The internet can bring out the best and worst in people, so creating safe places for to people to exchange advice and ideas is increasingly critical.
That’s where MakeGame comes into play, particularly for game developers. With zero-tolerance policies for harassment, the forum emphasizes a welcoming nature, and puts any conflicts at the discretion of the moderators.
Eddie Cameron, developer at Grapefruit Games and administrator on the forums, said that when formulating their policies at MakeGame, there was a need to be very open about what was and wasn’t allowed.
“It is important to have some sort of policy written out, to help with enforcement of whatever tone you’re trying to develop (or avoid),” he said. “But you can’t just hide it somewhere and hope people listen to it.”
Merritt Kopas, game designer and MakeGame administrator, thinks that such policies help set a respectful tone, which spills over into everyday discussion.
“When someone posts a game concept that doesn’t necessarily break the rules but is politically questionable, I’ve seen productive discussions happen that have resulted in changes being made to the game in development, which is pretty rad.” she said.
And their need to have those policies in the first place comes from a pragmatic approach: if people feel safe, they’ll share more.
“We realized pretty quickly that the reason developers could be more open there was because the community was supportive and welcoming,” said Cameron. “That led us make our site an expressly safe space to try and foster that community.”
Having an encouraging community behind you on the internet, a place where most of us spend the majority of our time, is something to strive for, but it’s difficult for much larger, unmoderated sites like Twitter to accomplish.
Forums like MakeGame have safety built into their systems. To combat instances of abuse, the power lies in assertive policies and more supportive staff — people that will listen and reach out in the event that something goes wrong.
MakeGame exemplifies how to make the internet a safer space for anyone wanting to engage in discussion or comments without harassment or abuse from other participants.
For forums and networks that would like to create safer spaces, Cameron suggests making guidelines clear and hard to ignore.
“But mostly they’ve just got to get better at protecting people who are pointing out harassment and/or abuse to them,” she said.
Kopas agrees. “Trust women and other marginalized groups when we say a particular service is unsafe for us, and that they’re actively being exploited by serial harassers to enact campaigns of violence against us,” she said.
But is possible to retroactively fix places by enforcing punishment for hate speech and threatening behavior?
Looking at MakeGame, the best place to start is to create rules and find the right way to continually enforce them.