Our Tendency Towards Absolutes



  • So, I'm looking at some recent threads and noticing a common current running through them. "Some staff abuse their role as staff, using staff abilities and resources to glorify their own PC; we should discuss the rules/expectations we think should be a baseline that all staff must follow." "Some staff arguably use plot NPCs in a way I think is detrimental to the story; let's discuss the rules we think that all staff should therefore need to follow."

    I've been drawn into it, too. But the more I look at that more closely today, the less I become comfortable with this "assume the worst until it's proven otherwise" mindset we seem to have adopted as our community baseline somewhere along the way.

    We take the approach upon seeing a situation that we can imagine might be off and default to assuming it is. We culturally seem to go with "guilty until proven innocent" and demand proof that people weren't doing something wrong before giving them the benefit of the doubt, just because someone else in similar circumstances somewhere else has done something we didn't like.

    And we try to discuss these things as absolutes. An example of where the assumption isn't true is never a reason to examine the assumption itself; it must either be universally applicable or else it's just "an exception to the rule". A specific example of how an NPC having a relationship with a PC can serve the story may not be a reason to think "maybe saying NPC/PC relationships are bad isn't always true and we should rethink that default assumption", but rather "oh, that's an exception to the rule."

    We seem willing to assume the worst, universally; because staff on this other game did things we don't like, we assume that staff on every game will do those things too unless they individually prove otherwise. But an example of where where that bad assumption isn't true? That's the exception. That's "well, maybe that works there, but". It's never a reason to challenge that baseline assumption.

    (I think you could argue we do it to other players, too, to a lesser extent.)

    And I feel like that isn't a healthy mindset. It's not a healthy world view. And it feels awfully close to a type of judgemental absolutist logic that is way, way too common these days in the real world. "Because some homeless people do hard drugs or buy alcohol when they ask for money, we should assume by default that all homeless people do hard drugs, and make them prove otherwise before we're willing to hand them a dollar." "Because some members of that religion have committed violent acts before, we should assume by default that all members of that religion could be planning to commit acts of violence and make them prove otherwise." And when those individuals can prove in a satisfactory manner that the assumption is false in their case, the conclusion isn't that the assumption itself might be flawed and not quite so absolute, but that this particular individual is "the exception to the rule".

    Sure, saying "Because sometimes staffers on games have done shady things with staff abilities and resources, we should assume by default that all staffers who do anything with staff abilities and resources are doing shady things and make them prove otherwise." is an order of magnitude less severe than those examples above; it is unlikely it will lead to literal starvation, or potentially deadly violence. But it's not really a more healthy mindset for us to have, either.

    And the more I think about it, the more I find it kind of worrisome that we seemingly have come to just accept this "staff are bad by default and we should make the exceptions prove that they aren't" philosophy as some sort of normalized baseline in the community based on various past examples of folks being lousy, but the examples of people doing otherwise—who prove they aren't lousy—are only ever just "the exception".



  • I've tried to bring this up before, but I sort of feel as if the last time I did it sort of delved into a 'but because I was burned by someone I know giving people any sort of leeway is how we end up with Spiders and Cullens' because my attempt to say hey, don't assume the worst of everyone and don't approach everyone as the worst possible scenario was...Apparently instead taken as 'give blanket forgiveness to everyone that has ever harmed you'? (This is at least how it had read to me and was my feel on the response)

    Or maybe people do just firmly stand on the side of 'because I've been burned in the past I know I will absolutely definitely be burned again so it's best to just assume everyone has fire for hands'.

    I'd rather that not be the case. And I know I can be guilty of kneejerk reactions myself sometimes (it's sort of a human nature deal, esp in those of us with anxiety since our fitefitefite mode is flipped to always on), but damn if I'm not trying to be better.



  • @Sparks

    (ob. 100% refutation of the entire post)

    (<edi>that was a joke</edi>)



  • Throwing my 'oh, gods, all of this, all of it' into the ring, in a hat. There isn't enough coffee in the world for this day or the reply this deserves.

