Civilized Conversation, A Primer

Bringing this back from the old forum since apparently some people have forgotten.

In light of a few recent events where people have found it untenable to realize that there are politics in video games, and resorted to a number of tactics ranging from:

  • Registering an account purely to derail the thread and try to claim nationalism is at least as good as anything else
  • People then insisting this guy had the right to do that and it’s really someone telling him to “fuck off” that’s the real threat to the forum
  • Waiting for a thread to go toxic and then immediately demand that it be closed before any response can be offered to politics presented
  • Repeatedly derailing a thread by wanting to talk about how moderation makes you feel rather than address the content of the thread
  • A whisper campaign to encourage disregard for moderators and continue trying to subvert their expectations and waste their time

I thought it’d be good to run a thread on what is civilized conversation, in hopefully what will be a nice civilized conversation.

First and foremost

A civilized conversation is one that recognizes and respects that we live in a society, and hence that society consists of many people, many kinds of people and that all of those people are, in fact, humans. Thus deserving of certain basic human respect.

It is, therefore, not civilized to propose that x group do not qualify for human rights because it makes y group uncomfortable OR that x group is inherently deserving of ridicule because members outside it find aspects of their existence outside their control hilarious.

If it does not meet this basic criteria, there is no amount of eloquence or politeness that can erase that you’ve essentially disregarded someone’s humanity.

Examples of common acts of uncivility

Now I recognize that this forum is different to other forums many people may be used to - it touched my heart when someone described it as “the least toxic gaming forum” they’d been on. So I’m going cover a few key examples so that “normal” (from outside the forum) is not mistaken for acceptable (within the forum).

  • "Triggered" memes: These are uncivilized both in that the essentially ridicule and misrepresent PTSD triggers (which are essentially where your brain glitches and keeps replaying something so horrible that you couldn’t process it properly when it happened, in the hopes it’ll end up better this time) but also are generally a way to try to dismiss the other party by pretending they are simply having an irrational emotional response. That’s particularly bad thing to do if say - they are upset over human rights.
  • Let’s “debate” fascism/nationalism/genocide: This one has popped up countless times in the places I moderate and I promise you, it is never actually a debate, if you have the time I recommend checking out Philosophy Tube’s video here. Simply put though, the main purpose of such debates is to try to raise awareness and find more people who sympathize with the cause so they can unite. I’ve lost track of the number of times the person claiming “I’m opposed to the, but we must let them speak so we can discredit them” later admitted to someone they actually supported them and it was just fun to upset people and find more people like them.
  • Friendly abuse (in public): Affectionate rudeness between friends is a pretty regular and normal thing, I’m not interested in debating where the proper line for it is and if some of you want to get downright BDSMy with each other in private - go ahead. However, the problem with performing this in public on a forum for civilized conversation is - it’s not a private conversation so you do always run the risk of someone with no idea what you’re talking about dropping in or someone else who might genuinely find it upsetting coming along. Exceptions may be made where it 1. comical and 2. genuinely harmless but as a general rule - send them a PM so we don’t normalize this and don’t derail topics.
  • False reports: The flagging system exists so that moderators and members alike can help keep the community enjoyable - as such it works when people use it to enforce the forum guidelines and not petty vendettas or machinations. Do not flag posts in the hopes they’ll get rubber stamped, flag one party when clearly both are out of line but one’s your buddy, etc. Obviously nobody is expected to be 100% correct but at a certain point, the system will make it obvious to us by showing what percentage of someone’s flags are agreed by the moderators, and what percentage not.
    You want to avoid this: 83% thumbs down
  • Private wars in public places: Whether you have a dispute with a moderator or another member, nobody else needs to be inconvenienced by it and there is no virtue in making it a public performance piece. Fights with moderators will get split into the appropriate topics, which will probably be this one and continued derails will end result in more direct action.
  • Gender assumption/parody jokes: The “did you just assume my gender” and “I identify as an attack helicopter” being the two obvious ones - these exist largely only to prevent people who have actual things to say on gender from being heard.
  • Content to make others uncomfortable: By such this generally means something that either signals political stances that are incompatible with others existence (eg MAGA Pepes) or that one takes delight in the suffering/humiliation of a particular demographic (eg various Diana abuse media) or passive aggressive gatekeeping/fan policing (eg “People who do not know x are not real fans.”). Ultimately they’re all gatekeeping attempts, and all not welcome.
  • Attempts to bypass conversation via “memes”: There is a long trend of people who are mostly just here to shout an opinion to try to resort to “jokes” to shout it while bypassing the expectations of civil conversation and generally try to establish via these jokes and “likes” that there is an objective opinion. The forum is for civlized conversation, hence the clarifications above and hence why this is not welcome here. If it’s worth saying, you should be able to say it in a civlized way.

