FSpaceRPG article

Status: Official

Many of those interested in the tech industry, social networking and how Mark Zuckerburg rose to billionaire status would have checked out the movie The Social Network, in the hopes of picking up some pointers about how to get to such wealth.

The movie is more compelling for its portrayal of human interactions and relationships while involved in starting up such a project. It has lessons more about what not to do when dealing with people, rather than being a play book saying you must hurt people to climb to the top. The movie didn’t tell the story up to the time it was made, so we never see a portrayal of how Mark may have matured as a person, and if he truly learnt from the mistakes shown in the movie.

The movie made me think about my own business projects, and issues I had with people along the way, especially when I was younger.

This business has its origins back when I was in college and university, but didn’t get official until I was in the workforce full time with a stable job and some funds under my belt. By that point I’d already burnt one friendship bridge with someone who had already added some ideas to what I was about to do. Unfortunately a lot of my friendships born out of roleplaying had an adversarial nature to them, and that eventually led to that one friendship ending. Another adversarial friend almost tore the FSpace group apart with his very competitive interactions with fellow groups members. Not all roleplaying teams are like this, but the experiences tainted my views and also rubbed off on me too much.

Once FSpace was kicked off and we were headed towards assembling a commercial product, tensions within the team arose about delivery promises made or coerced out of people. It was a learning experience in how not to run a team.

While we hit the goal eventually by the start of this century, the effort of doing it coincided with high debt brought about by several related factors. I lost the family home shortly after. At the time I went through a period of unemployment and my stress levels were through the roof. Members of the team fell victim to my ire at times, and eventually led to our most spectacular falling out, threats of legal action and a licenced product line never appearing, even though I’d signed the contract, paid the up front licence royalty payment and made financial commitments to illustrators and the like.

Basically a tense business and personal situation helped destroy a professional and personal relationship with a member of the team who left at that point. I’m sure the situation was two sided and the other party is not exactly faultless, but at least I’m admitting that on my side things went horribly wrong.

Unlike in The Social Network there wasn’t a fortune involved, just debts, and a difficult road ahead to try and salvage the work done and owned by the remainder of the team. We never got those products done and only now are we really repurposing the material into commercial products, over a decade after the issues erupted. Events took their toll.

The lessons I learnt and I saw reflected in the The Social Network, is don’t mix business and friendship without setting some well defined ground rules. When friendships end over business, its never pleasant, and you’ll often regret it later. Sometimes a rift can be mended, but in some cases they can’t be.

If you watch The Social Network and see a reflection in it of your own life, take heed and try and do something positive about avoiding going down the same kind of destructive path. To be rich doesn’t mean having to be an a-hole. There are better ways to conduct ourselves.

I must admit, that The Social Network does make for a compelling roleplaying plot as well. Given the age and level of maturity I was when I was a full time role-player, the kinds of squabbles and manipulations would have been an easy to use plot device, and from memory similar things were used (probably the reason for tensions for some people). Im not an advocate for using such plots with people who find it hard to divorce character from self… GMs need to be particularly sensitive to using plots with groups of people who might hold real world grudges for events in a game setting, and where arguments about real world issues are seeded from game based disputes.

Roleplaying is a social experience, and people need to learn and grow from being involved in it. It would be great for GMs to be a bit like Yoda and dispense worthy and timely advise and a moderating effect on their players. Of course a utopian vision of the place for roleplaying in society isn’t reality, but it would be nice to aspire towards utopian ideals.

If you haven’t seen The Social Network, I would recommend watching it.

Categories: Development

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