Ask Mo: Second chances, hate wagons, and the MMORPG grudge game

    
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We all began with good intents.

Today’s Ask Mo is not really about comment moderation, but it’s where I want to start.

Over the years of trying to cat-herd Massively OP’s comments, I’ve come to believe much more in second chances. You know the old League of Legends lesson that most toxic folks don’t even truly know they’re being toxic? That cultural norms of toxic subgroups can seriously warp folks’ perceptions of what’s acceptable in society? Sometimes people just need a gentle reminder that what they’re doing isn’t OK, and a lot of times, they really do stop when warned. This is a challenge for sure when someone’s flown into a rage at me over a warning, but you’d be surprised how many times an angry rant has been followed up with a “shit, I’m sorry, I way overreacted” email later, and I’ll either reverse bans or just encourage them to make a fresh start with a new username that has no baggage or history with the mods or the other commenters.

One member of our community who did just that – swapped his username and started fresh to stop other commenters who knew his history from heckling him – recently wrote to me to point out that this same phenomenon afflicts MMORPGs too, only there’s no easy way to fix it.

“I think positive criticism is a lost art that keeps discussions civilized, communities civilized, and is a refresher that half of our community in MOP comments section needs a refresher on,” he opined. “I’m not perfect but I have certainly taken steps toward improving my discourse with others in the past year [following the change of my username]. Unfortunately it seems that once a game gets targeted as a dead game people lose the ability to say anything positive about the game being discussed.”

I now wish I had included “dead game” in our last Overthinking about MMO terms we wanted to ban because holy heck I hate “dead game.” It’s obnoxious hyperbole, and it can absolutely wreck a very much living game when it catches on. I wonder how many small games would be better off if Reddit, which in its worst form is designed and used to provoke and promote drama and conflict and yes clickbait, didn’t exist. How much of a game’s success is based on nothing more than faith that other people still like it? And how many games do we accept as “dead” (read: dying) just because enough loud people shouted it disparagingly?

Look at how many people are still calling Guild Wars 2, for example, a dead game, in spite of the fact that it’s starting up a new season. Obviously Guild Wars 2 isn’t a dead game, in spite of its many issues. We can see its quarterly financials. And sometimes games are called dead before they even launch – Astellia Online being just the most recent victim, attacked by players who haven’t paid the game a lick of attention but trashed it anyway. Bless Online had its problems, but how much were they exacerbated by players insisting it was dead and unresurrectable before that was actually true?

A recent Reddit thread astutely called this phenomenon a “desire for failure” from a “hate wagon” that just wants to see the world burn, with toxic behavior that helps to bring about the MMO genre armageddon they’re hyperbolizing about. Because the reality is most MMORPGs never get a second chance – they don’t get to change their names and start with a clean slate like a commenter who makes a mistake. For every Final Fantasy XIV and Elder Scrolls Online that bombs at launch and recovers spectacularly because both the studio and players didn’t give up on them, we have dozens of smaller studios that can’t just throw money at the problem until their reputation turns around and catches up with their game improvements.

Imagine if people had given WildStar a second chance.

Now, please don’t take this out of context. Some games really do have one foot in the grave and their owners really do deserve shade, to be held accountable by press and players for one breach of community trust or another. I’m not saying let abusive games off the hook, to turn the other cheek just for the sake of rising above.

But that’s not actually the majority of titles being harangued daily in MMO communities just because they made a cash-shop misjudgment five years ago or aren’t in the “big four” or you just don’t like the tone of the community manager or the subreddit isn’t busy enough. The “dead game” snark and outdated grudges aren’t helping anyone. Maybe take a lesson from our reformed commenter: Try giving games more credit instead of more salt when they actually make efforts to improve themselves. Punching down sucks, but punching down forever for the fleeting amusement of the “hate wagon” is actively hurting the genre you purport to love.

Are video games doomed? What do MMORPGs look like from space? Did free-to-play ruin everything? Will people ever stop talking about Star Wars Galaxies? Join Massively Overpowered Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce and mascot Mo every month as they answer your letters to the editor right here in Ask Mo.

