Code of Conduct
Here is the Code of Conduct for Improbable Island. There are four rules - be kind to others, be kind to yourself, be kind to the game, and be kind to the staff. Each rule has explanations and detail added, but these are only for clarity - whether specifics are spelled out or not, we make our decisions based on the spirit of the rules rather than the letter. The following enormous wall of text describes the Island's culture as it stands in November 2020, and represents our attempt to preserve its current healthy state.
Get a cup of tea and make sure you're well hydrated, because this is a long read.
2020-11-23: Initial version upload
2020-11-27: Official upload, added Meet The Mods appendix
2021-03-19: Further clarification and guidance in 2b ("Improbable Island is not a support group"), pointer in section 1b as this topic kinda straddles being kind to others and being kind to yourself. 4a addition ("Don't act like a mod if you're not a mod"), 4b clarification ("Don't be weird about CMJ" - took out the "unless it's obvious you're joking" bit because it's never obvious y'all are joking), 1a elaboration on game canon (it's not canon until it's in the code), 3g addendum (don't post link shorteners).
Rule 1: Be kind to others.
In everything you do as an Improbable Island player, make a conscious effort to create a fun, inclusive and respectful atmosphere for as broad a range of players as possible.
- 1a. While roleplaying in in-character channels, be mindful of your audience and what they might consider fun versus what they might find boring or upsetting. Some aspects of roleplay are allowed in some areas and prohibited in others. Outposts, NewHome especially, should be kept lighthearted, fun and inclusive, while more serious drama is more suitable to Places, out-of-the-way Map squares or other less-public areas.
- Public-facing spaces are defined as Outposts, areas within Outposts such as Common Ground, the Failboat, map squares immediately around Outposts or along well-travelled paths such as those between NewHome and Kittania or Improbable Central, and unlocked Places in those areas. Moderation is strict in these spaces.
- Semi-public spaces are defined as Map squares and unlocked Places that are more out-of-the-way than those along well-defined routes. Anywhere where people might sometimes pop in out of curiosity or on their way to something else. Moderation takes a lighter touch in these areas.
- Private spaces are defined as locked Places, locked Rooms within unlocked Places, Distractions, and any other area where another player would not reasonably be expected to wander in at random. Moderation is most relaxed here, but that doesn't mean "anything goes."
- Violence is not allowed in public-facing areas. Exceptions are routinely made for slapstick or comedy violence.
- Do not roleplay sexual encounters, or solicit other characters for sexual encounters, in public-facing or semi-public areas. It's creepy.
- Do not roleplay racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise bigoted characters in public-facing or semi-public areas. A lot of our players get enough of that sort of thing in their daily lives and don't want to see it when they're trying to relax and have fun.
- Other areas of roleplay in public-facing spaces that often result in moderator intervention include, but are not limited to, bullying, violent rages, cruelty, self-pity, depression, suicidal ideation, mental illness, name-calling, self-harm, perpetual victimhood, nonconsensual touching, or roleplaying as a bubbly promiscuous eighteen-year-old KittyMorph with big bouncy double-D tits and a creepy obsession with lollipops. This is a non-exhaustive list and anything that makes other players feel uncomfortable, unsafe, depressed or just creeped-out will result in moderator intervention.
- This is not to say that there's no room for dark or dramatic stories on Improbable Island. There are several thousand chatrooms on the Island, and your roleplaying fits in the vast majority of them. Just keep the dark stuff out of public-facing areas such as Outposts (NewHome especially) and OOC chat.
- Moderators do not generally intervene in issues of canon. We're not here to tell you how to play pretend.
- If you ask CavemanJoe about an aspect of canon, you might or might not receive an answer. The canon is deliberately designed to allow for a broad range of roleplaying, and any random crap CMJ spitballs out in Distractions or chat channels should not be taken as gospel unless it's actually established in the game code outside of player-controlled areas such as Places.
- If you're finding it difficult to roleplay with someone whose idea of canon is incompatible with your own or your character's, it's usually best to roleplay with someone else.
- Moderators do not generally intervene in private spaces, except where someone feels unsafe or where trouble threatens to spill out into the rest of the game. Treat private spaces with more caution than public-facing or semi-public spaces, but do alert the mods if you ever feel threatened or uncomfortable, and we'll monitor the situation.
- Please be especially welcoming in NewHome, where Rookies hang out. NewHome and the out-of-character chat channels are the first thing a new player sees, so always consider whether a new player would decide to stick around or leave on the basis of the conversation or roleplay happening in those spaces.
- Edge cases and clarifications:
- Yes, you can fucking swear. No slurs though.
- Religious content and roleplaying such as virtual church service etc is allowed in private spaces on the Island, and such events (and Places oriented around them) may be advertised (within reason, according to the mods) on Noticeboards and in Chat channels. Public and semi-public areas should remain secular. Proselytizing is not allowed anywhere, nor is fire-and-brimstone talk or anything that smells culty, at the mods' discretion.
- Political (that is, fictionally-political) content and roleplaying can be fun, but bear in mind that Improbable Island is set in the future. Many things that are hot political topics today will be pretty much settled in fifty years' time. Tying your roleplaying to real-world, current-event politics can be hurtful and insensitive to players who are currently suffering as a result of those issues, so if you must do this, be cautious, choose your audience, and be prepared to alter your plans.
- Erotic roleplay is enough of a subject to warrant a whole section, and will be discussed below.
- Roleplaying as underage characters makes the mods nervous even when they're not used in any ERP scenarios, so please don't.
- Non-enforced hints and suggestions:
- Be creative! Use your imagination and try to come up with a character that hasn't been seen before. The canon of Improbable Island allows for an enormous variety of expression, and you're encouraged to use this freedom to show us characters that are entirely novel.
- The most enjoyable public-facing roleplay is the sort that anyone can join in on at any time.
- Funny is generally more popular than dramatic.
- 1b. While chatting in out-of-character chat spaces (referred to in-game as Player Chat or Character Chat and by players as Banter), be friendly, inclusive, and as funny as you can be, maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for as broad a range of people as possible.
- Don't post things that are NSFW in public-facing or semi-public areas (this includes bios and mouseovers). It's okay to post NSFW stuff in private areas as long as your post is marked as NSFW.
