Bad Actors, and Bad Behavior (extended)



  • One of the things I've watched shift drastically over the years -- it's one of those pendulum issues in the hobby that seems to swing from one extreme to the other -- is how people handle bad actors on games.

    We know, collectively, that there are some toxic folks in the hobby, or folks who commonly demonstrate some exceptionally toxic behavior for whatever reason. (Some of these reasons may be more understandable or sympathetic than others, but that's a separate issue, and this one has plenty already. The reasons why may be good fodder for another thread, but aren't meant to be the focus here.)

    How would you define or identify bad behavior?

    How much bad behavior would it take for you to identify someone as a bad actor (rather than 'the average person who screws up sometimes and generally will feel bad about it when they realize that they have done so, and try to make it right')? Does it have to be a specific sort of behavior to cross this line?

    How do you feel it best to handle known bad actors (by your own definition as above, there's no need for broad consensus that someone is problematic, ex: Spider/Rex/Elsa/Custodius/etc.) being allowed access to a game at the outset? Pre-bans? Pre-bans for some, new chance for others? New chance for everyone?

    If -- either because they were allowed on under a new chance principle, or snuck on, or never realized they weren't welcome in the first place and just showed up -- a bad actor appears on the game, how do you handle this? This is from the player, staff, and general perspective (if they're the same for both). This can be anything from 'ignore it' to 'ban instantly' to 'keep an extra eye on them' to 'avoid them' to anything else you can think of.

    As staff, how do you want players to handle this? As a player, how would you want staff to handle this? (Not actually the same question as above.)

    Do you have concerns that the presence of a bad actor on a game will inspire bad behavior in others? (This can be through following that person's behavior model, or starting a gossip circle, or spawning arguments somewhere that spill all over the game, etc.) If so, at what point does this become an issue in its own right, and what do you do about it?

    This is in constructive for a reason; please keep this in mind! While examples of bad behavior are very likely going to come up, this is not a place for specific call-outs re: game behavior; please try to provide examples without naming names if you can. (Doubly helpful, because not all of us have direct experience with any of the various problem children in the hobby, so knowing the bad actions really is more important than knowing who the bad actor is.)



  • One of the major problems in this hobby is that without the existence of logs, bad behavior is a matter entirely of hearsay that makes it hard to truly understand what's really going on. Over my tenure in the hobby I've seen some really openly bad behavior (Stalking, threats, doxxing, abuse to name a few), but more times than not I'm approached with rumors of these behaviors without evidence.

    I'm going to say up front my answer, and then explain why.

    My answer? YOU CAN'T, NOT WITHOUT LOGS

    This is a text-based hobby, where there isn't any explanation as to why logs can't be presented. This extends even to Discord or any other outside-of-game chats. Sure, they can be falsified and edited, but in theory the person being accused could also present their own logs as evidence of edit. But the one thing that remains true is that you can't deny the existence of logs as a good focal point on determining whether or not bad behavior has happened at all.

    Now for the part that some people might not agree with me on, but I feel very, very strongly about this.

    • I've been on games where jilted players have used threats of badmouthing the game to fuck them over as a means to get back at the game for upsetting them (where do you think they intend to do this?)
    • I've been party to some fairly excessive claims, without logs, that I later found out the other side of the story was a completely different take.
    • We just had a thread show up on the Hog Pit where one player caused a stampede on another game on a theory that a player was OPP.

    Like it or not, this isn't an environment where things happened exactly as a person claimed that they did because they say it's true. There are people who leverage their reputation over logs, and there are people who know that character assassination on a private, page-level campaign without the existence of logs can do absolute damage to a player or game that they aren't happy with...and it happens. We all know it happens, and it happens more than I think we pay attention to.

    So my advice on this thread going forward is to understand that over the history of this hobby there have been some absolute people who deserved the title of "problem players", but there have also been some rather unfortunate victims of aggressive behavior from players who have somehow managed to avoid getting onto that list of problem players (due to cliques, popularity, ownership of games, etc).

    How do I personally deal with problem players? I used to get annoyed or upset about it, but nowadays? I don't.

    For me, it's simple. If someone does something rude to me on this text-based media, I can log it and forward it to staff. There's no reason to wrestle and there's no reason to lose my cool. I'll forward it to staff as a complaint, sever OOC communication with the player, and if I find myself on a game where staff isn't handling complaints about logged abusive player behavior? I leave the game. Ultimately, if this results in me having zero games to play? I do something else with my time, because at that point I'll have more fun away from MU than with it.

    But we should be very, very, very careful to not create an environment where cult of personality results in logless courts of public opinion, and I feel that there should be more awareness and action taken against people who use the sideways means to attack other players.

