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FNR | IC vs OOC or Why We Have Moderators: The Newbie’s Guide to a Safer Region
Founded January 15, 2016 - United December 25, 2016
IC and OOC. Both of these abbreviations are flung around throughout the NationStates world, often without explanation of, or even adherence to, their true meaning in the greater context of NS. The purpose of this document is to analyze and explain this true meaning. IC, or In Character, is what you do or say as a character in the game. OOC, or Out of Character, is your actions and words as the person playing the game.
So, as an example, let us look at the NS world, specifically the world of Raiding and Defending, to see what is IC and what is OOC.
The Raiders and the Defenders
R/D (Raiding/Defending) is NationState’s own way of waging war, and it can get controversial. It's therefore very important to understand the difference between IC and OOC in this context.
Raiders are known as the ‘villains’ of the NS world - they raid other regions, occupy them for predetermined periods of time, and then return to celebrate their victories. They resemble real-world Vikings, both are societies built on the idea of raiding, of waging war; societies that find purpose in battle.
That, however, does not at all mean that raiders are bad people. In computer games, you “play the villain” often enough, as it can be an enjoyable way to spend time – the same is true for raiding communities in NS. The differentiator here is how they raid the regions; if they raid to enjoy themselves, or to show their strength, and they don’t actually ruin established communities, then there is nothing wrong with that: They may be IC bad, but definitely not OOC bad, meaning you cannot judge them as people for their IC actions. You might judge them in a regional judicial proceeding for occupying friendly regions, but only in an IC way – never as people themselves. Same as you never judge an actor for their role as the bad guy, or an RPer for having an oppressive government.
Now, when might a raider be bad in an OOC way? That could happen, for example, if the raider knowingly and willfully occupied a region with the intention of destroying or otherwise damaging the community beyond repair, or if the raiders, for example, “invaded” a Discord server of a region and acted in a toxic manner there. Indeed, any form of toxicity, generally vulgar and aggressive behavior, is OOC bad, whether perpetrated by Raiders, Defenders, or anything in between – it does not pertain to the idea of the game and playing the game itself.
The same goes when a player tries to paint his enemy as an OOC bad person; for example, throwing raiders into the same category as people following fascist or Nazi ideologies as Out of Character people, or accusing them of toxic or otherwise harmful actions without basis in truth. That is wholly unacceptable: A raider can, in real life, be a well-standing person, and that is a distinction we always have to make.
As you can see in this example, IC villains and OOC villains are two very different things, and both Defenders and Raiders have equal opportunity to be good or bad OOC people, no matter their IC allegiance. There is not a single reason why IC Defenders and Raiders could not be OOC friends – and indeed, they often are.
Why Moderation Cannot Be Democratic
Now that we understand the importance of the distinction between IC and OOC, let us look more closely at regional moderation. Particularly in democratic regions, where there is often strong backlash against the moderators – people who resolve OOC disputes and problems and generally are not elected (as it should be). They are responsible for keeping the region safe from spammers, flamers, and real-life adherents do forbidden ideologies (Nazis, Fascists, etc.), and for generally making sure that everyone adheres to both real-life laws, server laws and OOC regional laws, which are ultimately very different from IC rules.
An example of an IC law might be that every citizen must be loyal to the region and not spy on their allies. If a player breaks that, he might be summoned to an IC court of the region and judged by an elected committee, for example. The moderators will, however, NOT take any action against him, because the player did not break any “real” law – only one that the region has made for itself as an IC law.
An example of an OOC law is “no spam” or “no toxicity”. A player found spamming will NOT be summoned to an IC court, because it is, plainly speaking, out of its jurisdiction. IC, as we have established, is not responsible for OOC, just as OOC people are not responsible for IC villainy. It is an act that is, in the end, harmful to the community, and a violation of an OOC game rule. Thus, it is resolved by the moderators.
Now, when we understand the distinction between IC laws and OOC laws, we must understand why OOC laws must have their own, OOC, moderators.
While regions can have elected justices and government, and indeed it is a brilliant interpretation of a democratic system in the real world, players mustn’t forget that not everything can completely emulate the real world to 100%. In the end, it is a game, it is a website, and it is a private property, not a real government subject to the whims of the people.
Although opinions on moderation differ from region to region, some of them, including my beloved FNR, have non-elected, carefully chosen OOC Moderators who “stand above” the IC laws, institutions, and values in order to fairly and effectively pass judgement on those who violate OOC rules. It is indeed one of the most efficient ways to ensure OOC safe, friendly regions.
That’s easy. You need a group of people who will not abuse their power – and it is very easy to abuse power as an elected moderator due to the unreliable nature of virtual identity verification. Gaming the system is not hard. In fact, it is a major part of NS - coups, infiltration, and espionage are not unheard of.
Moderators are here to protect the players against those who would try to abuse them. Catfishing, various forms of phishing or identity theft, and even abuse of minors is sadly a real part of online gaming, particularly on websites that are free and anonymous, like NationStates or Discord.
Moderators, then, must be people who do not act under false pretenses or selfish motivations. They mustn’t, under any circumstances, be people who cannot differentiate between IC and OOC. They must act as a cohesive team and always be fair and confident with any decisions. They need to be able to steer clear of any and all IC decisions within their capacity as Moderator.
Democratic election of moderators would lead to confusion between IC and OOC, impure motivations, and potentially unfair decisions. That is unacceptable. While abuse of power can, and unfortunately does, happen in the real world, that doesn’t mean it has to happen here.
As such, yes, even the most democratic regions usually have undemocratic groups of moderators, to make sure the region is a safe environment for everyone, that OOC laws are followed, and that no one is in a risk of any form of bullying or abuse.
IC institutions cannot in any way influence the moderator’s decision. Indeed, should a president act against OOC rules, he may – and should – depending on the volume of his transgressions, be either stripped of his position or even banned from the region.
Long story short:
IC bad does not mean OOC bad. Secession might be an IC crime, but not OOC. Toxicity or spam is, on the other hand, always OOC bad, no matter what the IC laws of a region are.
Moderators mustn’t be democratically elected, to ensure the integrity and fairness of our OOC protectors.
The government and the judicial system should have no power over moderators.
Moderators are the “shepherds” of the region, making sure the region is safe in the face of OOC wrongdoing.