- Don't post things that are racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, or otherwise discriminatory.
- Don't use racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/ableist/otherwise-discriminatory slurs, even in jest or reclamation or solidarity - even if you use these words among friends, it's impossible to tell who's watching in chat and how they'll interpret your usage of the terms.
- Don't post links to depictions of injury, death or medical procedures.
- Support of Gamergate, racial supremacist groups, the redpill/incel movement, or any other hate group - including, and especially, hate groups that have gained political power such as the Donald Trump administration - is a direct challenge to the lives and well-being of other players and will result in a permanent ban.
- The same applies to misinformation, conspiracy theories or the output of groups with actively misanthropic objectives - anti-vaccination, anti-COVID-mask, pro-anorexia, flat-earth, Holocaust denial, breatharianism, the kkk or any of its derivatives, pro-extinction groups, proud boys, gamergate, qanon, this is a non-exhaustive list and I'm sure you get the drift. We don't need to hear both sides of an argument where one side is clearly wrong.
- Posting links is allowed in out-of-character chat areas, as long as they comply with the above rules. Only link to things that you think are awesome. Don't link to things that you don't like in the name of "calling out" speech or behaviour you find offensive - this will only ever result in more advertising money and notoriety for people you don't like.
- Don't dogpile. If someone does or says something inappropriate, use the "Call a Mod" button visible below any chat area. Point it out once if you like, but let's not have five pages of chat about one comment.
- Don't post anything illegal under the laws of the USA, the UK, or your country of residence, or encourage others to break the law. Don't confess to crimes online.
- Respect others' privacy. Don't post or talk about private conversations without permission of all involved - don't take content from Improbable Island and post it elsewhere without the same. Doxxing anyone (revealing real-world information such as name, address, social media profiles) will get you a permanent ban.
- If a conversation is making you uncomfortable, ask for it to move on, or use the "Call a mod" button.
- If someone asks you to move a conversation to another topic, do so.
- If a moderator tries to move the conversation on, go with it.
- Don't give, or solicit, advice that, if incorrect, could kill someone or cause life-changingly bad effects. This includes (but is not limited to) financial advice, medical advice, legal advice, or anything to do with gas plumbing, brake repair, household wiring, that kind of thing.
- Remember that this is an international game, and what your country thinks is okay might not be appreciated in a broader context. Be mindful of the audience and read the room.
- Brits, please don't use the word "fag" in reference to cigarettes (or at all).
- Australians (and to a lesser extent Brits too), please remember that the word "Cunt" is considered way more offensive in the US, likewise the word "Twat."
- Americans, talking about your guns will make everyone uncomfortable, please don't do it.
- There are some words that mean other things in other parts of the world. Sometimes perfectly innocent words can mean rude or offensive things - for example, the three F's most likely to be taken the wrong way are "Frigid," "Fanny" and "Fag." We've been running this game for a long time, we're used to the quirks of this weird language we share, and we generally give you the benefit of the doubt. If a mod asks you to change your bio or mouseover or whatever because it's likely to be interpreted in a way you didn't intend, take it as them looking out for you and helping you to not piss off your friends.
- Don't use global chat channels as a sounding board for personal problems; it's not safe to do, and it's more likely to annoy people than get you help (see "Improbable Island is not a support group," section 2c).
- 1c. When ERP happens, be classy, safe, healthy and respectful.
- Improbable Island is not designed to be a sexy-roleplay site, but sometimes sexy roleplay happens, because roleplaying reflects life and sex is a part of life. Elsewhere and elsewhen it's been called tinysex, mudsex or cybering, but here on Improbable Island people tend to call it erotic roleplaying - both because the "roleplaying" part helps focus on the activity being part of your character's story (which leads to better roleplaying and better sexy roleplaying), and because "ERP" is easier to type one-handed. We do not frown on ERP - in fact it's probably the safest sort of sex you can have. We just don't want people to be hurt or creeped-out by it, nor do we want it to take over the whole game and turn NewHome into a parade of butts, so we have some rules.
- All ERP must have the unambiguous consent of every player involved.
- Consent in this context means:
- Informed (everyone knows what they're getting into)
- Freely-given (not coerced)
- Coherent (clear and unambiguous)
- Ongoing (don't assume that previous consent implies consent for the future)
- Sober (please don't build bars in Places where sex happens)
- Specific (agreeing to one thing does not automatically mean you agree to a different thing)
- Equitable (everyone, regardless of gender, has the right to give or withdraw consent and have that decision respected)
- Reversible/changeable (if you're halfway through and you're not into it, you shouldn't feel pressured to continue)
- Based on equal power (veterans, don't solicit rookies)
- To sum up, we want a "Fuck YEAH I wanna do XYZ with you, that sounds super fun!"
- Here are some things that do NOT in themselves constitute consent:
- Flirting (flirting with someone doesn't automatically mean you want ERP)
- Having a sexy mouseover, bio, avatar
- Playing a Kittymorph
- An absence of "No"
- Having an existing relationship
- Being talked into it
- Having had ERP with someone before
- Feeling pressured to say yes
- Giving in
- To sum up, "Eh, I guess," is not meaningful consent.
- Our non-negotiable requirement for clear and enthusiastic consent extends to things like hugging, shoulder rubs, etc. Don't hug people who don't want to be hugged. Don't assume everyone wants to be hugged, especially not by a stranger. Don't assume everyone passing by a chatspace wants to see public displays of affection. See "Kittania Banter" below.
- Consent also means that nobody sees ERP who doesn't want to see it. All sexual roleplay must take place in private, locked areas, and the area must remain locked until the chatlog is erased. Do not roleplay this sort of thing in someone else's Place without their permission. Be aware that admins, moderators, Place owners and anyone with the required Key can see chatlogs. When you use /GREM (or invoke a Place program that clears chat), chat is still visible to the aforementioned group until it expires.
- Chat expires once per game day, at midnight, game time. First, any lines of chat over a week old are erased. Then, if the chatroom is over 100 pages long, the oldest messages are deleted - even if they're under a week old - until only 100 pages remain. If someone hits the Call A Mod button, chat in the area is not erased during Midnight operations, but instead preserved until the mod call is released by a mod. After the mod call is released, applicable lines of chat are erased as normal during the next Midnight operation.
