Mobbing in Text Games

  • I was watching some celebrity stuff on social media and wondering why people felt the need to line up to kick someone when it was obvious that the person was breaking in a real bad way from all the negative attention. It made me wonder about online mob mentality, and naturally, games because it's my hobby.

    There's this thing called 'academic mobbing' that can be freaky accurate when applied to how people behave in mud communities. A person or group focus on a target and begins a smear campaign to drive them away, making it impossible, over time, for that person to hope to defend themselves. Why? Because so much time has been spent framing that person up to be unstable, not in step with the group, or a bully when it could actually be the accusing parties that have these problems.

    Some would say, the targets of that attention should stand up for themselves, or ask for help, but one person ordinarily can't handle all the negative attention alone and sometimes the people 'in charge' know full well what is happening. Leaving is in the target's best interest, but then the mob gets their way and can keep the status quo or find another target.

    People shouldn't be quiet about this - or delude themselves into thinking they haven't been part of the problem with compliant silence or outright shunning. The people that initiate this behavior often have issues and project them onto others, causing harm and isolation to those they focus on.

    Even if people roll their eyes and say, 'These are just games we play for fun, its not that serious." This is more of an organizational problem, which is why it is being examined in the military, universities, and corporations. In text games, because of the highly social aspect, there is an accountability for what happens in the community from the top that filters down to every member. Admins are not solely at fault for these issues and neither are players, so neither should be pointed at with accusing fingers.

    As a community, we should pause if we see these described patterns and ask ourselves if we really need to get in line to kick a person 'everyone hates' when they're already virtually on the floor and bleeding. There may very well be truth to the rumors being spread about them and we should be able to warn each other of that harmful behavior, but also be aware of this group behavior as well.

    Thread ISN'T is a place to air specific dirty laundry, but I would like to ask folks to discuss this if they would like. I think it can't be denied that mobbing can make our niche hobby even more niche when hobbyists leave and tell others to stay away. Are there any universal conduct rules that anyone would like or have liked seeing across the board for all text games? They can vary by the type of game and by the category. How does handling of disputes make for better social environments and which games get it right? How can we not join 'mobs' and better pinpoint the actual person(s) being an issue? What other things can we think of here?

  • Pitcrew

    If you're going to name and shame someone on MSB, have the decency to at least try and speak to them directly first. I know a lot of people in the community have long 'relationships' from interactions on past games but many a time you'll see people going I had no idea, you could have just told me and they apologize and try to fix the behavior. Whether it's fixed in a longterm manner, iunno but you could always try and one on one it before you go for group shaming.

    EDIT - Replace all variant of you and you're with people... That'll probably read better.

  • @Jeshin
    Is this toward me?

    Edit: Nevermind. I'll answer anyway. I don't have any problem toward you or anyone else on this board. I don't think I've ever PLAYED with anyone on this board. It's, as far as I know, a general MU* forum. I posted a topic about an issue I've had and seen in text communities as a whole. My first instinct is to apologize for offending anyone, but I didn't do anything wrong.

    This is not a group shaming anything. This is an actual, hey, let's all talk about this and I'm actually a bit sad that is the first response.

  • Pitcrew

    You know what's funny? I think @Jeshin was answering your question and it was immediately taken as personal.

    That's probably why we have problems in text games lol

  • @Trix Good approach, and I'm glad to see a term applied to the behavior you're mentioning.

    I think a lot happens in these communities under the guise of trying to keep away "problem players", but there arent actually a large number of problem players. The greater number is "people I dont like" or "people who inconvenience me" or "people who annoy me", and I think that this kind of harassment is absolutely in play to try to bully people out of sharing the same space.

    Having said that I think you're going to find a number of people throwing bricks at you or this idea, despite how maturely and inoffensibly posted, in a way that may fail the self awareness check required to realize that by doing so they are proving the existence of said form of harassment.