    It's a consistent problem, and one that seems to ebb and flow on any given issue. In some respects, it's not as bad as it has been. In others, it's much worse.

    I'll expound on that if at all necessary once there's a respectable level of caffeine in my bloodstream.



  • Somewhat tangental:
    In theory the optimal form of goverment is a benign dictator, having the flexibility to always to the right thing for the people without any of the red tape and bureacracy of a democracy. In practise it never happens because people are human and thats why the most succesful countries are generally those with accountability.

    MU* is similar in that if you have the perfect staff, they dont need rules to tie them down since theyll always do the right thing to make the game better for everyone. In reality though most staff are just normal people trying to have some fun with their hobby with others and there's no reason to expect them to be saints.

    Good rules and policies makes the hobby better for everyone since it makes the expectations clear and you put less pressure on the staff to always make the right judgement call. Sure at times they might feel cumbersome and unneccesary if you have a lot of trust however I think it's on the whole better to lean on good policy rather then trust.



  • @Sparks Thank you.



  • @Sparks

    I don't think good staff is the exception anymore. I certainly don't think using commentary here is a good indication of how many good staffers we have. And if you're reading the Hog Pit...well, stop reading the Hog Pit.

    Assuming staff is shady is a defensive mechanism. Everyone takes emotional abuse differently, starting with the idea that we let ourselves be emotionally abused by Pretendy Funtime Games but seeing how angry people get over something as nonthreatening as sports I don't think that's us. I think that's humanity.

    We have an ingrained fear of The Other, and staff is often to players behind a velvet curtain. Staff historically ("in my experience", and I may get back to that phrase in a bit) has closed themselves off from the player base at large. Trusting an unknown with power over your ability to interact can be a daunting thing. Treating unknowns with skepticism is not something we should be surprised about. Another survival mechanism.

    I'm not arguing against your point. Eventually the behavior becomes toxic, but that can be said of any behavior. But of the games I've poked at lately, people have been fairly welcoming and willing to help, and that's exactly what is needed to overcome the caution. Some people are more cautious than others, some people are more like abuse survivors than others. Sometimes that means smiling sadly and saying that you can't do more than you have.

    Everyone has different experiences, and the best any of us can do is be patient and understanding and fair and kind, even when you're showing them the door.


  • Pitcrew

    I will take the devil's advocate tack here, I suppose. In large part, however, I do agree that there should be more of a mindset towards openness than we often see.

    SO. My one niggling thing. As much as staff are players, staff are also staff. When a player 'goes bad' they can be escorted out the door by staff. When a staffer 'goes bad' it often seems like its much harder both to prove evidence of wrongdoing and to get other staff to act on it. And I get it. Staff are often OOC/IRL friends with one another, they are trusted (at least to an extent) by the other staff. Its far far easier to just handwave off a player complaint of staff abuse with 'they were just having a bad day, I know Staffer Y would never normally do that'. But this is why standards of conduct (player and staff alike) should be implemented. And, in my experience (ymmv), when staff do start to display undesirable or abusive traits, it often starts with people who are considered bad or problem players. So it often goes unremarked upon for a much longer time because nobody is going to generally think twice if some swipes are taken at an asshole. If it continues on and complaints go unresolved.. well, this is why you have a lot players gunshy about reporting abuse in the first place. They've been conditioned to accept that nothing will come of it (at best) or they will be actively targeted by said staffer (at worst). This is also what breeds resentment and lingering mistrust of staff. And yes, I know, we can always 'vote with our feet'. But when you have a massive game like any of the last few bit WoD games, Arx, Firan, etc. you're going to have the vast majority of people who either aren't experiencing this so have no reason to leave or are willing to overlook it because there's no other game of this type they can go to so are hesitant to leave an active game in which they've invested time and effort.

    TLDR; Staff are every bit as capable of abuse and misconduct as players, all people on a game should be held to equal standards of conduct whether they are staff or player. But I can see why there are the occasional cries for stricter enforcement on staff, it is (IMHO) much harder to deal with a 'bad' staffer than a 'bad' player. 10-20 years of watching nearly as many staff break rules or abuse players as the players themselves do have shown that its far less likely for a 'bad' staffer to be shown the door than a 'bad' player.



