Personal Agency for Personal Boundaries


  • Pitcrew

    With a fairly regular frequency, it comes up that people either don't know their boundaries until they've been crossed, have trouble standing up for themselves, are stressed out by the idea of initiating push-back against uncomfortable IC interactions, and so on.

    Within the MUSH community, there don't really seem to be many (if any) concrete steps taken to address this matter, so I was wondering what suggestions people might have for ways that game-creators could facilitate this in a concrete, effective way.

    One thought I had was borrowing the concept of safe words from the BDSM community. In a scene, someone could use the command RED to signify that whatever's just happened or in the process of happening has affected them negatively (I don't like to use the word triggered, it has distinctly mocking connotations when used about other people & this isn't that kind of thread) and they'd like it to stop immediately.

    There shouldn't be any requirement for them to specify why they want it to stop, that would just be it. This has to stop, now. The onus would then be on the other person to stop & if necessary seek arbitration from staff.

    So for example, if someone has been harassing people in the streets on a game and gets arrested and they use the RED command because they don't like being arrested, the roleplay stops and the arresting character contacts staff to explain what's happened and now the onus is on staff to deal with someone being problematic & come up with some negotiated solution, rather than the arresting player having to deal with the headache of someone being OOCly uncooperative regarding their ICA=ICC.

    And as another example, if someone has responded positively to another character's flirtatious advances and everything's been fine up to a point but suddenly they're no longer comfortable with the direction/speed of things, they can use the RED command and the scene stops. Again, no explanation or awkwardly apologetic conversation needed, it just stops. And should the other person object (I can't think of a situation where objecting here wouldn't be patently gross but okay, come at me) the onus would be on them to quite literally contact and explain to staff why the scene in question needs to have some third-party negotiated ending.

    YELLOW would be 'Can we negotiate?' This puts the brakes on the scene and opens up an OOC dialogue where boundaries, if spotted in the near distance, can be discussed. Even something as simple as 'Hi, I'm fine with being disciplined for the mistake but it feels really bad when your character piles on the insults, could we dial that back a bit?' or 'Hey, things are getting more serious at this point, I'm open to the idea of them hooking up but could we FTB once clothes start coming off?' YELLOW means the person isn't OOCly trying to avoid the IC situation, but instead trying to work with you to keep the IC as comfortable for all parties as possible.

    I think YELLOW would be especially important because oftentimes one of the reasons people don't speak up is because they think the other person will assume they are overreacting or just trying to get out of ICA=ICC if they object to anything. We are all adults here, granted with varying levels of empathy, but I think it'd be hard for anyone that isn't a world-class jackass to see a clear-cut indicator that 'This person is struggling with this scene in some way' and not want to help fix it if possible. And maybe there's an impasse, or what they're requesting isn't IC for you - well now you both know, and can end the scene or seek third-party mediation and handle it like adults that tried.

    And last but not least, GREEN. Many of us have been in the position of being the aggressor or antagonist in a scene and while it seems like everyone is engaged and consenting on an OOC level, you don't really what people are thinking and it'd be nice to know if they're okay but asking oocly 'Are you still enjoying this?' can be taken as fucking creepy as hell. GREEN simply means 'I'm okay with what's happening here.' Anyone can use it, it means nothing needs to stop or slow down, everything is fine, and everyone can continue without fear that they're bothering anyone on an OOC level.

    So, that's my suggestion - any thoughts? Or perhaps you've thought of or heard of similar game-side efforts to facilitate standardized OOC consent for people who struggle to initiate with others?



  • @Pandora This feels like a more nuanced version of the 'X Card' concept -- and it was something that needed more than a little nuance added, so that's a good thing.


  • Pitcrew

    @Pandora My only thought is that these measures can only be successful to the degree that staff can be trusted to enforce them without bias. I can't tell if that's a separate issue from your proposal, but I don't think it is, because the idea has to be enacted within the culture we operate in.


  • Pitcrew

    @GreenFlashlight said in Personal Agency for Personal Boundaries:

    @Pandora My only thought is that these measures can only be successful to the degree that staff can be trusted to enforce them without bias. I can't tell if that's a separate issue from your proposal, but I don't think it is, because the idea has to be enacted within the culture we operate in.

