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Another gaming rant

Another mux rant:

XMA was going to close because the staff had burned out.
They were going to shut down because they didn't think they could keep things going.

So, a group of players step up and agree to take over the staffing.
This is fine, things can continue. Perhaps, I think, I might want to go back there again, especially as some of these staff are friends of mine.

Well, no. I left for several reasons: disenchantment with the theme, which was being dragged out forever; distaste for certain players who were getting preferential treatment while I and other players were being restricted; their decision to ban a player who was suffering from undiagnosed bipolar and borderline personality syndrome, and who had been causing a number of problems due to the ramifications of that disorder.
See, I have a problem with people banning other people for mental illness, when the problem is being treated, because as a group, gamers are all somewhat socially deranged, and Joshua's player, while a bit frustrating to deal with sometimes, was capable of fun RP. The problems were more one of over-eagerness, not knowing boundaries, than offensiveness or twinkishness. This is stuff that gets treated very well by the proper psychopharmaceuticals. Joshua's player is now on them.

So why am I saying anything about this?

In a last act of vileness, the outgoing staff has managed to get this person vetoed again. I am offended, deeply, by people who discriminate against the handicapped, especially when they're mental or emotional handicaps that can be treated.

Shame on the lot of them.

EDIT: To my friends on staff there ... I'm sorry, guys, but this is just wrong, and I can't condone it for any reason. I know at least one of you knew nothing of it.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 13th, 2003 02:13 pm (UTC)
Yes, it may be non-PC to maintain that 'no means no' but at the same time when a person is told 'I'm sorry, you've overstepped the bounds three times or more, we would request that you simply go somewhere else and play' and then that person not only keeps coming back, but even after they're sitebanned they still try to log on every few hours... and then every few days... and then they wait a while and find a secondary IP to log on from to -keep on- begging to be allowed back... there's something unhealthy about the fact that Joshua's player both can't stand the concept of being told not to come back, but at the same time 'he' can't accept things and move on.

It wouldn't happen to have anything to do with the fact that when we closed our doors 'he' immediately started harassing people on Evolutions, including a Staff member who was unlucky enough to broadcast her alts? Enough that I seriously doubt 'he's managed to get approved anywhere.. 'he's burned so many bridges. What Joshua did went far beyond harassment or just being over eager. It borders on internet stalking, especially they way that 'he' went from one game to the next in order to track down people to beg and plead with. There are still players on XMA that are honestly scared of how to deal with Joshua, especially since for a game 'he' seems so certain was such a great thing, 'he' spend most of the nearly 18 hours a day spent connected complaining and moaning about how unhappy 'he' was. A fixation like this is not healthy, no matter what drugs Joshua may be taking now or how 'stable' 'his' life may be.

In the end, however 'vile' you may see it, the actions of Joshua's player more than prove that in the long run this is likely the best course of action out there. And reguardless of what you may think, XMA is hosted on a private server, so it's my but on the line in federal court if those drugs fail or things take a turn for the worst and Joshua does something unhealthy to 'himself' or someone else. I won't take that risk, thanks.

Oh, and shame on yourself. I find this rather ironic that you'd rant about this when you were telling people left and right back when Joshua was on XMA, that you openly -hid- on MXT to avoid having to deal with 'his' clinginess. You were not the only player to do it, too, but don't act like a saint when you're far from it. It's rather funny that you want Joshua back on XMA so bad, I guess because you're not there now to have to deal with it, huh?
May. 13th, 2003 02:52 pm (UTC)
While gamers are supposed to be a little bit psychopathic, socially deranged, Joshua at the time went far beyond that. His actions at the time, if they were done in RL in gaming group or at a comic book store or in a RPG shop, would have gotten him arrested.

If he'd then come back, six months later, or even a year later, would they let anyone with that reputation back in with open arms? Nope. He'd get turned away again. Pushed out, without being given a chance.

Why is that? Because the human race is all untrusting bastards. It's our default behavior to not allow something or someone that has burned us once to burn us again. Joshua burned too many bridges, scared and stalked too many people, and while there may be some of the aforementioned untrusting human race who have risen above that untrusting nature to give further chances when many before were wasted, the majority certainly wouldn't be able to.

