Being Better Internet/Forum Citizens

As jason has clarified a few posts above, they do read stuff. I was misunderstanding things/misinformed


I don’t really understand how it could be misinterpreted when I clearly state that;

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@jasonstevanhill is saying that you shouldn’t spend paragraphs and paragraphs outlining a process that doesn’t happen and which you disagree with anyway. You do say you know they would “never do this” but it’s one sentence (the last one) versus several paragraphs of negative conjecture. As Jason says, people could easily skim and miss that last one sentence and take the rest as confusing—would they or would they not do this? Do they or do they not?

For what it’s worth, I think the company has any right whatsoever to reject any game they like, whether or not it abides by the stated guidelines: we do not have a right to be published, and they are not contractually obligated to spend resources on us to do anything whatsoever. It’s like a restaurant that reserves the right to turn any customer away for whatever reason: it’s a private business. To state that they’re “too professional” to ever do this feels underhanded.


(This is from @Dae-kalina, who’s been here a while but doesn’t have ‘regular’ status):

Interpretation is not a precise art. Guidelines and rules exist for a reason, but also you must remember beyond what HG/COG have as the primary publisher, there is still the third-party publishers–Google, Apple, and Steam. So understanding their guidelines and what will be and won’t be permitted on each of those is also essential to comprehend prior to writing a game.

Editing the guidelines is a potential solution, but the fact of it is, that’s an action that would occur after the rejection–until someone calls attention to the potential issue via flagging or speaking to an employee of the company itself, most of the ones who can make the final call aren’t playing these games until submitted.

As for a point made in your previous post about how you don’t understand how you could be misunderstood: Primacy, recency, and cognitive load.

People best recollect the first and last piece of information they read, typically. And especially with longer posts, people skim–it’s too heavy a cognitive load which is why breaking up information, such as making a page_break in a game is so essential. Most of your post was counter to the point you were trying to make, according to you, but again, your words do not exist in a void.

Here, and with interactive fiction in general, you aren’t the audience. You may be part of it, but the audience is larger than you and stating ‘that’s not my intention’ is not enough. Listen to the critique you receive, and try to understand how the perception of your words changes from when you write them to when others consume them. Ultimately you may have an intention, such as an author with their works, but if people aren’t comprehending, usually the burden of proof lies with the author. If your point is not making it across as intended, then you should revise. Also see games as a service if you’re interested in further discussion on the subject.

Dishonest or malicious intent isn’t the point. I don’t think that anyone was suggesting that. The point, again, is perception. How your words are perceived. And Jason is correct. Sticking to the events being discussed, being concise, and not deviating with lengthy discourse on a point you don’t even support are all ways to do this.


This is another example of (presumably unintentional) destructive behavior.

I understand that you don’t intend for people to misconstrue you.

However, people misconstrue things all the time. You have misconstrued things here. We very clearly state on the HG submission page: 4. Your game will be reviewed for content, and when that review is complete, you will receive a contract for your game.

I don’t know how we could be misinterpreted, but not only did Meeps misinterpret that statement, but you found it necessary to offer your negative conjecture to further muddy the waters.

I understand that you think you’re blameless in this, because you didn’t intend to be misunderstood. But, as said above, comprehension isn’t perfect. And as @rinari posted, cognitive load is something that you should consider when posting on online communities.

By opining about whether or not we review HGs before publication, you’re helping to bury the post that set the record straight, while offering nothing substantive in exchange. That’s actively destructive behavior.

Now, you may wonder why I’m pressing you in particular on this, when other people do it all the time. Consider it a sign of hope and/or respect. I think this is a concept that you are capable of grasping and that you could take a step forward in your value to the community by doing so.

As a rule of thumb, don’t offer negative conjecture in online forums–and probably in real life too. In both instances in this thread, it’s added nothing to the conversation, while potentially confusing bystanders.


That is exactly the problem with basing things on perception, everyone perceives things differently. I read the same argument that you and jasonstevanhill did and all three of us read it differently.

I come from academia, so lengthy discourse is not considered a negative thing. In fact, an argument of 4 paragraphs, of which one discusses an opposing viewpoint, is hardly considered excessive or “unintentional destructive behavior.”


