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Biggest Headache For Game Developers: Abusive Fans 381

Posted by Soulskill
from the hiding-behind-an-internet-connection dept.
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 Polygon.com. '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.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sinij (911942)
      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 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 Remus Shepherd (32833) <remus@panix.com> 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.

    • Welcome to everything. The more customers you have, the more likely some of them will be nutbars. I found when working retail, the best solution was to have no tolerance for the people who are out of hand. Sure, you lose those few customers, but everyone else is so much better off that it more than makes up the difference. A nice chance to apply the 80-20 rule.
    • To be fair, Martin asked for such fan reactions. In the second to last book of the "Song of Ice and Fire" ("A Feast for Crows"?), he wrote that he had divided the story, and that the companion volume covering the other characters in that timespan was written and in the pipeline. This was a lie. That volume hadn't been written, and it took Martin an unexpectedly long time to write it. Many fans were not only disappointed at not getting what they wanted, but angry because they had been lied to. They fel

  • by Kohath (38547) on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:15PM (#44585125)

    You see stories like this on other topics. They tend to be hyped up. It's a crisis! Won't someone please think of the children!?

    Yeah, it's probably a real issue. No, it's probably not a crisis.

    Gamers shouldn't have an entitlement mentality. Game developers shouldn't have a victim mentality. People should be nicer to each other.

  • 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.

  • It's all part of the Eternal September playing a rush to the bottom.
    Trolls have discovered there's very little (if any) consequence to them being as obnoxious as possible, and many have come to realise that if you troll and upset people, they can't let it go as well as a well reasoned argument.
    Thus, it seems that if you Troll, you get a response, so more people troll, and the more abusive you are, the more attention is paid (and god forbid, someone deletes the abusive post, as that then ends up noted on all

    • This doesn't seem limited to the online world either. I've heard of many instances of female geeks being harassed at conventions and other areas for not being "real geeks." Apparently, in the minds of some self-proclaimed "real geeks", one cannot be a woman and a geek at the same time... any women that claim to be geeks are pretending, likely to try to seduce a "real geek." (Yes, these people have actually claimed this!) Now, I'm not female and have never gone to a convention, so I haven't seen this per

      • any women that claim to be geeks are pretending, likely to try to seduce a "real geek."

        Does it make be a bad person, or geek, that my first thought was 'Seduce Me!'?

        On reflection there's the 'pretending to be somebody that you're not' problem though.

  • 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 blahplusplus (757119) on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:25PM (#44585233)

    ... from the F2P scam, DRM, and taking away peoples ability to own games by making everything F2P or online, where Diablo 3 introduced us to the DEFECT of SINGLE PLAYER LAG. The entire industry at present and the corrupt whiny little bastard game devs (those who are among the corrupt) deserve everything they get.

    The Game industry is among the most corrupt on the planet:

    -Taking the ability to own and mod games away from players
    -Enclosing games by using MMO/F2P server chaining strategy
    -F2P/MMO games are locked down and that makes a suffocating environment for fan creativity, mods, hacks, etc, to the original game and more and more games are being completely locked down and gamers being locked out.

    Nanny corporation is trying to make people dependent on it in the exact same way as an overbearing totalitarian state would. They want to force a relationship where they continually draw money from people and you never own anything.

    This is just more of a trend of game industry not aware of the industry wide corporate corruption that people are getting sick and tired of and the are too oblivious to the justified anger people have at price gouging, bank bailouts, and wars based on lies.

    • 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.

      • "So don't buy or play the game if you know it's got issues."

        That's not the way the world works. This is a typical american go-to statement that americans use to shut down serious analyses about how the world actually works. As an adult you can go ahead and not buy the game, but how many kids and teens/20 somethings who never grew up in the PC game era of doom, quake, etc are going to know the game industry is totally corrupt when they never experienced or lived through gaming during the 1990's?. Kids who

    • by Solandri (704621)

      ... from the F2P scam, DRM, and taking away peoples ability to own games by making everything F2P or online, where Diablo 3 introduced us to the DEFECT of SINGLE PLAYER LAG. The entire industry at present and the corrupt whiny little bastard game devs (those who are among the corrupt) deserve everything they get.

      I'm pretty sure those "features" were put in because management dictated that they be implemented. Not because game devs thought they would be cool things to put in the game.

    • by DRMShill (1157993)

      Right because a laggy game totally justifies you to threaten to butcher the developers family and vivisect their children.

  • by GrumpySteen (1250194) on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:30PM (#44585303)

    Hyperbolic insults, rants, threats and bullying are commonplace in every type of communication over the internet. The anonymity and pseudo-anonymity enable a culture where there is rarely any significant penalty for even the worst insults.

    Gabriel from Penny Arcade really summed it up nicely with his Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory [penny-arcade.com]

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday August 16, 2013 @02:05PM (#44585677)

      Yup, I've heard this happening in conventions or online communities where female geeks are told they aren't "real geeks" because they aren't guys. (Other reasons are given because the self-proclaimed "real geeks" don't want to admit to being sexist, but it all boils down to "ewwww girls" attitude.) A vegan friend of mine online has been harassed by people who claim she's not a "real vegan" because she doesn't follow X, Y, or Z and only by following all of this can you be a "real vegan." And then there's the political arena where you can't be a "real" member of the party without following EVERYTHING that the party stands for TO THE EXACT DEGREE that they stand for it. Any variation or independent thought means you are a traitor to the party and should be shunned.

