Saturday, October 25, 2008

Resistance is NOT Futile!

You are not a Borg. You probably don’t need someone to “mentor” you, or to tell you when they “think” you will be ready to be an ensign. Especially someone who does not have a solid foundation in Simming, writing, and couldn’t get the position you are applying for on another Sim. That is usually the reason that this person is the “moderator” of this new and different Sim. And that reason is because that “expert” could not cut it on an even playing field with another group. Therefore they either left voluntarily or were kicked out. And voila, suddenly they are running a group.

Now they have started their own “group” and want to lead you down the Primrose path. Don’t be suckered into it. You probably know more than this person that is telling you that you need so many posts to do this, and to attend so many Sims to do that. Unfortunately, few have resumes in the AOL Star Trek Sim world. But chances are good that they are rejects from another group.

Do your homework. Do your research. Pick up a copy of the latest Star Trek Role Playing Game. Everything you need to know is in there. These “groups” will do little to help you enjoy Simming, or to help you develop your creativity or writing skills. And the fun will soon be replaced by infighting, jealousy and personal attacks. It is a pattern that once established, holds true for these individuals.

Start your own Sim. Why not? You don’t need to be admiral this or ambassador that to have fun in the Star Trek genre. There is nothing wrong with running or being part of an Independent Sim. Many prefer independence, and for all the reasons that I have stated below. Less politics and less drama. It takes a bit more prep. But once the Sim is set up, then you are ready to play, and it only needs to be updated periodically. Get a basic set of rules in place and stick to them. Make everyone accountable. And make it a fun experience that people will want to come back for. Consider different mediums. Bulletin Boards Sims. Play By Email Sims. And so on. If you have a particular story to tell and no one else sees your vision perhaps you should write a story. Tell it how you see it.

Remember, your personal life and business is just that, yours. You are entitled to your privacy. It is the law. AOL has Terms of Service. And they forbid others to abuse you online. There are penalties for such behavior. People who are abusive and attacking do not make good Roleplay partners.

Resistance to bad Simming is not futile. You don’t have to be assimilated by the dregs of other groups. Start your own Sim. Stay away from other people's problems and problem makers.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Back Stabbers

"They smile in your face, all the while they wanna take your place..." The Back Stabbers. That is from a very famous song many have heard. It is also a sad truth in the AOL Sim world.

There are many written and unwritten rules of Simming, and of life. The Golden Rule states "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." That having been said, there must be a lot of Simmers who feel that they should stab other players in the back, or it would not be so prevalent. Why? Because many of these individuals are, contrary to what you have read in your Theology books, not very nice people.

There are many vindictive and spiteful, even resentful individuals who Sim and who Sim with you. I know. I have Simmed with most of them. And unfortunately there are more of them than anyone cares to count. Not only that, but these individuals stand together. Misery loves company.

I am speaking of the people who sit on the fringe of groups, always observing the action, but never really taking on responsibility or committing to any direction. They are "fringe" players. They generally start off very congenial, friendly and above all else, inquisitive. They want to know everything about everything and everyONE in the group. What they are doing is compiling a database. On you and what you do. On how other players do things and on your ideas. And their purpose is nefarious to say the least.

Their intent is to plagiarize other players ideas and usurp their positions, then reap the benefits of these other people's work, be it, new plot ideas, new technology, or the recruitment of someone else's players. They use their knowledge of others to begin a campaign of lies and deceit, carefully assassinating the character of these other players. Creating events to cause dissension and, behind the scenes, blaming other for the problems that they have stirred up.

There are other dissenters and they are willing to chime in and pick up a sword and cause chaos and destruction wherever and wherever. They do not require facts. They do not require figures. All they want is someone to hate and to destroy. It is, unfortunately, why these individuals come online, not to Sim and to explore Gene Roddenberry's universe.

Again the question is why?

Many of these "wolves", the hired guns have no lives outside of these "groups." They enjoy being able to come online and exert their will on others. this is why they come online. This is what they are here to do. They attack their targets and they are relentless. They send emails. they IM repeatedly. they create other screennames to do more of the same from multiple fronts, lying about their identities. When the victims have them TOSed, they create new screenames. They band together with others to continue the intimidation. They create chatrooms, calling them "Recruit Rooms". But what these rooms are is merely organized gangs where these packs of wolves plan their attacks. many of the attacks are carried out when the unsuspected victims come in, assuming they will find camaraderie and common goals to share, not to mention support.

