[mod policy] [feedback requested] Participationism & Illusionism

edited August 2014 in Story Games
Hey all, I'm considering a soft, temporary ban on discussions involving Participationism & Illusionism. I'd like to get your feedback on this.

(By soft I mean, if a thread starts to veer towards it, we remind people and guide it away from such discussion, rather than instalocking/banhammering)

Here's a quick summary of my thoughts:

1) These threads have continuously lead to bad blood. Slowing down the threads has softened them a bit, but insta-slowdowning threads isn't a solution I particularly like.
2) It's not even a bad actor thing: it seems like everybody is doing a good job of making everybody else upset in a variety of ways.
3) These terms are loaded to start with: they come from a pejorative usage in The Forge (as in don't run this type of game), not everybody has the same definition, etc.
4) You folks have tried just about every technique possible to discuss it. I don't know what's left except for more circling the drains.

Thoughts? Feel free to whisper me, that's just as good as posting here.

I am particularly interested in hearing from lurkers or people who don't post in these threads. Is there a secret population of people who like these threads and find them useful?

Oh, in case it wasn't obvious, state your feelings/thoughts, don't argue/respond to each other, treat each other's opinions with respect: I'm interested in people's feedback, not in resolving out an answer through discourse.
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Comments

  • I get what you're saying, but I would much rather have unacceptable behaviors than unacceptable topics. I think most of the people here can discuss contentious topics with sufficient detachment to be fruitful and only occasionally do things get problematic.

    I sometimes read those threads and usually don't participate because it isn't my jam. That doesn't mean I have nothing to learn.

    In the job I had prior to my current one, the company attempted to avoid all personnel management issues by issuing global policies designed to combat unacceptable behaviors engaged in by a single person. The policies were writ broadly so as to be difficult to circumvent. This "management of the lowest common denominator" brought the whole place down when they could have just manned up and managed people as they were supposed to. I know that this isn't your job and you're not being paid, so there are stark differences, but it seems like a reasonable analogy.
  • I’ve written and deleted several posts in this thread now. I don’t know what to say that won’t make things worse.
  • Then you should whisper me with your thoughts.
  • edited August 2014
    Maybe a useful related question is "why do you feel that this is the right place to have that conversation?"

    If the answer is "because there's nowhere else to have it", well, that's weak sauce.
  • edited August 2014
    I do a lot of lurking and only a little posting. I am very interested in the illusionism topic, but every single thread just devolves until I shake my head and walk away. So yeah, I'd like to see a soft ban on it for a bit.

    Edit: in particular, item 4 of the OP is relevant: every discussion topic ends up turning sour. I've seen everything from "let's talk about..." to "this happened" to "only rainbows and smiles ITT" and they all turn into arguments, no matter what the actual original topic was supposed to be. It's a bummer.
  • edited August 2014
    Maybe there needs to be a new category of "Volatile Topics" or some such? So it's not forbidden, but it can be compartmentalized and not necessarily visible under the All Discussions flag.

    To clarify my own perspective: I'm one a dem lurkers you mention, and I have an instinctive, negative reaction to the idea of dissuading topics of discussion that are unquestionably SG-related. These conversations belong here. The vitrol doesn't, sure, and if there's a high vitrol-to-calm ratio in those topics then maybe keeping them out of the main loop is a worthy idea (after controlling for high-vitrol individuals, of course). But straight up saying "you should not discuss these topics" has a chilling effect.
  • edited August 2014
    As an outsider to this kind of topic, I would say that it could be extremely helpful to avoid blanket characterization of something as unethical, deceptive, etc. These are words that are loaded with negative meaning, and they seem to imply something about the person purportedly engaging in them, even when it's not meant to imply anything. It's hard to not to take something personally when your activity is described with loaded terms.

    I think it would be better to replace the term 'deception' for example, with something more bening sounding like 'artifice','guile', 'artfulness', 'craft'. You can still criticize the technique using those words, IMO.
  • Part of the problem is that I wrote “Illusionism is used for” instead of “Illusionism can be used for”. I need to be more mindful about this.
  • edited August 2014
    Maybe a useful related question is "why do you feel that this is the right place to have that conversation?"

    If the answer is "because there's nowhere else to have it", well, that's weak sauce.
    Uh, if "Story Games" is not the place to have discussions about techniques used to promote Story in Games, then what IS it for?

    I am in favor of banning/censuring volatile posters rather than volatile topics, but I understand the latter is more logistically feasible than the former.
  • edited August 2014
    You’re right, Joe — the name “Story Games” does imply a Story CA games related to Story which means my current focus on not-Story is very out of place and disruptive.
    This is something to consider, James.

    I wasn’t doing this on purpose of course. I guess I wasn’t thinking. I’ve loved Story Games in the past and after a while the name just got lexicalized into “that great place to talk about RPGs” in my head even as my desired CA view of what I wanted to get out of play got crystalized.