- Do not solicit or talk about sexual roleplay outside of private spaces. Don't involve people who didn't ask to be involved. If the first thing a new player sees is people talking about their sexual encounters or soliciting other players, either they'll go "Whoops, I didn't realize this was a porn game" and leave, or they'll go "Wahey, this here be a fuck site!" and behave accordingly.
- This includes excessive PDA, as it makes a lot of people uncomfortable (see "Kittania Banter" appendix below).
- As part of "Don't involve people who didn't ask to be involved," please don't show off your kinks in bios and rollovers.
- All characters and players must be, and appear, over the age of 18.
- This includes avatars, mouseovers, bios; if you engage in sexual roleplay using an avatar that looks under 18, you'll be permabanned. Don't engage in ERP if you're using an anime-style avatar, as they often look underage and we don't give warnings. We're really serious about this.
- Bullshit excuses or loophole-searching like "She's a thousand-year-old demon in the body of a 15-year-old girl" or "I put my character through a wormhole so she'd be 18 for this scene and then took her back through so she's 13 again" will not be considered a defence. We're really serious about this.
- In addition to being against our rules, depictions of underage sex - even fictionalized - are illegal in the UK, the USA and most other countries, and if we have to ban you for it, we will also follow up with your ISP and local law enforcement. We're really serious about this.
- We do not give warnings for this type of behaviour. We're really serious about this.
- "Turned 18 last week" isn't an automatic permaban but is widely considered creepy as hell and will earn you cringing glares from other players and heightened scrutiny from the mods.
- Survivors of real-world rape and abuse sometimes find it therapeutic to roleplay nonconsensual scenarios where what happens is ultimately under their own control. For this reason, moderators generally do not intervene in fictionally-nonconsensual interactions between the characters of consenting players, but those players will be penalized very strongly if an uninvolved player ever encounters those interactions. What's therapeutic for you could be triggering or traumatic for others. Never roleplay this sort of thing in someone else's Place. Always lock the door. Always keep it locked until chatlogs have expired. If others have access via Keys or whatever, warn them what's in there.
- Remember, anything that comes across as creepy to the staff or other players can and will be erased at any time, including chatlogs, Mementos, player characters, Rooms or entire Places.
- We've talked about sexual roleplay in these guidelines to help make sure everyone's safe and having fun, but this is not primarily a sex game - please don't treat it as such. Characters and other content created primarily or exclusively for ERP are at risk of deletion. Players who talk about how Improbable Island is a great place to go if you're horny will end up getting banned. Many other games exist where sex is the primary focus, and if that's your thing then you'll be happier there than here.
- You're not under any obligation or expectation to explore ERP. If you ever feel pressured to do so, please tell a mod immediately.
Rule 2: Be kind to yourself.
This section contains guidelines to help you make the most of your time here, and avoid common pitfalls that can affect your enjoyment of the game.
2c. Self-destruction is contrary to the spirit and intention of Improbable Island.
- 2a. Keep a bright line between in-character and out-of-character. You are not your character.
- One of the most toxic and damaging things that can happen in any kind of roleplaying - whether it's online, at a table with friends, or even on a stage - is the conflation of player and character. Unfortunately, it's extremely easy to do, especially for those who are new to roleplaying.
- One of the easiest ways to avoid player/character conflation is to make you and your character very different. Don't run a character as an extension of yourself; instead, have fun creating a wholly new background and personality. You are allowed to have more than one character (subject to playing responsibly; see "Alts" in 3e) and not only is it fun and rewarding to run multiple very different characters, it's good for avoiding getting your own emotions mixed up in those of your character's.
- You and your character are separate entities. If you, the player, find yourself getting worked up on behalf of your character, you may find it prudent to change your character, or roleplay a different scenario. Be aware of the distinction between you as the player and your character, and keep them thoroughly compartmentalized.
- If you're considering joining a scene or story whose themes are personally relevant to you as a player, pause and check in with yourself; "Am I really going to be able to have my character respond as themselves, rather than as myself?" Don't be afraid to opt out of scenes that carry real-world significance for you, or to talk with your roleplaying partners about less-upsetting alternatives.
- Out-of-character chat areas should stay out-of-character. These areas, present in Outposts and some Places, are for you to chat as a player, not as your character.
- 2b. Let Improbable Island be an enhancement for your life, not a replacement for it.
- Improbable Island is a silly internet game.
- People make lifelong friends here and there are even real-life marriages, even children, who exist because their parents met on Improbable Island - but you could say the same about any random pub. Improbable Island is still just a silly internet game.
- Improbable Island is not a support group.
- Talking to people online can be beneficial during difficult times, but is no substitute for in-person talk therapy with a qualified professional, or even a chat on a crisis helpline. Please don't rely on the Island as an outlet to talk through your pain - the website is not designed for it, and the community is not qualified for it. The mods, admin and broader community would be devastated if a crisis became worse because the person at the centre of it sought help from a game website rather than an organization actually qualified to help. Support websites, phone numbers and SMS lines are available free of charge in almost every country in the world, and are too numerous and specialized to list here - checkpointorg.com/global is a great starting point (but has been online for only about two years at time of writing, so here's an achive.org link in case it goes down between when I write this and when you need it, click on any highlighted calendar day/time), and Wikipedia has a page of global emotional support, crisis and suicide prevention lines where you can find more crisis-specific help.
- If you're dealing with minor real-life troubles, and you feel comfortable enough with your friends on Improbable Island to talk with them about it, then by all means do so in Places, Distractions or other private spaces where you feel safe in doing so.
- Do not use global chat as an outlet for interpersonal venting, whether it's with other players or unrelated people in your life.
- Not everyone in global chat is your friend. Dumping your problems on whatever random stranger happens to be looking at a chatspace is a shitty thing to do and makes everyone feel awkward. Because nobody wants to be the one to say "Hey dude, I don't know you, I don't want to hear about your issues," this can get normalized and spin out of control very quickly. Out of twenty annoyed lurkers, one might chime in to say hey can we change the subject, and six will hit the Mod Call button or send CMJ an email about it.
