Don’t camp main spawns.

The concept is really quite simple. Why should that feel newsworthy? We all know it’s lame to hang out next to the spot where a player reforms, post-death, only to kill him again before the newly-spawned is able to move to retaliate.

Oh, but it happens – entirely too frequently. Why? Well, that’s the best place to get “kills,” to improve your stats. If you hide yourself just right, within enemy territory, you have next to free reign on all the spawn points. That’s right, your name, too, can be at the top of the list, for achieving … stuff. Stuff like sitting in one place for an hour and shooting at the same place over and over again.

Right.

While that kind of focus and ability to accurately complete the same task over and over is certainly admirable, it feels a little too much like some of the jobs I’ve held in the past. I’m not working at those jobs anymore for a reason. And while I respect others’ right to enjoy a game, I don’t want to be in a stats race.

I’m not the only one who feels this way.

The five guys at DontCamp.com, a popular first-person shooter community, have created a gaming environment where “all players have the right to fair and fun gameplay, provided the fun does not come at the expense of others.” No, really. It’s in the rules. And they are not afraid to ban people who break the rules.

Since switching to Battlefield 2 on their server, they haven’t been able to track bans and kicks, but in the days of Battlefield 1942’s Desert Combat mod, they did. Co-founder Jonathan Woodbury (“Butter”) relates, “We kicked over 28,000 people, distinct CD keys, and we had 60,000 events of kicking or banning. No warnings either. Go read the site during your two minute kick. It’s all there.”

These guys seem serious. But, they were able to have a bit of fun with it, keeping a ban and kick counter on the front page of the DontCamp website. Sean Myers (“dst”), another co-founder, quickly adds, “The bans only lasted 12 hours, or if it’s really bad, a week.”

How do they justify this high number of ban/kick actions? It’s all about maintaining the quality of teamplay. “We’ve got simple rules, but they’re rules. You gotta follow them,” states Damien Ryder Grosser (“Ryderstorm”), a third co-founder.

But the banning and kicking doesn’t seem to harm their population. Their community has over 800 registered members, of which approximately 75% have been active in the last three months. In fact, Myers explains that half the members learned about the rules by being kicked. “On other servers, you’ve gotta play the game the way everybody else does to survive; so, you’ve gotta base camp and all the other stuff. And they get kicked for doing it here and they’re like ‘What? That’s wrong? Great!'”

Indeed, it is a formula that appears to work for them, but how do they keep up with the sheer volume of banning? Deputies. These are volunteers in the community who have full kick and ban privileges. Chosen over time, these deputies have “proven” themselves to the five founders as those who understand the purpose of the server and its rules. They’ve helped create a Battlefield home for people ranging in age from 10 to their late 50s, as well as fathers and daughters, and husbands and wives. Ex-military, IT professionals and college students from several different countries are regulars on the DontCamp server. Co-founder Glenn Wilkinson (“Super Wabbit”) explains this success is a result of the community’s involvement in DontCamp. “The only reason a community like this works is because people get involved.”

While the community is involved with running the day to day operations and keeping the server teamplay friendly, the five administrators are working on the big picture. Aside from creating art to decorate the site or icons to bestow upon deserving forum members, they plan events for their community. These events are often suggested by the DontCamp Teamplay Committee, a group that formed on its own, to help the guys out. Myers and Woodbury built an elaborate web application which allowed them to accept plans for and OK events as others came up with them, allowing them to maintain control of the community, but still have lives outside of it.

With all this community involvement, one might say the devotion to teamplay extends beyond the actual game map. Maybe it is not about a type of gameplay at all, but rather a type of person. Hearing about Monday Mod Night events and planning committees popping up “just to help out,” I can’t help but think that perhaps the founders of DontCamp are on to something.

Participating in groups that work well together is not new territory to the founders of DontCamp. The five friends met at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s School of Music, where they participated in several ensembles together. This other passion, music, laid the foundations for all cooperative efforts in the future. “I have a theory about musicians and gamers. There’s a lot of unspoken communication when you’re a musician,” Grosser explains. Myers chimes in, finishing Grosser’s sentence, “Making five people sound like one is not easy.”

While they hone their own abilities to work in concert, the friends help others learn the joys of working together. And the others are loving it. In fact, the community surprised the guys with $1,000 in donations to keep the servers running on DontCamp’s first anniversary. “We had no idea. We were completely surprised,” says Woodbury. Apparently the strict enforcement of rules is going over well.

That is DontCamp in a nutshell: Self-policing, self-supporting, and generally, a very pleasant community. By the standards of Battle.Net or Gamespy Arcade, it’s tiny. But the servers’ positive vibe and low-pressure atmosphere makes it worth talking about. In an era when games have replaced rap music as the media’s favorite punching bag, and first-person shooters are charged with being breeding grounds for killers, it’s worth pointing out when gamers and their culture embody something positive.

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