Player Justice!

Back in the day, the idea that players might be able to police their own virtual worlds was quite hot for awhile. After all, lots of online communities such as bulletin boards, newsgroups and the like manage to police themselves using moderators – so why not online games?

In the spirit of reinventing the wheel, League of Legends devs just announced in an interview that they have a new plan to clean up their notoriously obnoxious community. Player-run tribunals.

In an interview with Kotaku they describe their plans which look to involve letting higher level (elite?) players act as player judges and deal with reports of misbehaviour, and then they’re planning to reward player judges who consistently show wise behaviour. The cynical may at this point be thinking ‘smart way to avoid paying GMs to do this.’

And aside from all the possible ways this could go wrong (they do note that they don’t think playing badly should be a punishable offence, which I imagine is good for player retention), I think it’s an interesting idea. There’s no special reason why minimum wage GMs should be able to do a better job of judgement than active players. Especially in a game like this where it should be easy enough to make sure that the judge has no connection with the players involved.

On my old MUSH, we had player judges/ arbiters with an appeal procedure. It wasn’t all that uncommon a phenomenon on those types of games. The only real concern was conflicts of interests. We found the process worked better when the judges didn’t play the actual game, but evidently it was tricky attracting volunteers to come act as judges on a game they didn’t even play.

EVE does have a player council but because it’s tied to the in game world, any issues of power and metagaming are explicitly part of the council, rather than it being set up to deal purely with OOC issues. Plus player behaviour in EVE is supposedly dealt with via the anarchy of sandbox PvP.

With LoL I’m mostly curious to see how it goes. If you give the more hardcore players the ability to set rules for playing styles, will you end up with something like Elitist Jerks (who give out bans for bad spelling) or is it going to be a free for all with everyone out to get whatever the best ‘judge rewards’ are.  In fact, should you really reward the judges at all?

Would you be interested in a game that let you act as a tribunal judge?


5 thoughts on “Player Justice!

  1. The one thing that paid GMs who don’t play the game would have over player judges is a possible lack of bias. Note that’s possible, not guaranteed, especially as the GMs interact with the community and get to know people. Some people are going to value a paycheck over making lots of virtual friends.

    Assuming there’s some punishment meted out, there will be some people who will choose to use that punishment as a meta-game option to hurt competitors and help allies. Especially in a game with an intense competitive nature. Which is pretty much why player policing has never worked very well in PvP-focused games without a LOT of structure around it.

  2. > There’s no special reason why minimum wage GMs
    > should be able to do a better job of judgement than
    > active players.

    I’m not a GM nor do I have any information about that but I assume:

    – They have to follow rules or they might loose their RL job.
    – They most likely have check lists/guides which tell them which action to take.
    – Most GM tasks are stupid tasks. Unstuck. Explain a misunderstanding of game mechanic. Recover an item. I doubt your “minimum wage GM” is the one deciding if someone should be banned. That’s most likely the task of a senior GM.

  3. Star Wars Galaxies had (has?) a system whereby each server had several appointed player “wardens”. These players had the ability to squelch another player for 1 hour, preventing them from using any in-game forms of communication, in an attempt to combat the gold seller spam. Wardens were told not to reveal their role to other players, and every use of the warden powers created an automatic GM ticket so the circumstance could be investigated.

    The spam dried up overnight. Huge success.

  4. Corruption is my main concern with player tribunals, which is why EvE can’t make them work. The benefits of being a “wise” judge have to be greater than the benefits of players selling their decisions for in-game rewards. Give me X or I’ll ban you for 3 days. Give me Y, file a complaint against so-and-so and I’ll find them in the wrong. If judges are not officially rewarded at all, some of them will find ways to be compensated.

  5. Successful governance of Internet communities (past a certain size) tends toward detached, somewhat arbitrary despotism. There have actually been a number of studies and research on this. Democratic or legalistic styles (with appeals and trials and such) just don’t scale very well. You’ve hit on one of the reasons why — metagaming the system. When last comes to last, there has to be a dictator who has the right to ban for no better reason than “because I said so”.

    Elitist Jerks is actually an awesome example of Internet moderation done right.

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