The anonymity of the Internet can be a blessing. Unfortunately, it can also be a blessing to the individuals out there who like to mess up your day. Griefers, trolls, jerks are often a bigger nuisance in online communities than they would be in real life. In many cases this is due to an inability of the community to punish the griefer. Disruptive behavior is compounded in virtual worlds like MMO’s, where the actions can be much more disruptive and unavoidable than other virtual communities like forums and chat rooms. It is much easier to avoid a post by someone you don’t want to read or put a character on ignore than it is to get around a player who is stalking and continuing to kill your game avatar.
Game world operators typically have a police force of Game Masters who can punish transgressors, but often the request for help far exceeds what the rule enforcers can handle. This problem is especially compounded for developers who are start-ups or trying free-to-play models. They do not have the monetary resources to hire an in-game police force, but if the griefers are allowed to ruin people’s game experience, the customers will leave.
It seems that the developers of League of Legends (a free-to-play MMO) may have hit on a solution. They have created an in-game Tribunal system. I first heard about the system from this Kotaku.com article which caused me to go check out the League of Legends FAQ on the subject here. After reading both pages over I think they have something.
The League of Legends developers have decided to put these decisions in the hand of their players. Players, once they achieve a certain status, will be allowed to come part of the game’s tribunal system. Once a member of the tribunal, they will judge cases of improper behavior from the player base. The developers believe that this will allow the game to respond more quickly to game violations and thus keep bad players from ruining the game for the rest of the player base.
The League of Legends system seems very well thought out and, most importantly, they seemed to have figured out how to keep individuals from abusing it. The cases are presented anonymously. The person passing judgment must wait a certain amount of time before they can enter their decision (hopefully encouraging them to read the case carefully and at least keeping them from spam clicking). Multiple judges need to view each case. The judges are not told how other judges ruled. If a judge rules in the minority too often they are removed from the system. After a couple of reads I cannot find anything glaringly wrong with the system. However time will tell.
I do believe if this system is half as effective as people hope, it will be copied in more MMOs and other types of online communities. But could something like this be taken out of the virtual realm,\; could it work in the real world? I think there are real possibilities for this approach in real world organizations. Universities, large business, and large non-profits all have to police their own policies and producers. This could be an inexpensive and fair way to approach cases of potential misconduct. Perhaps this could be a way to alleviate certain parts of our over taxed legal system. Then again, having L33TCitizen402 pass judgment on a case might be going too far.