Back at the studios, it was time for the tour to begin in earnest. The first stop was Mod Daniel_C's desk. His job is to look at the most serious reports, in order to decide whether any action needs to be taken. He's not bothered about people calling each other noobs here. The things that he's monitoring are potentially much more serious.
High on a windowsill beside him were a row of framed certificates. I recognized the names on many of them. They were internet safety organizations and those professionals were thankful for the job that Daniel does. Frankly, I think that we should be too.
I met many people in Player Support that day, whom I'd consider to have a touch of heroism about them. (And several others who are making our lives easier, facilitating the infrastructure or merely doing their jobs, so that we can play. That's admirable, but not heroic.) Shining amongst them all was Mod Daniel_C. The calls that he makes are extremely rare and even then often don't amount to much. I saw examples that made me want to hug him on behalf of us all.
He typed my name onto his database to show what had become of the reports that I'd submitted over the years. I know that I, like many players, think that these sometimes shoot off into the ether never to be looked at again. If ever. I can confirm that they are. Dating right back to my earliest, most noobish days, I saw the end result.
I was also extremely proud that in every instance you could see my conversation in game. I was always explaining why such and such should stop being racist, homophobic or whatever else I was reporting them for. Yay for me!
The J Mods around me very much encouraged such things. Flaming is out, but community action deals with things on the spot. Player support is huge; but the player base is bigger.
As I'm always waffling on and on about in Canting - silence means approval. If someone is bullying another player or acting inappropriately, then a quiet word makes the whole environment a better place for us all.
I was very proud of my clan too, because so many of those reports showed Canting members alongside me going, "Not cool, dude. You don't pick on someone for the color of their skin" and the such. I must have been grinning like an idiot, as I pointed out names and gushed about how much that clan-member helped in such and such a situation. Angels of the pixel streets and all.
But even so, when it's gone beyond what any of us could safely deal with, it gets passed upwards; and worst case scenarios get landed on Dan. Absolutely none of them in the last month. The certificates above his head told me that Runescape genuinely is one of the better moderated games out there. At least as regards real life. I'm still not over Nomad.
Poor Mod Mat_P and Mod Benw didn't fare so well with me. They look after copyright and so most of our conversation centered around private servers. Naturally, they have an internet brand to protect, while my ethic is with Stephen Levy.
It was explained to me that some private servers are scams, designed solely with phishing or money-making in mind. When I heard about the scamming side, I was happy for Mod Mat_P to go after those.
In truth, this one was a tricky area for me. I know that a lot of my friends are vehemently opposed to private servers. I've mostly never seen the point in them, so not really considered the specific issues. It's only in retrospect, driving home picking over all that Mod Mat_P said, that I found a parallel.
Instead of waffling on about it here, I'll just link you to where I waffled about it elsewhere.
For now, let's stay with the visit. I actually quite enjoyed the debate on cyber-ethics with Mod Mat_P. I'd love to meet up with him again sometime and continue it. (Just don't tell him that he was freaking winning. I think I was doing quite well at the time!)
I was also shown another big dodgy activity in this section, which is very well tracked. I can't go into detail here, other than to recommend that you never, ever buy an account from a stranger. The chances are that you won't get to keep it and you'll lose a lot of money in the process. Then who are you going to go crying to? Mod Benw convinced me on that one.
From there it was over to the people handling hi-jacked accounts. In the run up to this, I'd talked about two friends and an acquaintance for whom this had happened. To make it more personal, I got to see what had happened there.
Mod Gunner led on this one. She's really lovely. A true geek after my own heart and the Trinity of Player Support. She's paid by Jagex to do what I pursue for fun and vengeance, whenever anyone picks on one of mine. I'd love her job! She's also got a lot more tools to play with. I was practically dribbling staring at her screens.
All of the tour was fascinating, but I could have stayed at Mod Gunner's desk forever. It was amazing to follow through the results, when I'd engaged the hackers at the time.
In one case, my own investigations mirrored hers. In another, mine had hit a cloud. (At the time, I'd whined so much about losing them, that my friend and fellow player Audioworm had wryly exclaimed, "How dare the hackers be good at what they do!") Mod Gunner didn't end in the mire. She GOT them! I happy danced.
We also looked at the amount of times people have attempted to hack my account over the years. There weren't nearly as many as unsuccessfully try to hack my Merch Gwyar blog. I once met the owner of the fan-site which hosts it. Salmoneus said that my profile there is one of the most cyber-attacked. (Wannabe bloggers presumably.) Only about half a dozen have attempted to get my actual Runescape account. Bless them for trying.
