Structural Evil: How good people do bad things.

In my last article, I bored you with details about my conversations with Gonnil. He has since decided to label me a terrorist (sorry, but freedom of speech doesn’t protect the speech you like) and our conversations haven’t developed much further. However, something he said in that RP conversation and a new spate of heavy-handedness caught my attention enough for me to write a second article for the Realms of Despair Podium.

In my time here, whenever anything ‘wrong’ has occurred, some sort of drama or whatnot, I’ve always stated a neutral, simply theory of blame: that no one person is to blame, but instead, the structure is what is causing the problem.

I will use an example to illustrate. As a clan leader, one naturally wants to recruit good pkillers. It is in the interest of that clan to recruit the best, despite the fact that if that clan were successful in doing so, the resulting matchups would be so unbalanced it would drive people away. Is the clan leader at fault? No. But will he get the blame? Most likely. The result is that one has two sides that both believe in the rightness of their actions. One is looking out for the interest of the clan, and the other is looking out for the interest of PK in general. Your own personal opinions may move you to support one camp or another, but both are valid interests, and both need to be pursued.

This is what I call ‘structural evil’. That is, bad things happening even when people are doing what they can to do good. Let me be clear: I do not doubt for a second that Romani is not only trying to do her best, but that she is indeed doing her best. I do not doubt for a second that all the active imms are sincerely trying to make this game better, and not, as their actions would suggest, trying to screw us all in the ass. But the structure of things simply make many efforts misdirected or even malevolent. As Lord Acton put it so much better before I even tried, “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

I am speaking in vagueries, so let’s get more specific. On RoDium, you’ll find a log of Miyaki/Kanemeate’s banning. Pkillers will know him as Tim, Rpers would know him as Doyle, and anyone else might just know him as a jackass. Kinux stated that the reason for Tim’s banning was not his conversation in tells, but instead his use of the word ‘shit’ on wartalk and his disparaging remarks towards Kali and Lopuis.

Reading the log with that in mind, one cannot help but feel like Kinux was lying or misinformed. For example, a warning about language went out after which no swearwords were used on public channels. I believe ‘bitch fuckwad’ was used in tells, a private channel, and a silencing ensued. Indeed, the reasoning given for that silencing was ‘after you swear again’, which only occurred in tells. After that, Tim went on to call Kali a ‘pussy’ and Lopuis a ‘tool’. However, anyone who knows Tim knows that he has this mighty ability to have conversations by himself, and can go on for hours about the same thing.

A short while later, Ryals was on avchat and made a comment about Korim’s title. For those who weren’t there, Korim’s title stated that he was ‘Bubbas bestest buddy’. Ryals then referred to Korim as ‘some faggot’. An imm went to Ryals and informed him that should he present an opportunity (insulting an imm) in the future, the immortal will take it upon himself to ban Ryals. Ryals took the initiative and left the game.

Many moons ago, Jarrok was destroyed while AFK in the Lounge, not for a single action but for an accumulation of actions. Kate was similarly destroyed a short while later. (If you want the full and more detailed story, go see the Lounge).

What is all this?

When I was speaking to Gonnil about RP, he said to me that he simply could not believe a word I was saying because, and I paraphrase, every RPer he has met has been fully devoted to the growth of RP, and that what I described was something horrible. (Tonitrus mentioned that whenever I speak about SI, it sounds like the Star Wars Imperial March song was playing).

Here then is my counter-argument: I’m certain that every immortal one can meet is fully devoted to the growth of the mud. That every pkiller is devoted to the growth of pk and that every mkiller wants more mobs to kill, more areas to kill them in and more runners to kill them with. None of that is in question. Yet pkillers will tell fags to log off, mkillers will tell Vach to leave and imms will ban Tim, Jarrok, Kate, Jearan and threaten Ryals.

“But those people were bad for the mud! Banning them was, in the end, GOOD for the game!”
Argue that point all you wish. But I would argue that if any ‘RP takeover’ occurs, they would use that same reasoning. It’s not hard to envision it, and SI doesn’t even have to be the ones who do it. In the RP world, there is now a ‘right way to rp’. In a Nations Leader meeting, SI told itself that it shouldn’t feel sorry just because ‘we care about RP’. People hate people who use ‘says’ in RP, who used forced emotes, who use Note RP, who use socials to RP. They are RP faux-pas. People will cut off the cancer to save the body, and it’s not a conspiracy. But it’s not all good either.

I greatly dislike Tim. The same goes for Jarrok, Kate and Jearan. But if an imm puts the fact that he likes Bubba in his title, he is asking for comment. And if he gets comments, the only one to blame is him. Punishments should be proportionate to the crime, and should only occur when a crime has been committed. And if tells are private conversations, let’s treat them that way.

The structure puts immortals in the position to ban anyone for anything (or nothing), as the imms have forcefully shown through the actions I’ve named above, and I’m sure many others. I sent in a complaint about an immortal to the Oracle (and thus Kinux), but what if my complaint is about Kinux? This absolute power simply creates an absolute corruption that, despite the imms efforts to be fair, has made them unfair. Threatening for insulting an imm? Banning for calling Lopuis a tool?

It is, perhaps, time to either stop sitting on the big red button that says ‘do not push’ or time to create some way of really filing immortal complaints. Without a balance or check on power, this immortal slide into self-important player punishments will not be healthy. As they gain publicity (and they will), the facade of justice and stability (a big factor in player retention) will melt away.

I have perhaps spent too much time lambasting immortals and not enough talking about the structure of things. The argument is that while I do think bad decisions were made, no one else would have made them any differently. We do not need new immortals. We do not want a new mud. But saying that anyone would push forth stupid bans does not mean that something should not be done about it. RoD needs a check and balance system. Maybe not even a real one. Just the facade of one will do. The oracle is not a strong enough facade. If you can’t give us real justice, then at least make the effort to lie. And to lie better.


About this entry