So, New Years Eve was geeky indeed. Three games of Pandemic (2 wins, 1 loss) followed by extensive and satisfying geeking with Fred and Fuzz. This is always a magnificent thing, and we ended up getting onto winning and losing on MUSH.
So, I’m mostly channeling Fred here, since the key idea was his, but it was awesome enough that it deserves some broadcast.
A lot of the problems with conflict on MUSH come down to the fact that most peopel really suck at winning. This means a lot of things, but the big one is that people tend to be very bad at findign ways to win which remains respectful of the loser. For the most part, if we win, we don’t want to respect the loser, we are focused on getting them to respect us. This cuts to the heart of most issues: people aren’t afraid of most bad things, they are concerned that they’re not being respected. When every party feels that way, it’s hard for an atmosphere of trust to ever be established, and things get and stay toxic.
This is where Fred’s idea comes up. He proposes a ritual element to conflict where the first thing you do is to ask the other party what they desire you to respect. The example used is someone gettign in a swordfight with Benedict (the swordfighting badass of Amber). If Bob asks that Benedict respect that he’s good with the sword, and Benedict asks that Bob respect Benedicts higher social role, and they both agree, that sets the ground rules for the fight in a non-intrusive way that allows both players to steer things towards what they want.
This is not an idea that needs any mechanical support (though maybe some code support to publicize these boundaries would be useful), and that’s part of the point. See, while the information about the boundaries is useful and can shape the fight in fun ways, it is arguably even more important to have asked the question. That moment of stopping to think about it, like saluting an opponent, is a moment to focus on the sport and how to go about it. In my experience, most people mean well, but they need a nudge to be reminded of behaviors they support on paper.
Obviously this won’t always work. There will be disagreements about what should or shouldn’t be respected. There will be passive-aggressive, snarky social nonsense. Edges will blur and people will get indignant. But all that happens already. I am optimistic enough to think that a moment of reflection and respect can go a long way towards improving it.