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On Alt Privacy

PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:34 am
by Antheia
Alt privacy exists to protect players and RP.

    >> It limits the ability for predatory players to target victims, because if someone starts to act sketchy, you can hide behind your alt while you wait for staff to take care of your complaint.
    >> It makes it easier for players to politely decline RP with characters they don’t prefer to RP with, when they simply don’t have the energy necessary to play certain characters, or when it is an inconvenient hour.
    >> It helps separate IC emotions from OOC relationships. This may sound like a simple “just be aware of it” issue, but I’ve yet to see a single player including staff who is fully capable of keeping the two separate. It’s natural and part of the fun, but it’s easy for it to get out of hand, and keeping alts private helps make sure that it won’t.
    >> It keeps single players from commandeering a plot by sinking all their alts into the same storyline, or by coercing their friends' alts into supporting their characters when that might not actually be the most IC choice.
    >> It helps with suspension of disbelief because you don’t think of the character as “my friend Antheia’s Marmot character” but instead as simply “the Marmot in Lantern Waste”.
We've changed the way we handle alts over the past few years, partly in accordance with the needs of a changing player base, and partly just because different staff have different ways of managing. Mostly, it's gotten looser, but lately I've noticed some laxness that starts to tread the line of MUCK etiquette and (sometimes) safety, so I think it's about time I wrote a post on which parts of our rules are okay to bend, and which aren't.

In the first reply to this post, you can find the rules listed in our INFO files. You can also open them on the MUCK under Character Setup >> Requesting a Character >> Alternate Characters >> Alt Privacy. Generally, I still stand by these rules, and if you want to follow them to the letter, you are welcome and encouraged to do so. That said, they aren't totally realistic. As social media grows more pervasive, we get more comfortable (and hopefully more knowledgeable) about when to share what personal information with whom. NarniaMUCK is first and foremost a roleplaying game, but it's also a place to make friends, and I think it's evident that we're okay with the sharing of personal info by the fact that we host annual Secret Santas.

Ways It’s Okay to Stay Relaxed

If Player A plays both Joe and Grendel, he may wish to reveal personal info about himself to the friends both characters encounter, and he may accidentally share with someone who plays alts in both of their regions. Furthermore, A may get bored of Joe, and find Grendel turns into his main. It'll be natural for him to start sharing his personal info there, and phase out personal info sharing on Joe.

That's okay. I recommend you do choose a character as your Personal Info character, but if your main RP character changes over time, its natural and acceptable for the Personal Info character to change, too. Just try to be as consistent as possible. A good way of handling consistency is to consider one character your main, and, if that is insufficient, choose another character in another country to be your secondary. So Joe in Narnia would be the place A shares most of his info, but Grendel in Archenland may also sometimes share info because he will be encountering a population that Joe may never interact with. A number of people may figure out that they are the same player, but it’s never explicit, and A’s other characters are all very anonymous. Try not to let it get beyond 2 characters if you can help it. For a frame of reference, I’ve played for 10 years, and had 3 mains/personal info characters in that time, with 1 consistent secondary character. You shouldn’t be changing every few months.

There's one more exception to the info files that I'll make, and it's this: if you find that hiding your personal identity is starting to damage your relationship with your friend, or is even creating a situation where you are having to repeatedly misrepresent reality to a friend, just tell them. (****For some help on figuring out where the uncomfortable line is, go to the asterisks at the bottom of this post.) Alt privacy is partially about protecting mental health. If it's not doing its job, let it go. I'd rather you break the rule than that you start doubting what's real. If you're ever unsure whether a relationship is getting iffy because you are hiding your alts, please feel free to talk to me or other staff, and we will help you sort through how to handle it. We are not licensed mental health professionals, but we do have a lot of experience with this particular issue.

Rules to be Strict On

1. Do not EVER reveal someone else's alts for them. Example below.

    You know that:
    Player A: Joe and Grendel.
    Player B: Curly and Trudy.

