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Biggest Headache For Game Developers: Abusive Fans 381

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chicksdaddy writes "Haters keep buyin' — that appears to be the dynamic playing out in the ever-hot video game industry, where game developers say harassment and trolling from their rabid fans is turning them off of development completely, according to a report over at 'Fans are invested in the stories and worlds that developers create, and certain design decisions can be seen by fans to threaten those stories and worlds,' said Nathan Fisk, lecturer at the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and co-author of the book Bullying in the Age of Social Media. 'Harassment silences and repositions content creators in ways that protect the interests of certain fan groups, which again is no justification for the kinds of abusive behavior and language seen online today.' The problem is widespread enough that it may even pose a threat to the future of the industry. Developers, both named and those who wish to remain anonymous, tell Polygon that harassment by gamers is becoming an alarmingly regular expected element of game development. Some developers say the problem was among the reasons they left the industry, others tell Polygon that the problem is so ubiquitous that it distracts them from making games or that they're considering leaving the industry."
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Biggest Headache For Game Developers: Abusive Fans

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  • by subanark (937286) on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:11PM (#44585085)

    Yes, it is nice if you have the developers actively communicate with the fan base, but many times, those fans that post on forums the most end up making demands, and in many cases don't fully appropriate the fact that the game developers know what they are doing much more so than the fans do.

    Blizzard has CMs (community managers) that act as a buffer between the developers and the fan base. They are trained and hired to deal with the various disagreeing opinions, while being able to recognize when there is a clear consensus that is sensible and something the devs should be aware of. Most people know 2 of the developers: Greg Street, who has taken it upon himself to meet this challenge, and Chris Metzen who primarily works on Art, voice, and lore, which people generally don't complain about too much (although it does happen).

    I see way too many game companies let their developers just openly communicate with the fan base unbuffered, and they need to take a hint from Blizzard to let the professionals handle it.

  • by Remus Shepherd (32833) <> on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:14PM (#44585121) Homepage

    It sounds as if game developers are learning what sci-fi/fantasy writers already knew; fans can be rabid and irrational. For most authors this isn't a problem because they sell in the 5 or 6 digits and there may be just one crazy fan. But every AAA video game has millions of players, so the number of crazies can be much larger.

    This is why Neil Gaiman was forced to tell people that 'George R. R. Martin is not your bitch.' Because rabid fans wanted GRR to be their bitch, and because he now has such a large audience their harassment was getting out of hand.

    The solution to this is to grow a thick skin and/or to get a secretary that will read and filter your mail for you. Or you could make games that only sell 10k-100k units, so the fanbase doesn't reach a critical mass of craziness...but if your company is addicted to money then being a smaller part of the market isn't an option.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:15PM (#44585139) Homepage

    STFU, n00bs!

    In other words, ignore those kinds of fans: they'll yell and scream and complain, and in the end buy the next version of the game.

  • by sinij (911942) on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:20PM (#44585167) Journal
    Yes, because Blizzard is such a shiny beacon of understanding and communicating player base needs, right? Well, you do not need to look hard to see this is clearly not the case. RealID fiasco anyone?
  • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:21PM (#44585177) Homepage Journal

    Some gamers have moved from a perspective of critical approval before purchase, "If it's a good game then I'll get it" to a sense of entitlement, "they owe me a good game".

    Run that up against the whole process of finding a game idea, fleshing it out, coding it, adding the art & sound, network support, testing, packaging, marketing and if you are in the business you wonder how you succeed at all.

  • by space_jake (687452) on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:21PM (#44585183)
    A vocal minority without anything constructive to add should be ignored. I don't see the problem here.
  • by stinkbomb (238228) on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:26PM (#44585245)
    There are more games than World of Warcraft.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:27PM (#44585249)
    Everyone's a bullying victim these days. Le sigh.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:29PM (#44585279)

    Sorry, did they force everybody into RealID?

    I'd say that the "RealID fiasco" is exactly representative of a company responding to the concerns of its player base.

    It seemed like a good idea "in-house," so good that they could "push all users into the RealID system!" Then they started talking about it to fans, and fans said, "hold the fuck up. hold the fuck up. I do not want that." And... Blizzard moved away from forcing everybody into RealID. I have it disabled, though I do like the BattleTag features, so I use that instead.

    I'm not sure why you seem to think that their response to the RealID concerns are an example of "not understanding and communicating player base needs."

  • by DarkFencer (260473) on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:29PM (#44585281)

    Gaming industry deserves all the abuse it gets. Extreme cases of abuse aside, all criticism is they get is deserved.

    But who should be getting the abuse you advocate? The executives of the big publishers or the regular folks working for the industry to actually make games? I've disliked games before but that doesn't mean that I should be justified to spew vitriol at the coders, artists and others working in the industry.

  • by Microlith (54737) on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:31PM (#44585313)

    So everyone is deserving of abusive, sociopathic behavior? Even the indie developers whose team is small?

    Extreme cases of abuse aside, all criticism is they get is deserved.

    No. This is about the studios and developers being undeservedly abused and harassed. Not criticism but blatant abuse from immature children masquerading as adults who have no mental capacity for filtering their insane behavior. It's probably the same lack of mental facilities that cause others to abuse women who stand up for themselves.

  • by gameboyhippo (827141) on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:31PM (#44585315) Journal

    These are many of the reasons I'm a big fan of Nintendo. They care about the developers, take their time to develop the right product, and don't engage in this microtransaction nonsense. Even with games like Pokémon Rumble U, Nintendo promises that you can see everything there is in the game even if you don't buy their collectible figures. I'm glad Nintendo ignores the investors (iOS!) and the non-Nintendo fans (MMOFPS sports game please!) to make a quality product that doesn't rely on these "shady profits".

