Staff and ethics


  • Admin

    We often discuss staff ethics here in their most negative interpretation - some might even say we discuss the absence of staff ethics more than what they actually are. So let's do that, maybe.

    So... putting aside gross violations of trust - harboring abuse, cheating for themselves or on behalf of personal friends, etc - what would you consider to be the foundation of a somewhat universal good staff code?

    Just to get us started (this list is not supposed to be exhaustive or even correct) some potential items:

    • 'Professional' behavior; this can include language, tone, spelling, etc. Is it better for staff to be aloof or to be on the same level with/chat with their players?

    • Activity levels. Is a staff member doing what they are supposed to do? What are they supposed to do and how well/frequently? What's a good standard?

    • Communication, following up on promises. How much transparency is a good thing? In discipline cases how much should be revealed about what happened (or the reasons nothing did)?

    • Playing their own game; staff not playing alts or revealing their names, or not permitting those PCs to attain important positions.

    • Protecting 'appearances' by not ruling on issues close to them (friends are involved, etc); what happens in small games, or if the staff is small and everyone is involved with everyone else? What are the limits?

    Discuss. And by all that is holy remember this is a constructive thread. :)


  • Pitcrew

    @arkandel said in Staff and ethics:

    • 'Professional' behavior; this can include language, tone, spelling, etc. Is it better for staff to be aloof or to be chat with their players?

    I actually find your expansion on this a little odd. When I think of staff professionalism, I don't equate that with whether or not staff chats with their players. For me, professionalism when it comes to MU* staffing is about a certain level of civility in terms of tone and communication. If a player calls you an asshole, you can firmly shut down the conversation, but you don't get to sling curse words back at them. This is not about "the customer is always right." It's about "we don't drop to an abusive or rude level of discourse with problem players, even if we're disciplining them." (And even if they may honestly end up deserving to be called an asshole.)

    For me, this has little to do with how chatty you are on public channels or whatnot. Be chatty away! I'd rather be friendly and approachable than aloof.

    • Communication, following up on promises. How much transparency is a good thing? In discipline cases how much should be revealed about what happened (or the reasons nothing did)?

    More communication is better. IME players are much more comfortable being patient if you just respond to let them know that you're working on something. I think this is especially important in situations where a player has submitted a complaint about another player's behavior. Serious complaints take time to properly deal with, but if someone submits something awful like "this player is harassing/stalking me," please please please respond promptly just to say "we're taking this seriously and moving on this."

    • Playing their own game; staff not playing alts or revealing their names, or not permitting those PCs to attain important positions.

    I think the idea that staff can't play on their own games is dumb. I do understand that it's probably best on games with competitive spheres that maybe they should staff and play in different spheres, but my WoD experience is very limited.

    • Protecting 'appearances' by not ruling on issues close to them (friends are involved, etc); what happens in small games, or if the staff is small and everyone is involved with everyone else? What are the limits?

    I've staffed mostly on small games, and it would've been impossible for me to recuse myself from anything involving someone I considered a friend. I've had official "your tone is getting out of hand" staff conversations with friends -- who were also on staff. We had to staff for each other, because there wasn't really another option.

    There were situations people did recuse themselves. Like a staffer recused from handling the app from her RL brother, or people would recuse from apps that were coming in with a strong connection to one of their PCs or if maybe there was a situation where they were directly involved in whatever events were going on.

    To a certain extent when you have a small game and a small staff, you just have to try to do your best.


  • Pitcrew

    @roz If your friendship can't survive one or the other of you saying "Hey, I think you are overreacting" or "can you please stop doing X because y?" then it's not much of a friendship, imo. And if they aren't really your friend, then why care about how they'll take it?! FREEEEEDOM! Ok the last part is silly but the first part, I mean.

    But I think my feelings on the term "professionalism" are well documented. I don't like it for the sole reason that I think a lot of people take it to imply obsequiousness or being servile. I'm not about that life, and I'm definitely not down for the expectation that I will treat game obligations like a job.

