Up Close & Personal: Halo

Recently, the delegate of The West Pacific, Halo, announced wide-ranging changes to the region’s Constitution, the Manners of Governance, including a theme alteration and the introduction of a House of Peers. I sat down with him to discuss these changes.


The first issue I talked to Halo about was the changes to The West Pacific’s Constitution and theme. He feels that it is his duty as delegate to help The West Pacific avoid stagnation, and this is the way to do it:

We need to keep things fresh! The duty of a delegate, as I see it, is threefold… to maintain a safe and stable region, provide opportunities for entertainment and activity, and recognize contributions and achievements.
The West Pacific is a terrific region. My first nation was created here and, although I have been active in many other regions, my favorite is The West Pacific. Our residents range from those just born yesterday to a large community of ancients. If you’re interested in NS history, you’d love to hang around our RMB! We are fun, active and snarky, but well-mannered. The region is safe and stable.
Now we want to avoid stagnation. Badger did a wonderful job of revitalizing the region, with his introduction of the Manners of Governance and support for the TWPAF pirates, but that was about two years ago. Recently, despite the excellent efforts of Davelands and Neenee before me, there has been a bit of a decline. It hasn’t been serious… a few less new players deciding to make The West Pacific their home and a smaller (but still awesome!) military… but it’s time to turn things around.
To that end, my cabinet and I presented the region with a choice of three new themes, along with some Manners changes to support the new theme and a point system to track activity. They have chosen Imperial China. This will be instituted to add texture, spur activity and allow for more frequent recognition of our residents’ contributions. The West Pacific’s core principles of Delegate Supremacy and Meritocracy will not only be preserved but strengthened.
Although the West Pacific has had several themes throughout the years… ADN cornerstone, Sacred Order, West Pacific Imperium, and many others… we have had nothing official for a while, except for our pirates, of course.  The West Pacific will still remain the laidback place it is. We will pick and choose what we will use and certainly not become Imperial China. The West Pacific will still be The West Pacific. Think of it as the Chinese Imperial court castaway on a Pacific archipelago with rum drinks!

The changes also introduce a House of Peers to The West Pacific. Halo is of the opinion that individuals who gain peerages should be given special responsibilities in the region:

Conferring titles is one way we would like to recognize the contributions of our most productive citizens. Most regions that I’ve seen either associate no governmental role with a title, like our friends in Osiris, or they are integral to the legislative process. I thought to establish a Hall of Peers to make the titles a little more than simply honorifics, but the West Pacific is not a democracy. They will act as another advisory body with the Hall of Nations. While the Hall of Nations advises the delegate on the opinions of the region’s nations, the Hall of Peers will give advice on gameplay and judicial matters. Delegate Supremacy remains intact.

However, the changes have come under criticism from certain quarters. Halo wishes to reassure those individuals that the changes will in no way change the character of The West Pacific:

Most of the residents of The West Pacific have been for it. Those that weren’t expressed concerns that it will change the character of the region or that a theme change isn’t necessary. I have listened to what they have had to say and have tried to address their concerns, making some of the same points that I have made in this interview. I will implement the new theme slowly, with an eye toward preserving our region’s  unique character and including the ideas of our residents. After the new theme was decided, we announced a regional contest to design elements for the theme.

Halo is a firm believer in the Meritocratic beliefs of The West Pacific, and thus his successor will be chosen according to these principles:

The West Pacific is blessed with many wonderful citizens. Of course there are a couple who stand out for their dedication, enthusiasm and creativity, but like my predecessors, I won’t be naming my successor until my delegacy is much further along. By then, my choices may have changed.

One issue Halo feels passionately about is the lack of civility present in discussions across NationStates. He believes that NationStates has began to reflect real-life politics, but not in a good way:

I suppose the reason it [the lack of civility] occurs is that it’s a reflection of what’s going on in real life, made more acute by the fact that we are operating in a virtual political environment in which people are bound to disagree. My hope, though, would be that we don’t have to be like so many of the real life politicians. Maybe we can try to make NationStates more of a model of what could be rather than a copy of what is? Can’t we just disagree, but remain cordial and polite, without attacking the person? Some of the long time players have told me that that is how it used to be. Maybe we can bring that back. I tried a bit of an experiment when I called for a break in incivility around Christmas time. To be honest, that had little effect, but I’m going to keep trying. I will at least always try to be a good example.