    ETD: Changed my post to not use the phrase CA so much, marked the changes with a strike. The idea of a CA, and it doesn’t have to be “one of three” from a GNS system, but just an acknowledgement that what people want to get out of play can differ, is something that I think resolves more arguments than it creates, but I agree that just typing the two letters CA is confusing and unsearchable. Thanks for the heads up.
  • edited August 2014
    Two small notes:

    1) about using CA as jargon: http://story-games.com/forums/discussion/19672/story-games-has-never-been-is-not-currently-and-will-never-be-the-forge#Item_1 (CA is particularly bad, since there's no easy way to google for that acronym unless you already know what it is. Creative Agenda is at least googleable)

    2) Also, let's keep the discussion/response to a minimum, as the first post states. I'll respond to some threads when this solicitation is winding down.
  • Ban the terms, not the topics.

    Asking me not to discuss ideas like Creative Agenda, Exploration, Ephemera, Illusionism, Participationism, etc., is asking me not to think about RPGs. But asking me not to use those specific loaded terms, and to explain what I mean in everyday language, is fine.
  • To clarify, I don't think a topic should be banned forever, obvs. But the idea of a short moratorium on it isn't a bad idea because I am seeing so many would-be good threads just turning into arguments and it's obvious that tensions are high and the topic is loaded.

    Maybe in a month or two, everyone has reflected and calmed and there's less personal investment and we can open it up again? Maybe? 'Cause that would rule, there's a lot of good discussion that should be happening.
  • A solid portion of the board thinks another portion of the board is as unethical as a poisoner.

    Banning discussion of the subject won't make them change their minds; actually discussion won't change anyone's minds either, nobody ever changes their minds in these discussions, and if they do, six months later a whole new set of board members have joined and they're ready to go over the ground again.
  • edited August 2014
    Then you should whisper me with your thoughts.
    I can't work out how to do this. I'm sure I've sent whispers before, but every time I try to do so it says I have to select a recipient and include body text, but that 's for a 'normal' post surely?
  • When I started my related thread last year it was in good faith, that I likely didn't understand others' point of view, and that discourse on this site has helped me come to a better, functional, understanding that I've since made use of in my own play, a number of times. Story Games is one of very few places that I do that, because it usually doesn't need much moderation. I would like to continue to read about difficult subjects appropriate to Story Games, and while I have no experience with being a forum moderator I would rather that posters' behavior be addressed rather than have subjects curtailed. That said I'd like to thank you for asking the community for input, and for the effort you make.
  • @catty_big, how you whisper is click Whisper at the bottom of the post, put in recipients underneath that, and then type like it's a normal post. Feel free to test it out to me if you're unsure.
  • edited August 2014
    Gah! Another post that was supposed to be a whisper.
  • edited August 2014
    There are several good points made above. To avoid the appearance of engaging in cross-talk I'll just restate a few of them and move on to my contribution to the thread.

    Despite how confusing GNS speak is at times, some of the terms are perfectly named. What better way to describe the illusion of choice than Illusionism? It is a much less loaded term than railroading, which seems to largely get a pass, despite them being--as far as I can tell--two similar terms that describe the exact same phenomena. But as mentioned, if absolutely necessary to avoid the permanent fracturing of the user base, ban the terms, not the topics. However, to discuss RPGs in any more depth than "I like it" you need to be able to discuss these topics. Note that the feelings will not change. The same poster who instantly reacts poorly to the term "Illusionism" will react just as badly to the term "Railroading" as they will react just as negatively when the new term "Shozbot" replaces the previous two. And that's the rub, it's clearly an issue with disruptive posters rather than disruptive topics. The topics themselves can't cause problems, only the posters can. If topic bans must be implemented, ban the disruptive posters from those topics, not the entire board. Just because a few people can't handle themselves well doesn't mean no one should be able to have a given conversation.

    To go on a slight tangent that does relate to the topic (I promise) I want to mention a few of my own attempts at discussing more story structure related topics on this board (ie bringing some of the form along with some tips & tricks writers use to create stories into gaming). Some posters engage honestly, with an apparent effort to understand and a willingness to possibly expand their thoughts on the topic despite any miscommunication or missteps on my part in broaching the topics. Others spill a lot of digital ink willfully disrupting and derailing the thread through feigned concern and blatantly misunderstanding whatever's said despite their clear ability to comprehend far more complex topics on other threads. Some people simply cannot stomach topics they don't like being discussed yet also lack the constitution and self-control to avoid thread-crapping an otherwise healthy conversation. Some know the letter of the law, and the mods, so well--or have simply been here so long--that they can saunter right up to the line and piss across the threshold without so much as a sideways glance from those in charge. I bring this up and think it relates to the question of mod policy in general because I still think of myself as an outsider here. This has been my experience on the board thus far.