I wish Joshua well. I truly do. I hope his recovery and his job bring him all the best. But maybe he really, honestly, truly, should try playing someplace that hasn't been burned by him yet. Someplace that doesn't know about him.

I know he says that XMA is his favorite place, the best place he's ever been on, but I can't conceive of that. I can't believe that. Not with the amount of resentment towards him that his actions created. If he truly is better than he was, then he'll likely find that someplace else could easily become a new favorite.
May. 15th, 2003 12:05 pm (UTC)
Part One Reply
This was a rant. As a reminder, in my own journal, I'm entitled to post rants from time to time, that reflect my emotional response to something I experience. I label them rants so that people can take that into account before reading them. Next time, I suppose I'll hide it behind a cut so that you can skip it if you're not prepared for it.

Here's my response, Wolf and Kairee. Thank you for your replies.

First, I'll refer to Joshua as 'he' without sneer quotes. I know RL gender and online gender do not universally match, but I don't think it's courteous to make the distinction when the player isn't making it public.

I understand your reasons for banning Joshua, and for carrying it over to a 99% new staff, I just disagree with the way you've implemented this.

For a game where people go voluntarily to play, the hosts of that game aren't held responsible for damages emotional or otherwise, should a player there do something as a result of their mental illness. If you don't believe it, take a look at any of the MMORPGs. People have tried to name Everquest as co-respondent in divorce proceedings; it's simply laughed at. Casinos aren't responsible for financial damages either, as nobody forces you to gamble there. But if you're worried about legal ramifications, you really are looking in the wrong place. Tinysex is much more likely to get you in trouble, as there are players who are under 18 and/or characters who are under 18, either of which is now considered creation or participation in child-pornography should they engage in tinysex.
I suggest you pay the 25 dollars for a half-hour of a lawyer's time, present them with the question about liability should someone 'stalk' someone else using your computer, and what exactly 'stalking' consists of. In most states, it requires an actual or perceived PHYSICAL threat. Irritation is not enough. Self-harm is also not enough, especially in someone who is already mentally ill.

As far as creating a pleasant gaming environment, I have to agree that it would be good to exclude those players who actively disrupt things. The way this is done is to establish clear guidelines for behaviour, publish them up front, and uniformly apply them to all players. You haven't done that with XMA. You should.

About dealing with mental illness...

There are two ways people have dealt with mental illness through history.
The first is to pretend it doesn't exist, to shove them into insane asylums or lock them into rooms or to toss them out onto the streets to fend for themselves and die. The latter seems to be enjoying a resurgence in our public policy since Reagan, who is rich enough that his own mental illness (Alzheimers) is being treated with loving care. Mental illness was viewed as something shameful, something to be feared, something contagious and awful that you pretend doesn't exist.

The second is to try to deal in a caring way with the person, setting boundaries, enforcing them, providing rewards for good behavior and removing them for flagrant violations. That is, by the way, also how you deal with people who do not have mental illness, but there's less deliberateness involved because they generally have the social integration that means they understand and play by the same rules. In our modern, politeness-lite society, that is of course more rare, but the general idea of boundaries is still understood implicitly.

May. 15th, 2003 12:07 pm (UTC)
Part Two Reply
That, more than anything, is why Joshua disturbed people. The nature of borderline personality disorder is that the person IS needy to an extreme - they have a weakness in their ego-identity that they shore up by creating relationships with other people that substitute for that identity, and they do things that get past psychological boundaries to build that. The nature of bipolar disorder is to have mood swings, cycling between profound depression and profound mania, over the course of weeks or months. The depression and the mania can both appear normal but they aren't - decision making is impaired in both extremes.

You deal with BPD by setting boundaries, and reinforcing positive behaviours. Oh yeah, and the person who is dealing with the BPD needs to be (1) taking appropriate drugs to return the brain chemicals to a balanced state, if there is an underlying problem exacerbating that (like Bipolar), and (2) working through the exercises that reinforce their own identity without requiring other people to 'fix' them.
This latter situation is a hard one, as it's really difficult for them to see boundaries the way you or I would see them.