    Under no circumstances do you tell Curly Joe’s alts. Telling is a violation of Joe’s trust, and of our game's promise to watch out for you.
    It doesn’t matter if Joe himself told you he plays Grendel.
    It doesn’t matter if you know that Joe knows Curly plays Trudy.
    It doesn’t matter if Curly is your best friend in the whole world whom you tell everything.
    It's Joe’s prerogative to tell or not tell Curly anything about his alts. Joe can pretend Grendel is a brand new player who's never typed before today, if he likes. It’s up to him or, under very particular circumstances, staff.
    This also means that you should not imply in a public medium (like DC or in OOC) that you know Joe’s or Curly’s alts, nor should you discuss their alts on that medium. Save it for your private pages.
    Even though you’re best friends, don’t reveal personal information about Curly to anyone without her introducing the subject. When in doubt, page Curly to clarify. Some folks like to keep their personal lives separate from most or all other players, and we aim to respect that choice.

    If you think Joe is doing something that's damaging to Curly, you can tell staff and we can handle the situation, but it's not your place to interfere (indeed, it might entangle you in the danger). If we see that you are consistently abusing this policy, we will have to take action to keep our players' privacy safe. It's great that you feel comfortable with Curly, and we want our players to feel comfortable with each other, but one way to guarantee that is by not revealing each other's secrets: and you should assume that everyone's alts are a secret to everyone else.
2. Do not just reveal your alts willy-nilly.

    That means when Curly gets Trudy, Trudy does not tell Joe, "OOC> oh yeah I stayed up late last night because Curly had a long RP lol".

    Start your alts off with a clean slate. While you may be okay with "seeing the puppet strings", lots of our players don't want to, and you need to respect that. As you become friends with them, they may naturally realize who you are, at which point you don't have to keep up a pretense that isn't helping anything, but until that time, respect that they may want to keep the veil up. This is where the bit about consistently misleading comes in. Drop the pretense when it becomes bad for your relationship. Otherwise, even saying “well I don’t care if I know your alts or you know mine...” is not appropriate, as it creates unnecessary social pressure.

    It is still a violation of the rules to purposely drop hints about who your alts are through personal information. Remember: no more than one or two "personal info" characters.

    Keeping alts secret also means you should not talk about alt ideas with other players. Don’t allude to your alts on DreamChat or in OOC, even if you are directing the conversation to another player who you know knows them. Don't ask other players to create alts for you (unless they are real life friends you are recruiting to make a first character), and don't ask other players for advice on what character you should get. If you wants someone to play a sibling/friend/local vendor/etc, tell staff. If you want ideas for alts, tell staff.

    It can be very hard for players to say no to these requests, so it is a breach of etiquette to put them in that position. Staff will be happy to act as in intermediary so that no one's feelings get hurt (or if they are hurt, they're hurt by staff, instead of by your player friends).
3. Do not let your alts interact with each other unless absolutely necessary, and do not introduce gossip about one alt with another alt.

    We used to have a rule that no one could have alts of the same species OR in the same region. We’ve relaxed that rule into oblivion, but the principle behind it remains. Your characters should only run into each other when you cannot possibly think of a way to keep them away from each other that makes sense. This does not mean “well Trudy works in the market and Curly sometimes has to go to market so they must be friends”. Alts interacting without good reason makes it harder for you to keep alts secret without lying, and it makes it harder for you to lease equal control over a scene to other players. (Even staff have a hard time not seizing control of a scene when more than one of their characters is involved. It’s just a natural consequence of the number of voices at your command.) If it absolutely doesn’t make sense for your characters not to be aware of each other, you may assume they are acquaintances, but they should not be the ones to bring up that acquaintanceship. If you feel that you truly cannot come up with a reason why your character wouldn’t be involved in a plot that an alt is also involved in, go to staff. We’ll either give you a pass to go ahead, or come up with an excuse for you.
4. This one, I hope, is obvious, but don't ever ask for personal information.

