Monday, September 11, 2006

An unsavory day in the life of an administrator

Over the past few weeks I have dealt with a few game situations that were unpleasant for everyone involved. These included rule violations by players and I had to deal with it as fairly as possible, while maintaining my personal stance on administration in general. I believe that the Sloth MUD should not require continuous involvement from administration to mediate disputes between players.

Of course, the reality is, that sometimes it does and the first situation that comes to mind is one where two (or more) long term players got rather annoyed at each other and one took it beyond the rules of engagement by "player killing" the other one. This is against the rules of the game, but can be accomplished in fairly easy ways by players with enough power or experience in the game.

The first question that may come to the mind of an outsider would be to make something against the rules impossible to do. Unfortunately this would be extremely tricky to do and probably would affect the normal game play. Undoubtedly someone would find a way around this in the gaming environment and we would end up back in the same situation, although likely less often.

What normally happens in this situation is that one player accuses the other of "starting it" and as the dispute mediator; I have to go back and look through the logs to see who did what. This time, fortunately, both parties told the same story of the facts (though motivations were clearly distorted by both sides) so this was not necessary. It was clear who acted beyond the rules first and how they got there. At this point, both players acknowledged that the offending player did the best he could to repair the situation, as death is a tricky thing in games. The net result was nobody lost anything but their temper, though technically rules were violated.

In this particular case, I chose to exercise what is analogous to discretionary law enforcement. Typically this is a serious rule to violate, but the circumstances led me to simply put the offending player in the same situation as his victim. He took the same small risk of bigger repercussions that he imposed on his victim and got lucky as well. I took this approach for a few reasons:
  • The players involved were all experienced.
  • The players involved stopped further involvement with each other.
  • The players involved didn't lie to me.
  • I warned everyone that further issues would result in very severe punishments and believed they would act accordingly.
  • There wasn't any actual loss to any player other than perhaps pride.
  • I told both parties to avoid each other.

This didn't make the victim happen, and this party accused me of many unsavory things including cronism. This is the most amusing to me as I had barely heard of either party involved prior to this incident. At this time, at least a few weeks have passed and I haven't heard any complaints from either player.

In a similar situation a couple weeks later, an experienced player also semi-intentionally "player killed" an inexperienced player. I did put a more severe punishment in place in this case (loss of some character powers) because:

  • There was disparity in experience of the players.
  • I had made the warning previously stated.
  • I wanted to make sure I didn't have to continue to deal with more of these and hoped word would spread.

The result of this was actually much more pleasant than the previous situation as the punished player took it very well and the victim did not complain further. Dealing with this case was still not a pleasant experience for me.

In any case, I think you can see that player administration requires some arbitrary decisions that perhaps don't seem fair to all parties involved at the time. But, my goal isn't always exact fairness in each situation; it is that fairness is the steady state with as little involvement from administration as there can be. This is probably an idealistic vision, but we don't get paid for this and don't enjoy dealing with disputes of this nature. To me, it's best to try to minimize their occurrences by enacting stiff penalties when appropriate and avoid heavy-handed actions when not necessary.

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