    The easy and least constructive way to handle this would be to simply ban the topics as that will be the least disruptive method of moderation. Sweep it under the rug as it were. But that won't change the underlying dynamic of the forum. Some posters simply don't like other posters. Some posters simply don't want to see certain topics discussed. Poster X doesn't like Poster Y who doesn't like Poster Z. So when Poster X brings up a topic Poster Y doesn't like, look out, there will be fireworks. A forum-wide topic ban won't change that. It won't make anything better, not long-term at least. You will stop this fight between those posters, but there will be others. Guaranteed. Having a sit down (or PM exchange) with the posters in question might make things better, or it might drive those posters off. When I was being blatantly concern trolled I was told I was the disruptive one (because I made the mistake of calling the poster out on it). From what I can tell, the other poster was given a pass and a huge dollop of presumption of innocence largely due to that other poster simply being here a really long time.

    My honest advice, get a few new moderators who are also new to the forum, give them a clear, unbiased edict to bounce posters from topics, and to not let posters use the letter of the forum policy--or their status as long-time posters--to defeat the spirit of the forum policy. We are a group of humans who can, do, and will disagree. Rather than pretending we don't (banning contentious topics), stop the posters who cannot stop themselves from being disruptive (topic bans for certain posters, and sanctions for those who break the rules, no matter how slyly they do it).
  • edited August 2014
    Hey, so @liblarva, while in the future, if you have a problem with a moderation decision, I'd appreciate feedback or discussion rather than just calling people out publicly, since you didn't respond to my private message and are doing this publicly, I'd just like to clear up some misconceptions.

    I've only been active on here since May 2013, which is a lot younger than your account. In the thread you're referring to, I am more than acquaintances with/know personally *none* of these people. I don't think I've ever been accused of being reverential towards The Forge/old Story Gamers, but in case you were wondering and the first post on the page doesn't help you, definitively not.

    I appear in your mind to have made the wrong decision in responding to that thread: I'm figuring this stuff out like anybody, and I fully invite you to message me and take me up on this, and we can have a longer conversation, and I'm happy to take your feedback on this. Part of what pushed me to make this thread is that while singling out bad actors for punishment is easy, a lot of these threads escalate off of small micro-aggressions, and people steadily raising the tone and heat to each other.

    But the idea that somehow this is a cabal of old mods and the people they love: that does not feel accurate to me at all.

    Please feel free to continue this with me in whisper.
  • I wonder if there is a trigger issue at the root of this. In these discussions we have people reacting very differently to the prospect of a supposedly friendly person (perhaps even a friend) deceiving them. I've seen this in other communities outside of RPGs. The best I think we can do is work, slowly, to some understanding. Maybe something like an X-card could help.

    Ultimately, there is something valuable to be gained. If we can't talk about deception and manipulation in games, then it is very difficult to talk about general communication in them. I just don't know if Story Games is the place where this will happen.
  • edited August 2014
    Why do people keep saying "Story Games is not the place for these discussions," as opposed to "these discussions get too heated?" I am genuinely confused and would like to understand. My understanding of "Story Games is not The Forge" is "Do not assume SG posters are familiar or agree with Forge jargon/discussions", not "High-level/meta-level discussion of RPGs and gaming is off-topic" and I see nothing in the rules to indicate otherwise. Am I wrong?
  • Just to clarify, your explanation, @Joe_McGuffin, coincides with mine, both on The Forge post and the reason for this post.

    I don't particularly get excited by Participation/Illusionism discussions, but the only reason we're considering this is because the discussions get too heated, not because they're high-level theory discussions.
  • Yeah, the only take-away I'm getting here is that any and every thread related to illusionism/participationism is getting very heated and becoming counter-productive. I did not relate this in any way to the "not the Forge" post. I'm not seeing any blockage of discourse, just an honest request for advice and help on how to deal with this new issue.

    So, yeah: those discussions are becoming prevalent, often unproductive, and occasionally toxic. Like many posters, I am very interested in the topic and would love some healthy discussion. A couple points:

    1. "Ban posters, not topics" could potentially cause hurt feelings when someone feels like they're banned for their opinions.
    2. Perma-banning any topic is dumb and clearly not being suggested
    3. In keeping with the "slow down" rule precedent, a short term moratorium on this heated issue may let people reflect on their position, presentation, and commentary. Then when the topic "re-opens," hopefully we can talk about it without anger.

    That's my take on it!
  • My take on the Illusionism/Participationism problem is as follows:

    1. Some portion of this board identifies with a style of role-playing that is well-represented by the term "Illusionism" -- this is their preferred method of role-playing, or is inseparable from their concept of how one role-plays, or is associated with some excellent memories of past games, or what have you.
    2. Some portion of this board has had negative experiences with styles of play that are well-represented by the term "Illusionism", such that they would prefer not to participate in such play, or consider it to be fundamentally flawed or dysfunctional.
    3. The term "Illusionism", as culturally understood by a large portion of this board, implies a lack of consent by definition. I consider this definition to be problematic: in a wider culture that is striving to encourage consent, any activity which is by definition nonconsensual must necessarily be unethical. This leads to everybody in group 1 feeling as if the culture on this board is declaring their play to be unethical by definition, which leads to upset and general outrage.