Once these individuals have driven the other players out of the group, they assume their positions, and take their ideas, plotlines, storylines, Sim partners, documentations and so on, which the wolves have not had to develop or cultivate themselves and use them for their own purposes. The people who have helped and supported them have been deemed pariahs and subsequently "punished" and ostracized.

I personally have had individuals steal items off of my websites word for word and repeat it back to me, not bothering to read the site credits, ignorant of the fact that I developed and wrote the very things they have stolen. Ignorance is not bliss.

These individuals are untalented, uncreative, unskilled, lazy and vindictive individuals. instead of applying creativity, or working hard to build, earn and develop something, they seek to destroy others and take what they have worked for. And if they can get enough other wolves to go along with it, then they rewrite history to make themselves the hero, giving themselves promotions they have not earned, taking entire Sims and groups over they have not developed and would not know how to if you paid them. Smiling in your face and stabbing you in the back, with lies and deceit, jealousy and disdain. There is another saying"no good deed goes unpunished."

The funny thing about this, and the only thing I might add that is funny, is what happens after the Backstabbers have achieved their goal. Because invariably the Backstabbers will eventually turn on each other and destroy that which they have stolen. And the cycle begins anew.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

...A Galaxy Far Far Away

Gene Roddenberry............. George Lucas

Captain Kirk .................Luke Skywalker

It behooves me to remind that this blog is about Star TREK, not Star WARS. However, one of the reasons AOL Star Trek Simming Sucks is because of the many individuals, unfortunately a good portion of them being COs that don't know the difference between the two.

The Star Trek and Star Wars universes are two separate places. And while there have been, are and will be Sims that combine the two, a Star Trek Sim is not a Star Wars Sim. There are the technological considerations to be sure. Star Wars is rediscovering technology from earlier incarnations, and doesn't use photon torpedoes. But the real problem is GMs/COs who don't know and don't police use of subject matter for themselves and for others. This leads to a confusing hodge-podge as the attempt is made to assume these two universes and their technologies co-exist. Often this is done less than masterfully.

Star Wars GMs/COs think that because they are whiz kids at Star Wars that Star Trek should be no problem. Many of these individuals don't know the difference between a "senator" and a "councilor." Star Trek uses a governing body called the "Federation Council." While Star Wars utilizes a "Senate" and "Senators."

This lack of knowledge of the subject matter sends Simmers and Sims spinning off in all directions, leaving loyal Trekkers confused at best. After all, they signed onto the Sim to play in the Star Trek Universe, not the Star Wars universe. However, never let it be said that COs/GMs are not opportunists as well. recruiting is, after all a full time job. Many of these individuals switch to a Star Trek Sim from Star Wars as it is a more popular genre in the AOL Live Sim Community (at least for the past 10 years it has been.). This only does a disservice to the Simmers and the Star Trek genre itself.

I am not on any game company's payroll. But for over 20 years now, Paramount has awarded a license to such companies to put out the "Star Trek Role Playing Game." Several companies have had the license since it first came out. But what the RPG has always done is come up with sourcebooks. These sourcebooks, generally used for D&D type roleplayers, but adaptable for any genre, provide a framework.

These sourcebooks always provide good information, basic information and updated (creative) information. They are an excellent resource and are licensed by Paramount Studios, who own the rights to Star Trek. They are officially licensed for RP use. It is a shame how many actually seek out these resources. It is an even worse shame how many COs/GMs/ have no idea, or simply don't care that these sourcebooks exist. That does a great disservice to Simmers.

Bottom line, for COs/GMs especially, but also for players. If you are going to Sim in the Star Trek universe, take the time to learn the Star Trek universe. Study. Read. Research. Plan.

And if you want to run a Star Wars Sim, then go for it. But don't masquerade as a Star Trek Sim.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Dating Game.

To continue on the subject of personal storylines let's just say that Bob Eubanks never envisioned this. AOL: The New Hookup Spot!

