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There has been a very toxic person to the community of a multiplayer Minecraft server I'm a moderator on (I'll call them Mr Toxic from now on). Apart from using really irritating cheats (the cheats that Mr Toxic used really broke the game for other users) they have caused shitstorms on a multitude of different chats and insulted a lot of people (including staff and players).

Now, they're barred from ever joining our server. But the day after the ban, a new player appeared (let's call them Mr Newbie). However usual it is, the player quickly "developed" an interest in Mr Toxic. They have also exhibited simply too much knowledge for a new player they were posing as.

Yesterday the new player has made a mistake of unconsciously and indirectly confirming they are an alternate account of Mr Toxic (technical details skipped but we're 100% sure). On my first thought, I should ban the new Mr Newbie.

That being said, Mr Newbie is much nicer and is not cheating. I can sense the same style of talking, but different attitude towards others. Now they're an active member of the community. If they were not the same player, I'd have no reason to ban them.

How can I address Mr Newbie/Mr Toxic about this to ensure that they do not misbehave anymore?

Just for the record, we're hosting a community of 20 active players, 20 less active players and about two hundred players in total.

There is also a question about addressing the community.

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    Hi Aisudoragon, welcome to IPS! Unfortunately, in it's current form, this question will probably be closed because the question of whether or not you should ban Mr Newbie is beyond the scope of this site. IPS focuses on the skills that you need in order to have healthy interactions with other people. We can't tell you if you should ban this player, but we could help you with how to have a productive conversation with them about their past behavior. If that's what you want, then you could edit your question to focus on that. – Rainbacon Jun 11 at 17:52
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    What do you want to convey when you address the player and community? – Em C Jun 11 at 18:19
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    I want to ensure the player does not misbehave anymore if they are to stay around in a polite manner. The community still has a dislike for the player and they might be dissatisfied if I decide not to ban the player. Here is a conflict of interests between the player (who has improved) and the community – Aisudoragon Jun 11 at 18:27
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    @baldPrussian Not a duplicate anymore. This is about addressing the player; that's about addressing the community. – gparyani Jun 12 at 16:21
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I have no experience with minecraft but I have been (am?) a moderater for an OpenTTD community. Dealing with toxic players is hard and there's really no right way to handle all cases of toxic behaviour.

Our general rule of thumb was to first talk to the player. Try to understand why he's being toxic and see if you can easily talk him out of it. If they got an unfair advantage from cheats or feature abuse their company got deleted but they were free to start a new one if they agreed to play fairly from then on.
If that doesn't work we started with a short ban (12 hour ~ 1 day) to send a message that their behaviour really was not tolerated and give them some time to cool off. Only in extreme cases where someone repeatedly came back just to ruin the games for other players did we permaban them.

Quick note here: banning on openTTD servers is only possible with IP, user bans didn't do anything since they would just join again under a different name. This is also possible (and probably advisable) to do on minecraft servers.

From what I've seen it's a lot better to not tolerate anyone going against the rules (at least how they're intended, not necessarily how they're written) while also being very lenient with punishments. So for us it was enough to just take away everything they had gained from the cheating and allow them to start over right away but fairly after that. Or at least the next day.

So one option you have now is to lift the ban after talking to MrToxic if he can show you that he no longer intends to cheat.

"You've shown that you intend to play nicely from now on. I'll be lifting the ban on your account if you want to join again but know that we will be keeping a close eye on you. My fellow moderators might not be as lenient as I am ;)"

This sends the message that although you wont allow them to cheat again you also prefer to let them correct their behaviour without harsh punishments.

Overall this worked really well for our OpenTTD community where we had some cheaters every once in a while, but if you notice them fast enough and deal with them fairly (take away gains) but lenient (only ban if REALLY needed) they quickly became nice members or left completely.

Alternatively if you want to enforce a zero-tolerance policy you could still ban him again (and also his IP this time) to send a message to the entire community that cheating really isn't tolerated. I'm personally not a fan of such an aproach but it might work.


