Moderation In Most Things

What’s the difference between art and porn? Context.

I’m the main moderator for my company’s site. Since the product I’m promoting is “inclusive community” and not “a subscription,” my standards are a lot more relaxed than they would be on a game company’s forum, but a little stricter than they would be for my own.

I have to be stricter at work because the community is much larger and much less… shall we say, self-selecting. However, we’re targeting gamers of all stripes, and that means some of the content is going to be unsuitable for small children. And since we’re providing something less tangible than a game, there’s less of a target that I have to guard from guilt-by-association, or as I like to call it, “shit sticking to our fur.”

I allow cussing to a degree, and to that same degree I allow people to display themselves however they wish to display themselves. I tend to think that if someone acts like a misogynist homophobic jackass, it saves time for the rest of us. If you sanitize public discourse (and in “discourse” I include the bane of every mod’s existence, the signature file), you run the risk of allowing some scumbag to come across as a decent human being. Then an actual human being tangles with this piece of shit, and gets blindsided. Better to let the species of feces alert people to their existence by the smell alone. I also feel that sanding off the rough edges of the internet is a pointless task. Sometimes, people are going to offend other people, and a mod just has to say “Put on your big kid britches and cope.”

Obviously, the line is crossed when the festering genital sore starts attacking others. Then you swoop in and cauterize the wound. As I’ve said before, I don’t advocate thread removal under any circumstances. It gives rise to conspiracy theories and ultimately creates drama. But a simple post edit, along with a pithy explanatory note, does wonders. Serves notice to scum, reassures the decent people, etc. If you get to the thread late, and your other members have been a little too enthusiastic with the quote feature, sometimes in the interest of “not spending the entire damned afternoon cleaning the thread” you do have to shut it down. In that case, locking is the correct choice.

In fact, the only time I advocate outright deletion is for spammers. Everyone claims to hate spam, but there’s always that ONE POSTER in the thread who will click the spammer’s link, which rewards the spammer just enough to make him do it again. Only killing the thread before anyone clicks it will help.

But enough of my favorite problem. My current problem is Age of Conan.

I have nothing against boobies. HAVING boobies takes some of the fun out of it – you don’t hear fish getting all excited about water – but I appreciate them. I prefer boobies to bloodspatter. (Europe was a freakin’ revelation to me. Leipzig ’06, the WAR booth got shut down for a brief period because the while the promotional video had been approved by the venue… the blood spattered ending wasn’t really visible until it was playing on a screen that was twenty feet tall. And blood was a no-no at a kid-friendly event. But outside my hotel room was a banner with twenty foot bare breasts, nipples the size of Volkswagons, and that was totally fine.)

AOC players are predictably uploading screenshots of their characters’ assets, which is acceptable by our terms of service. Players who upload standard stroke magazine material have been told they have to remove their images, as those pictures violate our TOS. This puts me in a bit of a pickle. I don’t happen to live in a country that has evolved enough to think that a violence fetish is more dangerous than a naked lady fetish, so I can’t just say “Free for all on the skin pics.”

So instead I’m going with “the difference between art and porn is context.” Believe me, this causes less trouble than my alternate justification. I’d really rather not get into a discussion of image copyright law with the citizens of virtual worlds.



  1. pharniel said,

    June 18, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    yha. my first thoght was ‘the pron guys will prolly sue the fuck out of us, so please don’t do that’ vs ‘as long as you continue crowing about how awesum age of conan is we are prolly safe’ but I see your point.

    also, you have once again expressed the type of moderation I have come to expect from professional and professionally run sites.
    MOOIII may have been mediocre game, but for the vast majority of it’s dev time the forum modding was top notch, and followed your rules to the letter.

  2. Krinsath said,

    June 18, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    I agree that America is a bit…odd on that issue. Every one of us arrived on the planet as the result of the same process, and yet we speak in hushed tones about sex, glancing furtively over our shoulders and panicking that a child might see a bare breast or some other. Competely natural and vital process to the species, yet we feel the need to wall off all reference to it. I think the violence obsession where it’s ok to show teenage girl being brutally attacked and killed (so long as the perpetrator does not have sex with them) is a result of that repression.

    Really, I blame the Puritans. They were one of the major groups in the early history of the US and bear in mind: These people were kicked out of England because they were too much a buzzkill. Ponder that…

  3. macster said,

    June 18, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    The US is so ridiculous when it comes to sex and violence. A game has a small side boob shot and a “sex scene” that can be completely skipped due to choices of the player and it’s all over the news. Yet, there are 100’s of games that you can cut some dude’s head and limbs off and not hear a thing about them. The religious zealouts should pay more attention to what’s going on in the back rooms of their church’s and stay the hell out of my living room.

  4. Trevel said,

    June 19, 2008 at 12:38 am

    [quote]Yet, there are 100’s of games that you can cut some dude’s head and limbs off and not hear a thing about them. [/quote]

    … unless you listen to Jack Thompson and the myriad of others who oppose video game violence, “Murder Simulators” and the like.

    I’m actually quite surprised that I haven’t heard anything about Teh Evil that is Age of Conan. Maybe I’m not going to the right places.