Perhaps this is a phenomenon of the internet. People hooking up with other people in a cyber (take that however you want) sense of the word. Online dating has become a phenomenon, some say a curse. But who would have thought it would come to Star Trek.

We are all familiar with Captain Kirk. And even those who have never actually watched an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, we all know that Captain Kirk was quite the ladies man. Well in the 21st Century, the ladies have started to catch up. Some say it is about time. But Captain Kirk is a fictional character. AOL Simming "hookups" involve real people.

Unfortunately one of the unfortunate side effects of AOL Simming and "chatroom etiquette" has been internet "hookups". This is not new, true, but before this was an strictly an online phenomenon. This was accomplished through cybersex and in "virtual", pardon the pun, anonymity. Now it has gone from online to Real Life.

The old adage about women being treated like a piece of meat has come to AOL Simming. Writing partners have evolved into potential partners in real life. And more than a few, I am afraid to say, intending hat from the beginning of their writing partnership. The familiarity that AOL provides providing a better avenue to break down the barriers of internet anonymity. In society this is called predatory.

When you have individuals calling and harassing people on the telephone, in real life, because of "online relationship issues" there is a serious problem. This phenomena is not just a male problem. Women have the same problem. Women, for example, making up screennames to "sneak" into a chatroom or onto a board to "stalk" a former writing partner/simming partner to force them to "be" with them again. As stated earlier, yes it is possible for women to stalk men as well.

Is this the symptom or is the problem? Who can say? Are there a lot of lonely people out there who need to get out from in front of their computer and find a real relationship? Yes, to be sure. Are individuals who have just been captivated by the"power" the internet has given them? That may well be part of it. But yes there are people who try and twist other people's arms. When they are rebuffed, this leads to the next problem I will discuss: Internet Assaulters.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Stalker Girls.

Just so we are clear on this----this is not a sexist statement, as it can apply to both male and female muns. The real question is, how do you know what gender a mun is unless you have some personal contact with them?

It is illegal for a man to stalk a woman. It is considered a form of assault. That having been said, is the converse true? Is it illegal for a woman to stalk a man? Well many celebrities have experienced this and the answer holds true---yes it is! Although there are probably some men and women who actually enjoy being stalked. What does this have to do with why AOL Star Trek Simming Sucks? Let me tell you. But I will get back to this later.

Personal Storylines.

For those who choose to Sim (and with varying degrees of success) inevitably the question of taking on a writing partner comes to mind. The same can be said of roleplayers. In the arena of Roleplaying this is often characterized through the use of the “personal” storyline.

Now there are all types of “personal” storylines. Two officers may decide to cavort around the holodeck. A group may decide to play out 24th Century sports scenario. But invariably the “personal” storyline involves romantic relationships. A man and a woman (or close approximation) are in love and want to write about their feelings and love life. This is a storyline between two muns and two characters and is generally restricted to those two writing on it together. It is played out according to the rules of the listserver/bulletin board guidelines as far as how much “adult” content is allowed.

These can be quite controversial both within the Sim and outside of it, depending on the relationship and interest of the other players in the Sim. Landing a popular character or mun (or both) in a personal can be quite a coup. In fact some see this as a sign of prestige.
The two can form a powerful bond, depending on how they choose to explore the storyline or develop the characters. It can be rather consuming.

This generally leads to interpersonal relationships on one level or another. Muns are generally opposite sex as are characters. Not that same sex romantic “personal” never happens. But generally they are of opposite sex. This has as much to do with real life as with Sim Life.

From a Sim etiquette standpoint there are a number of problems inherent to this. Some players wish to retain their anonymity. However, this is often sacrificed for the sake of the “storyline” with the other person. Invariably this knowledge makes its way to other members of the group. Some individuals are more discreet than others. Some are very loose with other people’s personal business. The best things to do if you don’t want everyone in your business is to not tell anyone. However, many individuals feel that these people are “friends.” Many time they just turn out to be fiends.

In truth mun gender should have no bearing on the willingness of individuals to enter into a personal storyline or not. What should matter is the interaction between the player characters. Some good Simmers considers this. Others totally miss the boat that this is fantasy, not reality. It is a shame that some are "limited" by something they should have no knowledge of to begin with.

