[MUD-Dev] [Meta] chest puffing (fwd)

Par Winzell zell at alyx.com
Thu May 18 22:23:39 CEST 2000

Ola Fosheim Grøstad writes:
 > While deleting information and characters from a system can be a ritual
 > act by the person realizing that he is addicted in a disadvantageous
 > fashion (see Suler and Clodius?), it can also be a sign of a person who
 > is on the wedge of committing physical suicide.  See Rheingold, "The
 > virtual community", pages 34-37.

I can't quite tell if this is meant tongue-in-cheek or not. It makes
me oddly uneasy to read either way... not the content itself (which is
obviously true) but the context and the selection... the old problem
of assembling some set of facts and confusing that with understanding.

On the Mud where I spent my admin years, we did not have a self-serve
destruction station; players had to ask an admin if they wanted to get
nuked. I received countless of these requests, and in 80% of cases, 
the nukee was very obviously eager to tell me precisely why he or she
(very even gender ratio in these requests) was choosing to burn out
rather than to fade away.

Indeed, that became the first question I asked (and still do); why not
just stop playing, why the drama? Just stop playing. In many cases the
reason would be addiction, which is fair enough (though I have no great
fondness for being discipline-by-proxy) but in all others, the response
was incredulous -- the drama was clearly the point and simply bringing
that fact into the open would often irritate the person.

I very quickly turned into an automated service center -- I would get
the request, ask my question; if the drama urge was there I would say,
"OK." and nuke them before they had their chance at the martyr speech.
Now this is partly due to my own personality quirks, but those operate
only with this much determination when my subconscious has its teeth
in something real... and what I felt, and feel, is that following down
the road of your paragraph, taking even that fraction of a step in the
direction of Jerry Springer, is such a bad idea as to be morally wrong.

I did have one player who was clearly genuinely suicidal. Tragically
he used this fact to enormous manipulative "advantage", giving actual
blow-by-blow descriptions of his preparations to whatever girl he felt
was not paying him enough attention that night. Believe me, I'm not
being cynical here -- this went on for years. We ended up having to
delete his character.

 > I assume that the admins that read MUD-Dev are mature enough to handle
 > those users gently... (then again...)

So I would like to turn your (rather loaded) assumption into a question;
is "gentle" good? Ask a social worker and they will tell you that while
people who are feeling messed up may have an enormous craving for (and
deficit of) love in their lives, what they need more than anything are
boundaries; clearly defined, unapologetic, nearly inhuman authority
figures. An admin is a wall; if you push the wall, it should not give.

When somebody is feeling that life is unstable, structure is absolutely
vital; they should be able to adress the administration of a Mud and be
sure they will get a response free of malice but also of great integrity.

Being an admin is an inhuman job. If you want to save somebody's life,
you have to be a person, which is a very different matter -- and I have
some experiences with doing that too, some successful, some not.

I'll end by saying that a gentle boundary is possible but fragile idea,
and I'd enjoy hearing other people's (preferably informed, as opposed to
morally outraged) opinions.


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