    So, there are problem players (Stalking, Doxxing, Abuse, etc) and there are players who use logless whisper campaigns of such to attack other players who have upset them. There's a difference.


  • Pitcrew

    For me the difference is when the behavior is a pattern.
    Do something bad on one game and I will be open to giving that person a second change. Everyone messes up at times and one mistake shouldn't doom anyone, at least if it doesn't cross line into RL stuff like doxxing, that to me is a one strike you are out forever type of thing.
    But if a person has shown that over a period of many year and many games to have the same behavior then I has no problem pre-banning them, yes while change is possible the person has shown repeated issues so someone else can take the chance on them, I will play the odds.



  • But define BAD?

    I'm sure we can all agree that the following falls under BAD

    • Sexual Harassment
    • Doxxing
    • Unwanted OOC tracking/stalking
    • Abusing the game's code for personal benefit
    • Quid-pro-quo harassment
    • Giving personal information out on people's RL
    • Other OOC abuses including slander? Pestering? Unwanted advances after being told to stop?

    But even if there's a pattern of behavior, shouldn't the pattern of behavior be related to things that fall squarely under bad? There's a lot of gray area He-Said-She-Said that I've seen many people on this board suffer, myself included, that took a personal disagreement into the realm of personal attack based on disagreements about:

    • Being inconvenienced
    • A disagreement on what someone meant or intended
    • A misunderstanding on what someone was trying to do/not do
    • Lack of OOC communication on an IC situation

    I think getting our collective heads together around what is actual BAD behavior versus a personality conflict could lead to a lot of good, including (and here's my personal stake in this conversation) protecting any of us from having a bad week turn into having to leave the hobby because of some kind of OOC/Hog Pit bandwagon?

    We should define what is actually BAD, so that players will know some sort of suggested code of conduct. This would keep, for example, someone with a somewhat okay reputation suddenly deciding that @surreality needed to suffer because they were upset about a game situation (that was a misunderstanding) and use their reputation to "fuck her up" a bit on MSB.

    The court of public opinion, the mob, is a strong factor in the social environment of these games. We SHOULD actively put together a habit of logging negative situations and reporting them.

    Likewise, defining BAD and logging would also allow someone with a shitty reputation, be it their fault or not, to prove that people are being "BAD" towards them without these forums going "whatever, you were a shithead on XYZ game and I believe this person because we had fun on another game".

    So that's my take on this.


  • Pitcrew

    Bad is going to be different based on the game for the most part, different communities have different standards. Your first list is pretty universal but for the most part of lot of the issues will most be a clash between the player and game culture.
    If the game is set up where the outcome to most conflicts are negotiated than my preference for dice based resolution will conflict with that how I deal with that is what determines weather or not I am a bad player for that game. For the record my response would likely be to bounce and not look back, making me not any kind of player of the game.
    I do think staff is a lot of cases is not clear about what the culture of a game is either through lack of communication or through just being out of touch with the situation down in the mud but that is an entirely different issue.



  • I would also like to throw this out (before I stop responding for a while to let other people get their thoughts in):

    If we're going to define, or discuss "BAD" behavior by players, and if it's defined by very specific things such as sexual harassment, stalking, doxxing, etc, then I think we should take a moment to acknowledge the amount of hell some people have gone through on these boards for things like:

    • Bad character descriptions
    • Poorly written roleplay
    • Unpopular character concepts

    I think, in the grand scheme of things, it's ultimately fair to say that the same people who may be discussing the various fucked up things that people do, or (if my senses are accurate) slowly put together a word of mouth system to bar players ranging from "disliked" to "possibly serial killers" from games, then we should take a moment to observe the way some people have been treated by the people who would be making those distinctions.

    We can all agree that a doxxer, stalker, or sexual harasser is bad, and no one likes to be made fun of, but if we're going to discuss negative behavior and the poor ways that people treat each other on games, we should probably ask ourselves if by dragging people's characters, wikis, and descriptions through the mud, are the people doing this not being bad themselves?



  • @ghost said in Bad Actors, and Bad Behavior (extended):

    We can all agree that a doxxer, stalker, or sexual harasser is bad, and no one likes to be made fun of, but if we're going to discuss negative behavior and the poor ways that people treat each other on games, we should probably ask ourselves if by dragging people's characters, wikis, and descriptions through the mud, are the people doing this not being bad themselves?

    This is what the last question is about in a nutshell, yep.

    It isn't as much about the forums, though, as it is about behavior on games. Plenty of people engage in the forums but aren't on any games at any given time, and plenty of people -- great and terrible -- are on games and not the forums.

