Back in 1994, a young man by the name of Jordan and several others got together to roleplay online. Over the course of 27 years, that small group of roleplaying friends evolved into what we now know as the StarBase 118 PBEM RPG. Two years after it was officially formed, the group began to hand out recognition for achievements in the group, and that tradition continues to do this day in our annual Awards Ceremony held every year in June. Joining me today is Jordan, better known as Fleet Admiral Tristan Wolf, to give us a little history on the development of this event.
DEVEAU: What gave you the idea to start an awards ceremony?
WOLF: That was a long time ago, so I don’t know what the thought process was except to say that we thought it would be fun to recognize the people who were staying with us. Keep in mind that back in those days, things were pretty transient – we started on AOL chat rooms and it was very common for people to come and go freely without any of the structure that we have now. So the folks who were sticking around were a really important part of building something lasting.
How was it organised when it first began compared to how it is now?
The biggest difference is that back then the awards were written In Character. This led to some awkward writing since the awards were really recognizing the out of character achievements of the writers.
You can go to the wiki Hall of Honor and actually read some of the older ceremonies (1996 and 1997 are lost to the sands of time, but 1998 and forward are almost all there), and you’ll see that the idea was to have the whole fleet “in one place” as we gave out the awards. I think the first ceremony we actually CC’d everyone in the fleet on, because we weren’t using eGroups yet (which was the precursor to Yahoo! Groups).
What were some of the first awards created?
“TOSMA” – The Outstanding Simmer Merit Award – was really the first and primary award we were giving out. This was kind of an “all-around good simmer” award. I think it’s still our most commonly awarded.
We also had “TOSMA II,” which was sort of an “A for effort!” award. And the “Barclay Bead,” which was for folks who had significantly improved their simming over time.
What goes into the creation of an award?
Over the years we’ve added so many I guess the impetus is usually just, “Where are people putting in a lot of time, effort, and dedication that isn’t entirely covered by another award?”
Once we have that kind of prompting, then the Captains Council – which is tasked with managing the awards by our community constitution – reviews the idea, discusses the impact and framing of the award, and either tables it or votes to approve it. If it’s approved, then The (Image) Collective puts together a beautiful new graphic for it.
From there we try and roll out awards with as much fanfare as possible to the community so they get a sense of what’s newly available for recognizing others.
What are some awards that are no longer given and why were they retired?
TOSMA II was retired because it didn’t seem very well defined and like we could find something that was better explained and felt true to the theme.
The Barclay Bead was a similar thought process – we wanted a more thematic and descriptive award, which is now the Genesis Award.
There was an award called the Purple Star which we retired because it was entirely In Character as opposed to the rest of the awards which are intended to reward out of character dedication and writing. Once we created the Ribbons, which are all for In Character actions, something like the intention of the Purple Star made more sense in that category.
And we also had a duty post award called the Merria Medallion which was for computer engineering and programming. It was created to reward a particular simmer for their contribution in this area but never really felt entirely relevant again – in the Star Trek universe it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of attention on computer programming beyond maybe the episode with the Binars?
Which one is your favourite?
I don’t know that I have a particular one but certainly the Staff Awards are the ones that I tend to engage with the most as I am usually involved in the process of writing presentations for them. I take great care to write meaningful and comprehensive presentations for staff members who’ve put in literally years of their time and who I interact with the most on a day-to-day basis. In a way, they’re sorta my “crew.” So I always enjoy finding the right combination of Staff Awards that appropriately recognizes all that hard work, and also making sure that what we say in giving them to the recipients clearly explains just how meaningful it is for people to have put in this kind of dedication to our community.
Of all the awards you’ve been given over the years, which one has meant the most to you?
I’m always so deeply appreciative when staff or members want to recognize my work but I honestly try and avoid receiving awards when I can talk people out of it. For a long time I kinda just diverted the award nominations that came in for me! I want award ceremonies to be about everyone else’s hard work and dedication.
The first award I got was the Picard Award and I was very moved that folks wanted me to be the first recipient. In 1998, we had only been really an entity for four years and while I had certainly put in a lot of time and effort, there wasn’t much of a gap between me and others like Elinor who had also been there at that point for the entire time so that recognition felt very meaningful. Perhaps that gets at the core of why it seems a little self-indulgent to accept recognition sometimes? As the person who’s been here the longest, it’s like a foregone conclusion if I came up against someone else for a nomination and that doesn’t feel fair to anyone else nominated for the same award. Hence why it feels better to let others who haven’t had a chance to see their work recognized to have that moment.
The funny thing is that when I received the Great Bird Award it kinda just slipped by me. If I remember correctly, it was like we put together the whole ceremony and then I think Hollis put that award presentation in after the final edit? And I was like, “Hey, wait!” But the cat was out of the bag. That particular award had always looked like something that would just sit on the pedestal under the glass box and never be given to anyone – after a few years of no one receiving it – so when I was surprised by it I felt incredibly honored. It felt like real and personal recognition of the more than 10 years of work at that point and I still feel very proud to be the recipient of it.
Thank you for your time, Flt. Admiral Wolf!
You can read more about the different awards and the ceremony on the wiki.