Respawn: Rift and the Permaban Forums
The separation of forum and game is one of the longest held bonds that we have in a community. The ability to post anything and / or be banned from the forums is a completely separate privilege than being banned from a game. However, Trion has recently taken it upon themselves to remove this separation and allow forum trolls to take the swift ban hammer to their game accounts.
Not sure how I feel on this to be honest. On one hand, trolls are jerks and they ruin the fun for a lot of folks. On the other hand, they are part of the community and the playerbase. To tell them to please exit the game for out of game activities doesn’t seem fair. I mean, someone can be a jerk on a forum but be a major player in the online community within the game.
Let’s get something straight - I believe wholeheartedly in the freedom of speech. People should, at any point, say whatever they wish without consequence. Attaching stipulations and regulations to this causes some problems. First, we can usually say that anyone should say anything as long as it doesn’t involve malice. However, malice is tough to define. What is malicious and what isn’t? How do we understand the context?
As a society, we often use the power of democracy to determine this. Forum moderation isn’t a democracy though. There isn’t much of an avenue for the culture of a forum community to define the set of rules and the context for what is and isn’t harmful, especially with such high turnover. Let me give you an example.
If on “Awesome Video Game (AVG)” forums, someone says the game is not awesome. The moderator, who views the post, believes that a negative opinion is, in of itself, trolling because anyone who posts a negative opinion on a forum dedicated to the enjoyment of a game must be out to hurt people’s feelings. Thus, they strike the banhammer.
On the other hand, that person could be outlining why the game isn’t awesome and the reasons listed, although their tone is off, their message isn’t. However, given the authority, the moderators deem what is and isn’t kosher through the power of arbitrary decision making.
Now, in a normal scenario, that person just couldn’t use the forums. However, under Trion’s policy, that person can’t use the forums and the game. They may be an avid player who is trying to let off steam or they could be caught up in a flame war, but now their access to the game has been restricted because they are showing a repetitive behavior of being "toxic."
For instance, Trion could even perceive this article as trolling for speaking out against their policy. After all, if their intentions are for the “greater good” then wouldn’t it also make someone who disagrees a rebel? This, using their perception, could be easily deemed as someone who trying to bring the order of their carefully cultivated society down and thus, deserves expulsion.
Quick, let's take a look at my cat. Too much troll talk!
Okay, we shall continue.
Now, I’ve romanticized a lot of this. It’s important to note you should receive some warnings and some notice of the banhammer heading your way should you be acting “toxic,” but at the same time in no way should outside media influence the ability to play a game. Forums are toxic, they always have been, and their very nature is to allow people to speak freely without the risk of their accounts. Taking that away just seems odd.
I hope that Rift / Trion rethink their decision. It just doesn’t set right with me. I know that they are a professional company with a skilled staff of professionals, but I’d much rather see someone’s account be disabled for forums then I would to see them banned from a game because they got involved into a flame war on a forum.
I do get the idea that moderating takes more time than interacting, but the developers shouldn't moderate and they're the true allstars that the community wants to interact with. The community team should be there for support and banning players from the forums who make troll accounts or 0 value posts or flames or threats or whatever should just be part of the job. If it's becoming overwhelming then the resources should be expanded before you take it out on the playerbase.
Heck, if it's such a big deal then close the forums and let the community handle it and moderate it. Use those resources to help make the community created forums a success and get developers to hop in and say hello often. That's a win / win in my book.
Now, just to make it clear - if someone does make 300 forum accounts to grief Trion and Trion can trace that back 100% to their account then sure, ban them. If someone is in a flame war, being a forum poster, etc. and they get the banhammer then I just don't agree with that. I can understand an extreme punishment for an extreme crime, but trying to use a heavy hand to force a community to moderate itself is never the way to go.
What do you think? Should forums be cleaned up with the threat of the perma-banhammer or should the separation of forums and game remain? Let us know in the comments section below.