- At some times of the day or days of the week, global chat is quieter than at other times. When it's quiet, it can sometimes feel cosy and intimate, but don't be fooled by a temporary vibe. Since the out-of-character global chat channels were introduced, they have never been empty - not for one single minute, outside of site maintenance and outages, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for years. Someone is always watching the chat and not saying anything. Furthermore, your chatlines stick around for a while after you post them. It is not safe, in this context, to talk about real-life interpersonal conflicts that are causing you pain. Venting in banter might sometimes feel like opening up to a cosy roomful of friends about your problems, but in reality it's more like baring your soul to a busy street full of random passers-by.
- If you're wondering whether it's going to be helpful or not to discuss real-life problems in global chat channels, follow the Animal/Vegetable/Mineral test:
- If your problem is with a vegetable or mineral, and you're seeking advice on how to resolve the problem, it's probably okay to post. You'll likely get useful advice, and the convo might be helpful for others dealing with similar issues. This is subject to the "Don't give or seek advice that could hurt or kill you if it's wrong" rule in section 1b, so we're not gonna tell you how to replace your brake pads or align the blade on your table saw.
- If your problem is with an animal, then it might be okay to post if it's a pretty minor issue. This really does depend on context, so be cautious. If you're trying to figure out ways to discourage your cat from eating your spider plants, post away - if your cat is injured or sick, take it to the vet. We're not vets. Anyone on the internet can say they're a vet even if they're not a vet.
- If your problem is with a person, then it's not okay to post in global chat channels. Talk about those problems with your mates, not with strangers. If you need specifically to talk to a stranger about a problem with a person, for example if you need an objective opinion about a person in your circle of friends, then go to a website that's designed for that. This is a game website and cannot help you in that way.
2d. Be aware of your own enjoyment of the game.
- If we believe you're using the Island to hurt yourself, we may enforce a break or remove you from the game, even if you don't hurt other players.
- Don't go into debt to buy Supporter Points or Monthly Mementos. Those are for your disposable income only. If you usually get every Monthly Memento but you're hard up for cash this month, drop CMJ a line and he'll sort you out.
2e - guidance, not enforced - Use the game's resources to help you get on with other players and minimize misunderstandings.
- If you find yourself no longer having fun, do something else. There are many different facets to Improbable Island, and many different ways to have fun. If the Island as a whole is just not cutting it for you, take a break. This game has been around since 2008, we've outlasted a lot. We'll still be here when you get back.
- Nothing should compel you to stay. The Island has been designed deliberately to be a calming sort of fun rather than an addictive one. We do not want you to remain on the Island if remaining on the Island is no longer fun for you. If you find yourself logging into the Island while not really wanting to, or while knowing that you shouldn't, please contact a moderator.
- Players often ask us to temporarily ban them or lock their accounts for things like upcoming exams or job interviews, player/character conflict that they feel they need a break from, or just a need to concentrate on something else for a week or so without being tempted to log on to the Island. We're always delighted to receive these requests and act on them, because the players making these requests are practicing uncommon and exemplary self-care and self-awareness. You should not feel weird about asking us to lock you out for a little while - it's a routine and common request that we feel more people would take advantage of, if more people knew how routine and common it was.
- Account self-deletion was disabled in the early 2010's because more people were getting pranked by roommates than legitimately wanting to delete their own accounts - so if you'd like your account erased, please use the Report A Problem link and the admin will Distract to confirm your request before wiping your account manually. Please allow a day or two, and note that erased accounts are truly erased and cannot be restored.
2f - guidance, not enforced - Use a laptop or desktop computer where possible, and be understanding and patient elsewhere.
- Use internationally-agreed-upon units for mass, distance, time etc.
- For example, when planning an event, use UTC as a timezone (this is always visible in the game's stats area under "Server Time"), to avoid people turning up an hour late or early because of getting confused about which timezone you were talking about. Note that UTC does not observe daylight savings time. When talking about dates online, the format to use is YYYY-MM-DD, so people don't get confused between the 10th of December and the 12th of October. Be careful planning things to happen at midnight, because people often get the day wrong (this is why so many big events will say "Tickets go on sale at 1 minute past midnight on the 8th" or whatever).
- Use the metric system. Having half your audience consult a lookup table to figure out how big your four-inch-long pet dragon is will interrupt the flow of the story you're trying to tell.
- Although the mobile version of Improbable Island has improved over the years, if you're going to be roleplaying in any great capacity it will always be faster and less frustrating to type on a real keyboard.
- If you find you must use a touchscreen keyboard, let your roleplaying partners know so they can give you time to catch up and be understanding of autocorrect-induced hilarity.
- Most people don't know this, but you can actually plug a standard computer keyboard and/or mouse into most phones and tablets and use them like a proper computer. The bit of wire you need is called a USB OTG dongle - they can be had for under a tenner, and most mobile browsers know what to do with them.
Rule 3: Be kind to the game.
This section talks about technical stuff, and the intersections of technical stuff and social stuff. This game is shared between thousands of people. That's great because it means there's more eyeballs to spot problems - but it also means that careless actions can have enormous effects.
3f. Never let anyone else have access to your account.
- 3a. If you discover an exploit or a bug, please let the staff know via the Report a Problem link.
- An exploit is a fault in the game's code or design that would lend an unfair advantage to players aware of the exploit. For example, if one were to come across a wooden spoon with +100 attack points, it would be prudent to message the staff to make sure that this is intended behaviour and not, for example, CMJ accidentally typing too many zeros. Everyone makes mistakes, but programmers tend to make more than most.
- 3b. Don't use game features in ways they're obviously not intended to be used.
- Rule 1 does not only apply to chat and Distractions, but every other game feature.
- The Gifting Station in Common Ground is intended to be used to send wonderful surprises to your friends or to perform harmless rabbit- or meat-related pranks - not to send unsolicited gifts with unsolicited strings attached. If someone refuses a gift, do not send it again.
- Don't deliberately break game features, except when CMJ asks how you accidentally broke game features.