    The playing on their own game bullet point is a tough one. I think it would definitely be better if most staffers didn't, but then no one would staff games. I like being in on the lore-writing. The creation of setting, and history, and plot. That's super fun for me. Lots of games don't even have that stuff. I think at the very least you should not be playing in any 'sphere' or 'faction' or whatever that you are staffing for. I don't care about staff alts being transparent or not. If you can't trust staffers enough to let them play quietly, idk. What are you doing there?


  • Admin

    @roz said in Staff and ethics:

    I actually find your expansion on this a little odd. When I think of staff professionalism, I don't equate that with whether or not staff chats with their players.

    Other than my pre-edit wording which... ugh, it's not that odd if you consider I've been on games (mind you, early in my MU* 'career') where we were warned to not 'fraternize with the players' a lot since it might paint us a certain way, and also to maintain the illusion of... I dunno, authority I guess.

    I'm just saying, it's a thing for some MU* so I included it.


  • Coder


  • Pitcrew

    @thenomain you link this a lot, and there's nothing wrong with it, but I don't see much in there actually pertaining to ethics.


  • Pitcrew

    @arkandel said in Staff and ethics:

    @roz said in Staff and ethics:

    I actually find your expansion on this a little odd. When I think of staff professionalism, I don't equate that with whether or not staff chats with their players.

    Other than my pre-edit wording which... ugh, it's not that odd if you consider I've been on games (mind you, early in my MU* 'career') where we were warned to not 'fraternize with the players' a lot since it might paint us a certain way, and also to maintain the illusion of... I dunno, authority I guess.

    I'm just saying, it's a thing for some MU* so I included it.

    My opinion of that is that that sounds like a dumb thing of them. :P I mean, that's not even a good attitude to have in an actual workplace.

    @kanye-qwest said in Staff and ethics:

    @roz If your friendship can't survive one or the other of you saying "Hey, I think you are overreacting" or "can you please stop doing X because y?" then it's not much of a friendship, imo. And if they aren't really your friend, then why care about how they'll take it?! FREEEEEDOM! Ok the last part is silly but the first part, I mean.

    Eh, it's not really about friendship surviving or not. It's about COI and also the appearance of COI. Which can be separate but related. If you're in a situation where you have enough staff that someone could reasonably recuse from a rough situation with a close friend, better to just do it. If you're on a small game with a small staff, that might not be an option, so you just try to be as above the board with it as possible.

    But I think my feelings on the term "professionalism" are well documented. I don't like it for the sole reason that I think a lot of people take it to imply obsequiousness or being servile. I'm not about that life, and I'm definitely not down for the expectation that I will treat game obligations like a job.

    I think that's just outright an incorrect understanding of the word (the obsequiousness aspect), so I kind of just refuse to treat it like it means that, because that's not what it means.

    The playing on their own game bullet point is a tough one. I think it would definitely be better if most staffers didn't, but then no one would staff games. I like being in on the lore-writing. The creation of setting, and history, and plot. That's super fun for me. Lots of games don't even have that stuff. I think at the very least you should not be playing in any 'sphere' or 'faction' or whatever that you are staffing for. I don't care about staff alts being transparent or not. If you can't trust staffers enough to let them play quietly, idk. What are you doing there?

    There are lots of games with only one or two factions and very little in the way of secret lore. I very much understand why staff Arx overall doesn't really play PCs. It's just a very, very different setting than plenty of other games. It's just very game-dependent. Most of my staffing has happened on one-faction, PVE games with a huge amount of transparency in terms of log posting, etc.


  • Coder

    @kanye-qwest

    Point. I’ll blame other distractions and that it’s hard to come up with a more cogent reply on a tablet, which I also do too much.

    Working as a professional, I see “professional behavior” as what you choose to do and how you choose to do it and after that it’s a cultural thing. The more we dig into this answer, the more we will probably quibble and tangent.

    I’ve also played on many games in which the staff were not ethical, yet still had strong convictions and logical arguments that they were. For the sake of this discussion, I will not go on about Dark Metal, Firan or the like, but I think it’s important to note that staff ethics have never really made or broken a game.

    And finally, my own personal edict: Understand and accept.

    Understand that nobody is perfect. Understand your own limitations. Understand the words being said to you. Understand your own convictions. Understand that others might not share those convictions. If you don’t understand then there’s no way you can even begin to act ethically.

