, and committed to newbies, oldbies, and everyone in between. What ended up happening, however, was that people quickly isolated themselves into cliques and groups. As a result, players who were isolated ended up leaving Duiran for Spinesreach because, at the time, Moirean was involving everyone and Duiran began to decline. Even now, this is happening, as many Duiran players have left for Enorian and the Illuminai, purely because they've involved one another, there is no perceived elitism/exclusiveness, and people feel motivated to get involved. If you do not feel or want to interact with folks outside of your bubble, that is fine, but you absolutely should not be a leader in that case. Being a leader doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice all of your playing time to new people, but if you're a CL, GM, or Council member and you've only interacted with the same two or three people recently, you should probably have a moment of introspection and try harder to reach out. Otherwise, you might need to ask yourself if you're cut out to be a leader. This also doesn't mean that there is no onus on the other players to reach out to their leaders. If you're shy, that's something you have to get past and you have to put yourself out there if you want people to interact with you. Just sitting in a room somewhere hoping that someone will come interact with you or let you be part of their character's story isn't going to get you anywhere. You need to be the one who initiates, reaches out, and starts that cycle. You get what you give. However, if someone else makes that effort with you, you should at the very least acknowledge it and feel grateful that they want to get involved or know you.
I'm going to conclude this with a personal experience of my own. When I played the game 5-6 years ago, I had a lot that people would've been envious of. I was a semi-decent roleplayer, I was a combatant, a Benandanti, a Secretary, etc.. However, I was a part of the old #NoT IRC chat, which was full of both players and admins both. What ended up happening is that, as a result of incessant teasing and badmouthing, I started lashing out and being paranoid of other players. More over, I began to notice that a lot of the people who I once had very strong friendships with both inside and outside of the game no longer felt I was worth their time. Does this mean I was totally innocent? No, but a lot of my issues could've been salvaged had some of the very similar issues we've having now had been called out. I ended up feeling alone, but I could not quit #NoT out of some feeling of desperation and a desire of being accepted, which is what a lot of us feel, even now. I eventually realized that all the metagaming and negativity in the IRC was affecting me as a player and, for my own health, I had to take a step back and quit from it. I can tell you right now that it was one of the best decisions that I made as a player. The effect of not feeling like I had to make myself appealing to these players who I thought were "elite" was completely gone, like a weight off of my shoulders. Since then, I've firmly believed in establishing my character by my own standards and not others, believing that I'm awesome, and trying to be as inclusive as I can be. Since I've returned to Aetolia, I've applied this mentality and I'm all the more a better player and person for it. However, I quit the Discord because while I may not have been the outcast this time around, I saw others being treated like one and other warning signs that gave me an immense feeling of deja vu.
So, to wrap this up, if I could offer one suggestion to nearly everyone in the game: Stop isolating yourselves to the same people and stop discussing/organziing IC stuff OOCly. You limit yourself and you hinder your ability to meet new people to establish long-term friendships in-game. Not to mention, you end up driving players away who feel like no one cares or wants to give them the time of day. Some of you may disagree with my post, but I know that a lot of people will agree having discussed this very subject with them privately on the Discord, on Skype, and otherwise. If you folks don't want Aetolia's community to die, you should put a little more effort into becoming a greater community rather than little pockets of cliques.