  • @Auspice said in Our Tendency Towards Absolutes:

    I've tried to bring this up before, but I sort of feel as if the last time I did it sort of delved into a 'but because I was burned by someone I know giving people any sort of leeway is how we end up with Spiders and Cullens'

    I should note I think there's a difference between "pattern recognition" and "regarding things as absolutes". It's the difference between "Jed has been shacked up privately in a room with that NPC every other evening, and now suddenly he has the Shiny Thing (a new spaceship/a magic sword/private training in dark magic from an abyssal mage thousands of years old/an experimental rocket launcher that normally costs more money than any PC can muster); I have seen this before elsewhere and it Does Me A Concern" and "I hear Jed slept with an NPC for some reason; clearly there are Unethical Shenanigans going on, and it must be stopped!"

    The line between the two is, admittedly, both fuzzy and impossible to define universally; it is very possible (and common) for people to try to justify the one as the other. But I think it's safe to say if your "pattern recognition" is based on a single broad criteria ("is staff" or "is an NPC sleeping with a PC for some reason"), it's really more trying to define an absolute. And that's the part I find worrisome.

    @Groth said in Our Tendency Towards Absolutes:

    MU* is similar in that if you have the perfect staff, they dont need rules to tie them down since theyll always do the right thing to make the game better for everyone. In reality though most staff are just normal people trying to have some fun with their hobby with others and there's no reason to expect them to be saints.

    Good rules and policies makes the hobby better for everyone since it makes the expectations clear and you put less pressure on the staff to always make the right judgement call. Sure at times they might feel cumbersome and unneccesary if you have a lot of trust however I think it's on the whole better to lean on good policy rather then trust.

    I don't think we can expect people to be saints, no. And I agree rules can be great. Clear expectations are wonderful!

    Is it fair to go "a benevolent dictatorship is the most efficient form of government, but people are human, so it makes sense to have checks and balances over whatever person currently sits in the chair where they control your entire country and potentially therefore the actual lives, health, and safety of everyone in it"? Absolutely!

    And even universally applied regulations definitely do have an important place in some things, not just nations. Is it fair to go "these handful of investment banks have engaged in shady shenanigans; we should impose universal rules to prevent other banks from doing this?" Yes, because—leaving aside the possible degree of damage—I'd argue that we have no widespread practical way to opt out of the free market economy; we're stuck with those banks. (You could also argue you're still only really applying rules to one thing: the financial sector. The banks are more like the factions on a single game, bound by the game's rules.)

    I think trying to apply universal rules to MU*s, though, is not really in the same vein. Sure, you can make an analogy and claim that a MU* is like a tiny nation, and that the people 'living' there should thus enjoy an established, formal system of government. Rules for staffers that they must follow. But I feel like that's a flawed analogy, in part because of those words you use in what I quoted: "the hobby".

    Saying "I have expectations of a MU*" strikes me as much more like "I have these expectations of a tabletop game." Wonderful! Those are your expectations; you can have them; it's good you know what you want in a tabletop game, it probably helps you find a gaming group and GM you can enjoy. More power to you!

    It's also fine to say, "this particular tabletop game I'm in is not adhering to what I want." It's even fine to tell your benevolent dictator (the GM) your opinion and ask if they can take it into account! But if the GM says no, you have the option to leave the tabletop group and find another. Unlike the free market economy—or a nation which is oppressing its citizens—you are completely free to choose whether to leave or stay; your choice either way does not endanger your life, health, or finances. (Or if it does, I am deeply concerned about what you consider baseline acceptable for a tabletop group you join in the first place.)

    You probably don't want to leave, of course; your friends are there, you have time and energy invested in that level 11 half-orc barbarian (and potentially some emotional investment in their story arc), etc. But you do still have the option to walk away; no one's holding a gun to your head and saying you can't. And sure, you can attempt bloody revolution and overthrow the GM to impose the rules you want, but a) that seems like a lot of trouble for a hobby, and b) if you overthrow the GM or otherwise make them feel like their own players are against them, I feel like your campaign has by default ended. Which is arguably not going to bring you an appreciably different level of enjoyment than just leaving the group would've.

