An Interview with Luca
Interview conducted by Istillian
(Europeia - January 14, 2022) For the second in the series of articles written under the banner of Project Moirai, the Europeian Broadcasting Corporation turned to one of the leading military commanders on NationStates (NS), someone that has operated in multiple regions with incredible technical ability, having also founded and built their own region, Refugia, with dedication and care. Our interviewee was asked twelve challenging questions, with this interview turning to a perspective focusing more specifically on her experiences in raiding, defending and military gameplay as our subject topic.
Before becoming the expert in military gameplay and regional leader that she now is, Luca was a new nation and player akin to many of us here, so curiously we set out to gain some insight into where her gameside nation originated, and where she moved to from there. "That's a difficult question because I don't think I was ever a gameside-only nation in the normal sense. I joined NS because the community that I grew up in, which was entirely detached from NationStates, had some of our oldbies [sic] bring it up one day in the chat. And because, we had done a few other browser-based games together before, popped on and made accounts. We formed a region that was designed for our community alone and, aside from the WA [World Assembly], didn't interact with anyone else who was NS-based."
Her origins certainly seemed a far stretch from the gameplay, specifically the military gameplay sphere, so we queried Luca further on her background and experience here. "I think technically my first experience in "r/d" was our region getting raided when our founder and arch-admin CTE'd [ceased-to-exist], and I multied to get back the delegacy before getting permanently wa banned." For players that are not familiar with World Assembly membership, per the NS site rules players are only allowed to have one nation in the WA at any time, so Luca being banned from WA membership must have left a lasting impact on her overall experience and ability to operate and enjoy the game as a player.
"Going from being delegate to be banned from the WA for life demotivated me enough to quit the site. I wouldn't return for an additional five years. I did return though, and I thought I would stick around until the 250 issues that I remembered from last time started repeating and then leave. But it turns out they added a lot more issues since 2013. I founded my own region, became delegate, got massively interested in the WA and massively interested in cards. I burnt out on that at some point. I was jaded and getting sick and was planning on quitting the site again when Sakana invited me to try out tag raiding as a one-last-chance thing. So we formed a mini script-tagging org in secret called trieltics and that seemed like a more pleasant way for me to spend time than what I had been doing."
From being banned from the WA, to forming secret organisations behind the scenes, Luca had clearly had some fascinating experiences here, but for clarity we asked where she maintained her efforts now. "I still remain in the region that I founded, Refugia. Although most of my responsibilities are delegated to the specific focuses of its co-equal councillors, I still take care of recruitment, elections, graphics, and making sure the vibe is good. Most of my time these days is spent in The Grey Wardens, where I am a Warden-Constable."
Feeling as though we'd covered a significant proportion of Luca's background here, and noting that her history had made her more than qualified to speak on a rise into leadership roles and challenges as a player, we were curious to investigate what her most significant barriers were, specifically in her military career. "That's a good question. I think the answer might be fitting in. Or at least feeling like I belonged in the org[anisation] that I was in. Mechanically, I know that I'm fast, useful, what have you. But I think the way you fight burnout or the way that you find some long-term sustainability is having something to work for, or some internal motivation. And I've only really got that from feeling like who I was with and what I was doing was good, and that they wanted me there. It took a long time for me to find that, and it wasn't super pleasant to get there." Furthermore, we probed on whether or not she had been treated differently in leadership positions, across NS, or in the military sense. "I haven't been great with reaching out and socialising with people on NS because, well because I'm mostly just bad at it naturally. But also because the very outgoing people tend to form up with other very outgoing people and that becomes their social groups. Where your question relates to how well people listen to my orders at update, I haven't had any issues -- people know that I understand what I'm talking about."
In the last of our probes on the more negative experiences Luca had, given she had seen the good and bad side of players on military operations, we wondered what she saw as the most dangerous behaviour or trait in players in the R/D space on NS. "That's a very difficult question for me to answer ... because the answer is no different in r/d than it is anywhere else. Social mind games, using friendships to get IC [in-character] ends is, indeed, something I hate, but I wish it were that at worst. The most dangerous thing is OOC [out-of-character] misconduct from players, particularly when that misconduct happens in DMs [direct messages] and involves sexual harassment. Even more dangerous is when that is used in a power-dynamics situation. You hear about some players that are blacklisted or swept for those reasons, but those are not entirely all of them."
We reaffirmed that it was good to be firm on a message that supported moderation, healthy support networks, and good communities, and then turned to reflect on Luca's work and contributions that are now most rewarding to her as a player. "That's hard to say, but I'm pretty sure it's something lame like "working with bulk data". But it's not entirely wrong. I like stats, I like graphics, and dispatch formatting, but I think the thing I like doing the most and what I want to expand on most in my time on NS is making tools that empower other people to do things or get access to stuff they couldn't do before. So, making Dot I think goes in that direction with her recruitment function and region saver function that anyone can use, the scripts I've made for data processing and r/d, Refugia's sites and services all go in that bin. Crack open access for people and they can come up with wild stuff."
