Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Forum Teams

Yesterday I was approached by the staff of Team Shiny Zapdos, a prestigious clique on the Super Cheats forums, with an inquiry on my reasons for closing it; I had done that in response to flaming brought on by SS5 Vageto, who appears to be a leader on the team. After I closed it the first time directly after he started his insults, Nintendo_Dude, another authority figure on the team, re-opened the thread on the grounds that I was 'harsh and unforgiving'. The real reason why they wanted to keep the thread open was to get to their goal of 200 pages (resulting in distortion of the index table), which I personally found absurd. After being bombarded with insults from the team staff, I decided to visit Shiny Zapdos over MSN and explain my motive; after enduring the ensuing round of rage and beration, I decided to broker a deal with her: The thread would be allowed to go to 200 pages, at which point I required that it be closed, and a new thread could be created; I also informed her that the team would come under the administration if she, Jamarie, and SS5 Vageto were inactive without excuse for more than 72 hours. These terms were agreed to, and now the team is a ward of the Super Cheats administration.

In most cases like this, I would not have brokered such a deal. The one detail that prevented me from doing default justice to the thread was, absurd as it may seem, a love affair gone awry. Shiny Zapdos (I will not give her real name) had been known for her promiscuity on the forums, and this resulted in three 'boyfriends'. We — that is to say, the boyfriends — were morbidly fearful of her, as she could hang on either end of the emotional continuum, either murderous or euphoric. It was my fear of her, resulting in the difficulties behind separating myself from her, that forced me to broker this deal, yet this has helped me understand the difficulty that I imagine many administrators have faced in keeping their forums. One is Jeroen (yes, him again): I cannot imagine the stress he must have endured trying to dissociate himself with the popular masses to deal damage to them, but I am different from him in that I feel obligated to admit all this.

When I was made a moderator on the Super Cheats forums, in coincidence with my separation from PKMN.NET to go work for the PokéLab, I took my observations of the PKMN.NET administration and pressed myself to do better than them, making the forums a better place free of corruption and bigotry. In time, however, power caught up with me, as it inevitably does with people in my position, and I had to use force occasionally to set things straight. When Team Shiny Zapdos started to break down as a result of arguments and rivalries in the same fashion as Team KA and Team Untouchable (the former was briefly rekindled), I was prepared to make my move and stop the madness, only to receive cackles and anger.

This property is the ultimate flaw with forum teams and clubs. When the opportunity arises, people that have confided in each other as a group will eventually designate themselves as a separate party. In order to facilitate such transitions and soften the blow to the forum, many forums, such as and the Pokémon Community, have created areas for such cliques to brood. When separate cliques are put next to each other, however, competition for members arises and views are exposed, and the fights begin. These rivalries have become so integral that PKMN.NET's policy against team flaming has virtually wiped out clubs and teams on their forums.

What makes this hard to write at the moment is the fact that I had lobbied Rich for this forum back in the early days, as the first cliques were starting to form. The idea actually came from my experiences on PKMN.NET, at a time when team regulations were enforced so leniently that Firestarter's exclusion from the practice equalled a complete referendum for the team environment, and as former members of Firestarter's old Team Inferno gathered again without him, fingers were pointed at Red Deoxys and Inferno Ryan (now Revolution) was also excluded from team practices. Just one more ban (excluding Inferno Ryan's alias Volcano Knight XL) was enacted against the teams before the fad largely waned, and now teams there are pretty much nonexistent, with the possible exception of Rex's Muuma Army (which I haven't heard of for a while), having given way to the RPG threads. (One of the RPGs resulting from the fall of teams was Silver Moon Boarding School, which, after a glitched thread and a November injunction by Jeroen after I reported it, finally moved onto a separate forum, the Crow's Nest. Since then, it has spawned Silverwich University and has survived several hacking attempts by Settra.)

Teams, in essence, are just cliques. Cliques, which you'll find throughout schools, are groups of people that gather because of things that they have in common and eventually become exclusive, prohibiting its members from communicating with people outside the clique. This damages a member's chances for meeting someone whom they may have the best chemistry with. PKMN.NET's anti-flame policy may have been just a factor leading to the demise of teams there, but the culprit seems to be maturity, when society will require people to work with others regardless of what they have in common, and when the need to be part of the group should diminish. Even at my high school, groups are loosely formed among the upper grades, while underclassmen are usually tightly knit. That's testamental to how much we mature during these years.

I had tried twice to create a team on PKMN.NET — Team Cold and the Walrein Army — but they never became popular due in part to waning interest. Today, I avoid them, although there have been people that have tried to convince me to join their team. Shiny Zapdos was one of them.

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