    In answer to your question: I think games need to better enforce off-server bullying taken to MSB or other venues, and policies promoting good behavior in solving disagreements and watch-dogging of slander/hyperbole. I think that sensationalism and exaggeration of issues are often plied as ways to attack others, and these kinds of behaviors arent discussed nearly enough.

    Good luck.

  • @bear_necessities
    Reading this, then re-reading HIS response, yes. I could see that. Text is a bitch. It's because of the first sentence in his post. I took it as an accusatory attack and my heart started pounding in confusion. I apologize, @Jeshin.

  • Pitcrew


    It's no biggie, I don't know who you are and it's solely my own pet peeve with MSB culture I guess you can call it that. I am a big advocate that for a hobby based on communication that players seem very resistant to just having a quick chat. Like if it devolves into fuck you and fuck you, sure that's bad and conflict can be anxiety inducing for people but... At least then you -know- it was intentional instead of a miscommunication of text/tone!

    EDIT - I see now my usage of 'you' in the abstract is causing reading problems.

  • @Trix said in Mobbing in Text Games:

    There's this thing called 'academic mobbing' that can be freaky accurate when applied to how people behave in mud communities.

    We sometimes call this "dogpiling."

    People shouldn't be quiet about this - or delude themselves into thinking they haven't been part of the problem with compliant silence or outright shunning.

    People who engage to defend others are sometimes accused of "white knighting." Others may stay away because there seems to be no purpose to engaging with the mob. Yet others will simply snipe from the sideline or joke to make light of the situation. And still others might divert attention with a non-sequitur.

    Are there any universal conduct rules that anyone would like or have liked seeing across the board for all text games?

    Sure, but no one listens to me.

    1. If you've nothing to add, don't.
    2. If someone else has said what you wanted to say, let it stand.
    3. If someone has said something incorrect or false, correct them.
    4. Point out or report bad behavior when you see it.

    How does handling of disputes make for better social environments and which games get it right?

    Good question. How many games "handle disputes right"? I will posit to you that no game has, or will, ever get it right, and demanding them to do so is tomfoolery. Even the most reasonable cadre of staff will make mistakes to someone's detriment.

  • There are four kinds of people primarily identified as bad actors in the community, to my reckoning:

    1. People who are wholly aware of the negative impact they have on others and give none fucks about the harm they do, and see no reason to change any of these behaviors. I feel these folks are owed precisely the same consideration they show others in that I have no sympathy for them when a hundred voices shout at them at once. They are very few and far between; I could likely count them on the fingers of one hand and have fingers left to spare. It typically doesn't serve any good to shout at them, however, because they revel in the attention, or use it as something to point at to cry about how they are the victim.

    2. People out of control with no interest (or only lip service paid to the interest) in re/gaining it. This may be do to addiction, untreated mental conditions, extreme loss, health concerns, trauma, etc. These people do not have bad intentions on the whole. They are not innately horrible people. Normally, they're great. When out of control, they cease to care what harm they cause and piling on tends to escalate the problem dramatically, so, again, it's a bad idea to do. Most likely to attempt to avoid any attempt at admitting they did anything that could ever be held accountable for. (Ex: "I'm sorry I said those things. It wasn't ok, and you didn't deserve to be treated that way. I had a migraine and was taking my grouchy pain out on you." vs. "What do you want from me? I had a migraine.")

    3. People who had a crap day. May be longer than a single day, but it isn't a persistent state like the above. Usually they will feel awful about whatever occurred during the lapse. Piling on and hanging it over their heads forever is garbage past the point at which they realize they screwed up and make an attempt at amends. This is a really good way to ensure people get much less willing to accept culpability for their mistakes or admit it when they make them.

    4. Tripped over a land mine. ...pretty self-explanatory. This is where dogpiling bullshit gets especially vile.

    Of these four, I only consider the first two to be bad actors. The second group has some chance of being otherwise; the first, not so much.

    The irony is, these people aren't the primary targets of dogpiling in the community. Those are:

    • Someone expressed a view I dislike.
    • Some agreed with someone I dislike/disagreed with someone I like.
    • Someone likes something or someone I do not/dislikes something or someone I like.

