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Belfaire on community policing and GM subjectivity

As you may recall, a few days ago, I wrote a little Dear Blizzard letter on the subject of enforcing the RP and Naming Policy. Of course, Once one writes a letter to someone, it is a good idea to deliver it, and thus I delivered it, or at least the issues therein, over on the Customer Service Forum. I was lucky enough to have Belfaire, who you may remember from his post explaining Blizzard's stance on multi-boxing, answer some of my questions and concerns. I also got some pretty well thought out feedback from a couple other people browsing the forums, including some roleplayers who disagreed with some of my points, so I think the threads worth a read in itself, and I'll comment a bit more on what Belfaire said after the break, now that I've had time to digest it a bit.

First things first, he actually offers some pretty handy tips for reporting. If you have a big batch of names or RP server policy violations to report (the latter hopefully appended with the time it occurred), you can send them to wowgm@blizzard.com, and they will be treated exactly like a report made in-game. In addition, he does confirm what some of our commenters on my last post said: if you could stand to skip the tells, you can simply say in the ticket that you don't wish to be contacted, and unless they need more information from you, they will skip the tell. Also, Belfaire assured me that even if you ask them to skip the tells, they will still take it just as seriously as any other ticket.

Moving on, he did try to explain how Blizzard approaches the issues of policing names and the RP policy. I didn't always agree with him, of course, but I certainly appreciated that he was up front and clear. I also appreciated that he showed a sympathy for the plight of the RPer that I'd like to see Blizzard show more often.

On the subject of changing names over multiple servers, he said that it was, in fact a question of workload. With over 200 realms in the US alone, he says, tracking down each individual name would be far too much of a pain, and actioning so many names would be too much of a strain. In addition, he says, by waiting for a member of the specific server community to report a name, it allows that community to decide what's acceptable.

On the subject of RP server policy violations, Belfaire said that it's a much more subjective process (Which any veteran reporter of RP server policy violations can most definitely tell you), but he also said that he feels that they do take reports of RP violations very seriously.

He ends by saying that when it comes to policy violations, they try to educate people instead of resorting to punitive measures whenever possible - which he admits is a bit of a business decision. But then again, I'm not against that either. When it comes to RP Violations, I generally only report the most flagrant violators myself, the type who run into the middle of your RP event, start jumping around, yelling gibberish, strip naked, pull mobs through it... that type of thing. Other than that, I try to politely ask people to honor the RP server rules and take OOC conversations to party chat (which is also technically supposed to be IC, but hey, if everyone consents to it being OOC, they aren't hurting any nearby RPers) or a private channel.

I think the one thing that I feel I can't quite get behind is the idea of too much subjectivity in RP server policy enforcement. From my point of view, I feel as if, if we as a community are supposed to decide what's acceptable on the naming policy, the same should be true of the RP Policy, and a reporter's opinion should matter a lot more than it sometimes seems to. Even if someone is able to give a very convincing argument as to why they feel "Missmoo" is totally a valid name for a Tauren RP-wise, I think there's an obvious line between when someone has a genuine RP back story and when they're just trying to get away with flaunting the server rules. At the least, a rule of thumb such as "can you imagine a parent of this character's race naming their child that?" really isn't too outlandish to expect. Of course, what is obvious to me does not seem to be quite as obvious to someone else, as others in the thread came down more on Belfaire's side of that argument. Subjectivity and giving people the benefit of the doubt on names seems to be the order of the day.

I'm still not sure I'm comfortable with the amount of subjectivity Blizzard uses for the RP server policies, but I'd like to give Belfaire credit, as he said RP servers are really stuck having to self-police more than other server types, and as a result, it can genuinely appear like enforcement isn't there. However, he says that enforcement is taken seriously. I honestly do get a bit of comfort from Belfaire's comments, if the GMs taking our tickets have as much passion as he does, there may be hope for us yet. He also mentions that he believes that the devs are looking into giving us RPers more tools, so perhaps some of those will help us enforce the policy and allow us a genuine IC haven more often.

For my part, I think I'm going to keep reporting like I always do, keeping those tricks Belfaire mentioned in mind. I'll be grateful for what does get changed, and live with -- or learn to ignore -- what doesn't. I also think there's a few hints in our conversation about how an RP Server can really get a chance to take off. It's all about community really. Unfortunately, the problem is that the "RP community" on a given RP server is sometimes smaller than the non-RP community. However, it does seem like if an RP community was really to band together and start reporting flagrant use of the the say and yell channels for OOC behavior, and start reporting names with a detailed description of why the name breaks the RP server rules, we might get somewhere. Right now, other solutions seem to be sparse, since Blizzard probably can't or won't hire the amount of people we'd need for them to take care of it for us.

I'd like to thank Belfaire for taking time to answer my questions and comments and generally being a good sport about the whole thing, and I'd invite you to go read the original thread. There was really good discussion there, I felt, no matter which side you agree with.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Blizzard, RP

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