    Can you offer a bit more detail? What sort of enforcement are you looking for from staff? Or do you mean in terms of the negotiation when the players can't come to an agreement? Because I feel like if staff on a game cannot enact unbiased player mediation when requested, your roleplay experience isn't safe on that server no matter what system is in place.


  • Pitcrew

    @Pandora I mean it has been my experience that telling staff my boundaries have been violated is more likely to result in nothing* being done than something, which makes me wonder how effective red cards would be.

    *or worse than nothing, but I don't want to get into that again right now


  • Pitcrew

    @GreenFlashlight said in Personal Agency for Personal Boundaries:

    @Pandora I mean it has been my experience that telling staff my boundaries have been violated is more likely to result in nothing* being done than something, which makes me wonder how effective red cards would be.

    *or worse than nothing, but I don't want to get into that again right now

    Ah, that's unfortunate. This is meant to inform the other player that your IC boundaries have been violated, and that you no longer wish for the scene to continue. Generally speaking, staff would only be involved if the other player contacted them to say you were using RED in order to break a rule or avoid ICA=ICC.

    I think what you're referring to is more in-line with someone crossing OOC boundaries & staff failing to respond adequately, and unfortunately there is no system other than walking away that can deal with staff failing to uphold their end of the player-staff agreement.


  • Pitcrew Banned

    @Pandora said in Personal Agency for Personal Boundaries:

    Ah, that's unfortunate. This is meant to inform the other player that your IC boundaries have been violated and that you no longer wish for the scene to continue.

    Wait, you are talking about your character's boundaries being violated?

    No offense but... suck it up cupcake.

    Unfair, and decidedly not nice things happen in life all the time. I get it if you are upset that your OOC boundaries are being pushed too far like some people feel about rape scenes or child abuse or whatever but your character shouldn't get any say in how things play out OOCly.

    If bad shit is happening to your character they don't get to call a divine time-out while they process their feelings. That's not how life works for anyone.

    Canceling a scene because you don't want your character to get upset is just rude. You've wasted everyone's time up until that point if you want to retcon a scene in order to keep your character in pristine, mint condition.

    If you want nothing bad to ever happen to them then leave them in the box and don't play with them.

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  • @Pandora Serious question: if someone is so reticent about making waves that they're unable to type 'Let's fade to black.' do you really think they're able to type +codered to mean the same exact thing?


  • Tutorialist

    @TNP said in Personal Agency for Personal Boundaries:

    @Pandora Serious question: if someone is so reticent about making waves that they're unable to type 'Let's fade to black.' do you really think they're able to type +codered to mean the same exact thing?

    This.

    We've had FTB rules on games for so long I think they were around when I started playing. And this is the perennial issue -- people want things to not happen, rather than not seeing them, and that's just not the way that the games they're used on most work, or are intended to work.

    Those things end up in policies, and then when staff directs people to the policy that says 'hey, you do not have to play it out, but that does not mean that it does not happen' we get reports of "bad staffers" "doing nothing" when someone's boundaries are crossed. Even though it's right there in the rules what can be done, and what it means.

    I voiced an opinion on X-cards awhile back. The 'no explanation veto' is not a thing that I wish to see on games, and not a thing that I would ever personally implement, because I think that it's too prone to abuse, no matter what its justification is..

    I'll enforce a FTB if need be, under the guidelines listed above, but allowing someone to veto a thing is just a step too far, I think.


  • Pitcrew

    @Carex said in Personal Agency for Personal Boundaries:

    Wait, you are talking about your character's boundaries being violated?

    No offense but... suck it up cupcake.

    I'm talking about your OOC boundaries regarding IC circumstances. So if for example I don't want to flesh-out a sex scene, or be involved in waterboarding someone's character, or anything that I am uncomfortable on an OOC level with writing.

    @TNP said in Personal Agency for Personal Boundaries:

    @Pandora Serious question: if someone is so reticent about making waves that they're unable to type 'Let's fade to black.' do you really think they're able to type +codered to mean the same exact thing?