    And accept the reality of yourself and others.

    I should note that I haven’t come with a pithy way to add, “DO NOT be a Welcome Mat and DO NOT forget, Hell you don’t even have to forgive.” But you should sure as hell be accepting in this hobby, and all the messy imperfections that means in our post-political, sometimes-SJW, belief-heavy world.



    • 'Professional' behavior; this can include language, tone, spelling, etc. Is it better for staff to be aloof or to be chat with their players?

    Spelling and grammar: yes, I'd like to see everyone put some effort in, but some people are simply bad this. I'm not keen on holding 'genuinely not great at this' as an ethical failure of any kind. I will side-eye a little at someone who can craft a brilliant, literate pose and is seven shades of 'lolololololol whut u say?????' OOC and on channels from their staff bit, though; not able is one thing, 'gives none fucks' is another.

    Language... I swear. I always swear. I more or less always have. I would probably swear in church if I went, and I have apparently driven nuns to swear in church, so there's that. This is because I don't automatically believe profanity == abusive or rude or uncivil. That said, it should never be directed at people if being civil and friendly. "That's fucking awesome!" == OK; "You're a fucking jackass!" =! OK. That said, "You are a stupid idiot!" =! OK in the kind of environment I consider civil, so it's not about which words are being used, aside from actual slur language, which is never OK.

    Tone should be positive as much as possible. In those moments in which someone has to either let off steam or has a valid frustration to express, that is always best done privately to other staff only. If someone can't keep their positive<-->negative balance skewed positive, they're probably not a good fit for staff, because they're clearly not happy with what they're doing.

    Aloof? No. Approachable? Yes. Everybody's bestie? Also no. And that's a hard line to draw. I know that whenever I'm staffing, I generally do not have the time or attention span to spend in lengthy individual daily chats about somebody's art projects (and I'm including my own here) or their day or their kids or their favorite music, etc., and there are some folks that feel that unless a staffer engages in this kind of random social fu, or isn't open to this at all times, they're 'aloof'. If that's somebody's definition of aloof, well, I'm gonna be aloof and not feel especially bad about it, honestly. Channel chatter with players and OOC room chat with a group that doesn't delve into anything too personal? All well and good, and probably a net positive for approachability in most cases.

    There's a positive side to 'aloof' I think staff should embrace, and that's generally the 'avoid being a petty gossip or busybody about things that aren't necessarily anybody's business IC or OOC'. Players definitely do this, or joke around about it even publicly (teasing, claiming, etc.), but when staff does this, it starts looking like bias or favoritism even when it isn't.

    • Activity levels. Is a staff member doing what they are supposed to do? What are they supposed to do and how well/frequently? What's a good standard?

    This depends on what job they have on the game. A coder might not be needed all the time, for instance. Same with someone who grooms a wiki once every X amount of time. Barring vacations or time away for a special purpose, I'm personally keen on 'show up at least twice a week for an hour or two to get your stuff done' as a general minimum.

    That said, I'm not as interested in minimums or maximums or hourlies as I am in someone's work ethic. As in, if you're going to log in, log in ready to get stuff done, do not just log your staff bit in to socialize; use your player bit for that, dammit. I have seen too many staffers just log in and chat away merrily for hours while simple jobs that no one else can handle due to CoI or similar concerns are completely ignored, and that is just not OK. If they were on 'man the newbie channel' duty or similar, it would be one thing, but typically this is not the case. Fuck that behavior.

    • Communication, following up on promises. How much transparency is a good thing? In discipline cases how much should be revealed about what happened (or the reasons nothing did)?

    I am a fan of transparency, but I'm also a fan of privacy. Balancing the two is not easy. For instance, I don't believe a staffer should be required to publicly reveal their alts unless everyone on the game is asked to do so, and I'm not a fan of demanding that anyone do so publicly. That said, I'm not completely against a generic 'staff alt' label on staff's PCs that doesn't disclose which staffer they are, but I'm still not completely sold on it, either.