Not really anything more to say, other than that I’ve decided to stop following this topic because I don’t really have any more thoughts on the matter that I haven’t shared already, and I think it’s pointless trying to justify myself to people accusing my posts of being “destructive behaviour” when I completely and utterly fail to see how they can be interpreted that way in any way shape or form.


(The above is text that @Rinari has put up from @Dae-kalina.)

So, in responding to that, I think that it’s a perfectly good piece of constructive criticism to be used between academics or between administrator and employee, but it’s not good for everyday people, especially people who don’t work for you. Normal, everyday folks do not have that sort of specialized training and cannot be expected to adhere to those kinds of standards.

Criticism regarding “psychic damage” also falls under specialized training. You can’t expect normal everyday folks to know what the heck is going on when someone uses that phrase.


I wanted to pull this thread out of the Dark Themes thread. So…voila.

There are a number of destructive (as opposed to constructive) behaviors that are quite common on internet fora generally that I want to identify and encourage everyone to try and refrain from committing.

  1. Negative Conjecture.

  2. Premature/Unconstructive Opining.

  3. Micro-aggressive Opining.

Negative Conjecture is the act of expounding about some (typically unpleasant) hypothetical. “Wouldn’t it be terrible if we got into a nuclear war with Russia tomorrow?”

Negative Conjecture is the rhetorical structure of a lot of “Fake News” and “Doom Blogs”: put an idea out into the world without regard to its veracity.

Now, as someone pointed out, arguing a counterpoint in an academic paper is valued. But online fora are not academic papers, and the discourse here does not rise to that of an academic paper. We’re better than public comments sections :grin:, yes, but we’re nowhere near the level of academic discourse. A key part of the art of rhetoric is understanding the context, venue, and audience of your speech.

Negative Conjecture is destructive to online communities because, as I said further up in this thread, readers of this (and other) fora are not precise readers. If you spend 90% of your post articulating a hypothetical point, and then disavow it, a significant portion of the readers of that post will misconstrue your point. Your intention doesn’t matter.

(If you don’t believe me, look at all the people that post in the beta threads asking for what my email address is. Or the people that make posts asking “when is the next update coming out” for WIP threads.)

This old thread about the release of the omnibus app was full of negative conjecture, and it annoyed the f*ck out of me at the time. People kept talking about how we were going to do DRM, and how horrible that was going to be, and how we were going to lose our user base…when we never said anything about DRM. Instead, people got worked into a tizzy over these hypothetical conjectures that had no basis in fact. Or how people who had purchased stand-alone iOS apps were going to have to re-purchase games in the omnibus. Or half-a-dozen things that had no basis in fact.

(@MeltingPenguins, I think this might have been the context of what I was DMing you about.)

Moreover, I would ask, what is the purpose behind negative conjecture? If you find yourself talking about a possible future–especially in the context of what COG/HG will or won’t do–I would suggest stopping and asking why you’re spending time articulating a point and what evidence you have for such a situation. Are you contributing to the discourse by offering your opinion? Are you just talking to be heard? Are you exorcising your anxieties?

Premature and Unconstructive Opining is the act of, for example, offering an opinion/comment before reading to the end of a thread. Before you comment on a thread, I would strongly suggest reading to the end of that thread to make sure your point hasn’t already been made, or that your point hasn’t already been proven wrong.

Again, in the context of online fora, people are not precise readers. If three or four posts articulate one side of an argument, and only one takes the other side, but said other side is the correct/accurate one, a casual reader can very easily come away from the conversation believing the incorrect side because the preponderance of the verbiage was on that side.

Micro-aggressive Opinions are trickier. One of the great metaphors for opinions is that “opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one.” Opinions, especially unsolicited opinions, can be micro-aggressions. This happens all the time in case of, for example, parenting. People give parents, especially of young children, their unsolicited opinions all the time. This compounds the difficulties of being a parent, because these micro-aggressions are an act of violence. They represent the speaker trying to exert their will onto the world/another person, which can be radically demoralizing, especially when they’re trying to exert their will onto a small child.

Now, I recognize that this is a forum about creative endeavors. Threads about WIPs and published games are, implicitly if not explicitly, soliciting opinions from the community. And, in that case, sharing your opinion is wanted and valued. But in many instances—both online and in the real world—your opinion is not being solicited, and offering your unsolicited opinion is not helpful, it’s a micro-aggression.