There's also one more thing that I really want to add here:

Talk about it with the other moderators!

There were 2 awesome things that happened in our admin-community.

1) "Rule nb 1 for admins: if an admin handles a case he is not to be questioned about it publicly. An admin is always right no matter what he does". If you don't agree with an admins decission you can question him about it in the private admin channel on IRC to see if you missed something. But publicly we ALWAYS supported each other.

2) "Ask advice from other admins". Since it was really difficult to know what to do in most cases we had a habbit of asking feedback in the private admin channel. Things like "I'm planning on banning player X because he's abusing exploit Y and doesn't respond to me. I'm thinking about 2 day ban, anyone got some advice?" Or sometimes things like "player X doesn't seem to really understand english, someone here that speaks Russian to see if he just misunderstood the rules?".

The combination of these 2 "rules" meant we could always count on the other admins for support. I can't stress enough how much that helps in keeping a healthy community.

  • It should probably be pointed out that in this day and age IP-bans are becoming pretty much as useless as name bans to anyone with a bit of expertise. – Suthek Jun 12 at 9:04
  • @Suthek Even 15 years ago people had ways around IP bans. In one case we even had to ban an entire IP-range the size of a city to stop him long enough to make him give up (or at least change targets to an other community). Although I fully agree with you that it won't stop try-hard toxic players that know how to get around it, it's enough in most cases...and you really don't have any other options to keep them out. – Imus Jun 12 at 9:09
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I don't have experience with running a game server specifically, but since being a StackExchange moderator I've learned some tips for dealing with problematic users (both from direct experience on this site, and from hearing how mods on other sites handled issues).

Step 0 is always: when in doubt, talk to the other mods. You all need to be on the same page and be able to present a unified front. Inconsistent enforcement of rules is frustrating and confusing for your community (plenty of comments and meta posts here about that!), and at worst acts as a sort of intermittent reinforcement for bad actors to keep trying.

Next, some advice I got about writing mod messages was never make threats. As Yoda says, do or do not: There's no point in saying "we'll let it slide now, but maybe later we won't!" - if anything, it just encourages them to push the limits, and makes it harder for you to actually act because, well, last time you didn't do anything, what makes this time different? In addition, it can be hard to mark well-defined lines of what is "bad enough". Whether or not a user cheats is probably clear-cut, but rude behavior often involves context and some amount of moderator discretion.

So, don't speculate about possible future actions in this message: simply state what, if anything, you are doing now, and what you need them to do.

In addition, there's no need to explain how you figured out his alter-ego. He already knows you're right, and you don't want to inadvertently give him any ideas about how to better cover his tracks in case he reverts back to his old ways. (This is also something that's notably absent from the StackExchange template for socks; many users have tried to poke and get more details in response to a suspension, but it's intentionally kept secret.)

So, I would message him privately and simply say something along the lines of "we're aware of your past, here's a reminder of the rules, please follow them". For example:

Hello,

We've noticed you're using a new account after your previous account earned a ban. We appreciate your effort to be a better member of the community, and in light of this improvement, have decided to allow this account to remain on the server.

However, there were some serious disruptions to the community in the past. So, this is just a friendly reminder of the server rules: (link or summarize your policies here)

We look forward to your continued positive participation!

Thanks, The Mods

Of course, adapt to your own style! This is fairly formal-sounding; best to write however you would write other "official" type posts for your server.

If possible, share a draft of your message to the other mods before messaging the user, to again make sure you're all on the same page. The IPS mod team often does this with messages (among other things), which has a few benefits:

  • Everyone has a chance to give input and tweak language until we're all satisfied
  • If the user objects, any one of us is able to handle it (especially useful if there's likely to be real-time response needed)
  • Easier to be consistent if a similar situation arises later, since we've already thought this through together

It's also a good idea to discuss now what you'll do if he starts acting badly again. You don't need to tell him what those tentative lines are, but having a plan in place makes it easier to act if it happens again.

Good luck - it's generous of you to give him a second chance, and I hope it's a lasting change for the better!

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