    Similarly, in discipline issues, some targets of abuse are not going to want their names going out there due to realistic concerns about retaliation. I would say in most cases, this is undesirable. "Joe was stalking Jenny, so he got the boot." =! OK; "Joe got the boot for stalking a fellow player." == OK. I think @Sonder pretty much nails this one at FC; the basics of the negative behavior are mentioned, who did it is mentioned, and what was done about it (temp ban, full ban) is disclosed. I don't remember if she adds 'if you have any questions, direct them to headstaff' or not, but I could see this being viable and useful for two reasons: 1. all the gossipy assholes who just want dirt on somebody will reveal themselves and you get to know who they are to keep an eye on that nightmare, and 2. anyone who has a similar complaint about <name> is more likely to bring it to your attention at that time.

    With the setup I was looking at, and have been pondering for some time, there's more transparency in general than is typical. Sheets are public. Spends are public, along when when they were made and who processed them, since it's all on the wiki and these things appear automatically in history.

    As big as 'transparency' in staff decision-making, in my view, is the kind of transparency that reduces the disparity of information power between players and staff by default.

    • Playing their own game; staff not playing alts or revealing their names, or not permitting those PCs to attain important positions.

    Mostly covered above. Standard CoI rules apply. If, for some reason, a staffer has to work on something that would impact one of their own characters in some way, whether it's adding a power they plan to take, a house rule change that would apply to them, etc. I am keen on having that job published to public view, in full, while it's being discussed or once it's complete. (Whichever is more relevant. An XP spend or processing XP for a log has all public data that everyone can see no matter who is doing it for who, so if something is fishy, this can be called out by anyone at any time about anybody else, so this is more 'when complete', as opposed to 'hey, we're thinking of adding this new piece of equipment, what do y'all think?' which is more viable to open to public discussion and input anyway.)

    Re: leadership roles, the setup I prefer keeps leadership roles in public factions in NPC control, and (most) NPCs can be used freely, as needed, by players or staff alike, rather than held in staff control alone.

    In player-created factions and groups, whoever created it makes the rules. They can make a 'no staff alts allowed!' rule for the whole group if they want, so far as I'm concerned. Someone on staff can create a group like this as well, but must do so under the same rules and limitations as any player would. If they end up in a leadership position by whatever mechanism the group adopts to decide who gets to lead, so be it, but they aren't owed one any more or less than anyone else. (Considering how often 'has demonstrated excellent people-management and creative and story-making skills as the leader of a group' gets someone considered for a staff role in the first place, being needlessly restrictive about this is destined to hobble a group or prevent someone who would be a great benefit to the game from joining staff, and that's all downside.)

    • Protecting 'appearances' by not ruling on issues close to them (friends are involved, etc); what happens in small games, or if the staff is small and everyone is involved with everyone else? What are the limits?

    The small games problem is more and less hard because of what you're describing. On a small game, appearances end up being less a concern when everyone actually does know you, what you're about, and what standards you hold yourself to -- which is actually good, because, yeah, these concerns are all the more likely to come up with a small game with a small staff. They're almost inevitable, even if you have measures in place to avoid them as much as possible. The best you can really do is be as transparent as you can in these cases, and let people 'see your work', like ye olde math class in elementary school. It's essentially a trade-off that balances out, at least somewhat.


  • Admin

    @surreality So for example what's the correct generic approach to a scenario like this:

    • There is an allegation that Bob is harassing Jane. Staff investigates.
    1. Bob is found GUILTY and bans him. Does Staff announce that he's banned? Do they explain why? To what degree? To whom - is it only to those involved or to the public?

    2. Bob is found NOT GUILTY. Does Staff announce there was an allegation at all? Do they reveal the reasons why they concluded that? If so, same question as above - to whom?

    This is sensitive territory. You want to be mindful of privacy, to steer your culture correctly, to be sensitive to potentially wronged parties, etc... there are a lot of ways this can go bad.

    What's the right way to do it?



  • @arkandel The example's in there, really, for 'guilty'.

    "<name> has been <banned/temp banned> for <behavior>. If you have any questions about this, direct them to headstaff."

    Not guilty, if there's no action to take, there's nothing to report to the public. The people bringing the complaint need to be told why no action is being taken. Anybody asking independently should be told, "The allegations in the complaint could not be verified," or similar.

    If you find out a verifiably false complaint has been filed for malicious purposes? That goes out as above: "<name> has been banned for filing a malicious false complaint against another player. If you have any questions about this, direct them to headstaff."