    So, the terms Illusionism/Participationism, as currently understood, are firebrands of discontent and should probably be re-examined. At the same time, I assume the moderators do not wish the Story Games board to be the venue where RPG theory is codified (see "Story Games [is not] The Forge"). So, where should that discussion occur, and what should we do here in the meantime?
  • I wonder if there is a trigger issue at the root of this. In these discussions we have people reacting very differently to the prospect of a supposedly friendly person (perhaps even a friend) deceiving them.
    To be clear, no one is saying that DMing according to the social contract is deception.
  • edited August 2014
    I wonder if there is a trigger issue at the root of this. In these discussions we have people reacting very differently to the prospect of a supposedly friendly person (perhaps even a friend) deceiving them.
    To be clear, no one is saying that DMing according to the social contract is deception.
    I would disagree. Only because their is no objective, universal social contract. It is different from person to person and table to table. It is also the least talked about piece of gaming.

    To some the social contract explicitly includes Illusionism; to others the social contract explicitly excludes Illusionism. So what you and your group may find acceptable, me and my table would find abhorrent.
  • Some portion of this board identifies with a style of role-playing that is well-represented by the term "Illusionism"
    [...]
    The term "Illusionism", as culturally understood by a large portion of this board, implies a lack of consent by definition. [...] This leads to everybody in group 1 feeling as if the culture on this board is declaring their play to be unethical by definition, which leads to upset and general outrage.
    These two different (because they are subtly different) definitions of the word was what tripped us up this time.
    I consider this definition to be problematic: in a wider culture that is striving to encourage consent, any activity which is by definition nonconsensual must necessarily be unethical.
    Good point. But there are activities that are nonconsensual yet are named. Spam / UCE (Unsolicited Commercial Email) is one — the definition is that the mails are unwanted. Stalking (except when used hyperbolically or facetously) is another. I am not trying to say whether or not Illusionism₁ or Illusionism₂ is as bad as these activities — I’m only saying that there is a case for lexicalization of words that cover specific nonconsensual and unethical activities.
  • edited August 2014
    To be clear, no one is saying that DMing according to the social contract is deception.
    [...]To some the social contract explicitly includes Illusionism
    The reason I wrote the post you quoted is that this group, whose social contract explicitly includes [something that they refer to as] Illusionism, does not want to be accused of deception, and I wanted to be clear that we are not doing that. I don’t want to add more fuel to the flames.

    ETA: Ah, now I get it, you thought I meant “DMing according to The One True Social Contract” while I meant “DMing according to their player’s perception of what the local social contract is”. Clearer now?
  • edited August 2014
    The reason I wrote the post you quoted is that this group, whose social contract explicitly includes [something that they refer to as] Illusionism, does not want to be accused of deception, and I wanted to be clear that we are not doing that. I don’t want to add more fuel to the flames.
    Illusionism. Illusion of Choice. Railroading. They're all different bits or perspectives on the same thing. The GM has a story in mind that they are running the players through. Those are the rails. This story is happening, despite what the PCs do and the players may want. Railroading. Some players want to feel like they have control despite them having no control whatsoever. The illusion of choice. The act of running a game that is on the rails, ie railroading the story, while also providing the players with the illusion of choice. Illusionism.

    There's only deception if the GM isn't upfront about what they're doing. If the GM declares you're running through a module that evening, chances are there's a fairly solid rail on that game. If the GM declares you're a group starting off in a town and starts play with, "What do you do?", chances are there's few, if any, rails involved. If the GM presents the game session as having real, meaningful choices but relentlessly takes the session back to the rails, that is deception, pure and simple. If the GM doesn't want to be accused of deception, then they should be explicit about what they're doing and be upfront with their players.
  • edited August 2014
    What shall I answer.

    The Scylla is that liblarva believes that I am defending Illusionism₁.
    The Charybdis is that contracycle believes that I am attacking Illusionism₂.

    I am squashed paper thin.
    Can’t they fight amongst each other where I can be safe.
    ETA: or better yet, of course, find peace
  • What shall I answer.

    The Scylla is that liblarva believes that I am defending Illusionism₁.
    The Charybdis is that contracycle believes that I am attacking Illusionism₂.

    I am squashed paper thin.
    Can’t they fight amongst each other where I can be safe.
    Huh. I actually agree with a lot of what you're saying. But apparently you're misreading that as me trying to fight with you. My post to you above was simply to point out that there is no One True Social Contract as your post initially seemed to imply, and that you eventually understood me to mean.