If you want to give your opinion, but you don’t want to be micro-aggressive, the best way to do that is to ask a question. For example, someone my post in a thread, “Hey, COG, have you tried using FB analytics to narrow down a demographic to serve ads to?” That’s an interesting question. We may or may not respond, but you’re giving us the choice to do so. This is a great rhetorical device, because it invites dialogue between you and your interlocutor. More, it gives you the opportunity to refine your opinion through listening to the answer t your question and it gives you the opportunity to make your opinion more relevant to your interlocutor, before you offer your thoughts. And, really, what’s the point of an opinion? Is it to improve the condition of your interlocutor, or is it to engage in the act of offering it? Because if it’s about engaging in the act of offering it, then it’s about you, and not about the interlocutor.

But saying, “Well, I think that COG should use FB analytics to narrow down a demographic and serve ads to them to boost downloads. Why haven’t you done that? I deserve an answer to my question. It was a simple question, why can’t you be bothered to give it an answer?” This is like you showing someone else your asshole and demanding that it be kissed. And, I’m sorry, but a lot of people don’t like kissing assholes.

(No judgement if that’s your thing, mind you.)

Which brings me to my final, summary point: empathy. I think this is a key thing lacking from most online discourse, and is the crux of my rebuttal to @Carlos.R: you don’t have to be a specialized clinician or psychologist to try and consider what the impact of your words might be on another person. That’s the glory of asymmetrical communication: you have time to consider your words. Think about whether what you’re saying is about them, or about you. If it’s about you, does it really help the interlocutor to hear those words? Or is it just about aggrandizing your ego? Are you adding to the discourse, or are you “just offering your opinion?”

Because I’ve had enough of people sticking their assholes in my face and demanding that they be kissed.

I will probably keep this thread largely locked, and use it to identify instances of these behaviors, as a way to try elevate the level of discourse on this forum.

If I call you out, please try not to take it as a crushing blow; and I will try to use mine own empathy to be constructive in my criticism. But the best way to be instructive is to give solid examples of misbehaviors, and calling those moments out as they happen is the best way to do that.

If you want to nominate a moment for discussion here, please feel free to link a comment to me in a DM.


This seems largely true to me. I’d point to this negative speculation as something that I feel like I’m frequently countering here in many small and large ways… including the incredibly frustrating thread about Gilded Rails where I repeated over and over that “we used a sensitivity reader” and “non-native English speakers/non-Americans don’t have an understanding of nuance here” though ultimately even white Americans refused to countenance that “Negro” isn’t racist. Until black people told them it wasn’t.


I just wanted to say a brief thank you, since you managed to articulate a lot of things I haven’t had words for in a clear and concise manner. Now I know why I have been so bothered by certain things I’ve read in here, and I am just glad that I didn’t leap in and add to the discourse.


I muted the last thread, but decided to respond to this one because it came up in my feed that the thread had been split into another topic titled “Being Better Internet/Forum Citizens”. I’ve got to say that I do feel personally quite upset by this thread because it feels like you are putting me up on a pedestal as an example to the community of what a “Bad Forum Citizen” is. (That may not have been your intention, but that’s certainly how it comes across to me.)

I find this particularly important since a lot of your comment focuses on the topic of “micro-aggression” and specifically says,

I guess the point I want to make is that I would like you to consider the possibility that some of your own comments could be considered “micro-aggressive”. In fact, I’d say that it’s more important for you to consider this than anybody, because you are the head of the community and other people are going to follow your example.


Don’t feel upset, i am sure Jason never meant to specifically refer to anyone … problem with the word in text is that… we won’t be able to intepret the actual meaning without talking to each other face to face , because we won’t be able to hear the tone of the speech… misunderstanding could happen …

Perhaps we could view this like a discussion among friends in a coffe shop ? Where we argue but with no ill intention :slight_smile:


I really don’t think Jason wanted to say anything like “you’re a bad forum citizen.” Instead, he’s pointing to something that many forum users do, frankly all the time: which is–negatively speculate about what the company will or won’t do. Maybe the example he picked here, which was your comment, wasn’t the best example. And certainly calling out examples makes the people responsible for them feel singled out. So let’s not single anyone out.

