July 25, 2011 Leave a comment
For whatever reason, for the last few months, I’ve had this concept bouncing around in my skull, and I’ve started to put it up here a couple of times, but have yet to follow through until now. As a person matures with any endeavor they tend to think about things beyond their immediate perceptions and understanding. A long-term view starts to be adapted as the fullness of involvement starts to be realized. For myself, part of that is acknowledging personal past behavior, comparing it to others, and analyzing those actions. Part of advancement in anything is reflection and analysis, and opinions should be shining examples of this. I say this because, like I said, I’ve had a thought/nagging/what-have-you bouncing around in my skull for a while, and it just won’t go away. That thought is simple:
Do we, as players, mis-direct our frustrations towards people who are undeserving of it?
I think the simple answer to the question is “yes” (the converse question of directing our praise to those deserving is a valuable question as well, though, of probable less importance given the disparity between the projected emotional spectrums). Any romp through most MMO forum’s will see a majority of people expressing frustration. Those people more deeply embedded in the social structure of the community will probably have a greater insight to the workings of their game of choice. In-as-much as they will likely know the names of some of the designers or the forum handles of the “devs” that interact with them on the message board. That “insight” isn’t as great as some of us would like to believe (I believe). This perceived greater insight lends itself to a higher sense of involvement, and emotional attachment to a product, which can be a very nasty two-edged sword.
On the one hand, companies want to foster a passionate customer base. A group of people who are dedicated to your product and emotionally invested can be utilized too much greater degrees than dispassionate users. In the terms of video games and specifically MMOs, that means a willingness to stick it out for longer periods of (paid) time; word of mouth advertising to encourage friends and acquaintances; greater tolerance to deficiencies and problems; and a motivated base of people who may do any number of things to help improve on the socially hinged product. Of those four things, the second and fourth can work against you if that customer turns. When that happens the first doesn’t necessarily come to a stop but the third frequently turns to extreme intolerance for quibbles or disagreements. That built up angst is then often rebounded on the wrong person.
Using myself as an example, because I wouldn’t want to throw anyone else under the bus and I know myself better than any other person, I have done this to various degrees myself. A prime example is my history with Warhammer and the Shadow Warrior. There was a time where the career was going through tons of problems, with every patch. Things were constantly breaking, and the performance was so far out of skew with any of it’s contemporaries that its player base was looking for ANY glimmering of hope. In-stepped Adam Gershowitz, the Combat and Careers lead assuring players that the “…class certainly isn’t getting any worse…” (or similar). The following patch immediately broke and just pounded the career into the ground largely due to broken tactics and abilities. The Shadow Warrior community response was immediate and harsh. Up to a year and more after the situation, I and others had that quote, and a link to it, in our signature on the forums.
I look back now, and I have to wonder, how much of that whole deal could be laid directly at Gershowitz’s feet? From what I remember, a lot of what went wrong happened more because of game functionality problems, not some design flaw of abilities/tactics/etc… When a large part of the problem came from broken systems, doesn’t the blame lay before the coders, system implementors, and other similar jobs? Hell, I don’t know, because I don’t work there. Perfect evidence of my actual ignorance to how the process works, but Adam G. felt the community heat, deservedly or not.
To be fair, the argument can easily be made that him making a statement as definitive as that was foolish, and that he deserved the flack he received for putting himself out there in that manner. However, I look back now, and think to how I work in my job. I do what I do, and I expect my co-workers to perform to the same level of competency as myself. If I design a sprinkler system, I don’t expect my fitter to do a shit job on the installation. Expecting incompetence is not how you work in business, and I wouldn’t be surprised if in that particular situation, Gershowitz felt the same way.
It’s not easy to always maintain perspective. It’s even more difficult when you spend as much time involved in anything as playing an MMO takes. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try though. Sometimes frustration and disappointment are justified, and I know that from now on, when I express those emotions, I will at least TRY to direct them to the proper source.
And Gershowitz, if this gets around to you in any way, my apologies.