  • harden the fuck up (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:32PM (#44585319)

    if you can't handle words after the age of 13 then you aren't an adult, you are an old child and don't deserve any of the privileges of adulthood

    sticks and stones dudes, don't feed the trolls, post the best hate mail on your website for laughs

    you have no right not to be offended

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:33PM (#44585333) Homepage

    All those evil things you describe; sweatshops, layoffs, buyouts, DLC, lack of innovation are not initiated by the designers and developers, yet those are the people getting harrassed.

    This isn't some anonymous "gaming industry" that gets the crap, it's individual people.

    Imagine somebody coming up to the counter of whatever supermarket you work at and start verbally abusing you for decissions made by some upper level management people.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:33PM (#44585335)

    Because the entire game industry is EA and Activision, amirite?

    Or maybe there's independent devs who just make games out of love of the art and wish they got some basic degree of respect and dignity from their NAAAAAH lol I'm joking of course, anyone who's ever touched a gaming API is a heartless sweatshop owner who rapes children and eats their dogs in front of their faces for profit.

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:38PM (#44585369)

    There is a big difference between complaining about something and being abusive about it, we seem to not understand this concept anymore.

    Step 1:
    Don't assume your adversary is evil or has some evil agenda. Most people want to do the right thing, however they made wrong decisions along the way.

    Step 2:
    Discuss your problems rationally. Get some sleep before you start ranting about something. Ok you are frustrated at this level, perhaps because you have been playing the game for 30 hours straight. And it is you that is blacking out every 5 minutes and not the game. Figure out how big of a deal it is. You love the game but your arm polygons sometimes go threw a wall.

    Step 3:
    Realize that Perhaps you are not the target audience. I mean the "Pony Unicorn Princess" Game is a bit too girly for a 30 something guy. Or "Hell Killer: Mountain of blood", is giving your 4 year old nightmares.

    Step 4:
    Focus on the good points too. If you are going to tell someone your product sucks and you will never buy it anymore, they won't care, they lost (past tense) a customer. If you give them the good points and the bad points then they could be loosing (present tense) a customer and they may be more open minded.

    Step 5:
    Realize if you complain about something, it doesn't make you seem smart. There is the idea that the Intelligent person must be complaining about something and people who are in generally happy must be dumb, isn't really the case. If you like it, it is OK. Stop trying to find faults in everything.

    Now you can complain about stuff.
    Lets say the game says it should work on your system requirements, but it doesn't load up. Or you get bugs that prevent you from winning, you can complain about those, however you should also preference with the fact you like the game otherwise.

  • by seebs (15766) on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:45PM (#44585455) Homepage

    MMO devs often take a fairly hands-off attitude about their community, don't do anything about harassment and griefing... then are confused that their community is dominated by toxic people.

    Yes, it's a great thing to be thick-skinned, but it's not a moral virtue, it's just really useful. The people who are trying to offend other users and mock them for being sensitive are not really good for your community, and if you keep tacitly endorsing them, you end up with a community of people who have learned that abuse works, because the people it worked on mostly left. Then they do it to you too, and suddenly it's a problem...

  • by EricTheGreen (223110) on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:53PM (#44585539) Homepage

    Since when is "I will find you and kill you" useful feedback, let alone appropriate? And who should have to listen to dreck like that?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:56PM (#44585567)

    So don't buy or play the game if you know it's got issues. Request a refund if it's a defective product you already purchased. Tell the developers in a constructive way what bothers you about the game.

    whiny little bastard game devs [...] deserve everything they get.

    No, they deserve appropriate criticism and lower sales for the poor development choices they made. They do not deserve threats against them and their families. Stop being the problem.

  • by jythie (914043) on Friday August 16, 2013 @02:01PM (#44585643)
    Wait, the game industry treats its people badly, so that means it is morally ok for fans to treat them badly too because it is their own fault for being game developers?
  • by war4peace (1628283) on Friday August 16, 2013 @02:43PM (#44586151)

    Part of good game development business practice is to NEVER have developers talking directly to fans or viceversa. There should be middlemen who do that, namely community coordinators, moderators and such.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 16, 2013 @02:48PM (#44586197)

    Jesus there's some warped people on this particular thread.

    No one is entitled to "...any and all kind of abuse directed at these corporations" as a behaviour. So, I don't like a product you produced, it's ok for me to come a shit on the front steps of your corporate headquarters? Because that's just a building right? It's the corporation that owns that building so no people were harmed in me heaping abuse on it.

    Because the building just cleans itself, the hate mail just opens and reads itself, the corporate drone on the other end of the phone line or administering the forum isn't a "real" person, they're just a cog in the machine. If they go home depressed or upset by your perfectly justified death threats, well, that's the fault of how the company is structured and run?


  • by jafac (1449) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:27PM (#44586665) Homepage

    This is a very insightful comment. And to take your "rock star" mentality a bit further:

    "Dimebag Darrell", the guitarist of Pantera was assassinated ON STAGE by one of the band's fans.

    If you go to metal shows, you'll see that - even though most fans are actually really nice (but scary-looking) people, there's a certain subset (that you're not going to see as prevalently at say, a Tom Jones concert, for example) who are just angry scumbags looking to stir up shit. This is precisely why a friend I know, (and very talented guitarist) quit his metal band, got a haircut, and started doing studio work and teaching. His fans were getting creepier and scarier, the mosh-pits were becoming very violent, and no matter what they tried to tell the crowds about "staying cool", they just got worse and worse. People just apparently don't know how to behave civilized anymore.

"Regardless of the legal speed limit, your Buick must be operated at speeds faster than 85 MPH (140kph)." -- 1987 Buick Grand National owners manual.