Nevertheless, in many cases however, these personal storylines are highly sought out. They provide partners the opportunity to act out and collaborate on fantasies they may not be able to live out in real life. In the case of AOL Simming, as with AOL in general, often these storylines are RPed out in public and private chatrooms. Depending on whether the Sim or group has a recruit room, “couples” may frequent these rooms publicly or privately in character.

More to come on this topic.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Spell god backwards.

I cannot emphasize enough the role that leaders, particularly group leaders have played in the downfall of AOL Simming. These leaders, poor leaders by every standard have been able to drum up loyal followings by telling people what they wanted to hear, and by offering positions to persons who would not qualify for them in other groups. These positions of power and authority include "commanding admiral" "commanding officer" and the all-powerful "moderator" position. Essentially these megalomaniacs granted their loyal followers power over the minions in exchange for their loyalty. It should be noted that these megalomaniacs never give or gave up ultimate control and power, using it to cast out disloyal followers with swiftness and as examples.

The sole motivation of these "leaders" appeared to be staying in power and being able to manipulate and control the followership/membership. make no mistake about it, while bylaws may say that they are "for the people", their focus in everyday management of these groups speaks for itself.

There is little effort and concern about:

1.) Providing a safe environment for members to Sim in.
2.) Providing a fun experience for members to Sim in.
3.) Helping Simmers improve in the technical aspects of Simming, writing, plotlines etc.
4.) Rewarding fairly those that contribute the most and most meaningfully.
5.) Solving problems.
6.) Helping others.
7.) Getting along with others.

The converse of all of these things is, however, very true, in that the opposite of the behaviors I mentioned is often and consistently rewarded. Rewards, include more power to do more bad things, a fancier title, a promotion, getting their own Sim as CO and other such advancements not earned through merit. Rules are put in place to control and constrict the members instead of providing what a Sim group is supposed to provide, a fun place to escape from life's problems for awhile.

Getting back to etiquette again, this is how the most basic tenet of Simming, anonymity, is systematically violated. These leaders, these megalomaniacs (and one megalomaniac generally knows the other major megalomaniacs, they even collaborate when the mood strikes them) teach their minions to use the same bad behaviors they have honed so well. Hatred is the easiest emotion to play on, as well as suspicion because as the saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Hatred is the staff that thee megalomaniacs wield, and so many are willing to follow blindly until burnt out or they themselves become eventual targets. Unlike the Klingon Empire, honor has little to do with this behavior.

These individuals set themselves up as demi-gods, pretending to have the power of life and death. In truth they control something that many hold even more dear, and for that reason are willing to suffer the injustices-----acceptance. If the member does not submit, they will not be accepted by the group. And since so many of these megalomaniacs collaborate, when one decided a member is to be ostracized, the others often follow suit in "sister" groups.

If members attempt to create another screenname, the megalomaniacs use their resources to hunt down the mun behind the character. An invasion of privacy to be sure.

Granted some people are troublemakers and have a record of that. But megalomaniacs as adept at twisting scenarios to meet their needs. And too often if the facts don't meet their needs, they simply make them up.

In the instances i have described above, familiarity truly does breed contempt. They set themselves as gods, but roll around in the dirt and fleas like dogs. Shameful.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Blind Leading the Deaf.

In any situation where you have leadership, you must first have followership. That is just as true in Simming as it is in both sports and business.

And good leadership generally begits good followesrhip. To the converse, poor leadership usually results in poor followership. Such is the inherent problem with the quality of individuals who lead both Sims and Sim groups. Not everyone can lead. But it is equally true that not everyone can follow.

History has shown how easy it is for mob rule to reign. And that has led to the downfall of AOL Simming as well. As AOl is one of the preeminent users of the IM and chatrooms, it only stood to reason that both of these tools would be used for something other than their intended use----that is called abuse. And it is abuse, of authority, power, and tools that have been the wrecking balls used to destroy AOL Simming for so many. These tools, in the hands of the wrong individuals, with followers, have only caused the snowball to roll down the hill faster.

