Morality Lessons from a War Criminal

A Selection of Metaphors from the MCU

Every couple of years I have to have “the talk”. Most people here are used to it. For everyone else, that’s not a sleight against your commitment, it just means we’re not all on the same page yet.

Tonya and I have been running this server for almost 8 years now, still playing with many of the same folks who were here from those first few months. We pride ourselves on that, and use it as a barometer to gauge how we approach the way this place is managed. The result, from a policy standpoint, means implementing much of the decision-making process on the basis of some core values. Values that we’ve been steadfast about since the beginning. Occasionally we get too used to the idea that everybody who plays here knows exactly what this means (including ourselves) so it’s good to hit the pause button every now and then and revisit those values.

Last week’s Facebook thread was my reminder that we were overdue on this, and ultimately it is my responsibility to make sure everyone is up to speed on these things. The admins do their best to get these values across, but at the end of the day this is a message that works best when it comes straight from the top. The fact that we haven’t had to do it in quite a while is simply a testament to the fantastic job that BBC and Moo have been doing for close to a year now.

To be perfectly clear: NOBODY IS IN TROUBLE HERE. If you felt like you were being dressed down in that thread, it just means we’re not on the same page yet, and even if you don’t get my forthcoming nerdy MCU callbacks, my point still comes through. It’s a win-win.

If it’s one thing I’ve learned working with ragtag groups of people on the internet, it’s that conversations being had via any text medium are universally fraught with misconception. This is doubly true for Facebook comment threads, where alacrity often supersedes extrapolation. Memes and tropes often end up where facts and dialogue belong. This is all well and good if everyone gets the references, however they don’t always land across the board.

I certainly count myself among those who have a responsibility to recognize when this is likely to occur. It’s not that I don’t stand behind the points I was trying to make, instead I know I simply need to do a better job explaining them in a way that works for the people I am explaining them TO, and not for the 95% of folks who already get me.

Anyway, let’s get to some half-baked MCU comparisons, shall we?

There’s a hilarious scene in Spider-Man: Homecoming where they have to show a Captain America PSA to the students, but it’s post-Civil War and he’s become a renegade of sorts according to the government. That whole movie is gold really but this particular scene happens to be one of my favorites.

One thing you can always rely on from Steve Rogers is that he’s always going to act on what he believes is best, while still adhering to a moral code. He does evolve over the course of the movies, but there’s a set of core values there that he maintains throughout. Sticking to your guns often comes with inevitable fallout, and I won’t try to pretend I’m infallible, but it’s critical (and easier in the long run) for everyone if they know what I’m not going to budge on.

Our admins aren’t just dedicated players, they are cherished friends, people whom I trust with the fate of this server. While that is a feeling I certainly bestow upon more of you than just the admins, it is not a sentiment I make much room for typically these days  inside my Grinch-like heart. It’s probably more a haven for banhammer horcuxes in there instead.

Point being, when I start seeing the people we’ve put in charge become frustrated on a regular basis with having to defend policy decisions, I’m going to throw my weight around to defend them. Especially when I know they are defending decisions that are modeled after our core values. If it felt like others on that thread were also jumping in with similar intensity after I said my piece, it’s really only because it’s a position we were already very passionate about as a community centered on these values.

There is a running joke in this group that, for some things, this server is not a democracy, it’s a Chris-ocracy. If you’ve been around for a fair shake, perhaps during more contentious times, you’ve seen me pull a stunt like this before. It’s not meant as a punishment, more of a forced stasis while I figure things out. It’s also why the only people who were really taken aback by this were the newer players.

If you feel like you’ve been around for a good spell and you were thrown off by the events of last week, then you have BBC and Moo to thank for it not happening more often. This is as good a place as any to segue out as I have now come full circle on my point.

We have been on the receiving end of our fair share of criticisms over the years when it comes to this server. We have been told we are too strict, too lenient, too basic, too convoluted, too locked down, too trusting, too heavy-handed, too hands-off, and my all-time favorite in one form or another:

“YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING”

We’ve had at least six separate exoduses (exodii?) resulting in disgruntled ex-players creating spin-offs of this server, many times with large chunks of our player base going with them. All because they were convinced we had it wrong. Not the players necessarily, plenty of folks just wanted to support both servers, but definitely the faction leaders felt that way. You could tell because they all left with fairly vocal abandon. It used to bug me, but after time I realized that it’s honestly fine. Some people move on from this server because they’re unsatisfied with where we plant our feet. And that’s OK. So if you glean from one of us that what we’re hearing is that this place isn’t for you, please take it as a genuine concern for both sides here. Nobody wins with someone who feels chained to our server despite having their two cents shot down more often than they’d like.

