Traveller is a role-playing game that I’ve been playing since 1981. I’ve been an actual member of the official Traveller online forum for sixteen years. I even became a paying member, to show my support for a game that I love. Today, I read a thread there where a group of the resident pundits shook their heads and decided that if you want to play a star marine, you should certainly be a combat veteran. If you’re not, they disapprove. They would limit your choices of character type because you just don’t have the required experience. You couldn’t possibly play the character. How about a nice retail cashier instead, does that sound like fun? Oh, don’t cry. One guy said he’d give you some required reading in military tactics, then coach and test you on what you’ve read in order for you to qualify to play the character. The next comment was that after that, he’d let the “chips fall where they may.” They were so condescending.
I’ve been running and playing role-playing games since the 1970s. That’s when our modern rpgs came into being. And you know what? It’s just make-believe. It’s “let’s pretend.” It’s kids running around in the backyard shouting and laughing while screaming “bang-bang, I got you!” With dice, so there’s a random element to decide whether you succeeded or not. We get little toy soldiers. Little vehicles, little ships. The grown-ups shake their heads and smile at our silly games.
Once, decades ago, I was running a game and described how the party found a body buried in a shallow grave by the side of the road. One player, one of my very best friends who I miss to this very day, asked me to describe the body that they dug up, so they’d know how long it had been buried. I gave it a shot, and he quietly corrected me. He was a Vietnam vet, and he certainly knew better than I. I nodded my thanks, because it was a serious matter that he knew that. And then the game went on, and we had fun, laughing and rolling dice, and we went out for beers afterwards.
Another of my very dearest friends passed away last year. She was from Vietnam. She fled when she was a little girl. She damned well didn’t know how quickly a dead body decomposes. Why the hell should she? Isn’t that why she fled, why wars are fought? Did she somehow deserve less respect than my other friend, who as a pilot dropped napalm on her country?
Smug condescending bastards always get me riled up. So after all their nonsense I replied that since I get to play generals in my games, I guess I’m not qualified, and should retire my dice. Obviously I can’t play in our make-believe games, because I don’t have the relevant experience; how could I possibly play the parts correctly? Then I added that I’d better run out and sell two other games, Bunnies and Burrows (where you play “Watership Down” -esque intelligent rabbits), and Vampire: The Masquerade (where you play – bet you can guess this one – vampires). Because, obviously I can’t play a bunny rabbit or a vampire, either.
This got me a reprimand from the “admin” of the web site. This guy has been a member for one year longer than I have, so obviously he’s more qualified than I am to – what? – well, to comment correctly on a forum, apparently. He accused me of “trolling.” Funny, I don’t think I’m qualified to play a troll, either. But after looking up the term, I’ve been accused of “provoking.” Well, I thought I was pointing out the ludicrous nature of their position, which provoked ME, with very specific examples. Instead of those posters being responsible for their reactions to my post, it seems that the “admin” finds ME responsible for their yet-to-be-realized reactions to my post.
In recent years I got involved in social media. I wasn’t really interested in it before. In fact, go far enough back and I wasn’t interested in computers, either. Not until things got to the point where I could play some neat games on them. As for social media, I was trying to network, for work. Then I realized that a lot of fandom, science fiction, fantasy, gaming, was out there in social media too. But I learned the weirdest thing. People act different online.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. People act different everywhere. Civil behavior has been abandoned by the wayside along with that dead body from my game. But people also have some very strange ideas of what behavior is acceptable, and when. My grandmother would’ve been offended. My father would’ve shaken his head. But online, all the dials are up to eleven.
First, I’ve run across people so foul that I have to block them. Because I’m not having fun. Second, I’ve run across sites that are so offensive, that I’ve turned my back on them. They just seem to cultivate a toxic attitude. But in the last couple of years, I’ve come across “admins,” folks that have a little extra power to chastise online activity. These guys are the thought police of the internet. They let this little tiny bit of extra power go to their heads. I’ve seen them proudly boast about how someone isn’t showing them the proper respect, so they “ban” the perp. Someone disagreed with their opinion of something, blocked them, and now have had their accounts deleted. They BOAST about it. They take their little turn on the catwalk, and their sycophants all chime in. I blow those places off, too.
I actually had a guy look up my email from the account I deleted, just so he could send me a note about how he’d been absolutely justified in whatever punitive action he’d taken against some dude. He HAD to tell me that.
How in the hell have these people been raised?
There’s a series of books that I like very much. The author commented that he’d like to write more in the series, but he realized that they wouldn’t be very popular any more. Because, you see, they’re in the genre known as a “comedy of manners.” And we are no longer a society of manners.
Let that sink in.
So, I now have a sour taste in my mouth. I’m a customer. It’s a game. Over the years I’ve corresponded with the game designer. He’s a decent guy. I’ve been playing the game for almost as long as it’s been in existence. But I won’t go back to the official site ever again. Ever. Again.
That’s customer service for you.