My overall experience interacting on the forum has often led to interactions I find really strange. Let me begin by digressing and preface this by saying: this is my job. It’s a job in the gaming industry, which I guess to outsiders seems like I do “fun” for work. But work is work. Whatever your job is–it’s a thing you have to do and do well in order to put food on the table.

So: my experience here is often people attempting to borrow trouble. People like to theorize about stuff, stuff that relates to my job, and it…just doesn’t do any good.

Forumgoers often pose extreme counterfactuals that just have zero basis in reality. It happens a lot. Read the threads I’ve excerpted from above. No one wants to make an example of you, personally, or shut you down, but saying “COG might do this or if they did that,” people constantly characterizing us and making guesses about things that people know nothing about, rumor mongering that goes on behind the scenes “Jason will do this,” “CoG won’t publish my game because I said/did X or Y” …let me say that we have bigger worries than some kind of personal vendetta against anyone on the forum. The most we try to do is keep things here civil. Maybe I’m a little bitter, but you know, it would be great if everyone could stop assuming the worst–I think the example of the “Oh noes they’re going to do DRMs with the Omnibus” is probably a better example than your comments about HG, but…I’m sorry, they’re in the same vein.

And we’ve published 99.999999% of everything submitted to Hosted Games. Period.


Last night I thought a thread like this would be a good idea and here it is. We should use this as a possibility to share tips to help our discussions here in this forum. I will share some of my thoughts and experiences with you and I hope others will follow, so everyone might find something useful for them.
But first @Avery_Moore I really do not think, this was made against you, I can of course understand that you feel offended, but please don’t. Ithink it was not meant this way it is like @Eric_knight said, most disputes only are the reuslt of not being able to see or hear the other person. The missing of gestures and tones in writing is a real disadvantage. So we should share tips to avoid someone to be singled out or feeling bad after reading a text.

So I want to start with giving my piece of maybe helpful tips to anybody who might read them:

State your argument in the first sentence of the paragraph.
like @jasonstevanhill stated there are people who do not read every text word by word. I must admit, I am such a person. English is not my first languege, and while I understand most things there are little words and meanings I just can not grasp because they have another meaning than I expected. I had this especially in the discussion about the wayhaven chronicles, where the word angst was used witch had a slightly different meaning than our german Angst. Because of that, and because I’m quite lazy sometimes I might only scan a long text to determine if it is important for me to read it. So catching the meaning in the first sentence is quite a good thing for me.

Explain your argument in the first sentence in a way, your ten year old neighbour would understand. So you can make clear, that mostly everyone understand what you are trying to say. It is always a good thing to remind yourself that other people are different. Some might be not fluent in english, understand things different because of a different culture or just are not as clever as you are. So making clear what you want to say, is a really important thing.

Do not answer directly after a post has offended you.
You might feel quite calm, but there might be an aggressiveness in your writing that you are not aware of. Take a few minutes to order your thoughts or take a short time to relax. After you feel a little better you can post in a more objective way.

Summarize what you think the person you are answering to means.
That comes in handy when you feel a discussion is running in circles. This way you can check if you understood each other really and can agree to disagree or if there is a misunderstanding which could be cleared.

If you want to criticize someone, make that person a compliment before doing so. It helps to remind yourself that on the other side is a real person with feelings. It shows that you mean well and took some time before jumping in the discourse. And it greatly helps to keep conversation in a polite and nice way.

Do use more “I-sentences”, it’s better to say: “I think about this differently” than “you are wrong”. It sounds a lot less accusing that way. Also you make yourself and your feelings clearer when you concentrate on what comment do to you, than saying to someone what he meant( or what you understand from it).

So that was my piece of mind, would be cool if other user would share tips they have. Have a nice day.


@Eric_knight @Mary_Duffy @Kaelyn

Just wanted to say thank you to all three of you. Your reassurances made me feel a lot better, and I think I understand the points that people were trying to make a lot better now than I did before.


Thank you, Mary, for pointing out what I would guess the crux of the matter is. I agree with you. And at the same time, as moderator, I’ve been ever-so-slightly privy to the incredibly weird stuff that a lot Forum users don’t see and that must be really annoying to staff. So I get the frustratation that led to this thread, coming off the heels of the “Dark Themes” thread.