Halo believes that people should think before they speak and try not to get emotionally invested in arguments:

I don’t have answers, but I do have a few suggestions. First, each of us should make a conscious effort to keep emotions out of our arguments. If you find yourself heating up, step back and answer later. Pause to reflect before you hit send. Did you actually listen to what was being said? Is what you are saying actually helpful? Does it advance the discussion toward a resolution or is it just making you feel better at that moment? Next, we shouldn’t tolerate bad behavior in others. Call someone out on their incivility… but do so privately and with good behavior on your own part (if it’s not just rudeness, but seriously bad behavior, that should be brought to the proper authorities immediately, of course).  Be an example to others. Make bad behavior stand out as against the norm, not just another screech in the noise.

Halo admits that on occasions he has felt himself lose control:

I have, but I have the good fortune to be a very slow typist. That gives me time to catch myself before I respond. If a moment isn’t enough to calm me down and help me gather my thoughts, I step away. It’s so much easier to do that online than in person!

Halo feels that The West Pacific is the best region for encouraging polite debate and that it is due to the unique culture of the region:

The West Pacific, for example, has developed a culture that doesn’t put up with rudeness. Even our Constitution is called the Manners of Governance. Many a player who wouldn’t behave has been launched by the trebuchets of our Guardians! In regions that haven’t had a long experience with promoting civil behavior, the actions of the delegate are even more important. A delegate that supports and demonstrates patience, tolerance and polite discourse can really turn that region around. Delegates have a responsibility to keep their residents safe. I believe a good delegate should also make his residents feel welcome.

Halo says that The West Pacific is better than any other region in awarding merit and with the introduction of the Hall of Peers and the new points system, this tradition will only grow stronger:

Let me just say this… in my mind, the one thing which stands out above the many at which The West Pacific excels is awarding merit. In The West Pacific, if you contribute to the region, you will advance. This is true in our military, in the diplomatic corps, the government, everywhere. While still availing us of their wise advice, the elder states people in The West Pacific have the grace to step back and let the newer players advance. There are few regions where a player who has been playing NS for just over 2 1/2 years can become delegate in a region where the delegacy holds significant sway. With the new theme, the Hall of Peers, and the new point system, we are trying to provide even more opportunities for advancement and recognition.

The authority that the delegate of the region wields is what makes the role unique, according to Halo:

It’s more similar to the delegacies in the other GCRs than different, but one big difference would be Delegate Supremacy. In The West Pacific, all in-game authority rests in the delegate, the Hall of Nations and the Hall of Peers are advisory bodies, and the next delegate is chosen by the current delegate.

According to Halo, Osiris is probably The West Pacific’s closest ally, followed by The East Pacific and Equilism:

In The West Pacific, our allies are our closest friends and we take those relationships seriously. But, if you are going to put me on the spot, then I would say that our closest ally would probably be Osiris. We participate in frequent military training operations with them and also have many residents in common. We also enjoy a close relationship with The East Pacific and often confer with them on GP matters. Equilism has a special place in our hearts, as it is largely the work of one of our revered past delegates, Westwind. This isn’t to say that we don’t very much appreciate all of our allies. The West Pacific doesn’t make treaties lightly. They signify a very special relationship.

Finally, Halo feels that out of all the qualities required by a GCR delegate, patience is the crucial trait to have:

That’s easy… patience.  A region needs creativity, intelligence, enthusiasm, and a lot of hard work, but all of those can come from the other residents who support the region. However, GCR delegates themselves must have patience or the whole thing falls apart. When the old-timers are questioning your every move, the fourth noob that day asks how to join the WA and one of your allies is miffed that you have spoken with another ally, you have to take a deep breath, smile and listen. Listening and respect are probably the most important ingredients of patience. GCR delegates have to try to put themselves in the place of the other player. I like people and love The West Pacific, so these help me to be patient most of the time. It isn’t easy and I’m not always successful.

These modifications will undoubtedly result in some changes to the way TWP works, however I do not feel that they will result in a fundamental shift in the region’s culture. Rather, I believe they will enhance the meritocratic nature of TWP and keep the identity of the region fresh. I also think that Halo’s comments about the lack of civility across NationStates ring true and that we should all take a second to think before we speak – this would do NationStates a world of good. I want to thank Halo for giving up his valuable free time to provide me with this interview and I hope that you, the reader, have found this interview as engaging and interesting as I have.

Disclaimer: Your correspondent, Wymondham, is a citizen of The West Pacific.

Wymondham

Wymondham has been in NationStates for over three years, and Osiris for most of that time. He is currently the Minister of Home Affairs in Pacifica, and previously served as the President in that region, as well as Chief Scribe of Osiris. He particularly enjoys interviewing influential people in NationStates, being the author of the Up Close & Personal series.