They didn't get in for one very good reason - I've always taken advantage of the security provision offered by Jagex. My bank has had a PIN from the beginning. My security questions have been set. I registered my e-mail when that came out. My password pwns.
Looking at those half a dozen attempts, I was really glad of that. They weren't all the same day either. They spanned years.
I asked what was the most important barrier and Mod Murray stated it was the e-mail registration. People think that's for marketing spam, it's not really. I get about one e-mail a month from Jagex (as opposed to the several phishing attempts a week from opportunist idiots). But I saw great ways in which registering your e-mail can protect your account. Worst case scenario, it also helps get it back again.
It would help them greatly, if folk were honest about how their accounts got taken over. One player telling them, 'I'm really sorry, I downloaded x, y or z' could save 1000 more accounts suffering the same Fate.
A friend with a previously hi-jacked account had asked me to hug Mod Carlos and Mod Monty in this department. Neither were at work that day, so I left the hugging mission with Mod Gunner. I should also mention that another J Mod was with us at this point. Unfortunately, I didn't catch his name.
Afterwards I met Mod Lucas P who goes after phishing sites. I LOVED his technology! Every time that anyone reports a phishing site or e-mail, it goes into this database. Then the war begins. Keep on feeding them information, boys and girls, this is geek versus organized crime - true Mafia Games!
(Yes, I did geek out in this aisle. It was all human rights when I walked in; then cyber-ethics up the corner. Now we were into the doxing and coding, which always makes me pay attention. I should live in Player Support, all of the boxes get ticked.)
Lucas had three screens in front of him. They looked identical. He flicked through them, challenging me to spot the phishing sites. I passed with flying colors. Phew! I even coped well when he chucked the real site in to trick me. Go Team Canting!
In the next aisle were Mod Mozza and Mod Ollie. They fix computers, hence you'll find them rocking out Tech Support on the forums. As enthused as they were about their work, they saved their greatest praise for the player community, which has built up in their part of the forum.
There are geeks in there, who spend more time volunteering to get other players in game than they do logging into it themselves! Mozza and Ollie showed me how these players hang out in the forum, with the same sort of pride with which I talk about my clan.
There were systems which Jagex categorically does not support (except when they do). The player volunteers have no such restrictions. For them it's pretty much a challenge, hence a whole Wiki getting Linux users playing Runescape.
I was shown a work in progress, which will help non-computer savvy people put all of this advice into action. It's a series of videos, which will act as 'how to' guides in fixing the most common computer issues. The early scenes that I saw looked promising. I think they'll be a great help.
Audioworm would have died happy in that section, but my heart was still over with Gunner and Lucas. I'm more a code girl than a hardware one, but it was all very interesting.
Not doing quite so well with me was the next mod, poor Mod Crisp. This is the department I once battled for months over a Paypal issue, which eventually saw victory for me. The poor man had to sit through that story; and looked quite relieved when he realized that I was talking 2008.
He countered by telling me how that wouldn't happen these days. Lessons did get learned and continue to do so. He took the exact scenario in which I'd been immersed and showed how it would have been dealt with today. I cheered! It wouldn't have been nearly so ugly; if at all. We'd have had it sorted out in hours, instead of months, and all the world would have been happy.
Issues aired and cleared, I finally let him tell me what he wanted to tell me. This was impressive. I didn't realize the whole range of ways in which people pay for their membership. Most go for the biggies, but there's a PaybyCash option which digs into dozens of routes.
His team has to be proficient in them all; in a variety of languages; in a vast range of currency. There are also tiers of payment. Another JMod had stupidly gone on holiday for a week. There was a massive e-mail awaiting his return. It just brought him up to date on all of the adjustments in all of these payment methods all over the world.
In short, they have to process a lot of information on an on-going basis, every day, then unlearn it and learn something else, all of the Guthix-damned time!
I hadn't quite appreciated what a big job this was before. It's way too tempting to just think of Billing Support as the money-grabbing arm of a business. The look of complete intensity on his team's faces showed me that it was much bigger than that. This is probably one of the more complex areas of Player Support and far more interesting than I thought it would be.
Finally I was back with Mod Murray, looking at the motivation tips and the Board of Awesomeness. We complain a lot, us players, and Player Support bears the brunt of that. This board has print-outs of the compliments for when they need to keep morale up. There were fair comments there too.
I got to do something quite cool while in the department. The people in Player Support have been working on their new forum section. They had a thread of introductions ready to go. I got to be the one to press the button which made that live. Here it is: Meet the Customer Support Team.