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Power Corrupts

Few days go by that I donít regret, at least a little, leaving behind my days as a simple player of online games.

As a player, I could make a difference without being online every day. I just had to be around enough to keep my circle of fellow roleplayers active and thriving.

As a player, all I had to do was *play*. Thatís it. Inhabit a character or two, craft poses and dialogue, run the occasional plot for my friends. If youíre an admin now, you already must know what Iím about to tell talk about. Keep reading. We can commiserate. If youíre thinking about being an admin, keep reading. At least make an educated decision.

Something awful happens when you become a staffer. Itís like The Matrix. Neoís just going blithely through life, a cog in the machine, when he gets uplifted and shown what really goes on behind the scenes. It ainít pretty.

It truly is a sausage factory. As a staffer, you become party to inter-admin backbiting, listen to problems between admins and players, get second-guessed by players and fellow staffers on decisions you make, and handle complaints, all while trying to add new and exciting features to your game, and to keep up a warm and welcome public front on behalf of the staff. Lots of nasty stuff. It is easy to get burned out. It is easy to blow a fuse. Because, once you become a staffer ≠ if youíre a *real* staffer, and not just some lazy slacker who gets the bit and then coasts while the rest of the staff carries your dead weight, what used to be fun quickly becomes work.

The job is one part personnel management, one part crisis resolution counselor, one part den mother, and one part psychoanalyst. And God forbid you find yourself caught between two friends on the staff who are quarreling, and they want you to pick sides.

And, unless youíre terribly lucky, youíre doing all this for free. Power corrupts. Authority and responsibility might be alluring from afar, but unless youíre ready to peek behind the curtain and find out the great and powerful Oz isnít perfection incarnate, you should steer clear of it. Stay a player.

Itís kind of weird. I learned the same lesson in real life. For years, I worked as a writer at a major metropolitan newspaper. I loved the work. I enjoyed meeting new people. I had my beat to cover. My piece of turf. Then, my job evolved into an editorís position, and suddenly I was management. Instead of meeting new people and writing interesting stories, I was juggling different personalities of journalists working on multiple beats, assigning and editing stories, and dealing with bureaucratic backstabbing, politics and paperwork.

Itís really not much fun.

Youíre going to make mistakes. Youíll be judged. Questioned. People will use your mistakes for their own gain at your further expense, and theyíll probably smile warmly at you while they do it.

The players will make you nuts. Bugs will infuriate you. Petty bickering will drive you to distraction. Meanwhile, your ability to work behind the scenes, to see more, to know more, will make you jaded.

Iíve known staffers who became physically ill from dealing with issues that arose from working on MUDs. Occasionally, I get nasty stress migraines from it. Staffers arenít perfect, but some of us really want to be, and we hate when it doesnít work out. We hate when we lose our cool, make a bad call, say the wrong thing, or let some chucklehead get the best of us.

Power corrupts. Responsibility intoxicates ≠ and then leaves you with a hangover.

Some overwhelmed staffers quit. They either go back to being players or they vanish entirely from online games. If youíre a senior staffer dealing with a burnout case, I canít stress enough how important it is *not* to throw a guilt trip at someone who is quitting because they feel worn out and ragged. Accept it, show some sympathy, and offer your support. Give them space. Assure them theyíre still welcome if they find they can stomach the demands of the job. Some will come back, eventually. Others wonít. Nothing you can do about that.

Other staffers do what I do: Take a break every once in a while. Spend a week or two vacationing from the responsibilities. Focus on playing characters or turn your attention to a completely new diversion. Get everything back in its proper perspective.

Power corrupts, but some rest and relaxation can significantly slow the poison.

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 He also produces Brody's MUD Index (, a free quarterly periodical in PDF format that offers MUD listing opportunities. His e-mail address is

Part 6 - The Myth of Flexibility