    "Let's fade to black" is fairly often met with 'Why?' or 'Oh, I wish I'd known you didn't TS before we let it get this far.' or 'Lol, let me just do one more pose, your character will get a kick out of this.' or a dozen and a half other things. RED is meant to be understood and enforced as an immediate halt, with any objections immediately going to staff, not the player, taking the pressure off of themselves to have to explain or excuse anything.

    Hopefully this also addresses the 'no veto' concern as well; if RED is being used in a way the other party feels is unfair, they've of course got the recourse of taking this up with staff. There is no circumstance I can think of where it's better for a player to try and force another player into something than to let staff intervene.


  • Pitcrew

    I see the value of a 'no explanation' veto in extreme situations. There are some things that people simply shouldn't have to put up with happening to their characters, ever, even in a FTB situation.

    However, the logic that if someone is too shy or too reticent to speak up and say 'Hey, I don't feel like RPing this, can we take it in another direction', they are also going to be too shy or reticent to throw up a big red flag is pretty sound. If someone didn't want to make waves with an objection and would rather suffer in silence, then a coded command is probably going to be even worse in their eyes. Because it's not a personalized 'Hey, I like you, but this is making me uncomfortable.', it's a big, fat, glaring YOU ARE CREEPING ME OUT right to the face of the person they're trying not to upset.

    While the end goal is laudable, I don't think this implementation would work at all. I think it's the kind of thing that can only be established by fostering a game culture of mutual respect and tolerance for people's boundaries.


  • Pitcrew

    @BlondeBot said in Personal Agency for Personal Boundaries:

    While the end goal is laudable, I don't think this implementation would work at all. I think it's the kind of thing that can only be established by fostering a game culture of mutual respect and tolerance for people's boundaries.

    It seems a slap in the face to game owners who are already sincerely trying their hardest to say 'you're obviously just not trying hard enough to foster a game culture of perfect mutual respect and tolerance & that's why it has not been achieved yet'. So I can't in good conscience agree it's better to do nothing than to try something.


  • Pitcrew

    What worries me is that a system like this could be abused so that someone could make sure that nothing bad ever happened to their character ever.

    There are already enough players who feel that any negative consequences to their actions on a game is infringing on what they believe they're comfortable with.


  • Pitcrew

    @Pandora said in Personal Agency for Personal Boundaries:

    @BlondeBot said in Personal Agency for Personal Boundaries:

    While the end goal is laudable, I don't think this implementation would work at all. I think it's the kind of thing that can only be established by fostering a game culture of mutual respect and tolerance for people's boundaries.

    It seems a slap in the face to game owners who are already sincerely trying their hardest to say 'you're obviously just not trying hard enough to foster a game culture of perfect mutual respect and tolerance & that's why it has not been achieved yet'. So I can't in good conscience agree it's better to do nothing than to try something.

    Eh... I'm not slapping anyone in the face, nor am I calling anyone out or even aware of what game or who I'm supposed to be slapping right now.

    I'm just saying that the problem you described (people being too shy/introverted/ashamed/whathaveyou to ask others to halt) would not be solved by this. Fostering a culture isn't a thing that's done easily, unilaterally, or a one-and-done deal. I'm not saying people aren't already trying this. I'm not saying people aren't already doing this.

    I am saying I think it's the only way to accomplish what you're wanting to accomplish.

    But... I can't stop you from taking that as a personal insult or attack. So.


  • Tutorialist

    @Testament said in Personal Agency for Personal Boundaries:

    What worries me is that a system like this could be abused so that someone could make sure that nothing bad ever happened to their character ever.

    Yeah, this is what I was saying about 'being abused' earlier. This gives players too much control over the IC based on their OOC, which is not how the kinds of games where this tends to come up are meant to be played.

    Between the FTB rules and the ability to summon a judge to arbitrate what sorts of actions happen, I don't see this as necessary, and really see this being a bad idea.


  • Pitcrew

    @Testament said in Personal Agency for Personal Boundaries:

    What worries me is that a system like this could be abused so that someone could make sure that nothing bad ever happened to their character ever.