Sim Etiquette, akin to life etiquette, establishes rules on how people treat each other within the boundaries of the Sim and outside the Sim. They were established for the same reason laws were enacted---to guide people in how they should behave and establish boundaries. However, as with the breaking of laws, the breaking of rules, especially rules of behavior, leads to anarchy, chaos and pain. It is just this breaking of the rules shamelessly that has provided the excuse for AOL Star Trek Simming to degenerate into what it has become.

The leaders and their followers abandoned Sim Etiquette. As such the use of personal attacks became more and more common. It has always been a stipulation of Sim Etiquette that privacy and anonymity were the purview of each Simmer. By throwing that out, COs and followers and Groups essentially did what the Germans did to the Jews during the holocaust---dehumanized the Simmer. Gave themselves an excuse to seek and destroy. Placed themselves above people and above the laws of humanity.

People who supposedly have no rights, are not treated as people at all. This leads to the process of attacking persons in chatrooms, emails and IMs. Finding out personal information about others, they did not willingly share and using it to incite others into personal attacks. Women. Minorities. East. West. North. South. It all becomes fair game. Any difference is a reason to make someone and enemy and to a group of individuals, a pariah.

This became a common occurrence. It extended to members of different groups, friends of individuals targeted, and just those who didn't fit in. Quite sad for a place where people come to escape from the world's biases, prejudices and just enjoy their time online.

But many of these groups, affiliations and alliances became nothing more than organized mobs or online gangs. Some of these gangs operate officially, many operate unofficially. They even have headquarters----they are called chatrooms. Many of them operate these chatrooms or "recruit rooms" as places to incite, foster and plan the behavior I have described above.

Recruiting and Simming are the farthest things from their mind. They have a different agenda. So in effect, it is not about AOL Simming, it is about belonging to the gang. It is about socialization, not on a Sim level, but on a personal level.

It is not about Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future at all. It is about who belongs and who doesn't belong. Who is liked and who is not liked. Who is considered friend, and who is considered, ultimately----the enemy!

If It Ain't Broke....

So what was/is wrong with AOL Simming? Well that needs to be covered in several topics to truly explain the problem. But the short answer would be......PEOPLE. And I mean this in the literal sense. There are a lot of people out there doing some really screwed up things. And those things have created a stigma for the entire genre.

To delve into this epidemic in AOL, let me use the example of Star Trek Simming, which is, after all, what this blog is about.

Star Trek Simming is based on the universe created by the late Gene Roddenberry. This universe is, arguably, one of the most easily recognizable and copied Sci-Fi universes in existence. It is popular. And that is why many have been drawn to it. However many have been drawn to it for the wrong reasons.

In the early and mid-Nineties there were a proliferation of Sim groups dedicated to Star Trek utilizing the Star Trek genre. It is pointless to name all of them, because here were so many. And many had different takes on Gene Roddenberry's universe. But the common thread is that theses groups used and continue to use, AOL live action sim techniques via chatroom.

While these groups thrive for a time, they eventually sprouted offshoots. This happened for various reasons, but usually because these offshoots disagreed with how the group was run and wanted to do things their way. There is nothing wrong with that. But consider some of the other reasons. And, unfortunately, one of those reasons for these offshoots developing was because these individuals were asked to leave the parent group, for one or more reasons. They were dissenters. So many of these individuals took their dissention and created more groups.

The basic building block of any Sim regardless of genre and method of play is the GM/DM/CO. The function of this individual in his or her various incarnations is to run the Sim. That entails creating the storylines, running the live action, recruiting and training the players, maintaining civility and a host of other things. The GM/DM/CO is a difficult position requiring a great deal of skill knowledge and talent. And while many would like to be the captain of the ship and even more have the ability to start their own Sim, not many have the ability to do so.

This is not unique to Star Trek Simming. But it is magnified. It is magnified because of the close proximity and familiarity that AOL Simming breeds. People communicate in real time. And the GM/DM/CO communicates to many in real time as well, even outside of the Sim. So if the message is good, people get a lot of it. And if the message is bad, people get a lot of that as well. It is a double edged sword.