    And given that tabletop gaming is a hobby, I'm not sure I can agree with "These expectations I have for a tabletop game should be rules that all tabletop games adhere to universally, because that way it removes the pressure from the GM to decide whether or not a given choice—like whether or not to allow this house rule, or if it's kosher to give the party a DM-played cleric as a party member after the existing cleric's player has to leave the campaign—is the right one or not. GMs shouldn't have to be saints to keep their players! Making these the universal rules improves the hobby!"

    If your specific tabletop group has rules written up stating explicitly what the GM can and cannot do? Hey, fine! But saying those rules should apply universally to all tabletop groups that you might ever join because that removes pressure from GMs by not forcing them to be saints, and therefore and improves the hobby? That just seems off to me.



  • @Sparks
    I agree. Rules and policies always need to be attuned to the kind of game you want to be running, there is no such thing as universal perfect rules that work in every context.

    From a hobby perspective the rules exist to make things a smoother experience for everyone. When it's clear up front what is expected noone needs to feel ambushed and you avoid a lot of needless arguing or dissapointment. If someone doesnt like the rules and policies you picked for your game, ideally they should be able to either find another game that suits them better or make their own.



  • I think one of the biggest problems is that people see staff and players as two different species, as though they aren't both the same types of human beings with all the inherent faults and brilliance that come with that.

    Then there's a different standard put on the two species. And that is exploited by complaining about every little mistake a staffer does because of the higher standard they are held to and trying to get away with every little thing because players have a lower standard.

    As people who are people, that shouldn't be. They should have the same standard of being people who are involved in playing on the same game. When that happens, you start to have much fewer excuses and resentment on the issues that do come up.


  • Pitcrew

    There is a definite tendency for players to dehumanize staffers -- it's easy because admin are considered the rulemakers, and therefore are in a "privileged" position to enforce who wins, who loses, who gets what, who gets kicked out. It's easy to forget there are flawed people beyond the policy enforcement, and they are friends with each other (one hopes well enough to work together), and they will have biases, judgments, preferred people to deal with, and all that. They also need to be allowed some degree of selfishness, because the minute the job no longer comes with any sort of fun, and their free time is spent mediating arguments or running stories for others... burn out is going to happen hard and fast. Things get a bit more dicey because MU*s are rarely, if ever, democracies, and players can come in with a real or supposed belief of powerlessness.

    I agree that staffers usually have to work extra hard to maintain a high degree of transparency, which is one of the few ways in this medium one can demonstrate trustworthy behaviours. Not many staff teams have the time and energy to make players feel involved with game policy and theme direction, and that can sometimes make communication break down -- especially if players feel like passive players in their own free time pretendy stories.

    Staff teams have the power to be very abusive. It's part and parcel of logging into a server that isn't your own. You could have someone reading every line of anything you've written or paged because they can turn on server logging without the game ever knowing. This stuff has and does happen. It is difficult to predict if it will happen to you, because the only measure of current behaviour is past behaviour.

    Similarly, I see a toxic culture of entitlement come in from the player side of things. People who feel absolutely obligated to receive this, this, and that, because they put in the work to app and join. People who feel absolutely obligated to say surprising, rude things to staffers on the first interaction because they equate them with front-line service workers, and expected to deal with demands, impatience, and brusque behaviours.

    I notice, similarly, when a player has had explosive fallouts with about five or six staff teams, usually over similar complaints -- they are the common denominator in all those incidents. Sometimes it's not them. Sometimes it's you.


  • Admin

    @onigiri said in Our Tendency Towards Absolutes:

    There is a definite tendency for players to dehumanize staffers

    We dehumanize everyone we don't know. Maybe it's our community in particular but I don't know that's the case.

    My theory is we like to point fingers because if we're not like them then we're with us and that means we're part of something. There's a 'we'. Then we bond over how much they suck.



