Pay to Play MUSHing?
I know there are pay to play MUDs and the like, but I was wondering why we haven't seen any pay to play MUSHes.
I don't mean for-profit games of course. That's stupid. But a pay-to-play MUSH that serves to give money to a charity. Yes yes, I realize we could all just give money to charity and to heck with tying it to anything. I give to a couple charities and I'm sure most of you who can afford it do too. I've got a few questions/musings related to it and I'm interested in what you guys think about it.
Is this model feasible?
I realize a lot of MUSHers can't afford to spend money on charity. MUSHing was how I entertained myself when I was miserable and jobless.
What kind of quality would be expected in a game people are paying to play?
Obviously it couldn't just be a bare-bones nothing provided game. People paying money, even if it's for charity, expect a higher quality than you generally get in free-to-pay products. It would require a good bit of effort and professionalism from those running the game.
What would the benefits be of a pay-to-play game?
Well the money would be going to charity, so there's the benefit of helping others. It's also one of the few systems where I could see a tiered approach working. I'd be all for giving more perks to people who are helping humanity by donating money.
What sort of charity would this be tied to?
Well I think the obvious one would be something related to literacy or education.
How do we ensure that the money is actually donated?
This is the big one. We're all anonymous internet people. Is there some way to ensure that the donations go straight to the charity? Is there a way to provide transparency so people know that nothing untoward is going on?
I know this is a silly idea and it just popped in my head but I'm at a point in my life where I don't have a ton of free time. What free time I have I'd love to be able to multitask into doing good -and- doing something I enjoy.
So please, I'd love to know what you guys think about the idea. Feel free to tell me how bad it is, if that's what you think. Thanks!
No. Bad. So bad. Consider everything awful about our hobby and then crank the dial to ten because now you have real money and paying customers involved.
I believe there have been pay to play MUSHes. @Shayd, IIRC weren't you involved in a project that was kind of close, or am I misremembering? For some reason I thought I'd read you discussing something like that maybe on the old WORA?
I will say that as someone who's been heavily involved in several non-profits...this has a number of complications. Yes, even the nonprofit is not directly tied to the organization that puts on the MUSH (and if someone were to do this, one would hope they'd have the brains to at least set up some kind of separation between their business of the MUSH and personal finances). The general mismanagement and inability to do even the baseline level of competance of volunteer management and boundary setting that I have witnessed on most MUSHes is forgivable for a free service run by someone for fun. Turn that into a business and my god that catapults most people into the stratosphere of stupid. Not because they're a dumbass but most people just don't know their elbows from their ass on how to run a biz OR a non-profit, it does take some training, there are free resources, but sadly many people don't take advantage of them.
I own my own business. It's not complicated, but the reason why I am still in business 2 years and running now is not because I'm so smart, but because I got training largely from being involved in those non-profits organizations as an executive--PTA and a local educational program itself--and took advantage of the free or low-cost training involved. As an aside, if you think you might want to be an entrepreneur or similar someday, get involved in your PTA if you have kids. Even if it's just to go to their law courses and the convention courses. It was better, more thorough, and dirt cheap compared to the small business classes I had to take in trade school. Just sayin'.
Just because someone is a brilliant storyteller/world builder does not mean they're competent to run a business. And if someone thinks they're going to take other people's money "for charity" and not run it like a biz or get it set up like a biz? Probably they're not very competent. Some things are intuitive, some aren't. And talent doesn't mean jack shit if you don't know how to manage the finances and service. (This is also why I'm still in business 2+ years and still going--I am not the most talented massage therapist by a long shot, I went to school with people who I think had more talent than me, though I do believe I'm professional and very good at what I do--but unfortunately talent and knowing how to manage the books and build the biz and deal with clients, don't always go hand in hand, and to be successful running your own thing you need the whole deal.)
I believe the sheer number of hours necessary to put in to actively run a great MUSH on a per player basis make it completely impossible for a P2P MUSH to function unless the players are all rich. I think you'd need subscriber costs north of $50 per month for it to make sense as a business.