    I don't see that there really are two uses of Illusionism. Only two perceptions of the same thing. Some people like it; some people hate it. It's still fundamentally the same thing.
  • OK. Good that we could make peace. Thank you liblarva
  • Oh, in case it wasn't obvious, state your feelings/thoughts, don't argue/respond to each other, treat each other's opinions with respect: I'm interested in people's feedback, not in resolving out an answer through discourse.
    Friendly reminder what James said in the OP, especially "don't argue/respond to each other."
  • My personal preference is for raw debate and open opinion. Always. But then again, I'm an anti-post-modernist at war with political correctness, so my preferences don't jibe with those of many others.

    Since I truly believe that offense is the problem of the one being offended, and vehemently against censorship in all forms, I guess I'd prefer to see something like a DMZ sub-forum for sensitive topics where people can put whatever is causing offense. That way it can be discussed, and potential gains had from it, while putting the burden on the individual to look away if they aren't ok with what they're seeing. Obviously there could still be some fundamental lines not to cross (criminal threats for instance).

    I'm STRONGLY opposed to focus on the language. We empower words, not vice versa. Once we start banning words cultures merely borrow other words to fill in, which eventually become corrupted and banned and sooner or later there are no words left (all while failing to address the underlying topics).

    Even things like slowdowns really won't solve anything, though in some few instances I can see it allowing for a breath to be taken which might lead to rephrasing something. More often it seems the topics are locked anyway. It's like mom whispering cancer at the dinner table...saying it softly (or not at all) isn't going to keep grandpa alive one day longer. Openly discussing it, and coming to understand it, actually can (even if there's crying, screaming, and grandma feinting while little becky sue runs off to her room because of it).

    Just my $.02.
  • edited August 2014
    Thanks for all the feedback so far. Still gathering thoughts, but I have a new question:

    How would people feel about the following idea: temporarily, a certain class of threads getting immediate SLOWDOWNS (one post per 24 hours), not as a punishment, but just as part and parcel (this would start with all participationism/illusionism threads, plus probably all theory). I always feel like sometimes the pace of threads can leave people who aren't free at their computer that very moment behind, and as always, time can do a lot for emotional distance.

    I'm happy being told this is an idea you like or dislike.
  • There's a rich variety of opinions in this thread already, but I'll post mine as well in case it might sway some moderation politics in a direction more to my liking that some alternatives.

    I personally think that there is nothing wrong here, now, that a little bit of gentility won't solve. There are some topics on which some people have pointed opinions, and they/we are proving to have difficulties interacting around those topics in a civil way. This is in no way different from the kinds of problems any host of a cultural salon faces any time they host something of the sort: people are this way. The only difference is that the Internet medium makes it easier for people to spiral into social stand-offs.

    I dislike banning topics and limiting discourse in this kind of situation, just like I would dislike it at a face to face salon. I much prefer genuine engagement and learning to get along as a means of improvement: the specific people who have problems need to learn to disengage and keep their peace, and perhaps over time they will improve and find accord with their foemen. Stopping this process because it seems bumpy is giving up and ensures that no resolution is ever reached; the sore remains open, and a new one is broached every time a moderator stops a discussion instead of facilitating it.

    I also favour seeking fault over avoiding conflict; with some patience we discover where problems lie, and can then take even radical steps about it. The most extreme move should be disinviting a person who doesn't play well with others (or who others don't play well with, whichever), if it seems that no progress is made and they continuously provoke breaches of peace. This is an extreme solution, though, and I think it should only be reserved for people who do not respond to social initiatives and do not try to work on their side to improve understanding and amity. The idea that individual people might have to leave the salon if they cannot make it work is important as a possibility, even if the option is almost never exercised in practice.

    In summation: I think that insofar as moderator involvement is needed in these kinds of heated topics, it is to take the most difficult people (and yes, this needs to be a totally social, competent evaluation - the host has to know who's the one causing problems) aside and talk with them to improve their conduct. If they are willing to do better, then problem solved. If they prove unresponsive, they can be asked to leave. That's how you run a courteous salon.

    And yes, the standards of a "courteous salon" are in some ways socially unfair at times. For example, it might mean ousting a person who is right, but does not have the social skills to express their disagreements in a courteous manner. Nevertheless, I think that a forum like Story Games needs to be run in a courteous manner over other considerations, because without that essential amity and security of friendship the essential functions of the forum cannot be fulfilled. I of course fully expect to be the person asked to leave one of these days myself :D