      Sadly, I think this is a basic fact of human nature (forming groups then protecting those groups from perceived "outsiders") which the anonymity/pseudo-anonymity of the Internet helps to push to extremes.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      And on top of that the people most likely to respond in an adult fashion are those with least time to talk to you. A lot of the people you find trolling the net are fourteen, unemployed, unemployable or have some kind of mental condition or personality disorder which lead to them not having much better to do than to spread bile. That great developer who'd know the answer? He's probably busy designing and writing code after he got home from work while the bastard with no social life who can't figure out why

  • "Harassment silences and repositions content creators in ways that protect the interests of certain fan groups."

    s/Harassment/Management/
    the only difference being management butters the bread so content creators dont have a problem eviscerating a beloved storyline. There have been plenty of times when content creators have just sold the fuck out and decided their fans were worth less than gobs of cash. Im looking directly at you, Westwood studios. conversely, studios like 3drealms had no problem ignoring trolls and abusive fans while they spent through the cash and coasted into bankruptcy. What did we get? some

  • 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...

  • This direct communication can actually do more harm than good. The most vocal in a community are not necessarily speaking for the majority and I think game developers make that mistake all too often. They attempt to appease the loud minority which ultimately pisses off the happy majority when the changes are put in. The reality is the unhappy minority will never be happy anyway. They hate their own lives and these developer forums are just a medium for them to express it. I've always had difficulty unde
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:50PM (#44585515)
    To stop programmers getting harrased, why not keep the names and emails of the programmers under wraps? If the programmers insist on hanging around in user forums then that's their business - they should know what to expect by now. If they want to be "rock stars" then get ready for some rocks.

    Alternatively, the most straightforward way to stop criticism from disaffected "fans" would be to give them what they want, rather than assuming that some designer somewhere knows better.

    • by Solandri (704621)

      Alternatively, the most straightforward way to stop criticism from disaffected "fans" would be to give them what they want, rather than assuming that some designer somewhere knows better.

      That's easy. Just implement a god mode in the game.

      The problem is the players want themselves to be in god mode, while other players are not.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        The first rule of PvP is that if you are killed then the other player must have cheated.
        The second rule of PvP is that if the devs don't fix this cheating then the devs are playing favorites.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You cannot possibly give "The fans" what they want, because you have lots of fans, which often want very contradictory things.

      I have worked in the MMO industry, and every time we'd do an update, you'd hear the hard-core people screaming in the forums that we should only do high-end raid dungeons, because Real Players all had max level characters, and so there was no point in catering to clueless noobs who didn't know how to play the game. And at the same time, user surveys and in-game data revealed that we

    • 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.

  • Just stop reading fan mail. Don't post your email account online. Don't have a blog with comments that people can post to. Don't go to sites dedicated to your game. You will not see all the hate if you don't go out of your way to read it!
  • Fez 2 & Phil Fish (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ZephyrXero (750822) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (orexryhpez)> on Friday August 16, 2013 @01:56PM (#44585563) Homepage Journal
    I'm still mourning the loss of Fez II thanks to all the haters and trolls :(
  • I've been on a lot of game dev forums and the thing is that they don't start out hostile.

    What happens is that the devs will frequently ignore the fan base who are their customers... do stupid things that pretty much everyone hates... insult the fan base by either saying people really want the thing they don't want or say they don't care what people want and do it anyway.

    In addition to that, you'll have bugs that won't get fixed for MONTHS to YEARS despite many updates... simple things... that just get ignor

  • If your BIGGEST headache is your fans, you're obviously not prioritizing correctly. Bigger headaches should be funding, staffing (hiring and retention), negotiating with publishers/distributors, quality, testing, advertising, and treating your labor with respect while still eeking out a profit. If you're paying attention to non-constructive whiners, you're doing it wrong. I felt the last season of The Guild was entirely unnecessary, but if this problem is as prevalent as this article makes it out to be, I'm
  • It is like yelling at the cashier at wal-mart because they don't sell monster truck tires.

    1. You haven't even played the game, or haven't played it enough yet to understand why X feature is/isn't in the game.
    2. You are directing your unjustified hate at the wrong person.

    Instead of letting the hate flow through you and writing a stupid forum post to feel good from the endorphins it releases you should take some time to understand why the decision was made. It was probably made by people more inform
  • So, I guess game development is pretty good preparation for a career in politics, after all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 17, 2013 @12:42AM (#44591545)

    I work in the video game industry and have experienced this first hand.

    A few years back we shipped the latest instalment of a popular game franchise. Our online publishing partner, who won't be named but their name rhymes with TONY borked the capacity planning for game servers based on their projected demand which was 10x less than what we saw on launch day.

    Their servers crashed and the fans came down on us like the fist of an angry deity.

    The online abuse was one thing -- being slagged in the forums and on YouTube was to be expected. What we didn't expect was how quickly certain fans escalated their abuse.

    It began with complaints to the Better Business Bureau -- complaints that we'd ripped people off by selling them a game that was unplayable. This was annoying but not unexpected.

    Then the calls started when one fan found our front desk number and hundreds of frustrated teenage boys began calling, threatening to rape and murder our receptionist and anyone else who was involved in the development if the game. To her credit, she handled them with aplomb but when someone posted our office address, the "fans" began to send "gift baskets." Boxes full of animal (we hope) feces, soiled XXL BVDs, and rotten food. One fan waited outside the office, then confronted her. That was the last straw and she understandably quit the next day.

    The most unsettling instance happened when I was walking towards the front door, a police car pulled up and demanded to know if I was an employee of the studio. The officer got out of his cruiser and adopted an intimidating demeanour suggesting that we should fix the "god-dam" game and stop ripping off gamers. When cops start stalking you, you know it's time to find a new line of work.

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