Anyhow, more relevant to the OP. If you wanted to run a MUSH where every played had to pay to a charity, then I'd make the amount relatively low (Somewhere between $1-5 per month) and the purpose of it would be to ensure that everyone playing the game actually want to be there.
It's true; maybe some of the pitfalls of all-volunteer places could be approached in a different manner if you had paid staff (even if it was very low). But if everything was going to a specific third party organization, then you'd have all the usual issues of 'free' places with the additional complications of members feeling like they were 'owed' a different experience than they'd received elsewhere. Realistically, I'm not sure that they would get one. And I don't know, there is something about $$ being involved that makes people go a little nuttier than usual. I have taken many middle of the night sobbing phone calls about carnival prizes, "free" events, threats of lawsuits because someone did not win anything in the raffle they bought $15 in tickets for (that person later did try to file suit against me personally as chair of the board and the nonprofit itself). This was a mentally ill member of the community who was a known problem in the district. Maybe this is the RL equivalent of fretting over past experiences, but man. If I was taking money from anyone for any reason, even just to hold it to pass it on to a third party org, I would really want to make sure there was some legal separation of funds from my personal and the MUSH. There are some really sick and crazy people out there, and it is super stressful to have someone filing suit against you even though you KNOW it will get tossed out and you also have insurance and lawyer coverage. The harassing emails, the phone calls, and the bogus lawsuit kept me up at night for months, even though I /knew/ nothing would happen because I'd ensured all of our legal ducks were in a row, I knew the gambling laws, I had all the proper documentation, ect.
Just...I don't know. I don't think it's good to mix $$ and a hobby like this unless you know for sure what you're doing, and you're prepared to deal with the consequences. Nor should anyone P2P like this and not assume there's a strong possibility that their money may not go where they would like it to, and they may not be paying for a better experience.
Just today, I was reading another story on Gawker media about the impotent, entitled nerdrage being hurled George RR Martin's way because he hasn't yet finished The Winter Winds.
There are enough of our brethren that operate with the unhinged notion that Mr. Martin owes them a book on their preferred schedule due to a set of negative emotions that lands somewhere between 'expectations so high not even God can sing in that key' and 'an unhinged grip on the fabric of reality'.
Now, apply that to a pay-for-play MUSH.
Can you even imagine?
What about a regular MUSH with a tiered system where perks bought with real money went straight to charity? And carried over from character to character, so there was no risk of losing your monied-benefits?
Wes Platt of Otherspace infamy actually did this, only without the whole 'Charity' part, I am unsure how much money he actually got from the whole affair but the game was live for I think a couple of years. Needless to say he did not actually pay staff, they just got some of the pay to win beanies for 'free' in return for hundreds of hours of their time.
Skotos also did this. Lots of complaints about them on past incarnations of WORA.
Are you guys sure that charity wouldn't help make it work? I'd be willing to pay money for perks on a game if I knew that all the proceeds were going to a good cause.
Maybe I'm naive but for me, I see a big difference between pay-to-win for-profit and pay-to-win for-charity.
I think @Sunny is right, just paying for it alone would be a death sentence no matter what the money goes too. Anonymity + human nature already do awful things on free games. Attach money to it?
Edit: I think one of those optional reality dudes was Wes Platt.
So then we run into a situation where only the people who can pay get the perks? What happens to the people who can't afford it (there are still college kids who play these things who have extremely limited disposable income)?
I would rather any charitable efforts be separate from the game. What's to stop someone like me, who can afford all sorts of stuff, from just making a massive donation and 'winning' everything? Regardless of where the money goes (which you know can't be totally vetted), it's still an unfair advantage over the other players, who have to get to the top the old-fashioned way: by currying favor with staff and getting all kinds of perks under the table. ;)
Is it possible to win at a MUSH? Giving a ton of money to charity would make you a winner in other ways I guess, though.
