Enough with unjust chat bans.

Enough with unjust chat bans.

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. . started this petition to Star Stable Online and

Star Stable is an online video game with a target audience of girls aged 9-14. This means that by law, Star Stable must implement systems in place to keep the players safe. I myself am a player who has been here since February 2013 and have a lot to say regarding their system of choice.

Currently, SSO uses a chat filter system where inappropriate words, sentences and numbers are blocked with # in chat. When this happens, it is likely the player will receive a warning, if not a chat suspension altogether lasting from one to seven days or even two weeks if not more. In theory, the idea is not bad but in practice what we have is a sloppy bot which has the same complaints today as it did when it got first introduced.

Here is where it gets personal.

As I am writing this, it has been a few weeks since I have returned from my lengthy break from Star Stable. This experience has been nothing but one day chat suspensions every other day, topped off with a five day chat ban. Now you wonder just what I did to get punished so often. The answer is nothing, and that is the best part. My worst offence is missing a letter in a word such as writing “suer” instead of “super” by accident when advertising my club due to a keyboard malfunction. Not once have I attempted to evade the chat filter to swear, nor tried to swear directly in the chat. I have not been abusive to any players, and merely mind my own business with roleplays about caring for horses and promoting my club in global chat. In some cases I do not even know what I said to deserve the ban. 

Apparently misspelling a word is a worthy offence, but this is just the start. May this petition bring voice to all my other friends too who have been subject to the same ridiculous thing. 

Firstly, the chat ban punishes the wrong people. If you are a player on Unicorn Forest as I am, you will be familiar with daily spams of “.” in the global chat. However, there is no system in place to stop this from happening meanwhile players get banned for misspelling words or saying “bad things” when in reality the context in which the “bad things” are said is not considered, or the “bad thing” may as well be what one considers a big word. Take zephyr, for example. The truth is, if a system came into a place to stop spamming then it would be sloppy too. My prediction would be that the chat would be slowed down, and if you send a certain amount of messages in a certain amount of time you’ll get banned and that is a problem when you’re a speedy typer like me who can convey a lot of messages quickly without spamming. But I digress.

Secondly, the context. I briefly touched upon it already but I believe that this point deserves a dedicated moment. Way back when, a year ago or so, I vividly remember getting chat banned for discussing potential roleplay ideas with a friend and being obsessed with Avatar: The Last Airbender. I received a two week chat ban for saying “element bender”. Yes, while one of these words is not like the other it is clear that in this situation there was no ill will towards anyone, nor any attempted discrimination or homophobia. This is merely one example of many, but from this it is easy to conclude that the chat ban system is lazy. The system is lazy because there is no thought given when giving out punishments. While I understand that it is not viable to have a purely human moderated chat for financial reasons on behalf of the company, I strongly believe that having a purely bot moderated chat is neither. What should be a mix of the two, sits on one end of two extremes and that is not good. It is a nuisance to players who are trying to enjoy the game and do nothing wrong.

Thirdly, antibiotic resistance. The first word of the two word term is ironically tagged but we will use the concept to explain why the system actually fails to fulfil its job. For those who may not know, in very brief terms, antibiotic resistance is the process of illness causing bacteria becoming immune to medicine that is used to get rid of them in our bodies. The medicine in our case is the filter. For example, even though numbers are tagged it does not stop people from finding ways to type them regardless. I repeat, even though numbers are tagged it does not stop people from finding ways to type them regardless. I will not give precise examples of how numbers are written, in case Star Stable Online gets more ideas on what words to block from the chat but the point is that the chat filter fails to do its job because people will find a way around it anyway. The same goes for swearing, which I have seen done in stupidly easy ways (albeit not attempted it myself). The best part is, is that player names such as “Ingrid” have been blocked, and that is yet again one of many harmless things we cannot say while things such as “cocky” are fine. One can even argue that the filter does more harm than good. For example, take this scenario. A player writes a word with a double meaning, but they know the innocent variant. Shortly after, the player gets banned. They do not understand why they have been punished, and so they look up the said word and discover their other, not so innocent meaning. Now we have an issue. While keeping players from harm, they are ultimately exposed anyway. It is a double edged sword, as one may say. 

Fourthly, wrong things are blocked. This is yet another something that deserves a dedicated moment. Lets retreat into our imagination for a minute, we are going back to the day we are creating our characters and decide to name her Ingrid. Excited to play, this smile turns into a frown when we realise that the name is actually censored. However we laugh, because words such as “cocky” or “my big sausage” are not. This is mind blowing, that Star Stable Online feels the need to go to the extremes to block out even player names. Which Ingrid hurt you, SSO? Anyway, this is a piece of evidence that contributes further to the point that the chat filter system is sloppy. The fact that player names are blocked, while things that can be taken the wrong way very fast are not shows that not much thought has been given to ensure that a careful, and smart system is place to keep the players safe. Instead what we get is a fast and shallow fix with many faults. It is not fair for players who are regularly paying to this company, which instead of fixing this system renovates their office.

Furthermore, if Star Stable Online actually decided to check the forums and paid attention to them they would see that these complaints are not new. Refer to this: https://ssoforums.freeforums.net/thread/2673/rights-chat-ban?page=1 Yep, some of these posts date back to 2018 and here we are in the summer of 2020 with the same problems. Two years is plenty time to fix these issues, instead of dishing out new horses left and right to make players forget about other problems. Why are we not being listened to? No one is opposing a chat filter system to keep the players safe, it is the right thing to do. We are simply asking for this system to be improved because at the moment many of us are subject to unjust punishment.

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