Where is this community going?

meleu By meleu.


On May 1st we published an updated version of our User’s Code of Conduct. In this editorial we’re going to see a quick recap of some problems we faced during the history of this project and how they were solved. Also why the recent update was made and what it’s trying to solve.

The Genesis

In RA’s Genesis 1:1 it says: “In the beginning Scott created RetroAchievements.org website and RAGens”. (RAGens was our first supported emulator)

It happened in 2012, and probably Scott thought: “I’m sure the retrogamers around the world will love it, and come to create achievements and we will be a happy and friendly community built around this awesome hobby!”

And that actually happened. At that time the requirements for someone to be accepted as an achievement creator was just a matter of asking Scott to be one.

The tools to create achievements were very primitive and we had no documentation on how achievement creation works, neither on how to create GOOD achievements. Add to it the fact that the barrier to becoming a creator was extremely low and you can imagine that the quality of the achievements varied greatly between nicely done ones created by enthusiastic creators and works of dubious quality created by random sporadic contributors.

It also worths to mention that the way the website was created gives too much permissions to achievement creators. Among other things, they can change each other’s work. It makes possible to edit other people’s work accidentally or intentionaly.

As you can imagine, that became a source of problems.

Summing up:

  • What was done?
    • RetroAchievements was created.
  • What problem did that solve?
    • The lack of achievements for retrogames.
  • What problem did that created?
    • An addictive hobby
    • As an embryonic project, many low quality achievement sets were being created.

Starting Some Regulation

After a few years, as RA was growing up and increasing the number of members, the lack of proper tools for collaborative work started to become more and more apparent. At the same time RL demands came to Scott and he became kinda inactive around here.

The way found to compensate the lack of proper tools was to start some sort of regulation. And it started spontaneously by a dedicated former admin, kdecks, who decided to start monitoring the quality of work being uploaded to the webserver and ask people to do a better job.

As the figure commonly accepted as The Authority:tm: in this project was its creator, Scott, many achievement developers didn’t accept well the requests for a better job comming from another person (and that’s how the fad of hating admins started).

Summing up:

  • What was done?
    • Admins started to prevent low quality achievement sets to be promoted.
  • What problem did that solve?
    • The lack of minimum quality for achievement sets.
  • What problem did that created?
    • Clash between creators and admins.

A Written Code of Conduct

When I was invited to be an admin I noticed that the relationship between creators and admins were deteriorating. And in my understanding the root reason was the lack of documentation about how to create achievements.

That’s why I started the documentation project. And thanks to the contributions from many experienced achievement creators we produced a reasonably solid source of knowledge for our hobby.

At that time we also created the User’s Code of Conduct, outlining what’s expected from the community members. And the Developer’s Code of Conduct, listing some rules to prevent low quality work from being promoted and to prevent achievement creators, the lifeblood of this community, from fighting among themselves.

After sometime we also started what is currently known as the jr-dev program. A structured path to allow newcomers to become achievement creators.

That caused a positive impact on the growth in the number of contributors to the project, but it came at a cost: the workload for admins and moderators increased considerably. To the point that some started to have burnouts (it happened to me in 2019 and over the last year it also happened with some others)

Summing up:

  • What was done?
    • Documenation project was started.
    • User’s and Developer’s Code of Conduct were published.
  • What problems did that solve?
    • The lack of an easily accessible knowledge base to show to creators the basics and “best practices” of achievement creation.
    • The lack of written rules where people can agree to follow.
    • No more need for heated discussions between creators and admins (interventions are only necessary when there is a violation of the code of conduct).
  • What problem did that created?
    • The accelerated community growth increased the workload for admins/mods.
    • Burnouts here and there.

The RetroAchievements Manifesto

Even with all that progress there was still a problem that had been causing the deterioration of relationships within this community for a long time: many players were having an idea that RetroAchievements was a “service” being offered to our “customers”.

Apparently that was making them feel entitled to disqualify the work of the achievement creators and make demands about how they should do their job. As if we needed to please our “customers” in order to increase our user base.

The RetroAchievements Manifesto came to put very clearly that here we don’t have customers, but community members. And most important: achievements are made by and for the community. With our creations we want to please no one but our own community members.

“Although we’re welcoming anyone, we’re not desperately begging for more and more users. It’s your call: if you like what we have to offer, pick your gamepad and let’s play some classics!”

In that document we also reassure that the achievement creators are the backbone of this community. So, disrespectful interactions with them is definitely not something we want to see here.

For those who have been in this community for a long time, I believe that it’s quite visible that those “weekly dramas” of players offending the creators no longer happen. I credit this to the publication of our Manifesto.

Summing up:

  • What was done?
    • RetroAchievements Manifesto published
  • What problems did that solve?
    • Weekly clash between regular players and achievements creators.
  • What problem did that created?
    • hmmm… nothing :man_shrugging:

Why Update the Code of Conduct?

Due to the peculiarities in the history of this project we have always had a great openness to talk about the most varied topics. And another fact is that we have also historically had a great leniency with cases of offensive interactions between members.

So, despite all the significant improvements mentioned above, we were still wasting a great deal of energy with fruitless heated discussions. Causing a lot of stress in the community because of topics that had nothing to do with our hobby.

Such stress were obviously deteriorating the relationship between community members. And even in on-topic discussions, the animosities caused in previous interactions were kept. And this was clearly hindering the discussions from having a beneficial outcome.

This was wasting the resource that we value most here: the time that contributors devote to this project.

That’s why the updated Code of Conduct starts with a clear Mission Statement. That’s what we want to focus on.

The RetroAchievements project aims to provide tools for creating achievements for retrogames and ways to enjoy such creations. We strive to promote a healthy and collaborative community around this hobby.

We still have spaces dedicated to off-topic conversations. They’re important spaces where people can strengthen their bonds of friendship by talking about different subjects and interests. But as soon as the interactions there start to become controversial and turning into heated and unpleasant discussions, moderation will act.

By the way, the method that moderation should act was also an importante improvement in this update. We are clearly saying that moderators should take a diplomatic approach, without sarcasm or making fun of their authority. This is what this community should expect from moderators. And if they’re not acting this way, we expect the community members to report this to RAdmin.

If by chance you want more room for your interests than we can offer here, an interesting option is to create your own discord server and still be a member of RetroAchievements community.

A good example where this happened was with my compatriot Thoreau. He created a separate discord server for the Brazilian community of RetroAchievements fans. There they have their own style and their own rules, which are different from what we have on our official server. And it’s not preventing anyone of them from still being part of the RetroAchievements community.

With this update on our Code of Conduct we hope our members make a better use of their time while contributing with this project.

Summing up:

  • What was done?
    • Updated the User’s Code of Conduct with a project’s Mission Statement and highlighting that we want to focus on that.
  • What problems did that solve?
    • Waste of time and energy being spent on heated off-topic discussions.
    • People holding a grudge after unfortunate interactions during random off-topic discussions.
    • Lack of an explicit direction of how moderation should act.
  • What problem did that created?
    • Less room to talk about a broad range of unrelated topics.

And regarding this last point, we hope it can be solved by people finding their way to create their own spaces. It’s pretty easy and simple to do that nowadays.


The main takeaways here are:

  • At RetroAchievements, we want to focus our energy on our Mission.
  • Heated arguments about off-topics are going to be moderated.
  • Moderators must be diplomatic.
  • You can have your own community, with your own rules, and still enjoy RetroAchievements.