  5. Sylvia said,

    June 19, 2008 at 12:52 am

    I’d think it’d be easier to discuss copyright law than art ! Or have you convinced them that the GamerDNA context makes it de facto porn?

  6. goemagog said,

    June 19, 2008 at 1:22 am

    if it exists, it exists in art, porn, and violence.

    Goe, liking the nice weather.

  7. mythago said,

    June 19, 2008 at 3:19 am

    Age of Conan is actually not all that bad on the “OMG BOOBIES!” scale. Some of the players, not so much.

    macster, please don’t start up the Hot Coffee thing again.

  8. June 19, 2008 at 5:15 am

    Just on the topic of managing angry types, a practice that has recently developed in the Australian blogosphere is “Sooning”. Insults directed at others are replaced with lavish praise. It was invented by Jason Soon at Catallaxy Files, hence the name.

  9. June 19, 2008 at 5:24 am

    […] Moderation In Most Things […]

  10. Aoladari said,

    June 19, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    I absolutely adore the European ideals about sex and violence. I lived in Holland for a year and while it was common to see full frontal nudity, they put shows like Millenium, X-Files and WWF on at midnight or later.

    We actually got so used to it, that we neglected to inform my very conservative feminist grandmother when she came over to visit. The day she arrives (if you’ve ever done the international flight thing, you know she’s been up for almost 24hrs by then) and we get her settled (another 6 hrs later) she’s woken up from her dozing on the couch, to a butt naked woman selling computer monitors…. That’s right computer monitors. She was laying on a bed of them like some kind of rigged tanning device.

    We then had to stutteringly inform her of the way Europeans look at things and she wasn’t *too* offended. She just thinks there should be more men selling products naked too.

  11. Vistaakah said,

    June 20, 2008 at 1:28 am

    Sex/Sensuality of games has went from 4 color * Code Monkey* style graphics to near human nudity levels over the years. Anybody remember the Leisure Suit Larry series by Sierra *early 1980s*? Many times i find myself thinking. Damn that charachter model is HOT!.. The problem is where as us humans put cartoons/animations in a perspective of reality or the norm of things. I would rather see sexy vs gore. I remember when gore got the gold crown in games like Soldier of Fortune.. Art and porn do not exixt in the same place. I think that is the line that is drawn and as long as it doesnt get crossed then there should be no offense. As for gore its old, dated or whatever you want to call it. It’s surely not necessary to make any game successful for that matter. Sex/Sexy is hot. Gore does nothing for me, never has..

    Your sexy Sanya! but i dont think you need to be censured πŸ˜›

  12. June 21, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    My wife is German, and frequently critisizes America’s puritanical attitudes, and our fascination with T&A.

    When she first moved in with me I was always jumping on her for walking around the house naked with the curtains open. She says in Europe people are not as touchy about nudity, and Americans are silly. ( I note she is from a country where they have Sex Toy Shops in the airport. )

    I agree we, as a country, are obsessed with T&A, but at the same time I feel we therefore appreciate them more. Women complain that it sets them up as sex objects, and creates pressures to have a perfect figure. But I think they would also be upset if they walked around naked… and no one even noticed. At least it defines them as being different than men, and therefore special. πŸ™‚

  13. James Haight said,

    June 21, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Aoladari, you’ve seen a very different Holland from the one I’ve been living in for the last thirty-odd years or so. Strange. Millenium and X-files after midnight? Possibly re-runs, stale episodes used as late-night broadcasting filler — I can guarantee you these series had prime-time slots when they were new and interesting. Full frontal nudity in a computer monitor advert? Well, it’s not impossible, but the gross majority of opinion here is that this kind of thing, using sex to sell a product that’s not related to anything sexual whatsoever, is somewhat crass, and as a result you don’t see it all that often.

    Don’t let the German uptightness about video game violence fool you; it’s far from universal. Dutch, and I suspect more generally European ethics and aesthetics aren’t some kind of Bizarro World inversion of the US’s. We love our fictional violence, just like you guys. It’s just that we’re a smidge less uptight about sex.

  14. Aoladari said,

    June 22, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    I lived there back in 2000, when Millnium and X-Files were still showing first run episodes (albeit a few months behind the US schedule). Maybe things have changed since then, but damn I like the view when I was there.

  15. mythago said,

    June 23, 2008 at 12:05 am

    Ant, women are more upset that you guys don’t seem to think you have any similar obligation to a) look good naked and b) put yourself on display.

  16. Ruby said,

    June 23, 2008 at 12:14 am

    It really has nothing to do with feeling obligated to do anything, women just do not put forth the same demand that males do and thus you get less of it.

    Different mentality of the sex? Maybe…

  17. Garthilk said,

    June 23, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Sanya is one of the few people I know who’s colourful language is actually the result of good brain programming. So much so she’s inspired me to write something on the topic.

  18. UnSub said,

    June 25, 2008 at 4:44 am

    The key words I get when I mouse over your company website are “Bees”, “Puritans”, “School Bus”, “Ayn Rand” and “Boobies”.

    What kind of operation are you running there? πŸ˜‰

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