- 3c. Don't use scripts/programs/apps/bots to make automated requests or mess about with how the Island works for you. If you feel the need to make such a script/program/app/bot, show it to CMJ, because you've probably come up with a good idea for an interface improvement. Many former Greasemonkey scripts are now part of the game's canonical interface.
- 3d. Use Place programs thoughtfully, and ask for optimisations where necessary.
- Place programs are a graphical drag-and-drop interface to make special things happen in player-owned Places. They're basically Lego for logic, and they take many forms - from different text appearing at different times of day, to secret doors that require a special Memento to open, to entire game engines.
- If a program in your Place takes a long time to run, then not only does it make for a frustrating experience for the player running the program, but every time someone runs it the game momentarily slows down for everyone.
- Don't feel bad if you have a slow program.
- Don't delete your slow program.
- Don't tie yourself in knots trying to cut down the functionality of your slow program to make it run faster.
- Instead, tell CMJ you've got a slow program and ask him to take a look at it.
- It's impossible to imagine ahead of time the infinite ways that people use Place programming, so the Places programming backend gets frequent updates to better cope with what builders ask of it. Bringing slow programs to CMJ's attention means he'll work on ways to make it faster, both for your program and for other similar programs people may create in the future, and may lead to new and more useful Contraptions and Contrivances.
- 3e. Use alts responsibly.
- You're allowed to have more than one account (people call these "alts"). Alts are for:
- Making new characters with different personalities and backstories, to broaden your roleplaying experience.
- Running through the game with different strategies to see what you enjoy most.
- Testing Place programs to make sure they work well with different characters.
- Alts are NOT for:
- Pretending to be a newbie so that you can get warm welcome fuzzies and gifts, or escape a shitty reputation.
- Pretending to be someone else so you can interact with a player who doesn't like you.
- Asking around "Hey what do you think of $mySecretMainAccount? Real swell player, huh? So attractive too."
- Agreeing with your own sockpuppet or talking to yourself.
- Evading a ban, mute or other moderator action.
- Gifting items to yourself to cheat at the game.
- Improbable Island staff can always tell who's who. If we think you're using alts to upset or manipulate other players, we'll reveal and/or delete your alts. Never put yourself in a situation where you'd be embarrassed or in trouble if people found out who your alts were.
3g. Be aware of the different technologies with which people experience the game.
- Never tell anyone your password. Improbable Island staff will never ask for it.
- If you're playing on a machine that isn't your own, make sure to log out when you're done.
- If you suspect your account may be compromised, tell the staff straight away.
- Be mindful of blind players. Because Improbable Island is text-based, it's rather popular among blind and visually-impaired players. Many of our players are completely blind and use text-to-speech or speech-to-text software to participate in the game.
- If you want to post a link to a picture of text, reconsider. This is inaccessible to screen readers and wastes bandwidth for everyone. Consider linking to the text itself, or (if it's short, like a tweet or a toot or something) just straight-up copy-pasting it into chat.
- ASCII art is fine in bios and Places (in fact, we think it's awesome - use the `_ tag for a fixed-width font that makes layout easier) but consider putting ASCII art below any important accompanying text, because ASCII art run through a screen reader just sounds like gibbering nonsense and nobody's going to listen to that in order to get to a description beneath.
- Some people who were born blind or who became blind at a very early age will have an aural understanding of written English, which means their spelling or grammar might look odd to sighted players, or if they're using voice-to-text software it can substitute similar-sounding words. People without the use of their hands also use voice-to-text software, and although the technology's come a long way since we started this game, it's still not perfect and may never be. Try to avoid correcting people's typing - if it turns out they're not actually typing, you'll look insensitive and this can be embarassing.
- If you are blind or visually impaired, there are options in your Preferences (available in any Outpost) to rearrange text and change some game features to make things more screen-reader-friendly. Please reach out to CMJ if you come across any inaccessible bits we've missed.
- Be mindful of players on slow internet connections or using old computers.
- Improbable Island, being text-based and requiring very little in the way of system resources, gets players from all over the world, on a huge range of devices. The ability to read at your own pace makes it a popular game among people studying English as a second or third language. Not everyone has the spare bandwidth to enable live chat updates, or load huge, bloated links. To broaden your audience, consider using, where possible, more efficient frontends for links you post, such as Nitter for Twitter links, Bibliogram for Instagram, Invidious for Youtube etc.
- The Island does not support emojis. They render unpredictably on screen readers and across different devices. Please don't try to force emojis or weird characters into the game.
- Please don't use URL shorteners (such as bit.ly, goo.gl, ow.ly etc) on the Island. Because URL shorteners hide the URL to which they're redirecting the viewer, they're used almost exclusively by spammers, and they pass information about anyone clicking on them back to the URL shortening service.
Rule 4: Be kind to the staff.
Improbable Island staff and admin are people just like you, and we appreciate your kindness, understanding and patience just as much as you appreciate ours.
- 4a. Help the mods stay sane.
- Moderators on Improbable Island are volunteers with limited time. They're chosen to give good representation across timezones, but 24/7 mod coverage isn't guaranteed. If something happens when there isn't a mod to deal with it at the moment, use the "Call a Mod" button beneath each chatspace, or the "Tell us about a problem" link at the top of every page, and a moderator will pick up the problem when they next log on. The "Call a Mod" button summons a mod to the specific chatspace above the button, and prevents chat from being erased until a mod takes a look. The "Tell us about a problem" link is there for everything not specific to a given chat area.
- If you use the "Call a Mod" button, try to do so on the chatpage where the problem is - if it's a subtle problem, please follow up with a Problem Report to give more details.
- If a mod has to mod you, take their advice, quit doing the thing, and get on with your life. Don't:
- Carry on doing the same thing but in a slightly different way and then complain about how the rules aren't specific enough;
- Prattle on endlessly to other players about The Injustice Of It All;
- Grumble passive-aggressively about how you're no longer allowed to vore people in Banter;
- Try to rope the mod into a lengthy discussion about your interpretation of the rules, or how RandomPlayer once did the same thing that SomeGuy's done twenty times and RandomPlayer never got modded for it but you modded SomeGuy after the 19th time, etc;
- Something to remember: mod interventions are not public information, and in the above scenario, it's extremely unlikely you would have known whether or not RandomPlayer was modded either way.