    --

    Regarding the specific case of illusionism discussion, here's what it looks like to me, point by point:
    * There is a strong shared ethos among many people on this forum regarding illusionism: we've done it, it hasn't worked for us, we've moved on. This basically causes a sort of group-think phenomenon, where many people agree with each other. It's one of those ideological cornerstone details that make up the profile of "what kinds of roleplaying are favoured by the SG forums".
    * There's like two or three people who combine an enjoyment of illusionism with an enjoyment of controversy, and they provoke heated arguments on this subject. Gareth and Jason, to be explicit - there might be others, but these two have stuck to my mind. One way to look at the situation is that these two, by unfailingly contesting the general ethos, are causing arguments.
    * While ordinarily disagreeing on something doesn't need to descend into incivility here, the particular narrative involved in this case has proven wonderfully efficient in encouraging mindless flame-war. Specifically, this idea that people are being persecuted and slandered for their illusionistic preferences, it has proven to be quite the excellent accelerant for frayed patiences. It is a meme that does not want to die, no matter the amount of back-pedaling, analytic parsing of statements and apologizing, for nursing such injuries is what martyrs are made of.

    As can be seen, to me the social dynamics here seem relatively clear: a few pro-illusionism posters are aggravating otherwise reasonably civil discussions, and to me it seems that they're not particularly trying to seek accord - they're seeking a soapbox, rather. I'm the same way about some topics, it really takes a conscious choice for me to stay away from some topic on which I strongly disagree with the majority opinion. This mode of discourse - political soapboxing - then encourages arguing instead of amity, and we've seen the results. This behavior pattern only makes sense for someone who feels surrounded by ignorance and apathy; in that situation it is good enough for you to get the truth out, even if all it amounts to is sniping at other participants of a discussion.

    I should emphasize that the above explanation of my perception does not imply anything about who's right or who's wrong on the substantial question; it's just my observation about who and what and why seems to be causing tempers to fray and the quality of discourse to plummet. The problem isn't that illusionism is wrong, it's that people are engaging in inflexible, hostility-inducing modes of discourse.

    The clear climax of the recent bickering was when Gareth attacked Sandra over the weekend for misusing difficult theoretical terminology in a way he felt was slanderous. I'm sure Gareth himself doesn't feel too good about that in hindsight, either, but it's an emblematic example of the run-away social dynamics at play here. I think it's good to note explicitly that Sandra did nothing wrong in that situation, Gareth just felt so strongly on the topic that he jumped to some pretty far-fetched conclusions right away.

    The situation isn't even very serious as these things go (we've all seen much worse in the Internet); were I a moderator, I would consider asking a few of the participants to show more courtesy and consideration in their future interactions, but I don't really think that much more than that is needed. I mean, I certainly have an opinion regarding the substantial issue, but I don't feel particularly angry or hostile towards Gareth or Jason or other pro-illusionism debaters here; they're fine people, even if a bit thorny at times. They've clearly expressed their displeasure at people not acknowledging that illusionist play can be consensual as well, and I for one will attempt to be more clear on that in the future; not that I ever disagreed, but it is apparently easy to communicate a different impression.

    As for the future of discussing illusionism, I would suggest for everybody to come to the topic with increased self-awareness, and a willingness to not take offense. The fact that somebody else doesn't like the kind of roleplaying you do is not a massive social affront that has to be confronted with hostility. You can just record your disagreement and then perhaps compare experiences, and that's that.
  • How would people feel about the following idea: temporarily, a certain class of threads getting immediate SLOWDOWNS (one post per 24 hours), not as a punishment, but just as part and parcel (this would start with all participationism/illusionism threads, plus probably all theory). I always feel like sometimes the pace of threads can leave people who aren't free at their computer that very moment behind, and as always, time can do a lot for emotional distance.
    Strongly opposed; I would not participate in any such thread if I could help it. Of course, this side-effect in itself might well be an improvement :D

    Slowdown in general seems to me like a solution seeking a problem, but apparently it has its supporters.
  • edited August 2014
    Making people think about explaining their definition of terms if they are bringing it up, without banning the use of those terms outright, could be helpful. To avoid confusion. So if something requires theory from the Forge to understand a link could be helpful or well a short explanation in plain text.

    Overall I am not in favor of banning the topic outright and for all times. Giving it a little rest could work. But I think finding a way to be able to discuss those topics would be ideal for the site and community. They seem like valid things to talk about. But I'd rather join a discussion than an argument.

    I would be okay with an auto-slow down, maybe as a form of the "rest" mentioned above. But I am not one of the frequent posters. So it would not change too much for me personally.
  • As I stated on some thread or another, I've got mixed feelings about all this. I'm ashamed that it was a thread of mine the one that started all this. I'm sad that everyone misunderstood it as an attack to illusionism and later misunderstood that I (or everyone, for what matters) was defending some kind of sick, manipulative, wicked, non-functional, forced sort of gameplay. No one is actually doing such thing. Think it twice, that person that you think is defending a "lie" or calling you a "liar" (and many other things), simply has a different view on the subject and a different experience with that specific gameplay style, that against all you may have experience, makes it a functional and enjoyable experience. If you can't believe it, you're still missing something. If you asked and that person couldn't give you a reasonable answer, believe me, it's because the thing that makes that gameplay work is a concept so ellusive that defies explanation, but it's there.

