Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The System

No. This is not an article about 4E.

In my LJ F-list, i saw something that kicked my old head into working and i'd just like to share it with you all.
In the space of some years we have gone from being a culture of service to being a culture of entitlement, and from that to a culture of abuse. (A slight paraphrase)

It is a sad fact, that ultimately i believe the sentiment expressed above is largely true. In Larps and in Chat games I see people who may have all the right equipment to be full grown adults and yet they either cannot be, or they choose not be. And when things go against them, They do everything right up to throwing a screaming fool fit and laying down in the floor to drum their heels on the tile.

It is the Tragedy of the Commons all over again.
(Cribbed from WikiPedia)
The tragedy of the commons is a type of social trap, often economic, that involves a conflict over finite resources between individual interests and the common good. It states that free access and unrestricted demand for a finite resource ultimately structurally dooms the resource through over-exploitation. The term derives originally from a comparison noticed by William Forster Lloyd with medieval village land holding in his 1833 book on population.[1] It was then popularized and extended by Garrett Hardin in his 1968 Science essay "The Tragedy of the Commons."[2] However, the theory itself is as old as Thucydides[3] and Aristotle.[4]

To shorten, If something is available and unrestricted, then more people tend to exploit it than maintain it. I always wondered why a Larp that charges an admission fee had more dedicated players than one you could get into for free. I always wondered why it seems there is always a group of players that are gung-ho about keeping a a good chat game going and they always seem to be outnumbered, and unable to protect themselves, from players who seem to only get their fun out of wrecking everyone else's good time.

"The customer is always right", is a broken and unrealistic philosophy. I have long been of the opinion that more people being thrown out of more places might correct their acting up. America is afflicted with this loathesome entitlement illness to the point where people start shit on airplanes. Are you aware that causing a ruckus on a airplane,to the point where you interfere with the flight crew in the performance of their duties, is A FEDERAL OFFENSE! So, in essence, getting liquored up and losing your shit on an airplane because you got so used to screaming at the wait-staff at your local O'Charlies, will have you doing federal time.

The words ought to read "The customer is right up until they damage the system. Then they have to go." I'm certainly not against helping people with problems, even frustrated and upset people can be handled with aplomb and grace. But once rudeness is given, then rudeness needs to be repaid. A person shouting at you over things you can't fix or control, does nothing to help your situation or improve your business.

Now, i know there are people who take the tack that any person who has a bad experience at your business/larp/chat game is going to tell at least six people about it. Thus damaging you further.
To which, I answer. "Good. I don't want that fuck-heads money. and i sure don't want to deal with his asshole friends either."

I have seen a few situations in the course of larping, that were I charge at the time, i would have stopped the larp, turned to the person(s) causing the problem, refunded their site fee and told them in front of GOD and everyone that they had 2 minutes to collect their gear and leave my larp or i would summon the police and have them removed from the premises.

As a character, i tend to adhere to the basic credo of "Evil we can understand, Treachery we can appreciate. But we do not tolerate rudeness." And it's a credo I try to live out as much as I can in real life. Politeness is the grease we apply to social interaction to enable the machinery of society to function. Rudeness is like throwing sand in the gears.

Certainly there are things that can cause problems and in many cases, there are things in place to keep players and ST from damaging a game beyond repair just because there was a messy break-up, or someone hasn't had enough sleep, or is on the rag, or any number of a dozen other things,
Sadly, no amount of appeal process or code of conduct can substitute for a proper attitude and basic politeness and kindness. You can have all the safety equipment you want on a kitchen meat slicer, but none of it is a substitute for paying attention to what your doing while the blade is moving.

Look. Each of us wants to have a good time. The things that may be stopping us is that we don't always have a good handle on what each of us considers a good time. I've talked about this before. Some might enjoy an approach that seems deathly dull to outsiders while others might consider a more cinematic approach that seems crack-filled and stupid.

Also: Before you send that email or throw that hissy fit. Remember that every larp and chat game is a volunteer operation. It functions as well as it can manage on the schedules of it's volunteers and REAL LIFE always trumps. Hell, there have been situations i've seen where the hissy fit was simply the final straw, and the person it was thrown at simply folded their tent, and went the fuck home. Is that what you want? If so, fuck you anyway.

Lately, the chat i like has been plagued by a trio of players who have been poor-mouthing the GM staff. The staff for their part has hard guidelines about how often you can change characters and these people were way abusing the system and then acted childish and petulant when the rules wee pointed out to them, to the point where one of the asshats would sit in the foyer of the chat game and go on an endless diatribe about how shitty the ST staff was. Finally they were permabanned, but they were making the game un-fun. If they had spent a quarter of the energy they wasted on that behavior on playing their characters. They wouldn't have been a problem.

In order to battle the Tragedy of the Commons, we have to refine and redefine our approach. Too many people feel like "suckers" if they pay into a public system. They also feel like "suckers" if they don't exploit and abuse the public system as much as they can. This is self interest. and moreover, it is dumb, short-sighted, moral-killing self interest. You see that shit in corporations, where people are more concerned about protecting their bonus than keeping their team working like a well oiled machine.
It's exactly backwards. One should try for Enlightened Self Interest instead. We all want to have fun. We all want to be here. The best way we can achieve it is by working together. When people care, the Commons flourishes and guess what, Not only do YOU get what you want, but everybody else does too.

The social contract is a finicky thing and it work less well when people don't understand it or notice it. Sometimes it's very important to take another person by the hand and say, "we have a code of conduct here and it is important to realize that this little society is entirely ad hoc and volunteer. If you want to be a part of this community, then you have to realize that we have certain rules, and rule zero is, Don't be a DICK!" So maybe it's me on my hobby horse about people making informed choices. But i can honestly say that i think it's best to help people realize that even though no money changes hands, there is a price to be payed for being a part of a community

And that price is courtesy.
Pay it, and it will pay you in return.
Invest in your community and it will pay you dividends.

Hopefully, i will coalesce my 2008 Origins Post Mortem into some concrete form in the next couple of days.
Sono Finito.


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