Please do enjoy the forum and the many opportunities for polite conversation.

Updated 19 Feb 2021: Added section for content to make people uncomfortable.
Updated 23 April 2021. Added section for bypassing conversation via memes.

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this is awesome to see. agree wholeheartedly.

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Again, further discussion of this issue goes in this thread. Not clogging up a thread for people who just want to enjoy scresnhots.

And no, I am not interested in dishonestly attempting to purge the politics from an inherently political issue, as you can see I already included several types of content in the overall statement.

Marginalized people often, unfortunately, find themselves in communities that are openly hostile to them - so they learn to identify the early warning signs. These:

Are all telltale signs, and ones that I have actively caught people trying to put up and defend on this forum in the past and invariably anyone who cares enough about this kind of content to fight me on it very quickly drops the mask because its otherwise impossible to “justify” these types of content.

I expect in future I will have to add more as particular groups get targeted or particular fads take off with reactionary groups who try to push their memes into the mainstream. All that I ask is that members not make it more difficult to simply keep the forum a welcoming place for civilized conversation.

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I’m going to ask this question here that’s covered by the February General Update, and especially of which on the last part.

Is acknowledging cruel/historical events covered by this? For my personal consensus I much rather want to make connections of those events as a sort of insight with nuanced discussion that they existed, even in the case for Hitman, and pretending they never existed would only make it baseless.

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Acknowledgement of cruel/historical events can generally be done without doing something that makes the victims of it feel unwelcome - you can see examples of that in Hitman where for example they make mention that characters participate in atrocities analogous to real world ones, but you never see anything that would trivialise it or glorify the violence.

We know Krondstat well drone weapons to military and PMCs, we don’t see them blasting apart civilians or blowing up a wedding.

We know Sean Rose wracked up civilian casualties during his “work”, we never see people being terorrised by him, wounded, dying etc.

We can talk about how people have suffered cruelty, injustice, etc with recreating fascimiles in image, print, etc - particularly since anyone interested in that level of detail would be best served going to a specialised source rather than hoping the forum will teach them everything.

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Good morning everyone, I hope that you’re all doing well.

Now, due to various issues with various people and the fact that it is difficult to believe there was any good faith in the creation of it - the recently made “feedback” thread has been removed and I will put my main points here. (Urben did move it to the regulars’ area, but given that I just permanently blocked a few people from regular status and tis an issue for the whole forum - I’ve moved it further away)

Where any good faith intention of discussion would have gone.

Ruling disagreement

If you have a disagreement with a ruling, the civilized thing to do is to message me or another staff member with your concerns so that they may be addressed in a civil manner with minimum interruption to the forum in general.

Now I stress “raise your concerns” because, as has been covered many times on this forum - non-moderators generally do not have all the information due to moderators cleaning up messes, sending private messages, etc. A lot of “surprise” suspensions come from people being messaged and then being spectacularly unpleasant in the reply.

If you forgo this courtesy to… everyone, and decide to make a spectacle then you’d best be willing to ride it through since starting it then declaring “I’ve said my bit so close it now” is essentially nothing more than trying to use a forum to yell at my staff and encourage toxicity. That is a fundamentally bad idea that is completely out of line with the guidelines.

Particularly when your overall message was “Women should have to get permission from me to be upset”

“…there’s a context…”

There is indeed and the context and it was in fact considered by the moderators and the admin at the time of the event. The context is that if I raise a rule publicly in February and initially various people thought it was a great opportunity to show off they thought they were untouchable.

