I found a long forgotten question about avoiding unwanted ERP in online roleplaying by sandbox video game server. I have experience at such games since 2013, so I felt like I may share some important knowledge. The question was closed, though, for various reasons, one of them being "the asker left our site, no actual problem to solve".

This kind of RP can be wrongly understood as just playing a computer RPG, but it's not. There is a related Meta discussion with a conclusion that such questions are generally on-topic.

I asked in chat about what should I do if I want to share the knowledge that I have, and the general response was that I should make a self-answered question.

So I made one, and it got me a lot of downvotes. Apparently, there is a huge problem with this question that I don't see, or even more then one.

What are those problems?

The close reason stated by a moderator no longer applies, and downvoters just downvote without giving any reasoning.


2 Answers 2


Why the downvotes: It's a perfect downvote magnet

I don't know why all those downvotes were cast specifically, but over time I have noticed some trends as to what sorts of questions attract downvotes more easily.

  • Voters hold questions and answers about sex to a very high standard, since sex is a subject that can easily be mishandled. Great questions/answers about sexual issues get a lot of upvotes, but ones that are at all less than “great” tend to attract a few downvotes, and ones that are merely “meh” attract many downvotes. Actually bad sex-related posts are often outright deleted by community delete voting. The voting standards for sex-related posts is notably quite a bit higher than for other subjects.

  • Questions that seem to just be a variation on another question are sometimes downvoted even if they're not quite close enough to be closed as duplicates. This is even more so the case when the other question is closed.

  • Hypothetical questions can attract lots of downvotes. They sometimes continue to attract downvotes even when rewritten to not be hypothetical, if people suspect that the edited version is maybe still hypothetical.

  • Voters hold self-answered questions to a higher standard than most other questions. It seems that a self-answered question has to be well-written, clearly useful, not make voters suspect it's just rep-seeking, and stand on its own as a decent question without the answer. Without those, votes tend to be absent, or down.

  • Questions that are near or on the border of our site topic can attract downvotes, especially if it's still controversial where to draw the dividing line.

Unfortunately, this question seems to fall into all those categories, raising the quality standard it will be judged by very high: the question and answer are about sex; the question's a variation on another question, which happens to be closed; it started as a hypothetical, to allow a self-answer; it's a self-answered question; and there is some uncertainty (or at least, the consensus is in question) about whether RP within video games is on topic.

Which is not to say that it necessarily has the potential problems of these categories — just that it has several ways that voters tend to expect excellence, and therefore many more opportunities to be found lacking enough to justify a downvote.

Which brings up another trend:

  • Questions with multiple problems attract more downvotes than the problems alone would attract.

If the question or its answer does have any problems in these regards, they are probably multiplying their effects in the eyes of voters, attracting downvotes more quickly than the problems would separately.

Why it's (still) closed

It was closed by a mod. I didn't close it, but another mod judged that the hypothetical-ness of the question made it too unclear. That judgement call isn't absolute… but nobody has voted to reopen it.

And if the downvotes do indicate real problems with the content of the posts, even if the question would be considered clear enough to some reopen voters, they may be refraining from voting to reopen. After all, why reopen a question that's still sinking?

If that's what's happening with reopen voters, it's not necessarily a sensible policy-driven reaction, but it's a “gut feeling” reaction that the site's design is actually built around harnessing. Sometimes the community doesn't have to know exactly what's wrong — just that something is, and that's enough.

So I can tell you why it was closed: one mod thought the hypothetical-ness problem was enough to mark it as unclear. Now that it's been rewritten to not be hypothetical, I can't tell you why it's still closed. But I can say that it looks like the community thinks there's something wrong, and won't vote to reopen it while that “something” remains. And if the “something” that's wrong is multiple somethings, or complicated, or actually inherent in the question and therefore can't be changed, then it may not be salvageable.

Why it was closed again later

After being changed to be about dealing with reports of or prevention of ERP within an unsupervised video game community, in the context of being the server operator, the question is now solidly off topic and has been closed as off topic with the “video games” custom close reason.

It's no longer a question about how to personally respond to unwanted roleplay being imposed on oneself, it's now a question that requires domain-specific knowledge — to be precise, knowledge of Minecraft server management and Minecraft community management. Those are two topics I am personally familiar with enough to know that such off-topic expertise is required to be able to even begin to usefully answer the question.

Minecraft expertise? What Minecraft expertise?