  • Pitcrew

    I always try and imagine a game is like my table. So I will do my best to have a pleasant, amused relationship with my players. I will crack jokes and make fun but I also take no shit. I don't like to lie or mislead players but I kinda don't take MUing that damn seriously.


  • Pitcrew

    @arkandel said in Staff and ethics:

    @surreality So for example what's the correct generic approach to a scenario like this:

    • There is an allegation that Bob is harassing Jane. Staff investigates.
    1. Bob is found GUILTY and bans him. Does Staff announce that he's banned? Do they explain why? To what degree? To whom - is it only to those involved or to the public?

    2. Bob is found NOT GUILTY. Does Staff announce there was an allegation at all? Do they reveal the reasons why they concluded that? If so, same question as above - to whom?

    This is sensitive territory. You want to be mindful of privacy, to steer your culture correctly, to be sensitive to potentially wronged parties, etc... there are a lot of ways this can go bad.

    What's the right way to do it?

    At first we weren't announcing bans, because of privacy and respect to the banned parties. But then we realized people were just disappearing and it was confusing, and figured that announcing who and why would take care of that and might also serve to let people know we are super cereal about what we don't tolerate. So now we have a bannings board. I don't think there's a clear right answer, here, but I think you can come down on the side of "do what's best for the people actually playing your game' and feel all right about it.


  • Coder

    You can accomplish both goals by simply stating "Today, the staff banned a player after an investigation into activities that went against policies." Answers questions about the investigation, the policies broken, but don't "out" the player. Anyone close to them will figure it out and you've taken the high road by honoring their privacy.


  • Pitcrew

    I’m not sure that someone who egregiously cheated or who was vile in their harassment deserves their privacy protected.


  • Coder

    If the evidence and situation calls for it, unload with both barrels, absolutely.


  • Pitcrew

    I love the Bannings board on Arx. It makes me seriously happy, because it's not "here is the person and here is the list of evidence various people collected over X number of years." It's just - "This person did this thing, and we don't do that here." Done.

    It's a quick guide to culture, it's not a bunch of horrible drawn-out drama, and when people disappear it's easier to be able to look and say - welp, they weren't banned so they're either on another character or left the game" rather than wonder.


  • Pitcrew

    I don't think it's a violation of privacy to say "this person engaged in X behavior that we don't tolerate here." I also don't think that there's any game in which a public announcement/explanation of a ban is the wrong fit. I strongly, strongly think there are a whole host of reasons to be reasonably transparent about bans and I've yet to hear a reason otherwise that I find compelling. I think that making banning posts while not revealing the player identity is going to be actively detrimental to your atmosphere as everyone starts whisper campaigns.

    There's no reasonable expectation of privacy as far as "staff won't reveal that I broke rules if they have to remove me from the game." Like, that's just not a thing.


  • Admin

    @kanye-qwest said in Staff and ethics:

    At first we weren't announcing bans, because of privacy and respect to the banned parties. But then we realized people were just disappearing and it was confusing

    Okay, fair enough. In fact I should have chosen a more generic, non-ultimate example.

    What if the accusation was something not as serious but for which discipline had to be dished out anyway? For example Bob abused OOC information to some non-terrible degree, and he had to be punished a bit - he got docked some XP, lost an IC position, stuff like that.

    Do you go public with the details? Are they only announced to Bob and Jane (the parties directly involved)? Is the naming-and-shaming just added punishment on top and thus should be avoided, and if so do you miss out on the opportunity to have others who might be involved in similar shenanigans warned by the example?


  • Pitcrew

    I think it’s better for all concerned to have a truthful, simple, short and clear explanation for the ban in all circumstances.

    It prevents a lot of issues.

    Bob was banned because of x incidents of inappropriately using ooc info IC. Please see our policy of x (if there is one). If you have questions or need a gut check about your own behavior in this regard please feel free to reach out to staff.

    I think when I have seen silence or “face saving” explanations allowed to be given for someone being asked to leave, it tends to stir up more upset or in some cases allows that person to act as if nothing happened/no cause.

    That’s not really good for anyone in that situation.


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