I am on board with the notion of “let’s listen to each other and not shout ill-informed demands at staff” that Jason and Mary noted. But I also feel so bad that @Avery_Moore was used to illustrate something out of proportion to what was said. There might be deep background here that I’m unaware of, but that’s my impression as someone who reads most threads. Avery, I thought your most recent post responded in a measured way to a really hard situation.

In the end, what I see is an initial post with 22 “likes” and Avery’s post with 27 “likes” with almost no overlap. This is making people take sides, and that is not what I want from this community. I would rather people flag troubling posts for moderation rather than have them referred to this thread. That’s what we tell people to do, at any rate.

I very nearly didn’t make this post. I write for CoG, and I volunteer for CoG, and I authentically like the people who make CoG happen, and I don’t want to piss them off. But the taking sides that I feel happening, and the clamming up in response to it (I know we’re in the Plaza so some people can’t reply, but still) makes me feel like things are escalating. I just don’t like it. This may be the moderator in me, but consider this a call for moderation.


I’m less concerned about sides being taken: I’m sure that happens all the time, about everything controversial here. Forum users have their friends here and, I think to be pretty blunt, staff members don’t. So I don’t actually pay attention to likes, though I try to give them out when I want to acknowledge I’ve read someone’s comment. My likes aren’t uniformly “upvotes” or whatever.

Anyway, all of this, including reviewing a lot of my posting history here in order to come up with examples (to contextualize this stuff better for @Avery_Moore) makes me wonder whether there’s really any benefit to staff participating on the forum. I’d argue that Jason is not the “leader” or “head” of the community. We’re a team of 7. Not all of us are here regularly, but that’s because being here is not really part of the day to day work of editing and publishing games. We don’t have a community manager. Maybe if we did, things would be different. But as it is: if some of the staff post here, answer questions, engage, none of us can be said to be speaking for the entire company. And I’m a little tired of that, too–we are different and we don’t always agree with each other.

Of the editorial staff I can say that we do have a fair amount of leeway and divergence in the kinds of games we publish. Maybe customers aren’t aware of that. A Jason game, a Mary game, a Rebecca game: they’re different. We bring different things to the table. Rebecca edited 7th Sea: A Pirate’s Pact; I edited Stronghold: A Hero’s Fate; Jason edited Choice of Magics. Those were all remarkably different and remarkably popular games. I edited Fielder’s Choice, Rebecca edited The Martian Job, and Jason edited Gilded Rails. Those were not particularly popular games this year.

So feel free to ignore what Jason’s talking about:

but don’t do it because he’s the one saying it. I see it all the time, too, and Jason doesn’t usually comment on the same topics as me. And let’s leave aside “negative conjecture” and talk about “micro-aggressive opining.” We get a lot of suggestions from members here, and they really are often phrased as demands rather than “Have you considered…”

And that is 100% a thing people here do. I’m not going to call out examples because I don’t want to make anyone the subject of them, but that is something that happens. “COG should do X” “It’s terrible that COG won’t do Y.” If you really want to engage and not have it be about you then feel free to ask and open up a conversation rather than demanding.


I can imagine. Writer’s get that a lot too. Not just about controversial topics either. I had one guy literally tell me, “I found the personality of one of your character’s annoying. His personality should be more like (random character from TV show I’ve never heard of.) Change it.”

Even if people aren’t concerned with “micro-aggressive opining”, they should consider that the people they’re talking to will almost always respond more positively to their requests if they phrase it as, “Are you doing A?”, “I really hope you do B,” or “I personally think that you should try do avoid C.” Instead of just, “You should do D,” or, “Don’t ever do E.”


Being a Better Internet/Forum Citizen is a very big, and frankly I think, an important issue in our current culture. These issues creep into every corner of the internet and has created a lot of ugliness that can also affect people offline and their mental health.

It is difficult because often it starts very simply. No matter how carefully you write and check your wording, it is still very very easy to misunderstand tone when put into text. Phrasing, tone, sarcasm jokes, tons of things can be misconstrued and misunderstood. And you lack so many of the real world context clues. You not only need to take this into account when writing, but also when reading.

So, given all of this, while it is hard, I really appreciate the attempt here to make the internet a better place.