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When the Game Gets Ugly

Written by Tanja de Bie

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4. Don't get Personal
Whatever you do, don't go into counterattack. It is very tempting to judge the person complaining or angry as a bothersome person with lots of character faults, or complain that he should be grateful for all the work you put in. However, its not very professional, and it will only intensify the conflict. Judge each case on its merits no matter who its coming from. Don't make character judgments, not openly but not veiled either.

5. Support your Staff
In order to do their work well, your staff needs respect, both from you and your players. If you want your staff to change their behavior, tell them that privately. As for conflicts, make sure that you mediate between your players and the staffers while upholding the general principles that your staffer pointed out. Without being unreasonable uphold rulings of your staffers even if you would have made them differently.

Let's take another look at our fictious example of the online game Dung Heap, a free form forum game of over 150 players and nearly 20 GM's. The owner is the much maligned Sam. In the last article on game management poor Sam suffered all beginners mistakes.

Case Study: Dung Heap, Things Move On
Sam had learned much over the months. He controlled his temper when players complained. Most of them got to air their problems in a nice OOC area. And because Sam remained courteous and open to their suggestions he actually created a rather pleasant atmosphere. Likewise the GM's felt appreciated although Sam had no put in stricter controls over his creation.

And just when Sam thought everything was dandy a conflict broke out between a moderator and a player. The moderator accused the player of cheating repeatedly, and provided evidence. The player did not deny these incidents but claimed that he had improved the quality of the game by pushing the limits, and his goal had been better role-playing. Undeniably there had been lots of interesting action surrounding this players character. But was it an unfair advantage?

Sam considered both positions, asking questions from both player and moderator. He did this via email, though he posted a message on the board that a decision would be reached soon on the much publicized quarrel. The first reactions to this were positive, though some postings at the forum turned ugly. Sam closed the thread but let it remain on the board.In his heart Sam felt the player was right, so finally he decided to change some of the rules and told all players that he was reinstating the player. Now suddenly his GM's were in uproar, effecting players as well. Sam just sat behind his computer and stared at the screen. What on earth was going on? He had tried to be fair.

Sam did almost everything via the book, but then he forgot one important element: Support your staff. Not just the moderator involved, but all GM's felt the player had been getting away with far too much too often. This was coloring their perception of the case, something Sam could have noticed by checking the emotions involved with open questions. A better solution would have been to ask the player to obey the rules with an explanation why, but invite everybody involved to redesign the rules later.

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