Massively had a nice write up about forum censorship and trolling, related to Firefall’s forums. There are a few good gems I want to pick out of it:
From the original Firefall forum thread:
If you intended to frustrate me, you have. From now on, we’re going to start moderating the negativity on these forums for the sake of healthier discussions.
Back to the Massively article:
Our tipster used the word “censorship” in suggesting that Massively write about this particular situation, and he joined a huge list of folks who have implored us to expose the evil that game companies do by muzzling free speech on their forums.
The problem is that it’s not so much evil as it is common sense. When you join a forum, you’re agreeing to play by the company’s rules; there’s really no such thing as free speech in that environment. If the powers-that-be don’t like what a user has to say, they have every right to limit the ability to say it and/or moderate it however they see fit. It’s doubly true in the case of a beta product like Firefall because unless you’ve purchased a Founder’s Pack, you’re there on the company’s dime (and probably not doing much actual testing unless you’re more conscientious about it than most of the folks signing up for betas these days).
Gamers are continually surprised and outraged by game company censorship, but in my opinion, they shouldn’t be. What for-profit firm in its right mind doesn’t put its own financial interests ahead of nebulous notions of fairness and free speech? Controlling the message is as important, if not more important, than developing a good game in today’s high-pressure (and high-dollar) production environment, and censorship on some level should be expected.
While I agree that the company has the right to moderate their forums however they want, my nerd rage has reached supremely high levels after reading these quotes. The sad part is, that my nerd rage is both in defense of the developer, and in defense of the community. Which voice do I listen to?! Which decision is right?!
Censorship is bad…mmmkay?
Censorship is a topic that will get me fired up right away. Part of me wants to say “All censorship is a horrible thing!” but I would be lying to myself. 99% of censorship is bad.
Book burning is a horrible thing.
Free speech rules.
I want access to all the information I can.
Because of that, the Firefall guys are doing a bad thing in censoring their community! It’s oppression!
So child pornography shouldn’t be censored?
Whoops. That hit the brakes pretty quick. Here’s where that last 1% comes in. Some things need to be censored to protect society as a whole. Child pornography is a perfect example of it. Hate speech is another (in my mind).
So what does this have to do with a video game company policing their forums? Quite a bit, because it depends on what kinds of content they’re policing.
If you look at the original forum post, there are indications of what the censorship will be about.
… the amount of shortsightedness and selfish trolling and self-important pontification I see from armchair game analysts is stunning … We welcome your feedback, but not your Chicken Little “sky is falling” ranting from those whose imaginations are not capable of looking further than the nose in front of their face and who ignore everything we say and DO and have done in the game for YOU.
Some definite passion going into this post, which is both good and bad.
Getting rid of the “selfish trolling and self-important pontification”. Like a handsome, intelligent blog writer once said, “Racism, Harassment, Griefing, Bullying, Trolling…whatever you call it…just stop.”
We “have done in the game for YOU”. While I get the company is there for the fans, because the fans support them, this is definitely a slippery slope when it comes to censorship. It can easily move forward to the level of “we eliminated that bug for YOU” to “we burned those books for YOU” to “we illegally sabotaged the other companies for YOU, so our game would be the only one you love”.
Some seriously scary stuff when you start censoring. The trick is to not let emotions get involved. When emotions get involved in censorship, then it becomes personal. It should be about information, freedom, and free speech, while protecting vulnerable minorities, not “making things how I think they should be!”
A political view of censorship (http://www.economist.com/node/21563299?fsrc=scn/gp/wl/pe/kalsept22)
A good example of handling trolling and harassment without it becoming censorship (or personal) comes up with the GW2 bans. tl;dr of the reddit thread: Arena Net banned thousands of people for inappropriate names and chat, and then would publicly post why they were banned if they were specifically asked in the reddit thread. Complete transparency and following of their policies. /win
How is GW2 different than Firefall in this case?
Arena Net is not making it personal. They are enforcing the TOS, and the behaviors that are supposed to be followed while playing the game. There is no emotion involved.
Wil Wheaton says: Don’t be a dick. (http://dontbeadickday.com)
Whereas Firefall is making the censorship personal because of the amount of trolling that’s happening. It’s policy and censorship based on personal feeling. Perhaps that feeling is completely legitimate, but there needs to be hard policy grounded, not in emotion, but in logic, so that it can be followed and understood by the whole community.
Censorship is bad, even to protect a community. Don’t be a dick and take advantage of censorship, because protecting a community from trolling and harassment is not censorship.
Ding! You’ve Leveled Up! Please see your local librarian for training.