Silence is assent

What do you do when you know somethings is wrong on a game? Do you keep silent and hope that someone else will step up and correct things? Do you tell someone and then absolve yourself of any involvement? What is the answer to keeping both personal integrity and fun alive in the same game?

No online game is perfect. Accept this fact, and you’ll be better off. The game you look for is the one with the amount of corruption, yes all games have some level of it, that you can tolerate. Favoritism exists. Cronyism exists. They’re not always bad things, as people generally want to play with people they like. The problem becomes when a game states that it exists in a meritocracy, where all players rise and fall by their own skills, and then demonstrates that they actually work by giving people they like the good stuff, to the detriment of the rest.

But where do you draw the line between favoritism and picking the ‘best’ based on your opinions? Logically you define the ‘best’ by what you like, and towards that end, it will look like you’re cherry picking people. In order to protect yourself from accusations, you have to carefully cultivate your choices and act impartially. Yes, you may like your friend a lot and want to reward their good roleplay, but you also have to acknowledge the rest of the game, or you’ll have no players. This is very difficult to do, and many games fall under the weight of friendships.

The day will come when the shoe drops, and a player realizes that the game has an untenable level of cronyism. This may come when they find themselves the victim of a staff supported attack, or it may happen when they see that attack happening. There will be a day where you come face to face with corruption, where staffers obviously favor some to the specific detriment of others. Knowing that freedom of speech does not apply to a MUSH (that is to say there’s no legal protection against censorship by site owners on their privately owned websites), what form can civil disobedience (or even discourse about the problem) take?

If you choose to speak up, the most obvious avenue of discussion is to talk to your friends. There are risks of doing this on the games, as some unethical staffers will review all private messages between players (be it on a web forum or on pages on a MUSH). The safest way is to use email or IM, because they cannot be monitored by the staffers. Should you always do this? That depends on the level of corruption. There’s always a possibility that one of your friends may turn traitor and tell the staff that you’re evil and hate them.

If you think it’s just one or two staffers causing the problem, take it to another staffer and ask for help. That runs hit or miss, a lot of the time, because corruption often goes higher (and deeper) that people realize. Gripe sites, forums or games where the intent is to complain about problems, are also useful. You’re bound to find a lot of like-minded people. They often share passions (or obsessions) about the topic at hand, and are willing to spend time to gain the satisfaction of just airing their grievance, or embarrassing the problem child.

The other option you have is to do nothing. Maybe you don’t want to lose your friends, maybe you like the roleplay. But keep in mind that staying in a place you know is wrong and bad will hurt you more than you realize. You should never leave a game just because someone says it’s bad, but if the gripe site becomes the only ‘voice of freedom’ – the only unrestricted forum for those who have left to discuss, with others, what actually happened – then there is a problem. Once the voice of the people is taken away by a game, you can swallow the party line or move on. Your friends won’t burn you for staying, but you’re only going to (eventually) come to harm yourself. Your friends who remain won’t burn you for leaving. If they do, they’re not friends.

You should leave a game that is known and proven to you to be corrupted because no RP can be as good as the personal integrity one loses by playing on a place that maltreats players, shows gross nepotism, and unjustly punishes people for speaking up. Remember, ‘freedom of speech’ doesn’t ever apply to a game, but one can presume that a game that doesn’t allow dissenting opinions is one that will choke on it’s own rhetoric eventually. If you can prevent others from being mistreated, then your civil disobedience is well called for and well done. That does make you somewhat of an idealist, and an egocentric one many times at that, but then when someone asks you ‘What did you do when you saw a friend getting hurt?’ you’ll be able to say you did something.

Why does all this matter? Because what you do online reflects in who you are as a real person. The choices you make online, the actions you take, all go to define what kind of human being you are. If you see corruption in a game and choose silence then you are, with your actions, condoning that which you know is wrong. If you see a wrong and do nothing to right it, you are compounding it. Again, this is idealism, but internet anonymity only means people don’t know who you are. You, however, will have to be the person who looks in a mirror and admits that you let these things happen.

If you don’t speak up and use your rights, you will lose them. And no game is worth that.

“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!” — Mario Savio