We are no in April, the rule is widely known and the basis for it widely agreed - nobody has raised a rational dispute - only vague crybabying that they would have litigated scenarios differently based off an indifference to the actual goal of the rule, and strangely that difference is you’d let your friends do whatever they want and not care who it bothers.

My moderating staff are hand picked, with the greatest of care, because they do not approach these matters based on who their friends are, what they want to get away with etc, but because the value principles and the community.

Not to put too fine a point on it - but I notice a lot of the support for the “this rule isn’t policed how I like it” uprisings always comes from the people who have a history of doing the opposite of that. More on that in a bit.

“…was not offended…”

I must start this by saying that whenever I am informed that an infraction did not offend a person, its alays a good thing because it means there’s at least that level of harm mitigation. However, as above, the rules are on principle and to create a welcoming community.

However the realities are we cannot run the forum on a vote system, and if I have one person coming forward saying they’re not bothered then I generally have about twenty who are bothered but don’t want to say anything. Nor should they feel the need to say anything - they should have the same right to quiet enjoyment of the forum as everyone else.

Also, as another observation - historically I have noted that support for the individuals who are not offended, by the groups who insist they should not be offended, only lasts as long they do indeed maintain they are not offended. It is never a matter of actual lines, but on unconditional support.

Indeed, part of what stresses the correctness of the moderator action in this case was the immediate response by the second person who got suspended announcing that the rule was “ridiculous” because he felt infantalized women - after being suspended he then sent me an email with some dubious claims and a blanket statement that not only way misogyny okay, but racism too.

If you’re not bothered by the posts you see today, it’s because of the the people we’ve banned and the posts we’ve deleted in the past.

Conclusion

The rule exists to keep the forum welcoming and to remove problems before they drive people away from the forum -and since:

  1. The objections to the rule come to people who did not think the context through, and who didn’t care on others concerns before announcing that simple enforcement of the rule was “abuse”
  2. Support for breaches of the rule invariably lead to emboldening of people who had otherwise been behaving but now think they have an opportunity to misbehave
  3. There is a major overlap between people who breach these kind of rules and those who also endorse racism, ignore moderator warnings or waste staff time.

Not only will this rule be staying, but if you object to the rule or dropped in to the thread to support the spectacle of the objection to the rule - I would like to personally invite you to now log out and never return.

image

Because I am confident that a welcoming community that proactively takes steps to avoid toxicity, rather than try to avoid people who call out toxicity, will always find new quality members and be a great place as long as it is relevant.

People who think they’re entitled to demand communities change to accommodate their toxicity and that they should be the authority of topics they haven’t considered always seem to be in need of a new social group though. Funny that.

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“the rule was “ridiculous” because he felt infantalized women - after being suspended he then sent me an email with some dubious claims and a blanket statement that not only way misogyny okay, but racism too.”

“the context and tit was in fact considered by the moderators and the admin at the time of the event.”

“Not only will this rule be staying”

Sorry, but I’m slightly confused by all of this. I think I may have missed something. The Feedback thread has been closed, and somebody has recently made a foul thread which has now been deleted - but which rule exactly are you talking about? All I recall from a few months ago was that that this “Civilized Conversation” thread was started, not that any particular new rule was created. Thanks! :slight_smile:

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This should answer your question. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Ah! Thank you for your help. :slight_smile: It’s quite sad that such a rule is even necessary!

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So, looks like I’ve had to add a further clarification (which people refer to as “rules”) here.

Simply put, I’m not accepting the bypassing of civilized conversation by framing statements at memes to be farmed for likes. I will, after work, be going through and removing all those posts from the memes thread (RIP my Friday afternoon).

This is not really a “new” thing, its just one that has cropped again recently after a long period of inactivity. The most memorable and certainly the most labor intensive of these was an individual who went by “coflash” and used to put an impressive amount of work into his attempts to abuse IO Interactive over their decisions in the promotional material of Absolution.

Samples of coflash's work


When he was told he wouldn’t be allowed to keep doing this, he chose to leave the forum while bragging to me he’d already gotten the attention he needed and would now go on to independent success under his name. That he no longer goes by that name tells you how well that worked out for him.

What’s the harm?

The harm is first and foremost, this kind of thing encourages toxicity and, left unchecked, strangles actual worthwhile discussion. The accepted method is to start with a conclusion, ridicule the concept of exploring it further and then farm for likes so that people feel social pressure to either agree or leave.