The other thing about dealing with treatable mental illness - you give people a chance. You recognize that the behaviours aren't willful or deliberate, and you don't exclude them if you have a choice.
I recognize that sometimes, for your own health or that of people they might have hurt, you do not have a choice. In a game, anonymity is easier to achieve, but it may not be the right thing to support; if you were to let a person resume playing who had been banned for behaviours later found to be due to mental illness, you would probably want to make it clear who they were, and ask people to make it clear whether they were willing to allow contact.

As far as Joshua's initial loss of priveleges. I don't recall the exact transgression that lost him his character, but I think it was paging a player who had asked not to be paged. I do recall a great deal of relief on the part of staffers there, because they weren't going to have to deal with the much more difficult process of warning and enforcing behaviours in general. That's unfortunate, as that's a skill that would have been very helpful for your staff.

I don't give a flying fig whether it's politically correct or not. In a basketball game, a person who has a broken leg is unable to play, but when it heals, they can. They don't get told by the coach, "No, you broke your leg last year, you'll never play again."
Yet, you're making that claim with regards to a person who is being treated for a physical problem, a brain-chemical disorder.

In your place, I would also be hesitant. I would probably say, "I'm sorry, but you've only been in treatment for a few months. Tell me where else you are playing, and I'll check up on you anonymously, and if I believe things have improved, I'll contact you after you've been treated for more than six months. In the meantime you are not to continue trying to contact staffers or players with this petition before X date, because by showing that much restraint, you are proving that you are really better."

That's the compromise I would make between my standards and the pragmatic reality of running a game.
From an impractical, right-and-wrong standpoint, it is still shameful to pick on a cripple, to shun a person who has a handicap, and to exclude them from something they are able to participate in simply because they have the handicap and it makes you uncomfortable. If those were the only reasons you had for restricting Joshua, I'd be mocking you in public - not with a few words about disappointment, but with satire and venom. The fact that I'm not, should be a clue that I do understand that it's more than a simple black-and-white situation. It's still vile to exclude a handicapped person because of the handicap, but then so are a lot of the things we have to do to live.

May. 15th, 2003 12:10 pm (UTC)
One last thing - I was not 'publically hiding out on MXT'. That is an exaggeration. It's been the primary place I would RP for a long time. I let people know they could reach me there, since there was no RP happening with Cal on XMA, for reasons that would be tiresome to re-hash, for a long time.
There was a space of a few weeks, during the time just after my wife had been diagnosed with cancer, when I wasn't feeling strong enough to deal with Joshua asking me for RP, because I didn't want to keep saying 'no, not right now' for the tenth or eleventh time. That was my problem - I knew Joshua had boundary problems, and that he'd managed to creep out a lot of other people, sort of a self-created isolation, and I wasn't willing to spare the emotional energy to try to deal with his depression at the time. Yes, it was shameful, and I regret it, but it wasn't my intention to do it for any great length of time. And, it was shortly after that, Joshua got banned.

Now... as to my not being on XMA to deal with Joshua... I asked him repeatedly to app on MXT. He has, so far, declined to do so. I had a pre-app in process on XMA, which was returned for clarifications and fixes, and when I addressed the issues and asked for further feedback, a month went by without a reply, then an 'oops, I didn't read carefully enough and thought other people were dealing with this,' and then another few weeks later, the announcement of the shutdown of the mux. Staff burnout, I understand, but don't be giving me a hard time about not having a character when you haven't permitted me one.
May. 16th, 2003 01:58 am (UTC)
Posting this again, since it got eaten by a net frob the first time.

Please accept my sincerest apologies for the total mishap that happened with the email. It was my own fault, and not something to inflict on -anyone-. wolf359 didn't know it was going on, and probabaly would belt me one for it if possible. Unfortunatley, while I'd like to make up for the inexcusable circumstances, I'm no longer in the staff, it's out of my hands. But I have been thinking about it a lot.