    ^ All of this is irritating to a fault for how junior high it is.

  • @Ganymede said in Mobbing in Text Games:

    @Trix said in Mobbing in Text Games:

    There's this thing called 'academic mobbing' that can be freaky accurate when applied to how people behave in mud communities.

    We sometimes call this "dogpiling."

    And sometimes it's easy to drag yourself into dogpiling someone.

    The people who I directly told this to already know, but for everyone else: If someone says they're feeling dogpiled, stop and think about it. If your first reaction is to tell this person how wrong they are for feeling jumped on, then it's not uncommon that you're making the situation worse.

    The best thing to do if you're feeling dogpiled on a game—if you can recognize it—is to find the original point and take it private.

    The best thing to do if you're the one singled out for discussion is to be honest up front, either engage or say you're not the person for it.

    Staff should have jumped in by this point, but @Ganymede's numbered suggestions implies this. But a dogpile should be stopped as soon as possible. It's often the worst behavior from all of us.

  • i just like gifs

    Joke reply aside:

    I think a lot of times it happens because we are bundles of nervous little bunnies.

    So what happens is we think: oh gosh this is really bothering me but I am utterly terrified to talk to this person directly because they might yell at me!

    So I'm gonna hop on over here and talk to this other person and get it off my chest.

    Here's where the mistake happens: there's nothing wrong with this in theory.

    But think about who you're talking to and how you say it.

    Does the person you're talking to know the person you're talking to?
    a. If not, proceed and say whatever. (But, tbh, you should prob be kind anyway.)
    b. If so, be mindful of what you're saying. Because it is almost guaranteed to get back to them.

    The other part of being nervous little bunnies is that when we see one person finally speak up in public, we think 'ah-ha! they can't/won't yell at me now! there are witnesses!' and so we jump in and say what we've been thinking because someone else started it!

    But see, the person that became the target is also a nervous little bunny and suddenly instead of one person pointing the finger at them there's two, then three, then four... and holy shit that nervous little bunny is pooping pellets all over the place.

    Let's not fill the place with bunny poop y'all.

    Mostly just remember: as nervous and anxious as you are, so is prob the other person. We aren't all emotionless robots. (And even the emotionless robots have emotions sometimes.)

  • @Trix said in Mobbing in Text Games:

    How can we not join 'mobs' and better pinpoint the actual person(s) being an issue? What other things can we think of here?

    Been giving this some more thought.

    I think the first step is to really understand the concept that drives a lot of this. I personally think it's: "I need an escape, I want to have fun, and I don't want people to negatively impact my efforts to find it."

    We tend to see a lot of sleuthing to determine intent, and that's based on a culture of dishonesty and lack of communication. Some people overshare their personal details, which ironically then becomes the very information that leads to accusations of sanity and assumptions of mental status. There's a whole lot of judgment being flung about, and in many cases the most judgmental of others are also the most thin-skinned to judgment of themselves.

    Not everyone is ethical about their approach to this, but in the end a lot of the finger-pointing about intent and who is or isn't a bad actor seems to come down to "I have identified this person as a roadblock to my enjoyment of the hobby, and thus they are a problem". Some players whisper and make up stories to result in others being shunned to their benefit, but in my experience very few are actually deserving of that kind of treatment. Lots of people share other people's personal information. Ive been told by 3rd parties of 1 or 2 regular posters on this site who have dogfucking fetishes. Pretty sure that was petty bullshit.

    So, I've said it before, but I think acknowledging the reason for this negative behavior is one of the first steps, as is identifying where you have partaken in it. Also, as @surreality said (shes right) that the majority of dogpiling actually takes place against people of differing opinions who really aren't bad people, but some just seem to love attacking others for not being a walking automaton copy of their own personalities. Cliques love clones, and I think some people feel a little threatened when they come across people who disagree with their outlook on things because it could impact their ability to enjoy the hobby. It's turf is some cases that is fought over, and in a lot of cases it's really unnecessary or trite stuff.