    Anyway, you don't have to believe me on that. All I can show you as proof of that is a feeling on my guts. Anyway, more mixed emotions: I'm glad we're finally talking about this. While we have a bazillion different games, there's an awfully big amount of people that think all the rules have been written. This argument shows that there's a lot of unspoken rules that haven been written yet and are crucial for creating one game experience or another, and the game won't work (or will work by sheer luck, as it happens today) if players and GM just wander in unaware of the boundaries of a healthy social contract.

    On top of that, I'm kinda amazed, kinda bit mad that this heat has gone higher and further than that thread you closed a few week ago, James, that about gender where I posted that link that you misunderstood as simple standing comedy, and was actually an opinion I agree with, shown with humor. I mean, I didn't even think that was pollitically incorrect (nor it was my intent to come off that way) and while I agree that that particular discussion had potential to be volatile and you were right on closing that thread, at that moment I felt frustrated that right when the thread was getting somewhere (most of the misunderstandings and flames were over at that moment) it was shut down. I felt like things didn't have a closure, and a bit sad that your final comment there left me as some sort of archetipical (insert here your prefered word for intolerant macho mysoginist that can't take seriously people of other gender or sexual orientation).

    But it's okey, I mean, I ended up taking no offense, understood the thread was over and despite the paragraph above, have no hard feelings nor I question your authority nor your understanding on the subject. I'm sure it had something to do with the way I express my opinions and the fact that I belong to a different culture (I'm peruvian and english is my second language). The reason I brought it up is that probably some threads should have been stopped or even closed earlier. I say this even when I'm actually learning a lot from the serious discussion admist the flames. I see there that we are taking some actual steps forward. And yet if it's for the health of the whole storygames community, I'd ask you to put a stop to it. I'm for closing the most toxic threads and slowdown the rest.
  • edited August 2014
    Since the earliest days of dial-up bulletin boards, through the USENET era, and e'en unto now, online arguments arc towards nastiness and hurt feelings. And the speed in which they move towards that is inversely proportional to how important the topic is.


    Probably the best thing that could happen would be for people to police themselves. Maybe a simple checklist, like:

    1. Have I been posting on this topic or related ones for longer than a month?

    2. Have I had a strong opinion about this for longer than a couple of weeks?

    3. Have I participated in more than two threads about this during my entire life without my opinion about it changing significantly?

    4. Does it genuinely bother me when other people I don't play games with and may never actually meet in person disagree with my opinion?

    5. Does it genuinely ruin my own gaming experiences to know that other people might be doing things I wouldn't enjoy, even theoretically?

    6. Do I feel a strong need for my opinion to be critiqued, corrected, or merely validated by a lot of people?

    And if the answer to any of those is "YES," you just don't post. You can continue to discuss it privately within your own hand-picked circle of friends, but leave the public threads for the people who still find the whole topic to be shiny and new. If you like, you can keep reading those threads just to see what opinions the starry-eyed newbies form on their own -- maybe they'll surprise you with an insight that never occurred to you, maybe (probably) they won't, but at least they'll get the fun of developing their own ideas without all of us old-timers burying them underneath re-enactments of old battles and demanding that they stay within the lines we drew years ago. Or you could skip reading the public threads entirely, because really, what do you care? We all have literally no stakes whatsoever in any of this, after all.

    And if at any point you find yourself feeling some kind of emotion about your Important Gaming Opinion, you definitely don't post (and maybe even stop reading entirely) until that feeling passes. Because I think we all can admit outside the heat of the moment that getting angry about games is pretty dumb, and getting angry about theories about games is even dumber.

    It won't happen, of course, online arguments being what they are (especially since it's hard to let people be wrong on the internet, and even harder to not correct their wrongness when it's something you've jumped in to correct before!). But man, it's how I wish things could be.
  • Auto-slowdowns are better than topic bans, temporary or not. It seems like it's overbearing. I guess you're responding to a broader trend than I see, so it's hard for me to know how right your perceptions are vs. my own; but it feels to me like one person went off the deep-end and a couple others were a little antisocial and now you're looking to use a much bigger hammer than is needed for this nail. (But I'm totally open to the notion that I'm not seeing important stuff!) Eero's strategy for salon-management feels particularly resonant.
  • I'd rather that SG kept a few discussions where people could argue about illusionism. Because it's clear that many people have a lot to say about the subject. I'd rather that what those people didn't bring the illusionism topic into other discussions because they didn't have a space to say what they wanted to say about illusionism because of thread locks or slowdowns. And I'd also prefer that those people were in a position to continue to add to the various conversations of SG rather than being banned for posting about taboo topics.

