Respawn: Rift and the Permaban Forums

Posted Fri, Feb 28, 2014 by Xerin

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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?

Trion Trolls

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!

My Cat

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.

What is the ban policy here? I didn't read or accept anything to the best of my knowledge. Also, if I were to continuously troll this site, would I be warned, temp ban, perma ban, etc?

I personally don't like it when any moderator takes it upon themselves to ban people. The exception to the rule is of course harassment, threats, etc. I'm not talking the normal gamer stuff, I mean like real threats and harassment. Not when someone calls another a childish name.

Anyway, I'm kind of against what they are doing. As you said, forum accounts are a bit different than when in game. It sounds like Rift is suffering from going f2p and they need to cut costs. I'd imagine going f2p did bring a large crowd of trolls as well. They're playing for free, so they don't really have anything invested other than time. It did read like in game restrictions would be a last resort, but it just seems like it would be to easy to abuse. A mod has a bad day, someone's game account gets locked.

I guess we'll just have to see how it turns out.

I applaud trion. It is their boards and their game. Making it a more pleasant environment for everyone is a great move.

Forums are not democracies as such, so we shouldn't necessarily delude ourselves that we are entitled to the same basic rights as we do within a democratic society. As has been repeated many times on the internet by moderators, they are more like benevolent dictatorships.

But, there are degrees.

A forum created by an enthusiast gamer, for other gamers, will likely not make much room for people who clash with its majority culture, even more so if they are perceived as toxic, rather than just disagreeable. It takes real maturity and awareness to correctly differentiate between a merely marginalised opinion and a genuinely toxic one.

On the other hand, a forum managed by the creators of a game, for its players, will have a more vested interest in engaging with the variety of opinion that all player-bases harbour. That could go either way, but they certainly have more at stake, as that forum may well become the default mouthpiece of its player-base, and that's potentially valuable, or damning, marketing.

Now, just making a point here... I think its important to remember that we are generally fine with rules and punishments that seem "fair" until we end up on the wrong side of them, because of bad judgements made by those who control the system. It's really easy when you've never committed or been accused of a crime to be comfortable with the "eye for an eye" justice system. But what happens when human error and bad judgement means that its now your eye at stake?

When it's not us in the firing line, we're often very comfortable with statements like "you wouldn't have been banned if you'd done nothing wrong" and other such fallacies. But that tune changes when we find out first hand that being banned from a game or forum because of someone else's bad judgement really can happen to anyone, and does. As Azzras before me describes, and maybe the OP also.

When forming judgements on what punishments or penalties will be the price for certain community crimes, I find myself holding back my inner zealot, and considering how much damage might result from over zealous "justice" systems, as opposed to rules that are more subtle in how they influence players.

Riot Games recently created an initiative that made the community a part of the solution, rather than simply the victims of it. Look up an article titled "Using science to reform toxic player behaviour". Its a very interesting read.

One thing I've realised over the years, is that moral judgements ("Do THIS, and you MUST be punished!"), apart from the obvious ones, do not make very effective rules. Human nature is a lot more sophisticated and complex than simple moral judgements imply. In this age of the internet, how we shape our communities, both online and offline, is more and more relevant, and worth discussing.

TLDR - I'm no longer so comfortable with simplistic and binary, lynch mob compatible type rules. It may intimidate people, but that's hardly what builds a community, whether in game or out. There's a balance to be struck that's not so easy to define, but which is so much more effective at binding people into a healthy community.

As soon as I saw the title on another page of "Rift bans players left, right, and center", I knew this would be another article about the devils of enforcing good behavior on the internet.

Are people so incompetent that they can't figure out how to behave on the internet without getting banned and thus being unable to play the game they enjoy?

As soon as I saw the title on another page of "Rift bans players left, right, and center", I knew this would be another article about the devils of enforcing good behavior on the internet.

Are people so incompetent that they can't figure out how to behave on the internet without getting banned and thus being unable to play the game they enjoy?

You know, if you are in a restaurant or store or any other building and begin spouting the kinds of nonsense that some of these PEOPLE troll about, there is an incredibly high chance that you would be asked to leave. And if you kept coming back with the same nonsense, you would probably be told not to come back.

There is no need for a forum to be any different.

Agreed. But that assumes that the people responsible for banning are always right. Sometimes they are just as fallable, short-sighted and narrow minded as the people they ban. Sometimes moderators are just as emotionally erratic, unpredictable, moody and capricious as the rest of us, PLUS they have the power to indulge it.

It's worth thinking twice about how rules can be abused, before forming them. I am NOT saying there is no need for active moderation in forums. Just saying that a lot of people have a lynch-mob like self-righteousness about that easy to label and vaguely generalise about demographic known as "trolls". Label someone a troll and that's it, "they had it coming" type thinking takes over and its now ok to ban, ignore and otherwise marginalise them.

Like I said, we are all generally fine with prescribed punishments for wrongs committed. Until we find ourselves "unfairly" (because its us) in the firing line. I advocate for a slightly less zealous and overt justice system. that's why I was so intrigued with Riot Games solution, where they actively involved the community in the process of dealing with players deemed "toxic" in League of Legends. Its worth looking into.

Ok I just need to follow up on a statement you made..

"I believe wholeheartedly in the freedom of speech. People should, at any point, say whatever they wish without consequence"

That is not what the first amendment is saying. It just protects US citizens from government persecution and or government action against an individual or his/her holdings based on what they have spoken. There are limits even to this. the old "screaming fire in a movie theater".

Rift and the company Trion are not a government. they are a privately held corporation and they do many things that a government doesn't or can't do and it is well with in their rights. A corporation seeks only to protect and grow their assets and income. The care nothing of freedom of speech so as long as restricting the public speech does not hinder their bottom line. Often times, they do let people have their say because it looks bad and they could lose profit. but BY NO MEANS do they care about your rights to speak as a free citizen of the united states. lets make that abundently clear.

to add to that. It takes a lot of self entitlement for an individual to think that they deserve the rights to trash a private company using that companies forums and services. The company is, like I stated above, only trying to protect its effort to gain profit. They don't run around saying they are going to silence people but if they are talking bad about the company, said company does NOT want that voice to be heard. If they have some control over that voice, its in thier best interest to muffle, mute, or silence that voice. I know this sounds mean but people have some warped ideas about what corporations are.

Corporations aren't your friend. They want your money and/or resources. Corporations "play along" with society just enough to stay out of the negative lime light and maybe entice CUSTOMERS in. They don't care about you or your rights. They may say they do but that is only to the point that it serves to increase profit. I'm not trying to say this to point some evil finger at evil corporations I'm trying to tell people what they are.

Corporations are usually managed by directories/owners or boards that only have profit and growth in mind. They have no other significant directive. They do not have clauses that say, "we will lose money if we feel that our players aren't getting their rights to speak"

Its the self entitlement and the egocentric players that perpetuate forum trolling and general greifing in games. This corporation and maybe others will finally realize that the damage that these trolls are doing to their product out weights the bad press they would receive for terminating their services to self entitled negative user bases.


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