    The forums vs. games convo really isn't really the intended focus here, though as much as how to handle things on games is, and the forums are no different than any other game-external communication mediums (skype, discord, facebook, voice calls, etc.) in that regard. 'Using out-of-game communication broadly' is a factor, yes, but this isn't a thread intended to be in any way about forum policing, and I'd like to gently steer away from that one. (There are plenty of existing arguments about that elsewhere on the boards, and I don't see this coming back from that frequent tangent if it gets too deep.)


  • Pitcrew

    @ghost said in Bad Actors, and Bad Behavior (extended):

    I'm sure we can all agree that the following falls under BAD

    • Sexual Harassment
    • Doxxing
    • Unwanted OOC tracking/stalking
    • Abusing the game's code for personal benefit
    • Quid-pro-quo harassment
    • Giving personal information out on people's RL
    • Other OOC abuses including slander? Pestering? Unwanted advances after being told to stop?

    You just defined most of "Bad" right there (I would add metagaming to get ahead, but that's about it). Because there's a difference between "an asshole" and "a bad actor." @surreality specifically asked about Bad Actors, not people who are mean. Now, granted, mean people can be detrimental to a game's health as well, but I would put that under "Other OOC abuses." If a player is giving another player shit for their desc on the game, I say they should be warned, and if they do it again, they should be shown the door.

    I also think that as a Staffer, it's often possible to tell whether a charge is accurate or not by talking to the person. Most bad actors (in my experience) will not demonstrate any hint of being apologetic, they will try to explain why things totally weren't that bad, or why their victim is just misunderstanding. If there's any question in my mind, I would certainly ask for logs, but I often don't feel that I need them.

    To get back to the original questions, I think that there are levels of bad actors. There are some (Elsa/Rex/Spider/Custodius/etc) who should just be removed from a game as soon as they're discovered. They have proven track records over years or decades of being bad actors.

    For most others with reputations, I'll give them exactly one chance--and if I know that I have a suspected bad actor on the game, I'll actually make explicit check-ins with a scattering of players on the game from time to time (including brand new players), in case they don't want to come to Staff, but are willing to talk if Staff comes to them.

    I'll excuse most people of one screw-up, because everybody has a bad day now and then.

    As Staff, I really, really, really want players to come to me if someone is making them feel uncomfortable. It may be a case where I say "I'm really sorry that someone made you feel uncomfortable. I don't think that it's something that they were trying to do, but I'll certainly talk to them about how they came off--if you're okay with me talking to them about it," or it may be a case where I say "Nope, that's way too much. I'm really sorry that they did that crappy thing to you. I'm going to be giving them a single warning (or I'm going to be recommending to Staff that they be removed from the game), would you prefer if I not mention you by name?" Either way, I want to hear about it.

    As a player, I want Staff to do some investigating, and then act quickly. I want them to make sure it's not a witch hunt, but I want the issue dealt with quickly, before whomever the Bad Actor is ruins the game for someone else.


  • Pitcrew

    I have seen destructive and bad actors on one game do just fine on another. I’ve seen that a lot in fact, prior to people finding out who’s who and looking for things then. There are even people who would have made the Forever Unwelcome list 15 years ago who have integrated just fine back into the community.

    So much of people’s behavior can be very influenced by the culture, stress level, and expectations on a place. If staff is constantly shittalking and badmouthing people on what they think are semi-private channels, then honestly they’re really not going to notice a problem player doing it. If there is a culture with a certain person or group of people being able to make “just kidding” mean comments, or snapping at people oocly, or harassing people non-sexually about rp events, then it’s not going to stick out when more people try it. It’s been amazing to me personally to see how differently many people behave when there are differing standards. They may have RP tells and the same ooc stories that you’ve heard before, but somewhere where problematic behavior is not dismissed or coddled, and they test it and find it to be true, most people will contain themselves.

    Yes, there are a (very) few people who genuinely cannot control their toxicity. But they’re few and far between, and what does a game in is seldom one person, but a culture that allows piss poor behavior too often until some event breaks the camel’s back.

    I think in our hobby we obsess too much about rooting out The Bad Actors. I think more problems would be solved by addressing problem behaviors immediately, no matter who is doing them or why they’re happening. But that is a super big ask, and we’ve seldom been great at it.


  • Admin

    @ghost said in Bad Actors, and Bad Behavior (extended):

    If we're going to define, or discuss "BAD" behavior by players, and if it's defined by very specific things such as sexual harassment, stalking, doxxing, etc, then I think we should take a moment to acknowledge the amount of hell some people have gone through on these boards for things like:

    Some things are fairly universal. Those are the only ones we can really address in a generic post - sexual harassment for example is a pretty damn good bet for what constitutes a no-no.

    Everything else depends on each game's staff. Maybe I am more SJW than some and would ban you for calling someone a bitch; maybe you are a real elitist and would condone someone being derided for too many typos in their posing. But we can't possibly apply any rhyme or reason to such things, as they are just too game-specific.


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