Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Cookie Principle: RPG Moderating Strategies

As mentioned below I moderate the SB -shoutbox- for an online browser RPG called Tagoria. As with most online games this one is about killing the other characters in PvPs and epic battles, earning ambers to buy more and better equipment to kill more characters & trying out different game strategies.

The role of the moderator is to keep the shoutbox friendly, the language acceptable & answer game questions. Most of the time this is very easy to do - a gentle reminder to get back to the game is usually all that's needed.

The toughest time for mods is when a new world opens up. This is when the company goes all out to advertise on other game sites to draw more players into the ever-expanding fold. For mods it is the dreaded Noob Storm time. New players, novice players, flamers, noobs, predators, newbies, foreign language players who don't understand what 'English only, please' & 'check your messages' means, the vulgar, the sweethearts, emos, the spoiled babies and of course the serious, above-board totally focussed & singlemindedly dedicated gamers. All at the same time!!!

When first invited to mod, I was quite flattered as I enjoy the game and offering advice to new players - rescued more than a few along the way who would otherwise have quit due to lack of game strategy knowledge or just plain unintended noobness. I'm proud to say quite a few of them have become superb strategists,some are now great hordemates (yes, I play the game too) & good friends. That's the upside. The downside is dealing with those who chafe at any kind of perceived authority or those few silly folk who seem to think that a privately owned corporation is a free-for-all anarchic 'free speech democracy'. Being a mod is stressful & we do suffer from burnouts.

So where does the Cookie Principle come into all this?

Well, somewhere along the way and just for fun and the role-play schtick I started handing out virtual cookies to players as a reward for levelling up - this has escalated to the point where if I do not offer cookies within 5 minutes of login, the players start asking for them. It has eventually become a daily expectationof the game - the stealing of cookies, the chasing around the campfire after the thief, general shenanigans - all part of the integrated tradition in at least the 4 English Worlds.

The funny thing is that I am now the Tagorian Cookie Goddess. If there is an argument developing or newbies are under verbal attack (I say verbal even though this is all typed communication between players), or noobs are verbally attacking - I either offer cookies or suggest cookies will not be forthcoming. The result? Everyone behaves, calmness returns to the SB and arguments are (mostly) forgotten. Players who come off bans frequently and sheepishly ask for cookies. A necessary sign of forgiveness from the Great & Powerful OS?

This works better in some of the 4 English worlds. In others the Mods keep a lower profile but in general terms, if RPG Moderators can reach that Zen 'state of being' where frustration, anger, puzzlement and 'taking things way too personally' no longer matter, the game and the players become an interesting and thoroughly enjoyable milieu and a village full of familiar (avi) faces, old friends and quirky personalities - the real world in microcosm.

And just in case you think cookies are for kids - some of us are so far beyond being kids that our kids, spouses, grandkids and workmates are also playing the game.

So have a cookie, some Earl Grey tea sit back and enjoy the game.
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