- If you have a complaint about an interaction with a moderator, email the administrator directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be specific and include chatlogs.
- Never be afraid or unsure about seeking moderator intervention. Never think "Someone else will report that" - they won't. Problems tend to get bigger over time until we receive a flood of complaints all at once about someone who's been doing a weird/creepy thing for months on end. We cannot see everything. We rely on your reports.
- Lying about moderator interactions - saying you were muted for no reason when you were really muted for getting horny in an outpost, for example - damages trust in the moderators and makes it less likely that others will come forward with reports about other players, allowing abusers to fly under the radar and making the game less safe for everyone. Lying about moderator interactions, in any capacity, will lead to a permanent ban without warning.
- Don't act like staff if you're not staff. Don't speak for the staff or try to act on their behalf. Guessing at how a mod or admin would respond to a given situation is a good way to start people speculating wildly about staff intentions and trying to interpret the meaning of things that we have not actually said. The staff can speak for themselves.
- 4b. Help the admin stay sane.
- Unless what you have to say to CMJ is very sensitive or personal, or CMJ has asked you specifically, use the Report a Problem link so that your issue goes into a purpose-built system where it can be tracked and addressed properly, rather than getting lost in a miasma of emails, chats, notes, forum posts etc.
- Don't be weird about CMJ in Banter.
- Don't greet CMJ with "Oh man it's the game's god" or "HAIL FEARLESS LEADER." Don't call him "Boss" or "Sir." CMJ is working class both in-character and out, and it's better for the game (and for CMJ (and for people's willingness to talk to CMJ about problems)) if he's viewed as some random greasy fuck who pops out of a manhole wielding a rusty spanner and swearing at the mice chewing on the wires.
- Sometimes CMJ goes into Banter and spitballs about a random idea he had for a game feature or whatever, and someone copy-pastes the text and pokes him about it six months later, prompting him to say "Dude I was just thinking aloud and seeing what y'all thought." It's very hard to have natural conversations about things if someone is carving your words into stone. The conversations we have about the community or proposed rules or features need to have a natural back-and-forth collaborative flow where we knock ideas about, give them a sniff, chuck away the ones that don't work and improve the ones that show promise - knowing that someone's taking notes and expecting future updates on every half-baked throwaway line really impedes that flow, so please don't do that. Allow conversations with the admin to be low-stakes and casual, because that's where the best ideas come from.
- When reporting a bug, there's no such thing as too specific. You can assume if the bug was obvious then it would have been found in normal testing before it made it into the game. Follow the guidance in the bug report pages so that your report helps to improve the game for everyone.
Congratulations on making it this far.
Here are some appendices which help illustrate how we got this way.
Appendix A: Creep Sweep / Stair Repair / Manipulation Inoculation
Wherever people gather online, creeps and abusers will sneak in to exploit them, and online games are ripe for abuse. Improbable Island is a safer place than most, but that's largely because we've had our own problems and taken steps to resolve them.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we banned several high-profile players. These players were well-respected and generally liked in the community, which allowed them to secretly engage in patterns of manipulative and abusive behaviour that their victims were hesitant to report. Following their bans we received many messages from other players who were also being abused, thanking us for taking action.
Similar dynamics have played out in other bans - one report leads to an investigation which uncovers half a dozen other victims who feel empowered to come forward once they know an investigation is underway, and then when the ban happens a dozen other players return to the game who'd been put off by the low-key creep. The same dynamic can be seen in real-world criminal investigations, incidents of workplace harassment, and that one guy who finally got banned from the D&D group.
The way these stories always play out is a fairly predictable mechanism, and we can watch it work around us, over and over again like malicious clockwork. The lesson we learn from watching how this mechanism works is that shortening the time before the first report comes in is crucial
. Creeps almost never creep on just one person, and the longer the abuse goes on without being reported, the more people are abused. Unfortunately, by the time someone realises that they're dealing with an abuser and starts to think about reporting them, there are often barriers to reporting - this MotD from early in the May 2020 investigation illustrates and deconstructs some of these barriers, and how we're helping players to overcome them
. Following that MotD we received reports on several other abusers, and this MotD from later in May 2020 illustrates how naming the barriers to reporting, and talking about how they work, can help to dismantle them
. Those MotDs are the most important that have ever been posted on the Island, and we'd really appreciate if you read them now, before we get to the next bit.
At time of writing - November 2020 - we now have a playerbase much more willing to report instances of emotional manipulation or abuse, but the work is not yet done. Before anyone even begins to think about reporting abuse, someone has to witness it or be affected by it. We want to create an environment in which abusers feel less empowered to abuse in the first place. Part of this involves revealing and dissecting some common methods by which abusers manipulate their victims, so that you can recognize when someone's trying to do the same to you.
When an abusive player is confronted about wrongdoing, they show a pattern that can be abbreviated as DARVO. This stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.
Example: Player V sets boundaries in their relationship with Player A. This could be in the context of roleplaying, everyday chat, clan organization or ERP - for our example, let's say Player V is fond of Player A but not romantically interested, and has asked Player A not to try to flirt with them. Player A, testing those boundaries, tries to flirt with V. Player V reminds A of the request to tone down the innuendo. A will then deny sniffing around V's boundaries, attack V for not being specific enough about what is and is not allowed, and express shock and offense that V would consider A the sort of person who would ever dream of doing such a thing, perhaps even demanding an apology of V. Alternatively, A will insist they were only joking, and suggest that V is the one at fault for having no sense of humour. In this example, A is trying to establish themselves as a victim of V, when A was really the one at fault. If A suspects that they've pissed V off enough to seek help from other players or from the staff, A may pre-emptively try to taint V's reputation by gossiping about how V is oversensitive and not to be trusted.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where an abuser sows doubt in the victim's memory, perception or judgement - it's a broad term for wearing a person down over time until they're dependent on their abuser. Gaslighting refers not to single shitty incidents but to a longer, coordinated campaign that makes the target feel as though they can't trust themselves.
