Creative Assembly’s Grace Carroll speaks on fighting toxicity with active moderation

    
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Anyone who’s been on the internet for more than a few minutes knows how quickly forums and comment threads can quickly descend into toxicity — not that such a thing would ever happen around here — and community managers and moderators are constantly trying to figure out how to combat that problem. But according to a new report published on GamesIndustry.biz, the solution may be simpler than you’d think.

The article cites Creative Assembly’s Grace Carroll, who spoke on the subject at Develop:Brighton, as saying that on the Steam forums for the studio’s Total War series of games, simply the “visible presence of moderation” was enough to tone down the toxicity.

“If someone posts a really awful comment, and I reply . . . they’re like, ‘oh my god, I didn’t think you’d read it, I didn’t think you’d reply to it,'” Carroll says. “The attitude can turn from horrible to apologetic straight away.”

Take notes, game devs and community managers. You can check out the full summary of Carroll’s talk over at GamesIndustry.biz.

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Neurotic

Older gamers, like myself, will remember a time when ‘active moderation’ was the top-level of forum and chat room moderation. The mods were often promoted from being regular, responsible forumites into mods, hence everyone knew them and they were often actually there. This was great.

What changed, and when it changed, I don’t really know. Possibly at some point when connection speeds became generally faster, and so websites could become richer and more complex, and we left forums behind to some extent. I don’t know. But the rise of the ‘Community Manager’ and the decline of active forum mods probably happened at around the same time. Unfortunately, CMs have to do much, much more than police forums. They’re more of a company mouthpiece than anything else, because let’s face it, it is in essence an overwhelming task.

Forget about Reddit in this conversation, I think Reddit is its own thing, unto itself. Yes, it’s based on the idea of forums and message boards etc, but by now it is — again — it’s own beast. Comparisons are pointless.

harbinger_kyleran
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harbinger_kyleran

I find it surprising that anything she said was “news” to her audiance, seemed more like community relations 101, with commonly known info about dealing with forum management.

It shouldn’t be unless of course most devs have never spent much time on a modern forum or chat site.

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Tithian

That MH header image was like a punch in the gut, still.

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T.S

Using my favorite pet from Marvel Heroes in the header pic, what could of been

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John Kiser

I really wish Trion could contact Disney and get that game back in running order TBH since they bought all of gazillion’s assets recently.

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Arktouros

Grace is one of my more favorite community managers. She’s pretty active on the Total War reddit and over all seems to be fairly well received by others there. A big thing I’d give them credit for is they’re not afraid to deliver bad news. Whether that was the super long delay of the Norsca update last year or the super long delay for the next DLC they at least tell you how it’s going to be upfront.

PurpleCopper
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PurpleCopper

Active moderation sounds like it would be very time/resource intensive, not to mention ineffective.

Just look at Reddit. Mods and users are constantly at war with each other, and usually the mods will give up and nuke the thread and quarantine the sub.

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Greaterdivinity

From my time modding other boards in my spare time…she’s pretty spot on. Official presences always make a difference and help keep folks in check. Hell, I’ve even felt bad when some of my surlier/saltier posts ended up getting polite as hell dev responses, it totally freaking works on me. It’s no silver bullet but it’s something that doesn’t take a ton of time from the CM/dev team but can provide huge dividends.

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kgptzac

This article is to be read more about fighting the bad PR derived from the toxicity, than the toxicity itself.

Carroll also emphasised the benefits of allowing some dissent or divisive topics to exist, as long as they are contained in what she called “a lightning-rod thread.”

“It’s also quite nice sometimes to have a lightning-rod thread, where everyone who has that kind of opinion will just keep it contained, instead of spreading that negativity. If you get rid of all those conversations completely, people are just going to keep starting them over and over.”

I’ve seen more than my share of official forum quarantine mega threads, and call it a day without actually addressing the underlying reason why mass discontent was created in the first place.

Yes, negativity hurts business, but devs should be more concerned about fixing their game, than to actively gagging the community, a point which seems to be completely missing from the source article.

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John Kiser

It happens and then they wonder why the community at times gets more and more toxic toward the people that moderate the forums or the developers. Let people have a frank discussion and actively communicate with them on issues and a whole lot of the issues are helped in those scenarios.