Lies, damn lies and ethics

What are ethics?

“… the ethical man knows he shouldn’t cheat on his wife, whereas the moral man actually wouldn’t.”
— Ducky,

I’ve ‘worked’ on many games over the last 15 years. I’ve played and worked on places I knew were a bastion of unethical and immoral behavior. I’ve been the butt of jokes, harassed for my choices, and all in all treated like a person. Online life is strange, in that you have a bit of anonymity so you have the freedom to say what you want without obvious repercussions.

The flip side of all that is eventually someone’s going to find out who you are, call you on your BS, and you’ll be outed as the twatwaffle you are.

Like all people who start a hobby at a young age, I was a total idiot. Seriously. I took shit too seriously, I over-reacted, obsessed and generally made an ass of myself. One of the things I’ve never done, though, is deny I was who I was. Oh, I don’t make a production of it. If you know who I am, fine. If not? Also fine. If you ask me outright “Were you Foobar on Yadda?” I’ll tell you. I don’t play games about.

The reason for this is that the only way to earn trust and faith is to demonstrate it. If you demonstrate, over the span of 15 years (crap … 15 already?), the ability to learn from your mistakes, to grow and change and move from being a total lame ass neo zoom maxi dweeb into a somewhat decent person, then there’s hope for you. I’m not perfect, but I accept who I was. After all, it made me who I am.

I’ll also be the first to admit I’m a little vindictive and bitchy. I can be cold and hard to get to know. I make some people uncomfortable. When people get to know me, they realize I’m just a bit tactless and blunt. I’m actually a lot better than I was, which should disturb a lot of you.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”
— Ben Parker,

About 8 years ago, I took over as an admin for a part of a game. I ran the show for 5 years, quit, lingered around for 2, and then left entirely. The adventure started with me getting into a fight with another former-admin who was now assisting me. We had once been friendly. She started to creep me out. So I told her enough was enough, I’m sorry, but for my sanity, this is how it has to be. She threatened to quit, I accepted, she re-negged, I fired her. My friend Stephanie still laughs after I threw ex-admins words back in her face when she claimed I couldn’t fire her: “This is not a democracy.”

For the record, to this day I consider the fiasco a failure on both our parts. I could have handled it better. She could have handled it better. I’m sorry that I hurt her feelings, but I was doing what I thought was right. One of us had to go, and I was in charge so it was going to be her. Not one of my shining moments. She tore into me, and I let her do so without retaliating. She mailed everyone in our part of the game (and then some, as I later learned) saying she wished people could clap for her like Tinkerbell and save her. I posted a forum message and said it was due to irreconcilable differences, and if people wanted to talk to me about it, feel free.

Some people did, most didn’t. A few people left, most didn’t. One person posted a scathing reply to her, and I removed it from the forums. Someone asked me if I thought this would forever mar my leadership. I pointed out that the only real way to know that was to wait till I quit, then come back a year later and see what people said.

I went back recently and found people had left messages that said I was a good and just person. Amusingly, I look back on that time and think of all the screw ups I made. And others look back on the good times. Thanks guys. I know I could have done better.

“‘Cause I gotta have faith… ”
— George Michaels,

Of all the things I learned running on-line communities, the biggest are as follows:
• Most people won’t tell you when things are bad
• Take action on all complaints, even ones without ‘proof.’
• A game is to have fun
• If your people lose faith in you, you’re screwed

Once people lose faith in you, they stop trusting you. It’s like cheating on your spouse. How the hell do you make up for that? The only way I know of is to prove, for the rest of your fucking life, that you’re sorry, you’ve learned, and you won’t ever do it again. And even so, no one will ever believe you entirely. Well done.

A game I played on (the one that prompted my post about not online gaming anymore) hired someone who they knew to be an unethical fucktard. He stalked someone by using information he gleaned elsewhere (spying on them and, as it happens, me), and then began to subtly harass her.

I then proceeded to do something which someone called unethical.

I got some personal information about him and I gave it to my friend, the stalkee, for her protection.

Ipstenit (aka ipstenit) says it’s not unethical since I was doing it for a good purpose. I’m honestly not sure. I abused the trust of people because I took information that was specifically not my business (even though I had full access to it) and gave it to someone. I violated the terms of my agreement with people in doing so. On the other hand, I did it to protect someone.

“If you know what to do and you don’t do it, there you bloody well are, aren’t you?”
— Lord Buckley (alleged)

I suppose technically I was immoral. I knew what to do. I knew what I was supposed to do. I made a choice. I don’t regret it at all. I think it was the best decision I could have made at the time. I did it with good intentions, and we all know what the road to hell is paved in (door to door salesmen, hi!).

My friend took that info to the game, accused the player of harassing her, and as I recall, it was not denied. They were told to not talk to each other or interact. This worked out pretty well for about 5 months. Then the game made him staff and three of us who knew who the hell he was took a walk. We both told people the truth: We don’t trust the staff to behave ethically. I told people to email me if they want the details, and when asked, told them the new staffer was the stalker-guy.

In less than a week, he quit as staff, and said that former staff and players had “started an organized and malicious campaign of libelous attacks on me and the game.” The game’s website went down and they cited that members of a specific website attacked it and it’s their fault.

Firstly, to call it a ‘campaign’ means it’s an ‘organized effort toward specific goals’. Saying ‘organized campaign’ is redundant. We were not and are not organized, nor do we have any goals. I just told people the truth. I’m of the opinion that staff-alts should be publicly known anyway. Also I was honest when I told people why I left.

Secondly, it’s only libel if it’s untrue.

Third, none of ‘us’ attacked the game or website. In fact, most of us were monitoring the website for information to see if anyone was going to address what was being said on WORA. Mind, the site’s down with a 403 error, which means it’s either a server level hack or they locked the site. I think they locked it to control access to information about the game. You wanna know? You log in. And since they keep track of IP addresses, if you log in from your regular access point, they know who you are and have no compunctions of accusing you of logging in as a guest. I should know, they did it to me when I went to see why the forum/wiki was down.

“Our best built certainties are but sand-houses and subject to damage from any wind of doubt that blows.”
— Mark Twain

Someone may accuse me of thinking too much on this and letting a place I’ve left rule my life. That may be so, though I’d argue my impending move on Monday is controlling me a lot more! I think it’s more a case of doing what’s right. If the end result of my honest explanation of why I left caused an unethical person (who has yet to prove or attempt to prove their desire to become a better man) to be removed from a position of authority and power, then I think I get a +1 in the karma column.

In the end, what matters is I feel I did the right thing per my personal moral code. Yes, I have one. I told the truth. I’m sorry if it hurt peoples feelings, but this was a situation where it’s immoral to keep silent in the face of other peoples behavior. I put the seeds of doubt in peoples minds. Maybe it will grow and force people to look at themselves realistically.

I’ve been where they are now: accused of poor ethics and rampant PHBing (Pointy Haired Bossing – go read Dilbert). I defended myself where it was wrong. I accepted it where it was true and made changes. I didn’t blame anyone for my own mistakes.

Welcome to the club.