The Walls Have Eyes
Be careful where you lurk.
Players are a different breed of cat when it comes to issues of privacy.
I've made the mistake of occasionally being too blunt about privacy on a MUD:
There is no real privacy. Potentially, everything a player types can be recorded for later perusal by staffers who have access to the server.
Primarily, that's a feature used to protect the integrity of a game's security. Sometimes, players behave maliciously and try to crash a game.
But it is easily abused.
I've abused it before, sort of.
A few years ago, we had an incident on OtherSpace involving two players who ultimately were invited to leave. It as an ugly parting, with one of them declaring a personal fatwa against me and OtherSpace, embarking on what he called a "campaign of truth." He's nowhere to be seen, and OtherSpace is still going strong, but that's a topic for another column.
The OTHER member of that dynamic duo returned some time later, as a guest character on the game. Now, as a matter of habit, our guest characters are set to log their activities. As many of my staffers know, I've got a scary memory for IP addresses, and I recognized the one belonging to this guest.
Without server access, I could see he was paging my players. I felt compelled to see just what he was saying to them, so I logged into the server. I watched his side of the conversation for a while. He was recruiting for another game, badmouthing me, badmouthing my game - basically stirring up trouble.
Back in the game, I privately paged him, saying "Knock it off." I told him to leave.
Boy, did I feel good just then.
And, boy, did I blow that play.
Just because you CAN see what a player types doesn't mean you should use the information to power trip.
So the guy said bad things about me via page. Big deal! I'd been called far worse by better people in public forums. So he was recruiting for another game. Whatever! Any game that would have him for a recruiter deserves what it gets, and any player who bought the crap he spouted deserved to go with him.
Not once during his visit did the guy try to breach my game's security. Not once did any other players complain about harassment.
I shouldn't have given him the satisfaction of knowing it mattered what he thought or that I felt the least bit threatened that he might sap my playerbase.
How I should have handled it, and how I suggest anyone in the same position should handle it: Ignore him. Unless he's being a jerk in public, trying to breach your game's security or causing other players to complain about harassment, LEAVE HIM ALONE.
Your game's - and your staff's - reputation for even-handedness and fair treatment is more important than a glancing blow to your ego.
Wes Platt is the creator of OtherSpace: The Interactive SF Saga and Chiaroscuro: The Interactive Fantasy Saga. He's a head-wiz on Star Wars: Reach of the Empire. (All games can be reached through his official site at www.jointhesaga.com.) He also produces Brody's MUD Index (mudindex.jointhesaga.com), a free quarterly periodical in PDF format that offers MUD listing opportunities. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.