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Forum Blues

Blog posted by Ste Pickford on Fri, 19 Sep 2008
Subject: Pickford Bros.

Ste Pickford

I spend a lot of time reading and contributing to a UK based videogame forum called rllmuk. It's somewhere to chat about games, as well as football, comics, art, and life in general. I probably spend a bit too much time there, as these things have a habit of sucking you in, but I think it's taken the place of 'water cooler' office chatter for me, since I've been working from home on my own over the last few years.

Something very strange happened this week, which has made me pause and think about forums like this, and their place in my life.

There's been a bit of 'e-drama' on there over the last couple of weeks, to do with rules and moderation; probably exactly the same sort of thing that's happened countless times on thousands of forums across the internet.

None of it concerned me directly, but I guess I had an opinion about it like many other members of the forum. What I found strange was, as it unfolded, how much of an effect this fairly remote and fairly inconsequential controversy had upon me.

I found myself getting sad about it, then angry, then frustrated. Little comments people posted made me furious, and left me fuming as I walked to school to pick the kids up.

Once in the company of my kids, or the missus, it all seemed ridiculously trivial, not even worth explaining, or perhaps too embarrassing to explain that I was upset over comments on an internet forum that weren't even about me. Then, later, I'd sit at the computer again, log on to the forum, and get all wound up again.

It definitely got to the point where it was interfering with my ability to work.

I was genuinely shocked by the emotional effect that an internet forum has been able to exert over me. Of course, a big part of this must be that I work at home, alone, so I don't really get to chit chat with real people during the day - just my brother over MSN.

What's interesting is that although forums like this can become a big part of one's life, because they are a new phenomenon there are no established and agreed rules of behaviour. Some people want moderation and the removal of offensive or 'trolling' posts and posters. Others don't believe in any limits to discussion, or even in the concept of trolling (it's all in the attitude of the reader - ignore what you don't like). Others seem to see forums as merely a playground for anonymous mischief, at the rest of the community's expense.

The rules of behaviour in other social gathering places, like pubs or people's houses or even street corners, are more established and agreed upon, I think. We all know how to behave and how we expect other people to behave. As ever, the internet has thrown up something, which although very familiar in many ways, has some unique twist which will take us all a while to understand properly.

I've been a little shaken by how much of negative effect this little forum drama has had upon me, and I've decided to step back from the place for a while. It's a shame because there are loads of lovely people on there, and some great threads, and I've even met a few real-life friends through the place (and I'm loving the weekly Team Fortress 2 sessions). Letting myself get massively wound up by a single website can't be healthy though.

I guess this post isn't much about work specifically, although I suppose it's about indie game development in general - working from home on your own, and the daft things you can find yourself getting upset about. It's a proper pathetic 'blog' post though!


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