To tie in similarly on this, and with Luca's long list of accomplishments that have largely benefitted those around her, we wondered what she was most proud of in her time on the site. "Refugia, for sure. And I didn't do it alone, a lot of good people have helped grow it to where it is, left their mark on our law or how things operate. But I made it with this idea of "this is a community space" and that's the end of it. We kinda like socialism, we kinda like the environment, but mostly we're just a group of friends passing the time. We've got raiders and defenders, individually, but it's a neutral region where posturing and swipes are left at the door. Sometimes we work in the WA for fun. Someone in NSGP [NationStates Gameplay] voice chat, I remember, was asking a couple months ago what people thought the most inoffensive region on NS was. And Refugia and Spiritus were given as the predominant answer and that's literally as good as I could possibly hope for. It's got a little heft, but it's not a super political power. We stay out of conflicts, and hopefully anyone who wants to get away from that stuff for a while (or permanently) can do it here. I'm incredibly happy about it because Refugia wasn't a place that existed before I founded it, and people seem to like it."
Reflecting on how women were treated in the game though, and how the site had impacted her experiences, we queried Luca on if there were any changes she would like to see across NationStates. "That might be hard for me to say. In the spaces that I'm in, there's a lot of women who are prominent community people. In Refugia, women and non-binary people have held a majority of seats since we got started, but as a ratio of the whole community, they are a much greater share of the total population. I've seen similar censuses in other regions where the percent of men may be some 80-90%. I think there's some okay spots and some not-okay spots around the site, and avoiding the latter has some propensity to domino skewed demographics. Unclear what might cause that in each respective place, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were moderation related."
When initiating Project Moirai one of the discussions on its creation was reviewing the population of men in some regions comparatively to others, and hopefully investigating the reasons behind such a gender disparity. So Luca's consideration on this point was incredibly insightful for us. In the military environment across NationStates we did wonder if the experience may have been different if people were aware of gender. "So, my personal take on this is no - not really. I think the barriers in a number of militaries come down to the first thing that I talked about which is how compatible you are socially with the powers that be. So, if you're very social, very outgoing, you're friends with all the higher ups, then a lot of militaries will see you elevated might higher or at a much faster pace than you would be ordinarily. Gender may factor into that, with how you're perceived, but I think if there's a dynamic like that, it's much more weighted on how easily anyone could integrate or fit into those expectations. I haven't personally had difficulty in r/d with people knowing my gender, but some dynamics have been difficult at times for me, namely the eight or so months that I was working in The East Pacific's executive where I was the only woman on the rather incredibly populated executive staff. Which is back to the question of "how well do you feel you can fit in a region"."
The experience Luca had in The East Pacific seemed a familiar one when comparing this to some comments on the recent radio show with other leaders in our community, however it was good to note the positive comments on gender not factoring into appointments for roles, even if the social side of promotability comes with its own difficulties. We considered Luca's accomplishments to date though, and wondered what was next for her now though, what aspirations and goals on NationStates did she have, particularly in the R/D field. "This may be an answer you aren't expecting, but I don't really have any aspirations for my future in r/d. Maybe I did at one point, but I've enjoyed the last several months I've been with the Wardens. I enjoy my focus in recruitment and technical areas we were falling behind in, I enjoy showing up to update every day making sure things are okay and done right, and I really enjoy the community that I'm in. I'm very grateful to them for the comfortable space where I have a lot of breathing room, and I think they're happy to have me there for what I contribute. I've tried to become the fastest chaser, and more or less that's been accomplished and I'd like to keep it up. But mostly I'd rather not change things too dramatically from where they are now, since where they are now is about the only time I've ever really enjoyed r/d."
While this certainly was not the response that we were expecting, it is such a strong message, the aspiration and goal of continuing to contribute to a healthy community, and be a part of building it further is incredibly admirable. Luca has shown that she is a determined and committed individual, one of the most effective players in the military landscape, her technical ability is second to none, and her attitude towards moderation and maintaining a safe environment for the places she is in is heartening. With such a varied career, and for our final question for her, we wondered if Luca had any advice for players starting out their career in a military organisation, or a military on behalf of a government. "I think it would be that if you're in a space where you don't feel like things are working out, don't be afraid to change it up. R/D is a fun sorta mini-game that's weird, but not too stressful. If it's anything else, then something's not working right. How well you click with who you're doing things with matters. So, whether it's in raiding or defending, this org[anisation] or that one, find something that makes you happy and keep a regular sleep schedule."