    If we feel that you endangering another player's privacy, we will not hesitate in enforcing whatever rules we need to in order to keep our game safe. I'll remind you that we do have players under the age of 13, and it is straight-up illegal to ask their information.
This post is not because anyone is in trouble. All of you, from my perspective, try pretty hard to respect each other and the rules that are in place to keep you safe -- but we've changed a lot over the last few years, and that's muddled some things enough that it seemed time to clarify. We've recently added an opt-in Secret Santa at Christmastime, and some players have friended each other on FB or started chats outside of the MUCK itself. To my mind, these are great developments. But they do mean we need to emphasize the privacy that does exist, so that players who rely on it can continue to do so.

If any of the above doesn’t make sense to you, I’ll gladly answer questions to clarify below, but because privacy is involved, these policies have been agreed on by staff and are not debatable.

****Regarding having to lie about yourself and your alts: sometimes you make good friends with the same player through both your main character and a secondary character. Over time, effectively maintaining alt secrecy can lead to you having to misrepresent yourself so often, that you end up constantly lying to the other person. In the most extreme examples of this, it can even become gaslighting* -- misrepresenting reality until the other person isn’t sure of what is real. We DON’T EVER want this result, and would much rather you break the rules than ruin your relationships to maintain them.
* For a definition of gaslighting, you can go to this link: If you are under 13, ask a parent to read it and decide whether it is appropriate for you. If you are sensitive, you may want to ask a friend to do the same for you.

Re: On Alt Privacy

PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:35 am
by Antheia
Rules as stated on the INFO files:

Alt Privacy is a matter of great importance on NarniaMUCK. We actually ENCOURAGE players to NOT BE EXPLICIT about the characters they play. This often confuses new players because it seems dishonest, but consider that NarniaMUCK is a roleplaying game. Given that, keeping mum about who you play is beneficial in many ways:

1. Keeps the roleplay more realistic.
Ideally, if you are playing Grendel the Goblin, people roleplaying opposite you will picture Grendel the Goblin in their heads, not Grendel The Goblin with Joe the Fox standing behind him pulling the strings. Telling people that you play this character or that character effectively ruins the effect. It opens the curtains and shows the puppet strings. So be kind to your fellow players, and keep your characters' identities private.

2. Cuts down on Play-by-Popular-Demand requests.
It's good to be loved, and nice to be wanted... But after awhile it gets very tedious to be nagged to bring on this character or that character by those who know who you play. Keeping your alts private cuts down on this, and allows you to bring on characters only if you feel up to playing them at a given time.

3. Cuts down on Cross-Character Emotion
It's sad, but often real-life emotions get tangled up in RP. This is natural, and expected. Keeping your alt identities private is important, though, because if one of your characters ticks off another player, they might not be able to help letting their emotions carry over to their interactions with your other characters, even if doing so is not ICly appropriate.

In dealing with other characters and their alts, observe the following guidelines: Don't Tell, Don't Ask, Don't Speculate, Don't Assume.
In other words: DO NOT TELL anyone who you play. It's none of their business. DO NOT ASK anyone who they play, or whether or not they play a given character. It's none of YOUR business, and shouldn't be important. DO NOT SPECULATE to other characters about whom you think plays this character or that one. If you think you may know who plays this character or that character, fine... but keep it to yourself. And DO NOT ASSUME you know who plays whom; don't share personal RL information with anyone unless you are positive you know who they are.

Some last tips that may help:
* Try to limit OOC interaction when you're not on as your primary character. This will prevent you from inadvertently slipping up and revealing what alts you play.
* If you think you're being harassed by someone who is using alts to cloud his or her identity, talk to a staff member. We DO know who plays whom, and we will watch people who are suspected of abusing alt privacy to their own ends. If it turns out they are doing so, they will lose all of their alts, and, depending on the offense, possibly be removed from the game entirely.