Dealing with Codes of Conduct and Reports of Violations

1.Introduction

In the wake of widespread reports of abuse and misconduct in multiple competitive gaming communities, local community leaders want to know what they can do to make their scene safer and more welcoming. Solving this problem in Smash and the FGC will take a multi-pronged approach from all of us, but one easy and useful prong is creating and promoting a Code of Conduct in your community.

So what is a code of conduct and how does it help? You can think of it simply as rules for personal behavior in your community, whether that’s in-person/online community events, Twitch streams, or Discord servers. A good code of conduct can be helpful for your community because it actively informs people what kind of behavior is expected or unwelcome, gives organizers guidelines for dealing with harassment, and gives people who have been harassed a path to report and confidence that it will be handled properly. As well, there are people hesitant to join the community because they are worried about harassment, and a good code inspires confidence in newcomers and old heads that the community takes these issues seriously.

2.Aims of a Code of Conduct

One major goal of a code of conduct is to help shift the culture of the community by spreading understanding of what behavior is acceptable. We’ve seen in the past that these cultural shifts are very much possible: years ago, using the term “rape” was widespread as was using “gay” as a pejorative, but now these are widely understood to be harmful and have fallen out of mainstream use. We made this progress through community members setting good examples, talking to our friends about the issues, along with guidance from community leaders. A code of conduct is a way of amplifying these efforts and can help explain ideas around harmful language, personal boundaries, and consent, especially in a community like ours where there are many young people and not everyone may be aware of the gravity of these issues.

A code of conduct helps community leaders and organizers a lot too. Imagine yourself as a TO or streamer or Discord admin. You just want to have fun running events and bringing your community together. Getting a harassment report is an extra responsibility that you really don’t want and probably don’t have a lot of expertise dealing with, especially if your friendships with people might be pitted against disciplining them. With a code of conduct, you don’t have to try to figure it all out yourself, you have some rules and guidelines already set up for how to handle these situations. This can help take some pressure off making difficult decisions and guide a conversation with parties involved. The SSB Code of Conduct Panel is also available for guidance on more serious situations, or those where TOs/leaders themselves have harassed people.

Importantly, a good code also gives victims and targets of harassment a clear path for reporting and understanding what can be done to help them. In the past, victims just had to hope their TO/leaders were sympathetic and knew what to do. With a code, they know where to go when something happens, and they can be more confident their reports will be taken seriously and their harassers dealt with. Ultimately, the goal of the code is to provide security for a community and to keep it safe.

3.Creating and implementing an effective CoC

Writing a code of conduct from scratch seems like a difficult task; the good news is that a lot of the work has been done already. Smash communities exist in many different platforms and spaces, each of which might require different rules depending on how people interact with each other. Below we have examples of existing codes of conduct for a community discord, an in-person event, and a twitch stream, so you can find one that best suits you and make any tweaks necessary to tailor it to your community. Each of these sets the tone and expectations for their users and calls out specific examples of bad behavior and directions on how to take action. 

Melee Online Discord Code of Conduct

Be Civil: Harassment and inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated on the Melee Online Discord. If you are subject to personal attacks of any kind or based on racism, sexism, homophobia, or transphobia (including misgendering), please use the support bot to contact a Moderator. In addition, your behavior in other online media or in-person events will also affect your standing in this channel. We reserve the right to remove individuals as needed.

Melee Online Discord Server

Smash Con Code of Conduct 

All Players are expected to exhibit good sportsmanship and maintain respect for one another and for all TOs and spectators. Players are expected to play at their best at all times and to avoid any behavior inconsistent with the principles of good sportsmanship, honesty, or fair play. Behavior that is considered to be inappropriate and in violation of the Code of Conduct includes, but is not limited to, the following: check here for more detail  

RagtimeMouse Twitch Rules

 We ban on first offense, thee end.

  • Be respectful at all times.
  • No hate/racism/sexism/etc.
  • Dont be a friggin’ creep.
  • No backseat gaming.
  • No chat/game spam.

Rag’s Twitch Channel

In order for a code to be effective, local TOs and community leaders need to do some work. First is making sure their community is aware of the code and understands it, and isn’t like some hidden away Terms of Service agreement that nobody reads. 

  • Post about it on Twitter and your Facebook groups
  • Be willing to have discussions with your community
  • Display it prominently on your website and smash.gg pages
  • Talk through examples so it’s not just an abstract thing

Community leaders will also have to be prepared to act when someone breaks the code (the unfortunate reality is that this is not an “if” but a “when”). As mentioned, part of what makes a code of conduct useful is stating guidelines for what happens when it’s broken so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. But even with a good code of conduct and clear guidelines, often personal judgment will have to come into play.  Consult with your community or other moderators/leaders on what should be done and be transparent with your decisions. Most importantly, remember why we’re doing this. Look back to the purpose of your code in the first place and how it’s connected to your community goals. In the end, all decisions should be in service of those goals. Take the perspective that participation in your community is a privilege, not a right.

A good code of conduct has the power to help everyone in the community, but again, it’s only part of the solution: it takes the actions of the whole community to truly instill the behaviors we want to foster in our leaders and members. It’s a useful first step in building a better community. If your community doesn’t have a code yet, take a look at some of our linked examples for starters, or talk to your local community leader and make a suggestion!

4.Additional Resources

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