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.