TLDRUPFront: In our ongoing series Revealing MESconduct we review the Violent Actors Pool. This pool describes the warning signs, challenges, and lessons learned from investigations on reported Weaponizing misconduct that volunteer organizations may face. In the Creaky Stair Pool are 21 investigated offenses across four alleged perpetrators.
FullContextintheBack: This article is a subsection of Revealing MESconduct Part2: Investigations & Lessons Learned. The series is based on two years of volunteer work investigating accusations of misconduct in a volunteer gaming organization, the MES. Part 1 dealt with balancing the tensions between survivor privacy, community education, and community safety. Part 1 also covers frequently asked questions about where the information came from, whether it is publicly available in other forms, and my motivations in doing this. Part 2 provides an overview of the 180 investigated offenses across 11 alleged perpetrators. The investigated offenses are segmented into six pools examined in sub-sections like this: Weaponizers, Creaky Stairs, Broken Stairs, Violent Actors, Broken Staircases, Serial Predators. Each pool summarizes the kinds of accusations, warning signs, challenges, outcomes, and lessons learned of those accusations and investigations. The lessons learned in each pool aren’t always limited to that pool and alleged perpetrators may have investigated offenses in more than one pool. Many of them apply across pools. In this article I’m focusing on a single type of reported misconduct: Violent Actors.
The main article of Pat 2 also covers important information regarding the MES organizational structure, volunteer benefits structure, types of administrative punishment and the blinded names of the 11 alleged perpetrators. This may be helpful for providing more context in understanding this sub-section.
Allegations, Accusations & Investigations
I use terms like the alleged perpetrator and accused for two reasons. First, this was the MES’s requested internal policy during the time I volunteered with the organization. Second, volunteer organizations do not have the resources to make definitive findings to a criminal or civil legal standard. Investigations on received accusations can only identify information that is consistent or inconsistent with the allegation. Often in the process, new allegations surface, and corroborating information from additional sources arises. From this information, the organization must decide on an administrative action: to do nothing, to issue a punishment or expel the member. For the MES punishments range across administrative options such as the loss of accrued membership benefits, prohibition on holding official positions, and suspensions. Motions to expel are handled separately from punishments. And the decision by the MES Board to expel a member can be made in conjunction, or separately, from punishments the MES takes. An organization’s choice to take action doesn’t establish the truth of the incident alleged – only that the organization found the information obtained in an investigation consistent with an allegation. The information presented below is based on this author’s role in the investigation process of the reported, alleged incidents. Ultimately, the question of whether the information obtained through the investigation was sufficient to substantiate the allegations, as well as the ultimate determination of what punishment, if any, was to be applied to the accused, was made by MES itself and not this author.
Violent Actors Pool
Violent Actors consist of both violent acts and threats of violence. The first is often easier to deal with it publicly witnessed.
Pooled Investigated Offenses in Violence
There are 21 investigated offenses in this pool. Offenses include 16 Major Offenses, 1 Severe Offense, and 4 Extreme Offenses.
Investigations & Consequences
Accusations in this pool include making implicit or explicit threats of violence, violent acts that risked harm to members, and violent acts that harmed members. Our investigations obtained information consistent with the accusations.
Warning signs on violent actors are public drunkenness at events combined with “winner take all” mentalities. Another warning sign is enablers who provide cover or try to downplay the acts.
One challenge of these investigations is the accused arguing their threats did not meet the legal definitions of a threat. However, volunteer organizations are not criminal courts. They don’t need to meet a legal standard to act administratively for its members’ safety. Another challenge is covering-behavior—friends of the accused taking actions to rationalize their behavior or officers not documenting prior violent acts. For one alleged perpetrator accused of violence harming a member, the investigation found information corroborating a string of past incidents that received only verbal or email warnings from an officer. Acting on this information, the MES reprimanded the officer and moved to expel the accused.
Alleged Perpetrators in this Pool
Beta, Epsilon, Omicron, and Tau.
Lessons Learned on Violent Actors
‘We’re all adults about drinking’ only works if everyone adheres to the same social contract. Even as power is the enabler of most misconduct alcohol is a side-car companion when it comes to violent misconduct. Excessive drinking and over-drinking are present in many accusations of violent and aggressive behavior. Organizations that tolerate, or look the other way, over-intoxication and clear intoxication during events are inviting future misconduct in areas ranging from game-space, public areas of conventions, closed-door meetings etc. This erodes member enthusiasm while also raising risk of aggressive or violent misconduct. If an organization, especially in the United States where binge-drinking is prolific, is going to allow drinking at it’s event it needs to clearly articulate and enforce expected standards: limited social sipping, general drinking, or a frat-house party binge-drinking environment. Expected consequences will follow what’s tolerated.
Implicit threats of violence are still threats of violence. Organizations don’t need to meet statutory definitions of criminal threats to prohibit misconduct. Volunteer organizations don’t need to allow members to threaten members skirting the lines with clever wordplay that avoid statutory standards but are threatening.
Analyze behavior patterns to minimize they-said/they-said reductionism. When conducted in private, threats are often reduced to a “they-said/they-said” construct unless documented in email or social media. The alleged perpetrator, or their enablers, argued the statements were misunderstood or didn’t mean that. However, Violent Actors are as habitual as other pools of behavior. When a single complaint isn’t clear, see if there have been past complaints or concerns. Do the complaints match a pattern of behavior: similar circumstance within which the threat occurred, similar method or phrasing in delivering a threat, similar beneficial outcomes the violent actor sought?
All threats of violence require serious investigation and action. The gaming community is not immune to violent actors within its ranks. As the gaming community expands in popularity, the population of potentially violent actors grows. It is better to act on a warning-sign or red-flag than have to act after someone’s hurt.
Request to the MES to Confirm these Accusations & Investigations
In keeping with the final general lesson learned in the main article, I am calling upon the MES to do the right thing. Follow its procedures to release limited information found in “Notifications Regarding Officers” of their handbook (see MH2018Q4 p70-74 and 2020 MES HB, p95) and apply it for the alleged perpetrators of the Violent Actors Pool. This information consists of:
- The name of the alleged perpetrator.
- The rule(s) or policies that were found to have been violated (e.g., Offense Levels).
- What Disciplinary Action the MES issued.
- What penalties were levied (e.g., loss of prestige or MC, suspension, etc.).
- The current status of the alleged perpetrator in regard to the MES (e.g., Member, Non-Member, Non-Member with Do Not Renew.)
If the MES declines to produce this information within a reasonable time period following the publication of this article or offer a suitable compromise confirming these are real investigations with real consequences, the InfoMullet reserves the right to take further action at a later time, though we will not disclose survivor information without prior consent.
I can assist the MES with information to validate these allegations and their investigation records for each alleged perpetrator. I will provide this information to an appropriate officer on request to facilitate proper identification.
Navigate between Six Pools of Accused Misconduct & Main Article
You can follow the links below to navigate to other misconduct pools or the main article. Each pool describes the warning signs, challenges, and lessons learned from the investigation of the type of reported misconduct volunteer organizations face.
Revealing MESconduct Part2: Investigations & Lessons Learned
MH2018Q4: MES Membership Handbook 2018 Quarter 4 Update
MH2020: MES Membership Handbook 2020