Example: Let's return to our previous scenario, with A pushing V's established boundaries, and look a little further into a future where A and V are still talking and A is still pushing V's boundaries. When A asks for further specificity in the boundaries that V tries to erect, what A is really doing is looking for loopholes and further opportunities to pull another DARVO on V. V will never be specific enough for A, because A is not interested in respecting boundaries, but in grinding them down or finding ways around them. This could make V question whether they were clear enough, or whether they typed up a Distraction and didn't send it, or in some other way cause V to blame themselves for what's happening. The focus then becomes shifted away from A's wankery and towards V, and whether or not V is the clear and effective communicator they thought they were. This is a crude example - gaslighting works best when the abuser keeps up a slow trickle of small lies, lies about things so petty that it's not worth the victim double-checking. Eventually V finds themselves doing a lot of second-guessing, and A is always there to help shape their reality. V's view of the world and of themselves is now controlled by A.
A common way abusers gain control of their victims is by removing their ability to talk to others and recalibrate their sense of normality. Without a reference established by talking to people in healthy relationships, the victim is less likely to realise that they're in an abusive situation.
Example: V and R, who are solid, healthy friends, have a minor disagreement that causes a little temporary friction. V grumbles about it to A. A tells V that not only is R definitely in the wrong, but that it's really weird and unreasonable of R to go there, and is V really sure that R has V's best interests in mind? A exaggerates a minor grumble into a wedge issue, with the goal of getting V to spend less time with R and more time with A. A simultaneously criticizes V's other friends (maybe suggesting that they're all supporting R over V). Later, after V and A cool down from a screaming argument, A tells V it's natural for such a passionate relationship to have the occasional shouting match - and V, having withdrawn from their friends, has nobody they can ask "Is this normal?"
The above examples are simplified for brevity and ease of understanding - in reality, A won't just be pulling this shit on V, but identically on half a dozen other players, while building up their reputation so that if C, S, T, X, N and Q ever start to suspect that they're being controlled, they'll feel like they won't be believed if they come forward.
This is a non-exhaustive list and there are many other ways that abusers can seek to manipulate and control other players. Some people think that abusers target the most vulnerable people they can find - this is a common misconception, and not true at all. Everyone is susceptible to manipulation techniques like the ones we've described above
. Abusers don't have to choose their targets - they simply latch on to whoever catches their eye, and trust that their techniques will work.
Some other behaviours that should raise a red flag:
- A player who tries to make decisions for you or your character.
- A player who continually complains about their life in order to elicit sympathy or emotional support, especially if they reject proposed valid solutions or help.
- A player who threatens to hurt themselves if you don't pay attention to them.
- A player who repeatedly pushes you for real-life information about you, or contact outside of the Island (be especially wary of Discord).
- A player who cannot separate their character from themselves.
- A player who spreads false rumours about you.
- A player who sends unsolicited gifts and then expects something in return.
- A player who tries to guilt you into interactions that you don't want.
- A player who passes messages to you from a player who you have established you don't want to talk to, or a player who asks you to pass those messages.
The moment you suspect you may be dealing with a creep or abuser, contact a moderator or the admin immediately.
- Don't pause to consider whether this is a one-off or a pattern of behaviour - the mods can look at the player's other interactions and answer that question for you, and that's not something you can do yourself.
- Don't be hesitant if the player seems to be nice to everyone else - abusers always are, it's part of their strategy to fly under the radar for as long as they can.
- Don't worry that you might turn out to be mistaken about the player's intentions - if you ask us to investigate, then you'll find out either way for sure.
- Don't feel foolish if you allowed this behaviour to continue for a long time - this feeling is all part of the abuser's plan, and the blame lies with them, not with you.
Appendix B: Politics
We used to have a rule of "No politics," which in 2020 we've pretty much abandoned because the scope of what is and is not "political" has broadened beyond anything that could be considered reasonable. For just one example out of many we could choose, in 2008 when we made the rule, "politics" around climate change meant arguing about how best to address it while preserving our current standard of living - not denying the existence of climate change in the face of overwhelming proof. Ideologically-motivated disagreement over proven fact is now commonplace, and political neutrality is impossible in such an environment.
More relevant to our audience and our industry, in 2008 gamergate hadn't happened yet. During gamergate, what is and is not "political" in computer and video games (and geek culture in general) was the subject of heated debate (as well as stalking, harrassment and death threats), with a vocal minority attempting to claim that video games featuring angry brown-haired white dudes were "apolitical" and video games featuring LGTBQ characters were "political," while simultaneously demanding that video games be "apolitical."
It is now no longer possible to be politically neutral and to still be welcoming towards a wide range of players, because the rights of those players to live their lives and to see characters like them represented in games is now "political." We are now at a stage where inclusiveness is deemed "political" by an increasingly radicalized right wing, and we can no longer in good conscience claim to be "neutral" or "apolitical" given the modern implications of the terms.
This does not mean "turn Banter into /r/politics" or "constantly post memes about how much conservatives suck." We will continue to treat people with kindness, understanding and empathy, as specified in Rule 1 - but we will no longer claim to be neutral or apolitical, because what neutrality boils down to these days is support for a status quo that is increasingly unfit for purpose.
Appendix C: A Brief History of Kittania Banter
Back in the day, every Outpost used to have a seperate chat and story channel, rather than having out-of-character chat common to the whole site. Kittania's chat channel was a 24-hour PG-rated orgy. You couldn't move for piles of purring Kittymorphs nuzzling/massaging/skritching/making out with each other. It started off with a couple of people giving friendly hugs, headpats, that kinda thing, interspersed with mundane everyday chat - but as more people joined in, the non-huggy chat became less visible, scrolling off the page faster, until the people who weren't around for nuzzling (which was, remember, most people
) started feeling creeped-out and left.
When we merged all the chat into global Banter, the same thing threatened to happen again, but the broader community smacked it down hard because they knew what Kittania Banter was like. This led to a culture war with, on one side, players for whom public displays of affection were the main focus of the game and a prelude to furry ERP, and on the other side, everybody else.
Over time, as the cuddlepile lost ground and saw defeat looming, this culture war morphed into the "No Touching" phase, which can be summed up pretty succinctly with "Hi, I'd offer you a handshake, but SOMEONE would go CRYING TO THE MODS."
