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    What is blackballing in games?

    Blackballing is the act of social ostracization within the context of a roleplaying game, where one player deliberately damages the reputation of another.

    This is usually done to get other players to avoid contact with the maligned person or to treat them differently in character.

    It can occur in any gaming setting but is particularly impactful in text-based roleplaying games due to their social nature.

    The term originates from a historical voting method used by clubs and committees where members would cast a vote using a black ball to signify disapproval or exclusion.

    In the context of roleplaying, it does not involve an actual vote but rather the spread of negative opinions or rumors.

    Blackballing FAQs

    What can lead to blackballing in RPGs?

    Blackballing can result from personal disputes, disagreements over gameplay, character conflicts, or perceived slights. It may also stem from out-of-character issues that bleed into the game environment.

    How can blackballing affect a game or community?

    Blackballing can significantly impact the social dynamics of a game or community, leading to divisions, reduced enjoyment, and even causing players to leave the game entirely.

    It can create a hostile or unwelcoming atmosphere, affecting the overall community health.

    What should you do if you are being blackballed?

    If you are being blackballed, communicate with the game moderators or administrators. Present your case calmly and provide any evidence of the behavior.

    It’s also helpful to engage in self-reflection to understand if there’s a valid reason for the ostracization and address it if possible.

    What are some signs that you’re being blackballed?

    Blackballing often results in social exclusion, isolation, and/or ostracization. If you suspect something might be up, look for changes in social interaction within the game, such as being excluded from events, being ignored in roleplay, or being left out of discussions that you normally would have been invited to previously.

    For example, if multiple players stop greeting you or responding to your own greetings, that might be a sign that something is amiss.

    How can game moderators prevent or address blackballing?

    Game moderators can prevent or address blackballing by establishing clear community guidelines, promoting a positive game culture, and intervening in disputes before they escalate.

    They should also provide a clear process for reporting and resolving such issues.

    Is blackballing the same as in-character conflict?

    No, blackballing is not the same as in-character conflict. While in-character conflict is a normal and often enjoyable aspect of roleplaying, blackballing involves out-of-character actions and motivations that affect in-game interactions and relationships.

    Myths about blackballing

    One misconception is that blackballing is a formal process like a vote, reflecting a misunderstanding of its informal, social nature. Sometimes, players don’t even realize they are engaging in behavior that could be considered blackballing.

    This is similar in a way to passive aggressive RP, which can also occur unintentionally or without a player realizing it.

    Another misconception is that blackballing is always personal or due to direct disagreements or conflicts between players. In fact, blackballing can stem from simple misunderstandings or game dynamics, which is why communication is key to preventing and resolving issues.

    Blackballing examples

    • In a play-by-post game, one player consistently ignores another’s posts or character, effectively excluding them from the narrative based on out-of-character disagreements.
    • In a MU*, players coordinate to exclude someone from major events or storylines without in-character justification, based on a personal conflict.
    • A group within a chatroom RPG systematically downplays the achievements and contributions of another player, diminishing their role and influence in the game.
    • A player spreads false rumors about another player’s behavior in an MMORPG, leading others to avoid teaming up with them.

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    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. "Be excellent to each other."