OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


“Do it or lose it!”…the bullies code…

This blog article is an account of real-life bullying by roleplayer Jan De Brett. Jan contacted us through the Facebook page asking if we’d run an article about bullying in roleplaying. Shocked that it existed at all in our community which is normally so friendly, I encouraged Jan to write about the experience to educate & help others. Here’s Jan’s article: 

depressionRPG bullying may not seem like something that’s real, but it is. You may ask yourself, “How can I be bullied in a non-fictional setting?”, and the answer is very simple, bullying takes on a number of forms.

It can range from someone forcing you to write something you’re not comfortable with, to someone forcing you to write with one person or others that you’re not comfortable writing with, otherwise ‘you’re out of them game’, to being verbally abused (if you use skype say) or abused in written form (a text, email or PM through a game web site).

When bullying happens, it can have an extremely detrimental effect on your writing, and also on your personal life as you lose confidence and perspective. The following is an example of what I mean:

I joined a Star Trek RPG a few months back. It was run by a well known and respected CO in the ST RPG community, and I was very much looking forward to writing there. I was approved to join, and for the first week or so things went well. Then things changed, and snowballed very quickly. I had received a rather harsh Personal Message (PM) from another player regarding something I hadn’t actually done, and when I questioned what they meant, I suddenly had this torrent of abuse come at me out of the blue, from the same player and then also his friends.

Now, as a newbie to the game, I realised that I was entering into a game where I knew no-one, and it hadn’t phased me as I thought that through time I could get to know them and they me. Unfortunately, what I didn’t realise was that they were all cut from the same cloth, that of “Do what I say, not what I do”

I tried taking the situation to the CO (there was little point in using the CoC as the perpetrator and their cohorts who were abusing me were all in the CoC), hoping that this would bring some calm to the situation, unfortunately I didn’t realise just how inward looking this bunch really were.

Basically, what came back from the CO was ‘you’ll do what we say, when we say it, and you’ll write what we tell you to write when we tell you to write it, and who with’. That was completely unacceptable, and my writing confidence plunged to a depth I hadn’t felt before. Not only that, but I got extremely angry, as I hadn’t even done anything, it was one of the ‘established’ game members who’d caused the problem, but ‘they’ all wanted a blame hound, and who better than the newbie!

In the end, I just left as I wasn’t prepared to take any more abuse from the members, not suffer the inability of a supposed respected CO who’s only aim is to have “Yes” minions, who pander to their every whim, in their game.

This bullying left me at a very low ebb as a writer, but very angry as a person as I had no-one in game that I could speak to about what had happened.

Fortunately, not long after, I found another game that I joined, one where the CO took the time to get to know me beforehand (I told them what had happened in my previous game) and then help me enter into the game and story by Joint Posting (JP) with me. This also allowed me the opportunity to get to know the CO, and through that, their XO. It’s a wonderful game, and the Command staff are wonderful, couldn’t be more helpful if they tried.

What a contrast this is for me now. My writing confidence is back, and I am no longer the angry person I was. It still chills me to think of the bullying that went on in the first game I mentioned, but at the same time, it was a lesson learned for me to try and get to know the CO first before committing fully to a game.

The moral of writing this, is…get to know the people of a game first before fully committing to it. Be wary if the game is a long established one, get to know some people OOC before you commit to their game. JP, and ask some questions related to the story. Heaven forbid, but at the first sign of harassment from anyone in the game, go immediately to the GM of the game, and if they are of no help whatsoever, LEAVE!

I know that in all of this there really isn’t much of a happy ending, this was never my intention. The intention of writing this was to show you that there is an extremely dark side to RPGaming, bullies exist here as well, and I also wanted to show you the horrors that can happen if you’re not prepared.

I hope you can learn from my situation and apply safeguards to yours to ensure you don’t befall the same situation I did. It’s not all doom and gloom out there, I’d say 90% of games and their members are great, it’s the 10% who are bullies that are the problem, and we must rid RPG’s of bullies.

Written by Jan De Brett.

  • Kim

    Sorry to hear you had to go through this Jan. I have repeatedly mentioned on RPG-D that this needs to remain a hobby for all of us and that if for any reason one of the communities does not provide enjoyment, that one needs to leave the environment. At the same time, that leaving becomes a necessity is indeed a shame and does not reflect well on game-masters. You’ve mentioned in the story that on top of it, this is someone who is a respected community leader – community leaders should take note of their responsibilities in creating safe environments that are conducive to creativity and enjoyment.

  • Mobius64

    I find it ironic this happened in a Star Trek game. It’s such a shame that their are people out their like that- especially in such a generally nice and welcoming community.

  • Wil

    Sadly it’s not a new thing, back around the year 2000 or so the Yahoo! RP communities got pretty awful. It had started out great but eventually I left the format all together. It caused me to find other RPs but I had the same issues with a few, but luckily I’ve found a few great ones and am rather happy again. Great article, glad you found a place you’re happy with now!

  • Charles Star

    Indeed, this happens more than we’d all like to admit (both in- and out-of-character). Some people just aren’t comfortable when others disagree with them. Instead of encouraging open discussion and debate, these people try to silence others and will stop at nothing to do so. It’s sad.

    Rest assured Jan, there are plenty of other great role plays out there. You should check out the USS Chuck Norris sometime, though we tend to not take ourselves too seriously (as you probably could have guessed from the name).