  • This all just reeks of absolute nonsense.

    @Too-Old-For-This already largely hit the nail on the head and I notice it's the one person in the thread that OP decided to not reply to.

    There is generally zero accountability for staff, because the people with "power over them" (if there even is anybody above them) are generally literally their OOC bff's and often literally their boyfriend or girlfriend that lives with them IRL.

    So the people with power over shitty staff are biased towards them and have serious RL incentive to just ignore shitty behavior from them because calling them out on it doesn't just result in MU drama, it results in actual face-to-face, in person drama.

    On top of that, you then have the shills who are just players and will loudly, rabidly froth at the mouth in defense of their Favorite Staffer Of The Moment in hopes of currying their favor and getting actual in-game benefits as a result of it.

    @Sparks is literally bandying about the same old tired ass "if you don't like it leave" nonsense, as the right way to handle things, rather than to have any sort of accountability or expectation that staff should be open and honest about things and not be shitty, biased fucks.

    Here are some absolutes for you.

    Staff on MUs are human.

    Staff on MUs are MU players.

    MU players suck dick. Yes, you reading this right now, you are a terrible person and a complete shithead to just about everybody in the hobby outside of your circle of friends, because you're a selfish fuck with no self-awareness.

    No, you are not this selfless saint of storytelling you want to portray yourself as. Because nobody is.

    My problem, and IMO, the core toxicity destroying the hobby, isn't that MU staff can be shitty or that players are entitled (again, Staff are Players, so they feel entitled too. Oh, I'm staff now, I do so much for the game, that means I get to keep playing my PC but now she's a turbo-charged Mega NPC that is an IC Superhero of the World. But don't worry, I only do it to dispense story to other people :D). It's how dishonest, tribal, and defensive they (and everybody else in this hobby) are, and how incapable of taking a look in the mirror and holding themselves and their friends accountable they are., nevermind accepting outside criticism.



  • @Arkandel said in Our Tendency Towards Absolutes:

    @onigiri said in Our Tendency Towards Absolutes:

    There is a definite tendency for players to dehumanize staffers

    We dehumanize everyone we don't know. Maybe it's our community in particular but I don't know that's the case.

    There is also a definite tendency for staffers to dehumanize players.

    This is one of the Tendency Toward Absolutes that is a pox on this hobby.



  • @Tempest said in Our Tendency Towards Absolutes:

    My problem, and IMO, the core toxicity destroying the hobby, isn't that MU staff can be shitty or that players are entitled … . It's how dishonest, tribal, and defensive they (and everybody else in this hobby) are, and how incapable of taking a look in the mirror and holding themselves and their friends accountable they are., nevermind accepting outside criticism.

    My ribs still hurt from the irony.

    You're not wrong, though; you are right. We don't look in the mirror often enough. We are full of faults. And we are often unwilling to hold our friends to the same standards that we hold strangers.

    And we are human.

    I'm not sure how any of this has to do with what I believe Sparks is talking about, which may be why she casually walked around what Too Old for This was saying. But I would approve and support of a measure that holds staff to a higher standard of conduct than players by virtue of their positions.


  • Pitcrew

    @Tempest said in Our Tendency Towards Absolutes:

    MU players suck dick. Yes, you reading this right now, you are a terrible person and a complete shithead to just about everybody in the hobby outside of your circle of friends, because you're a selfish fuck with no self-awareness.

    this is not the hog pit



  • @Ganymede said in Our Tendency Towards Absolutes:

    I'm not sure how any of this has to do with what I believe Sparks is talking about, which may be why she casually walked around what Too Old for This was saying. But I would approve and support of a measure that holds staff to a higher standard of conduct than players by virtue of their positions.

    So, the reasons behind what Sparks is talking about, have nothing to do with what Sparks is talking about?

    Or is it just that it's easier to ignore them?



  • @Kanye-Qwest The truth hurts, huh?


  • Pitcrew

    The only absolute is there should be no absolutes.

    Yeah... wrap your minds around that shit.


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