    There are already enough players who feel that any negative consequences to their actions on a game is infringing on what they believe they're comfortable with.

    @Pandora said in Personal Agency for Personal Boundaries:

    Hopefully this also addresses the 'no veto' concern as well; if RED is being used in a way the other party feels is unfair, they've of course got the recourse of taking this up with staff. There is no circumstance I can think of where it's better for a player to try and force another player into something than to let staff intervene.



  • FTB is useful, but as BlondeBot says, it isn't enough for the other extreme end of abuses.

    As it stands, with FTB, any unreasonable or extreme someone can imagine is permissible, it just isn't explicitly RPed.

    Also, some folks -- when hearing 'FTB' -- will escalate the extreme awfulness of whatever it is in order to try to force the RP and leave the character more viable afterward.

    Example: Someone asks to FTB being slapped around and insulted; the other player really wants to RP humiliating the FTB-requesting character, so after the FTB request, they decide that 'slapping around' now includes carving insults all over the other character's body in visible places they'll walk around with for the rest of their RP experience on the game, and throwing acid in their face, mutilating and blinding them in the process.

    Questioning and grilling and default-doubting the person saying, 'wait a minute, that's a bit extreme for someone who took your barstool or didn't want to fuck you and that's not the kind of RP I have interest in' is pretty ridiculous when there's zero examination/suspicion given to the people who come up with over the top nonsense, and these folks are by default given full benefit of the doubt and all possible protections.

    Stop acting like people who say 'no' are the only people worth side-eye or suspicion. It is so far from being a balanced or reasonable perspective, it's ridiculous.


  • Pitcrew

    I like that it normalizes (without shaming) seeking help from staff when the parties can't resolve a dispute to their satisfaction on their own. While I would never want to go back to timestop objects and 100 percent staff arbitration, sometimes I wish there wasn't quite as much stigma attached to calling in someone. +judge was pretty nice in many ways.


  • Pitcrew

    @surreality said in Personal Agency for Personal Boundaries:

    FTB is useful, but as BlondeBot says, it isn't enough for the other extreme end of abuses.

    As it stands, with FTB, any unreasonable or extreme someone can imagine is permissible, it just isn't explicitly RPed.

    Also, some folks -- when hearing 'FTB' -- will escalate the extreme awfulness of whatever it is in order to try to force the RP and leave the character more viable afterward.

    Example: Someone asks to FTB being slapped around and insulted; the other player really wants to RP humiliating the FTB-requesting character, so after the FTB request, they decide that 'slapping around' now includes carving insults all over the other character's body in visible places they'll walk around with for the rest of their RP experience on the game, and throwing acid in their face, mutilating and blinding them in the process.

    Questioning and grilling and default-doubting the person saying, 'wait a minute, that's a bit extreme for someone who took your barstool or didn't want to fuck you and that's not the kind of RP I have interest in' is pretty ridiculous when there's zero examination/suspicion given to the people who come up with over the top nonsense, and these folks are by default given full benefit of the doubt and all possible protections.

    Stop acting like people who say 'no' are the only people worth side-eye or suspicion. It is so far from being a balanced or reasonable perspective, it's ridiculous.

    I'm not really sure what you're arguing for or against here. If people are going off the rails, that's all the more reason to get staff involved. I've not said anything about anyone being side-eyed or viewed with suspicion here, I don't think?


  • Pitcrew

    a redcard signifying stop staff arbitration needed protects all parties. First, the person initiating the activity that caused it will have another set of eyes on what it is that they were trying to do. This is important because there are patterns of behavior of people surprising people with unwelcome content that might be useful to see over the long term--just as there are issues with some people wanting to engage with others in ways that are aggressive but then try to nope out of consequences.

    Are there staff who really are going to treat anyone with disdain who calls in staff help when they can't come to an agreement with the other player? Yes. But that's kind of good to know as a player too, to be honest.

    Putting a system in is basically giving people the green light to use it. That might be important if staff is willing and wishes to encourage people to do that, since I think most people are more used to the disdain or fear of it when asking staff for help about "sensitive" issues.


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