There is always a huge overlap of people who support this kind of thing, and people who otherwise never contribute anything of worth to the forum - they’re not here to discuss Hitman, they’re here to try to dictate what Hitman should be to the fanbase and the developers. Coflash had pretty much zero people follow him off the forum because, despite the work he put into his photoshops - they weren’t really appreciated for the craft, just that they were mocking IO Interactive.

Likewise, pretty much zero of the forum members who rallied behind him and cheered him on are memorable for any contribution, or active in any of the fan communities today - because they didn’t get their way and so they dint’ have anything further to talk about (except maybe joining reactionary gruops and stuff like that)

Can’t we make jokes?

You absolutely can - however your jokes must be 1. within the forum guidelines and 2. actual jokes

As stated above, the problem with these is they invariably do not actually hinge on any sort of real humour - rather the reasserting of a simplified statement in a way that avoids conversation or exploration. They are only “funny” or entertaining if you already agree with the premise.

It should be obvious to people in today’s climate why this is bad - its the same mentality that drives racism, sexiism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. “I’m not comfortable with it, and it should all be about my feelings and the harm it does to others is their own fault.” When discussing games it also leads to a culture of elitism - which is already not welcome here.

If you want to make a joke, consider the following:

  1. Do you actually know enough to joke about this? If you’re just operating on assumptions or a YouTube video by someone with no real experience in the field (or worse one who’s brand is being outraged and insulting) then you don’t and should probably… have discussion to learn.
  2. Do you feel comfortable justifying why anyone who is the butt of the joke deserves to be? The forum is not a podium to yell at people for having different tastes or making creative or business decisions that don’t benefit you personally and will absolutely not tolerate using it to harass people just trying to live their lives or do their jobs.
  3. Is there actually some comedic structure to the joke? If, for example, there’s no setup and payoff, no surprise twist, etc then its probably not actually a joke or runs a high risk of not being read as a joke but rather the shield of faux satire on an otherwise unacceptable statement.

Can’t we criticize things?

Yes, you can. With words - civilized conversation.

If you are struggling to find a way to criticise something like video games while being limited to words, then its a good sign you should probably take on more information before putting your opinion out there.

Video games are complex multimedia projects in a complex industry that sells on a complex marketplace and there is no shame in not understanding all of it or the motivations involved. Even relatively small aspects like character design or difficulty settings have vast amounts of quality discourse and varying approaches and philosophy.

If you don’t know something, you may have an opportunity to learn - and learning might give you ideas that help you or increase the appreciation you have for things you already enjoy. You won’t, however, have that opportunity if you spend your time posting MS Paint memes that hinge on not understanding.

But you allow jokes ridiculing Nazis…

That’s because a core aspect of the Nazi doctrine is the violent elimination of various groups of people based on nothing more than arbitrary aspects of their identity - that is the opposite of civlization.

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I thought everything in the opening post were rules? Are they not?

They expansions on the forum guidelines.

I generally avoid setting “rules” because with a community like this with a fluid population, most of which are only here to read up on a few things or to ask a few questions then go, it leads to people wanting to be the rules police and the rules lawyers.

For example: Back in the days when forum signatures were a thing we would literally get people “reporting” that members who hadn’t signed in for four weeks were in breach because their gif image was 2 pixels too wide and 1 k over the file size limit. Why’d they do that? 1. To feel important 2.To undermine the overall value of the rules.

These are examples to illustrate what is not considered civil behaviour on this forum, and why. They are “rules” in that sense, that if you do the thing you’re told not to do you are almost certainly breaching the forum guidelines - but not in the sense where there will be hard definitions in place to litigate.

Ideally I would not need to include any examples, because in an ideal world there would be wide understanding of these issues and why the are discourteous or contribute to a negative atmosphere in a community. However, we live in our imperfect world and people often need help understanding how many things they were told are normal are actually quite rude or harmful to others.

At the end of the day, I am less concerned if people think of them as rules/guidelines/etc and more concerned that people just be civilized on the forum and maybe even consider taking these lessons into their wider life.

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Makes sense. You clearly put a lot of thought into these things.

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