I can make peace with an inconsolable difference of opinion, but I’m not spending my days debating the merits of our decisions. Thems the breaks. If there’s functionality you’d like to see that we can add via plugins, I can perhaps take it under advisement if it’s not an immediate “no” but that’s the best I can offer up.

OK now that I’ve bored you with the ramblings of moral ambiguities, let me run through a handful of things that I consider to be in-line with (or against) our “core values”.

We are a Learning Server

Our barriers to entry are meant to be as low as possible, with as much hand-holding as required (without it turning into straight up babysitting) and a structure that favors beginners over experts. We are not, and never will be, a “technical” server. We exercise what I’d like to believe is a sincere amount of restraint and leeway when it comes to contraptions, exploits and adherence to guidelines that are meant to mitigate lag.

Community Courtesy

The above comes with a sense of duty, as a player, for what we consider to be “community courtesy”. This is different than helping another player directly by giving them items (unless they really need it, which obviously we applaud) or otherwise finding ways to ingratiate yourself with them. It means being mindful of how you personally play (meaning with no one else around) that would ensure that the experience is pleasant for as many people as possible, or at least without tricking them into inadvertently fast-forwarding the opportunity they have to get the most out of it.

Exploits are Fine, Until They’re Gone

When I was on for Minecraft Monday a couple months back, and I saw that people had broken through the top of the nether, I know plenty of the veterans could feel my palpable grimace. However I also knew that it wasn’t the first time we’d allowed it, and that if there was an exploit in the current version, there was little I could do about it. So I cringed out loud, but that’s what I do. I knew the admins had a close eye on things, and that was good enough for me.

When Moo got Paper working, with the vast majority of plugins making the migration to boot, that was a huge win for us. The benefit to timings performance was noticeable. The fact that it also fixed some outstanding exploits wasn’t even known to me at the time, but I consider that a bonus. I’m not a fan of exploits. As a server owner and back-end administrator, they offend my sensibilities. If normal functionality is getting bricked by a patch (preventing opening chests or something like that) then that’s one thing. Asking us to go back on a fundamental element of our server that was exhibiting such a marked improvement, just so you could leverage cracked code…well I have to admit it got a little under my skin. And so that conversation went a little off the rails for sure.

I can only blame myself for that though, since I can’t honestly believe that the request would have been made in the first place if everyone was on the same wavelength. So I ask and truly hope that all parties who felt attacked by that thread can accept my apology for that. I don’t speak for everyone of course, but I can assure you that we still have your back, as long as you are still comfortable trusting (or at least respecting) my direction and/or clarification on all this. If so, great. If not, then that’s OK too. But you gotta help me help you here.

So What’s Next?

We’ve had some productive discussions, both between admin team members and with various players who reached out. I’m confident we’re making progress, but there’s a lot of work ahead of us.

Throughout the next week, we’ll be putting the server rules through their paces, cleaning them up to get with the times, and sprucing them up to bring them closer in line with everything we’ve addressed over the past year. We will share these changes with you as they are put in place, but once they are fully finished, we will be asking that everyone re-submit their whitelist request to ensure that they are, at the very least, viewed in the context of having gone to the web page and manually agreeing to them.

Our server rules thus far have become somewhat of a litmus test for me, despite their decrepitude. If you go to Google and type in “minecraft server rules example”, we frequently show up on the first page of results. While I’m not exactly trying to crow here about having bagged a high SERP ranking for a four-word phrase in Google, the traffic that we receive to the website from this phrase suggests to me that, if nothing else, I can look upon our ability to craft a serious set of rules in a favorable light. That’s good enough for me. It also means that it’s important to me that we get this right, so I refuse to rush it. In the meantime, we’ll just keep playing it by ear.

WHEW! And now for the most apt comparison between myself and Captain America…

Thanks for reading all the way to the end 😘

Sincerely,
~Serverus

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