For those who aren't familiar with hosting Minecraft servers and communities, or with Minecraft at all, running a MC server presents a few peculiar difficulties that are basic knowledge needed to answer a question like this:

  • How investigating abuses via Minecraft chat logging works (or doesn't work, and how it can be made more robust)
  • The difficulties of communicating with new players (which requires either motd tricks, command blocks, using bukkit, whitelisting, or a combination; never mind the problem of getting them to read your command-based or link-based policy communication attempt; not to mention the relative practical merits of in-server help-based vs. off-server website-based policy documents)
  • The difficulties of communicating with existing players (same as above, plus /tell or /tp, requiring email registration [and the various methods for that], or 3pp community services [same])
  • Jailing or kicking techniques, and how banning works

The list goes on and on. These are just the things peculiar to Minecraft, too — it will be different for each video game, requiring game-specific expertise which is not reasonable to require of experts who are here to answer RPG questions. For a lot of reasons, hosting a Minecraft server is not the digital equivalent of running LARPs.

Why video game questions are off topic, part n of ∞

Incidentally, these are not obvious problems with questions like this, to readers who are not already video game experts.

An RPG expert could look at that question and assume that, because it's open, that their RPG experience is useful and that nothing about the video game itself is necessary to understand… and proceed to post a completely useless answer. That's something we never want to happen here — we want someone who is an expert in RPGs to be able to tell when their expertise is relevant to a question.

That's a large reason why previous questions related to video games(e.g., [1],[2]) have been okay: no part of their problem related to the video game itself, and only RPG expert knowledge was required to answer them.

That's also why we probably don't need a tag for roleplaying in video games — nobody here should be expected to be an expert in the details of every video game in order to understand a question's problem, let alone answer it usefully.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, it's still a hypothetical question, really. "I'm worried this thing might happen. How do I make sure it doesn't?" \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Feb 11, 2017 at 1:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman Have you ever seen 12-year-old girls leaving community because of being engaged in forced ERP? I did. Do I have to wait for such things to happen before I start to make any changes to the rules? Or is even the mere chance of that a good reason to stay one step ahead? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2017 at 2:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Baskakov_Dmitriy I'm not saying that it's not a good hypothetical to be prepared for, and to try to deal with in advance. Just that it's still a hypothetical. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Feb 11, 2017 at 2:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Agreed with Miniman, it got rewritten to be even more hypothetical than its initial form. I know in your mind it's not, but reading the words, it is. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Feb 11, 2017 at 3:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk May I ask you to please clarify this? How is it hypothetical now, that a very specific problem is stated? I know the solution, yes, but it doesn't mean that there is no problem to solve. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2017 at 4:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that this is an excellent analysis of the many small factors that are likely all contributing to downvotes. (Not that we can really know another voter's mind.) I've made an edit-pass based on conversation with OP in chat (linked on the mainsite question) and have hopefully cleared up the hypothetical-or-not bullet-point. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Feb 11, 2017 at 13:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ nitsuo's been fixing it up this morning, but until his recent edits it reads like the fairly common "I'm going to start a campaign and am worried that X will happen" to which we usually answer "go do it and come back when you have a real question, we can't answer worries." \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Feb 11, 2017 at 17:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Baskakov_Dmitriy There's nothing wrong or off topic with hypothetical questions, all the points made here are true but they are bad things about our community, not things we want to be true. These voting habits are reflective, basically, of the unfoundedly judgemental aspect of our group and you aren't really gonna get anywhere by explaining that the downvotes are unfounded-- people who think about the question before voting don't follow these trends. What SSD's talking about with 'excellence' is that if your question is REALLY REALLY good, it will attract SO MANY upvotes \$\endgroup\$ Feb 13, 2017 at 17:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... that they'll outweigh the automatic downvotes and upvoted things are fairly likely to be auto-upvoted, so then you're pretty good. That isn't to say you shouldn't post content like this-- I have a number of deliberately posted negatively scored Q's because I wanted to get an answer to a question that was important to me for some reason. Bounties stop questions from being closed so if you can get the question to stay above water long enough to bounty it then you'll be safe for long enough to get a decent answer, probably. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 13, 2017 at 17:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ On the side of answers, the community is MUCH MUCH more tolerant, and besides they can't be closed and once you're at -3 or -4 people will stop flash-downvoting just cause they're dumb and start only downvoting/deletion flagging if they care, which is a good sign that your answer is actually bad. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 13, 2017 at 17:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ So basically, if you're gonna post something like the question part of this be prepared to have to use site mechanics to fight over it. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 13, 2017 at 17:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer Actually, they're good things about the community, not bad. Sometimes the “gut feeling” of the community's “collective consciousness” sees things that we as individuals miss. The whole point of SE's design is to harness the je ne sais quoi that emerges from crowd intelligence, in order to sort our literal “Stack” of questions and answers into a quality order. I appreciate the sometimes-surprising judgements of the collective brain we are mere neurons of. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 13, 2017 at 18:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I think the 'gut feeling' of communities is sometimes very useful and sometimes very-not-good. For example, if the 'gut feeling' of the community was that answers posted using more female language should be downvoted, I would find that concerning. Bigotry is a natural result of group-think: not everything the community conciousness does is good. We can embrace the positive side of our entrenchment of communal knowledge without denying the existance of the negative side. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 13, 2017 at 18:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer That's why we have Be Nice, and a community and mods to enforce it. We're not going to reject the basic premise and mechanic of the site, even if we could, to re-solve something that's already a solved problem. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 15, 2017 at 19:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the addendum. As an RPGer with absolutely no knowledge of game server administration, I was really curious how and why a question like this failed to hit enough RPG-expertise-needed to make sense here. How little I knew.... \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Feb 18, 2017 at 1:47