    Honestly, I think the best thing people can do is just fucking let go. The iron grip some people have on aversion to differences of opinion or differences on story content is squeezing the blood out of the social collective in the hobby. The social climate isn't going to get better until some of the more brutal personalities stop assuming their intentions are so noble when the "justified" behavior is anything but.

    This is why my stance for some time has been "Talk here all you want, but dont carry who you are here to your game. The animal farm is in effect."

  • A quick addendum to the rest: some things may appear to be mobbing/dogpiling, but are not that, and we should endeavor to not misidentify it.

    Main example: almost all of the true bad actors have done quite a bit to earn that reputation. If ten people come forward with individual, first-hand experiences about them? Not a dogpile. Not a mob. In the rare cases in which someone has accrued the kind of genuinely game-wrecking nightmare interactions-- again, this is extremely rare -- then people should be aware.

    First-hand account is stressed for a reason. The game of telephone/whisper down the line/rumor mill simply distorts too much.

    Knowing explicitly why someone is diving in is not irrelevant, and, "X intentionally violated a no-contact order three times trying to get in my character's pants and was banned three times for it," is going to have a different weight than, "my bestie heard they were shady," or "oh, I just know they're just the worst," or even, "I just can't stand that way of thinking!" or the most realistic "all my friends are doing it!" and rightfully so.

    It is no surprise at all that the reasons for joining in are very rarely disclosed. They would out the real bad actors like lightning from on high.

  • Something to think about.

    Rarely when I've been told by someone "how horrible" someone is, it's rarely in the third person. I've heard a lot of stuff from bestiality fetishes to who is a cuckold to who fucked who in RL. Is it necessary to share details like those? No. It's often in the "I saw this" or "the bad person said this to me, but I don't have a log". When mean people share other people's personal business or use the guise of being a gatekeeper to keep bad actors out of the hobby to be spiteful, they rarely speak in terms of 3rd party evidence.

    That's why the social commodity in play has always been reputation. Most people paying attention are well aware that most of these cases don't involve evidence, but often involve reliability. Which is why most of these attacks are personality or reputational in nature. If you attack someone's ability to plead their own case, you can effectively bully them out of finding roleplay or defending themselves.

    Which routes back to the OPs point.

    The hunt for the "bad actor" is constant and there's a lot of personal information (true or not), assumptions of intent (true or not), and accusations (true or not) that some people simply wield out of good faith. The task at hand is to break down these behaviors to minimize damage to innocent people and maintain neutrality. You gotta see it for what it is when it comes down the line. The hunt for the 'bad actor' is often the exact tactic used to try to force innocent people out of the hobby. I've seen it happen. Plenty of times.

    So back to OP, this kind of fuckery is a problem. What's the right answer? Whistleblow on people whispering "so and so does this in rl and fucked so and so and once asked me to roleplay as a dog fucking them" stuff to halt the bullying at its root?

    It all comes down to being a good person. Pledge to it. Be cool with others. That constant sense of being on guard and ready to preemptively attack someone's reputation to protect your own is something this hobby needs less of.

  • @Trix This is basically this forum in a nutshell. Welcome to the show.

    We all engage in it, so there's no real value in finger pointing, yet the one place I think it's important to think about is the (relatively) new-ish trend of promoting so-called 'positivity' while engaging in this behavior. If you're doing this, even against someone you think has done something wrong, you're not really promoting anything positive. Extremely bad apples exist, but there's very little difference between how many people treat the absolute worst offenders and players who are just having potentially valid, if emotional, differences on a particular game (whether with another player or staff).

  • @Ghost said:

    The task at hand is to break down these behaviors to minimize damage to innocent people and maintain neutrality.

    This was in the middle of a longer statement, so I wanted to draw it out.

    I don't even think neutrality is critical. Neutrality in breaking down the noise, yes, but sometimes what is exposed is a problem that needs dealt with. e.g.: Venomous, not-cool people.

Log in to reply