If you'd like to resubmit your character to the new staff, please feel welcome to do so. I think the idea that you had of the renamed character having "spell-like abilities" when merged which weren't actually spells would be a good place to start, though. As I recall, most of the concern in the appstaff of the time was about two things; the character being a mage, and the character being taught magic by an NPC. Having the character have a fixed set of 'spell-like abilities' without learning spells would probabaly go far in getting him approved.

On the other hand, that you want to do it so as to not be "just another shapeshifter" will probably still be a concern on the part of the current staff. "Shapeshifter Plus Stuff" has always been a problem, and I freely admit, one I've contributed to intentionally or not. Always has been, every shapeshifter I've played has been "Shapeshifter Plus Stuff". Not a good thing, as I came to realize a few months back just after Angst left and I had it pounded into my thick skull what bad habits I have when designing characters.

I still think it at times is why XMA lost the only Rahne that ever apped, and at times I wonder what can be done to ease that particular problem; either by making Rahne more than she was in canon, or... I don't know. But it's no longer my problem to solve. Still doesn't keep me from thinking about it though, and wondering what could possibly be done to ease that sort of concern so we can get a Rahne again. I'd like to see her in the NM's again.

Good luck, if you choose to resubmit the app to the new staff.
May. 19th, 2003 11:49 am (UTC)
Random comment from the peanut gallery because I can. ;)

It's one thing to be a friend of someone who has problems. Quite another to be responsible for the rest of the game, /and/ that person at the same time. Joshua made few friends, this is true. I don't want to see bad things happen to him, but if it were up to me I wouldn't involve myself with him given the chance. Currently medicated or not. Now if in a year's time, he was still going strong and in a much better place, maybe that's something that would change. It hasn't been that long, though. Being on a game is a privilege, not a right. Joshua lost his right, and even if he's getting better, it's still his fault. He may be sick, or may have been sick, but his behavior and his actions are still his own, and the consequences of those will linger on for a long time, more than likely.

Regardless of whether or not Joshua was mentally ill (and if I remember right, that was an excuse made at the time, and the Staff recommended he seek help, it's good to see he has), you have the issue of the comfort level of the group, compared to one individual. Even if he is stable now, just knowing that Joshua was coming back would be a problem for many people. If I were still there, I'd be saying the same thing myself. Hell, I'd veto him myself. The Staff is looking out for what is best for the game, in their opinion. It's their call to make.

Personally, when he was brought in for the discussion that led to him being removed from XMA, I walked away from that conversation feeling dirty, as I know other staffers did as well. It's very sad to see someone debase themselves in front of you, and know that it's only one more symptom of a much larger problem.

I can see where you're coming from, though, and you do have a valid point. I don't agree that the Staff (old or new) should have any reason to feel shame or guilt for it, though. They didn't force Joshua to act the way he did. He may have been out of control, but he wasn't completely helpless. Some responsibility must remain with him.
May. 25th, 2003 02:09 pm (UTC)
Well... yes and no, as always :)

With mental illness, especially the kind where the mind/body connection is high, choice becomes an illusion. Without one of the effective modes of treatment, the problem behaviours remain problems, but you can no more assign blame, or responsibility, to the person who suffers that illness, than you can blame an animal for its instinctive reactions.

Once the person is under treatment and it has had time to work, then they have the capacity for taking responsibility for the effects of their prior actions, and whether or not they can be trusted hinges on how they choose to deal with that responsibility.

This is why I always agitate for clear rules on what behavior is acceptable and what is not, and for uniform and impartial application of those rules.
Very few places seem to have put enough forethought into the human interactions that will happen at the player level.

As far as comfort levels for other players go, I have the same quandary you do. A person who is disruptive and unteachable should not be placed in a position of making things worse for other players.
The fact is, a player who was disruptive (Joshua) was removed from the game, but another player who was just as disruptive (Hope) is now a staffer.
The difference between the two is that Hope has the social skills to make people feel more comfortable, rather than the ones that make people feel uncomfortable. However, it's not clear that she's stopped with the behavior that made people unhappy with her - overreaching her charter, going past her agreed boundaries.

This is part of the 'it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission' lifestyle, and unfortunately that lifestyle results in a lot of contention.
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