NOTE: I am not an RPG.stackexchange regular, but this question about "what are those problems" with regards to downvotes are generically able to be answered across all of any StackExchange site; as a moderator on Ask Ubuntu here on the StackExchange network, also, I am well versed in the evils of how downvotes are used.

One of the most evil problems with the SE system, in some opinions, is the downvote option. People use it for a wide variety of issues, ranging from:

  • Issues with the post
  • Not liking the content
  • It's been closed and therefore 'people' in the community want to make sure the question goes into a more-hidden state (and while this is discouraged on StackExchange, people still do it)
  • One or multiple people just don't like you and are serial-downvoting your content (which of course moderators will be able to reverse and put a stop to if this is actually happening, and the penalties for this can be quite harsh so people usually aren't doing this)
  • Or, any of fifty billion possible other reasons.

Unless an individual comments with their downvote, explaining why they downvoted it, there's no way to determine exactly why you got a ton of downvotes. Which means that your query here in Meta is not really able to be reliably answered except by people who have downvoted (who may or may not actually visit Meta here), or by people like me who are guessing (see below) as to what people may see as the problem.

As for my two-cents on the problem(s) with your post...

First glance, the main issue I can see is that you ask an infinitely broad question that can't reliably be answered in any frame of reference (either in the online Arquade SE website sense of an online RPG game, or the RPG.SE sense of it being an RPG). As I stated in the chat from a general "systems / server administrator" perspective from when I used to run some RPG game servers:

[A]s someone who had to mod a few online RPG servers at one point, before bringing a nuclear strike to the server to kill said servers (because people were getting out of hand with ERP), the answer form the "server" perspective is "You can't, technically, but if you make sure the rules are known, and routinely check what's been going on and what's been 'abuse reported', you can retroactively condemn such evil[s]". -- Thomas Ward, 9:09 PM UTC, 2017-02-10

The key problem here is, though, as your question says there's no GM Oversight on this server, so there's no real way to do regular enforcement, except to retroactively ban people who are breaking the rules. (However, that goes away from the RPG.SE site and into "How do I reliably enforce rules on an online game server" discussion that belongs elsewhere.)

(Note that while I give you a "This is why it's infinitely broad and unanswerable" response here, the point is that your question is too broad, because there's numerous approaches, all of which may or may not work.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm. Do you believe that community management isn't possible without constant GM supervision, or users always go on rules breaking rampage? From my experience, it is not the case as long as players value their place on your server (and know the rules). The solution that I posted works, and there are just a few other ways that work, one of them being just prohibiting ERP at all. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2017 at 1:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Having played the Star Trek Online MMORPG as a female captain/character since my starting to play the game for years ago, as tribute to my female Trek friends who are no longer with us, ERP interactions have always been a problem. Usually to the point it needs GM intervention. My point was that without some proof that punishment may happen, you are going by an "honor system" which may or may not work. I believe a GM should be around at some point to keep an eye out for persistent rule breakers, but also knowing the rules and such. ... \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2017 at 1:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ ... Players don't always value "access to the server" over "punishment for rule breaking". But this is now a discussion for "How do I enforce or push for rules to be followed on an online server" which is off-scope for here I believe. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2017 at 1:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ From my experience, players will value access to server if your community is the only RP community of some type, or one of the only few. Or they start to value it if they are banned a couple of times. Lack of constant GM supervision doesn't make them able to break rules, it just delays the punishment if they do, and makes you prohibit any unwanted behaviour in the rules so players know what not to do, sometimes probably acting in advance. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2017 at 1:17

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