The mods were, it is important to note, enforcing only the "If someone's uncomfortable enough to ask you to stop doing a thing, stop doing the thing or take it somewhere else" rule, and had not made any blanket statements about PDA specifically at this point. There was a lot of speculation and argument about moderator intervention, and the discussion on how much touching was "allowed" was lengthy, tedious, irresolvable and exhausting for all involved.
Eventually the spectre of Kittania Banter receded into dusty memory, and the community settled into an equilibrium where people felt okay with occasionally hugging their friends without triggering either a hundred-page cuddlepile or a two-hundred-page discussion on whether The Line Should Be Drawn at a 3-second hug with 2.5 backpats depending on the weather.
But that memory is still there, and those who were around for the Cuddlepile Culturewar still break out in a cold sweat when the hugs and handholdings go on for more than a few lines of chat, so please, remember that there are thousands of chatrooms on Improbable Island, and if someone yells "GET A ROOM!" then... well, there are rooms to be had.
Appendix D: Meet the Mods
The Island's moderators are experienced players who volunteer their time to keep the Island fun for everyone. If you're having a problem (socially in the game, or with a game bug, or most anything really), they can help. Using the Tell Us About a Problem link or the Call A Mod link is the best and fastest way to get your problem sorted out, and we prefer that you use that link. If your problem isn't urgent, or if you want to speak to a particular mod, then you can Distract that mod - but it might be a little while before you get a response.
These are the currently active moderators:
Major Badass Alexander Quandle
When CMJ was looking for another mod, he knew that he wanted somebody who would be a calming influence, a peacemaker who could be relied upon to quietly dispense words of gentle reason. So he picked a man best known for playing Squats. Hairy Mary's "mod character" is not
a Squat however, but a slightly confused mathematician called Alexander Quandle. Hairy himself loves tea, mathematics and people. Not necessarily in that order.
Forgetting to think, Omega
Born in 1412 and voted least likely to be mod over six hundred times in a row, Omega is a mod.
Omega's habits include miscommunicating ideas, surfing the Internet, being a know-it-all, biting nails, playing videogames, and reading. Omega likes cats, food, and people.
Quinn arrived upon the Island Community in a storm of splendor and sparkle early in 2011. Since then, she has founded a cadre of Islanders with a taste for pastries. As a person, she's a bubbly persona working in IT and hailing from the most horridly hellish place on the face of the planet (Phoenix, AZ) who doesn't hesitate to help new players with their issues, and then collect their sweet, sugary souls later for her collection. These are also known as "Mementos" and she's had to borrow everyone else's shoeboxes to keep them all in.
There's a lot of fun to be had here and this moderator intends to explore it, doing her best to keep the community an inviting atmosphere for shy role players. Do not be afraid to say hello or send distractions full of questions. She lives in the Seattle area and likes reading, cosplay, tea, inane repetitive gaming (see 'Harvest Moon'), and talking up a storm.
Zui Meng Qian Chen Tinkerbinker
Tinkerbinker is, out of character, a twenty-something college student that drinks far too much tea for his own good. He has an adoration of writing with anyone he can, mucking about with II colours and doing freelance things. In-character, he writes a variety of characters. Mostly, he writes very silly things about a bird-not-bird of an Buddhist ex-monk turned pirate.
Part of the Island since 2010, Darling delights in silly scenes, shenanigans, and shoes. Out of character, she spends her time designing, writing, brewing mead and excitedly shouting at her friends via G-Talk. Feel free to message her for anything, especially if you have adorable gifs to share.
Concert pianist, renowned swordsman, rugged traveler and all-round Great Guy, GK’s hobbies include working too much and lying about his personal qualities & achievements. He started around here back in 2008, left in 2011 for five years, and then came back like a dog with his tail between his legs. Off-Island, he’s a trained and registered Counsellor. If things are tough, his distracts are always open...
Coffee Grindr Csodas
Csodas arrived upon the Island in late 2014 with a splendid hat. He enjoys writing slow-burning relationships and giving new players advice to orient themselves in Player Chat. Off the Island, he is a historian-in-training who used to fancy himself a Hellenist and linguist, with a guilty fondness for Eurovision numbers. Introductory textbooks for languages with fewer than fifteen million speakers are his Kryptonite. Questions about these subjects are asked at your own peril and
answered with glee in Player Chat or Distracts.
Appendix E: Why we have a Code of Conduct
When we started this game in 2008, our code of conduct was simply "Don't be a dick." This actually worked pretty well for a long time. 2008 was a time of forums and LiveJournal groups and blogs, where small sites and communities had their own rules and moderation styles. The average new player's expectations coming into a new space were to read the room, figure out what's gonna go down well, and try to fit in. In 2008, people were used to the internet.
In 2020, people don't really go on the internet very much anymore, they hang out on a handful of enormous apps like Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, corporations that either don't hire moderators at all or who have maybe one mod for every million users, because not letting your website fill up with arseholes is constant work that can get expensive. A new player's expectation of the Island is that it's going to be another completely unmoderated space, probably with some Russian trolls banging on about microchips in vaccinations, and they won't necessarily know which cultural side of "Don't be a dick" we fall on.
In the mid 2010's the messages we received from new players were increasingly surprised, shocked even, that people were friendly and easygoing here, and that it felt safe for people. Simultaneously, the community had developed some minor frictions along reasonable edge cases that weren't codified in the rules, and players increasingly were asking for more guidance - while outside, gamergate exposed ugly fissures and missing stairs in nerd and gaming culture.
To a non-trivial number of people, "Don't be a dick" now means "Don't fucking tell me who I can and can't attack."
This can make people nervous. This can make people think "Does the site owner think admitting that I'm trans is being a dick?" or "If I, as a person of colour, play as a character of colour, is that being political
here? Does that make me a dick, in their eyes?"
"Don't be a dick" isn't enough, anymore, to make people feel like they can relax and be themselves. Fortunately we've spent over a decade cultivating, in our own community, our own idea of what "Don't be a dick" means, so rather than making up a whole bunch of new rules, we can simply write down the current community norms and expectations for preservation in a massive text file. You've just finished reading it.