Many of these individuals take on this task with little to no experience. Many COs of starships have never held a command position on another Sim or in another group. They have limited board maintenance skills, graphics skills, and....this is the kicker....WRITING skills.

Many do not think they need writing skills. Explain to me how you can Sim without writing? You see the dilemma.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Who is this Guy - Part Deux?

Anyway, after my experience with AOL Simming, I was a left a little wanting. This was for a number of reasons, but primarily because of the lack of detail I was seeing.

When I started in SFOL and the USF, posting was required. Each week we would hold a live action Sim. But afterward two posts were required. One post explained what we did on duty, the other what we did while off duty. The problem is that they were not required and half of my fellow Simmers simply ignored them, not doing them at all. This hurt continuity, because every week was like starting over from the beginning, and the plots were---well---similar to say the least. Also, there was the time factor. It was becoming increasingly difficult to find a day and time everyone could get together and Sim, so many just dropped out.

I left AOL Simming partially because of time constraints and partially because of environment. I discovered other avenues, notably Play By Email (PBEM) Simming and Bulletin Boards (BB), which meant that time constraints were no longer a factor. Some groups were a mixed bag of PBEM and live action (IRC). But those groups often suffered from megalomania. Everyone wanted to be an admiral, and few were willing to do the work required after attaining the rank. Many split off to begin their own groups with varying degrees of success.

I held a number of positions within a number of these fleets from XO, to CO to chief of personnel to chief of fleet operations. After those groups folded, i took my Sim independent and stayed independent for 7 years. It was a singularly rewarding and difficult task to say the least. But, due to lack of player interest I finally decided to pack my Sim away.

A couple of years later, a friend needed help on his ship, and I returned to AOL Simming for what turned out to be much more than a guest appearance.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Who is this Guy?

Who am I? Well, much more important is the perspective from which I write this Blog. This is a commentary, and I write it from personal experience----two decades of personal experience.

For those of you who remember the Apple IIC, that was my first computer. In high school I learned punchcard programming. So I have seen most of the major advances in computing, and in Simming in its various forms.

For the purpose of this genre, I started roleplaying in Star Trek officially in 1984. That came with the purchase of the now defunct FASA Corporation's "Star Trek:The Roleplaying Game." It was a pretty cool set for the time. And it provided a structured game, ala D&D, to roleplay in the Star Trek Universe and judge actions.

My next computer was a PC. I began my online journey into Star Trek on CompuServe (for those that remember that). There were many chatrooms back then devoted to Star Trek. I frequented many of them as the online live-action Sims were beginning.

Later I switched to America online. AOL had even more chatrooms and a phenomena call the Sim Group. My first Sim Group was, of course Starfleet Online (SFOL). I started by going to the Academy rooms and observing what they were doing with the newbies, i.e., "cadets" that were being taught the art of AOL live action Simming.

Eventually I took the plunge and joined one of the sessions. My first session was as chief engineering officer. I had two assistants, newbies like me, and we were graded by the officers in a SIMulation. I handled the emergencies thrown my way and directed my team as well. I made ensign my first night and was invited to join SFOL which I did. I was assigned to the USS New Jersey as chief science officer. The New Jersey's stay in SFOL was short-lived as the captain decided to take the ship to another group, the United Space Fleet. I eventually made it to the rank of lieutenant commander and second officer before the ship kind of went off in another direction. I decided not to go with it this time. Thus began a new journey which I will continue next time.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

AOL Star Trek Simming Sucks


Can I say it any plainer? Can I say it any clearer? Can I say it enough times? Apparently not!

Why, do you ask, is this the case? What would bring me to this very educated and experienced decision. One word: experience! I have been there, done that, seen that----all too many times!

And what is the problem? Is it AOL? Is it Star Trek, the genre? Is it Simming? No! It is one simple problem that has complicated the issue: people!

This blog will explain just how and why people are the problem in AOL Star Trek Simming. The foibles, the screw-ups, the personality issues, and the overall lack of knowledge and commitment to the genre that has caused this decline. The names have been changed to protect the guilty. But other than that, I will present the case for my thesis, and explain to you exactly why "AOL STAR TREK SIMMING SUCKS!" And I must say that it sucks big time!