You did notice that I put single quotation marks around 'winning', right? Whether or not it is possible to win a MUSH, people will certainly play in a manner that suggests that they think they are. See: every crazy, super-statted anything ever, for no other reason than the player thinks that by having the most toys (or toadies) ever, they are winning.
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I think it would be really challenging. For charity might work even though I think you'd have way more crazies than normal and the levels of entitlement would get astronomical, and I think that would make it crazy rough. Consider what most people complain about and want on a MUSH-
They really mostly want staff time, for GMing, for jobs, etc. If they are paying money, they'll have an expectation of higher service and that's not really sustainable, since unless you have a volunteer staff that probably outnumbers the playerbase, how do you deal with the people that are like, 'I want a tinyplot 4 hours long one time this week'. If you multiply that out by the player base and take it to its logical conclusion, it's impossible to meet that level of demand without some kind of automation which defeats what people want in a MUSH vs an RPI MUD. I think most staffing models for MUSHes is generally inherently flawed from a sustainability standpoint, and it would be compounded in one where the expectations increase.
So if it's for charity and you tell everyone, 'Well, sorry we can't really do more than a regular MUSH' you could do it but you'd probably have a lot of staff time devoted to shouting down entitled crazies who don't see it just isn't possible to meet their demand. Possible probably, but really not fun to run.
It's not where the $$$ goes that changes it, but the fact that there is money changing hands period.
Of course, the whole "how dare you ask me to pay to play this" is part of, honestly, why mushing is so far behind the times. Hosting often costs money. It takes staff time. All of that is "money" in some form. And yet the players are all "why, how dare you ask me to pay money??!?!?!!?WTF?!?!? What makes you think I have money?" I've seen people talking about college students, who are apparently begging on the street corners like little Orphan Oliver, going "May I have some more, sir?" rather than buying $8.00 lattes at Starbucks except waitnotheyaren't.
You want the solution to some of mushing's woes? Look to the pay to play models on MMOs. These companies make money hand over fist, even on "free to play" MMOs. One basic idea (on the good ones) is you can either spend your time, or spend your money. Invent a virtual currency like these games do. Hand them over for time-spent. You're online, you're active? Congratulations, you earn 5 ArrPee a week. You can spend 20 to buy yourself a "Premiere character slot", which you can spend on playing something that honestly will work fine, but which we in our batshit mush culture have decided would break the universe if everyone got to play it because no one wants to be a special snowflake ever.
Orrrrrr, you can Paypal to a game account, and 1 dollar gets you 5 ArrPee. If you told me I could either have to get +votes or submit logs or WTFery else five times a week to get my 5 ArrPee, or I could just kick in 4 bucks to do the same? Fuck, I can't buy LUNCH for 4 bucks. Here. Hell, have a tip. Give me my shinies and let me burn my time having FUN. Someone who in theory can't afford 4 bucks? (And if not, how do they have a computer?) Let them earn it.
Pay to play muds (including mushes) work, period. Anyone who says they'll ruin the game hasn't looked at the state of mushes recently (or at any time in history for that matter).
Because it is a new year and about to start the hell that is taxes soon my thoughts on running a pay mush even if all the cash goes to charity is find a good accountant. Even non-profits pay taxes, and people that donate money will want receipts so they can write it off on their taxes so also know that on top the normal mush head aches you will also be dealing with the government for things like tax numbers and all that fun stuff.
On a personal level I would not play on one simply because there are already plenty of free games that provide the exact same service.
The money going to charity would not make it worse, but it surely wouldn't make it any better. Entitlement issues are a major problem with our hobby, and adding money complicates that. Start, stop, end. There isn't theory or plan that's going to turn it from a horrible idea into a bad one, let alone into a good one.
The repercussions should be obvious. If they aren't, running a F2P mush isn't a good idea for you, let alone a P2P.
Edited to add: Also, consider licensing issues. You are now profiting from an RPG. Boom.