    This is one of those big disagreements that's not going to be solved by people talking, but also not going to be avoided by people shutting up. Those who are arguing are arguing their well-founded opinions in good faith, even if the arguments can get very heated. I don't think this is a problem for which a moderator solution exists.
  • How about limiting the topic to one active thread on the main page?

    The main point of frustration I have with this situation is that there are now like 3-4 threads about the same thing. This also means moderators have to watch all of these threads.
  • edited August 2014
    Ok so what if we...
    (a) make up thread labels like "soapbox" or "position" (or whatever) which indicate a preferred topical direction or stance
    (b) with the understanding that disrupting/opposing that stance in that thread is a greater violation than if in happened another thread, and then
    (c) people can either self-identify (pre-emptively label their own thread) or the mods can do it retroactively
    ?

  • Thanks for all the feedback so far. Still gathering thoughts, but I have a new question:

    How would people feel about the following idea: temporarily, a certain class of threads getting immediate SLOWDOWNS (one post per 24 hours), not as a punishment, but just as part and parcel (this would start with all participationism/illusionism threads, plus probably all theory). I always feel like sometimes the pace of threads can leave people who aren't free at their computer that very moment behind, and as always, time can do a lot for emotional distance.

    I'm happy being told this is an idea you like or dislike.
    I think Slowdowns in general are a terrible idea, they only help to bury the conversation rather than prevent participants from becoming overzealous. What's the goal here? To stop people from getting overheated about the topic or to stop the topic from popping up repeatedly? Topic banning across the forum doesn't stop people from getting overheated about other topics, and they will. Slowdowns don't stop people from getting overheated, only less frequently. Only actually giving posters warnings and days off will prevent the negative behavior.

    Also, the idea that an active conversation should have to wait for people to continue is a fundamentally silly one. If some people aren't at their computers when a flurry of ideas happen to strike some posters, that's no reason to stop those ideas from being put up on the forum. "Sorry, Bob. I can't talk to you about this right now because Janet isn't in the room."

    Here's another thought. Lock all the older threads on the topic. Sticky the most recent, or make a new one. And let people just hash it out in one place. When things get heated, give people a day or two off from the forum. If they keep at it, topic ban that poster. If they're so incensed they cannot control themselves and continue to post on it, permaban them.
  • I am unconvinced that too many threads about one topic on the front page is a real problem. It's never bothered me when e.g. Dungeon World or some other game I don't play becomes a hot topic of discussion temporarily; it doesn't take much effort to skip those threads if you want.

    Meanwhile, the ability to shape discussion with thread semantics remains our one most powerful tool in actually keeping this place civilized. The ability to start new threads to restage a question, reshuffle the participants, set localized engagement guidelines, and break on-going social one-upmanship in an old thread is key in the way we've managed order historically. (In light of my salon simile, this is sort of similar to having the discussion participants break off and go into separate rooms to chill out.) The single reason for why I personally accept locking threads at all is the presumed right to restage the discussion in a new thread - without this capability that particular moderation habit would be tyrannical bullying that achieves nothing except silencing people. With thread spinning the people who feel that they have been unjustly interpreted or silenced in earlier threads can always start a new discussion on the same topic, hopefully with better luck. Meanwhile those who got bored on the topic don't feel a social commitment to engaging when the topic moves to a new thread.

    For those who've followed this Illusionism discussion now, you can see how we have been making use of this technique: all those new threads are not started idly, they're attempts by each participant to discover a new angle of attack that might achieve amity and avoid the murk that creeps into prior threads. If all those discussions were in a single thread, nobody could make heads or tails of it for the sheer speed and scope of social engagement.

    For these reasons I would rather not develop the idea of shuffling compassionate topics into their own reservations. We've seen what those frankenstein discussions are like on forums that make heavy use of them: nobody can read the entire thread due to its length, discussion rambles, and the practical outcome is that only extremely committed old-timers care to contribute to the topic. Reneval and new ideas depend on welcoming new initiatives rather than shutting them down with "there's a 3,000 post thread on top of the forum for this topic, please post your observations there".
  • I believe that Slowdown is as effective as Sinking in killing a thread. I haven't seen any Slowdown thread have continued, effective discussion. However, I haven't seen Slowdown used on a thread from the get-go, so I'm open to trying.
  • edited August 2014
    The ability to start new threads to restage a question, reshuffle the participants, set localized engagement guidelines, and break on-going social one-upmanship in an old thread is key in the way we've managed order historically.
    Agreed absolutely and empirically.
    Bifurcation is not only normal but unavoidable, and should not be dissuaded by any social group, regardless of size.

  • I agree with Eero. I don't think you get to civil discourse by restricting topics that seem in fact to be central to the ostensible purpose of the site. Incivility ("harshing the zen") should be addressed as incivility, on a case-by-case basis, preferably by the people involved. My own preference is for lighter rather than harsher moderation; Story-Games.com is a pretty introspective place, and so I think there's room for letting people try to find their own way.
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