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mysecretid

Good post, Bree. Thanks!

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Vunak

Wildstar definitely deserves a second chance with proper development behind it. But if NCSoft does it they should wait until the hype from AA:U dies down a bit and Classic has a bit of time behind it and the nostalgia has worn off.

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Denice J. Cook

Very nice post! And as a former beta tester and early adopter of both FFXIV PC and ESO PC through all their original woes, I heartily commend both their dev teams for their never-say-die attitudes and strong comebacks.

As far as “off the beaten path” flawed gem MMOs go, Everquest 2 is my desert island game. Who cares if there’s only one Time Locked Progression server up right now? Even multiboxers can only play on one server at a time. :P

That’s all you really need, especially if it’s jammin’ like Kaladim is.

Onward and upward then, and hey- Nights of the Dead launches tomorrow, yahoo!

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48 Pistols

Okay i’ll pipe up because i used the ‘dead game’ meme in a recent article about MWO (MechWarrior Online).

Even after reading and considering your article, i stand by my statement that MWO is a dead game. A game with (at least on Steam metrics) 400 average players over a 24hr period over the last 30 days.

What that means to me is that the vast majority of those MWO players are going to be US or EU based. I can queue with the EU crowds, and enjoy a nice tortuous 400ms latency, or i can join the US crowds and enjoy a slightly less torturous 250ms latency. Both are equally unplayable in a competitive environment. The other option is to join the OCE queue, which never fills up.. Because there’s only like three of us left that play MWO.

So i think my labeling is apt in this circumstance. It’s not going to make a comeback. Toxic? Maybe. But facts before feels.

Covynant001
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Covynant001

I think Bree is giving forums like this or Reddit too much credit.

It’s often pointed out players who visit MMO forums are a very small fraction of the total gamer customer base, so really how much influence can anything said on them really have on the success or failure of a game?

Maybe, just maybe MMOs like Bless, Astella, or what ever other crap Asian made title to come out in the past 5 years are exactly what they appear to be, total crap?

I make no apologies for slagging on bad MMOs, and yes, if I don’t like them, they are bad games, regardless who else enjoys them.

I well understand many gamers just have terrible taste and lack proper judgement, not unusual in life per my experience.

And yes, the view from up here on my high horse is pretty good.

🤣

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Raimo Kangasniemi

How many of those ‘crap Asian made titles’ you have actually played for an extensive period?

Covynant001
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Covynant001

Funny thing about crap, you don’t actually have to eat it to know it’s bad for you.

😁

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Raimo Kangasniemi

So it’s just prejudice against Asian MMOs on your part then, without any basis in first-hand knowledge.

Covynant001
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Covynant001

Good heavens no, played more than my share of cheaply made Asian MMOs, pretty easy to spot the pattern of suck.

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athiev

This is a great point, and I think there are certainly spaces out there where hostility toward most MMOs is extreme. For me, it’s better to ignore most of those spaces. I have gradually learned:

1) to avoid official forums for games, which are oddly often full of unproductive megahate

2) to avoid the mmorpg subreddit, which is not a place for happy fans

3) to avoid a lot of games’ subreddits

4) to recognize that, MOP and some wonderful personal blogs aside, reading about MMOs is usually a way to enjoy playing MMOs *less.*

I don’t love this state of affairs, but such is life.

One small quibble, though. I think people did give WildStar lots of second chances. Player counts surged at the f2p relaunch, at the Steam relaunch, and when they launched that alternative advancement system. It’s just that the audience bled away again extremely quickly each time. I don’t think WildStar is really a good example of a game killed by hate or grudges; its death was supply-side, not demand-side, I think.

My daughter and I were talking about WildStar just this morning. She summarized it really well. She said that 30% of the game was amazing and creative. Another 30% was generic inoffensive MMO tropes. And 40% of it was mistakes. It’s a sad story (like another of her fallen favorites, Firefall) because the mistakes were dense enough on the ground that they ultimately canceled out the great new ideas…

Vaeris
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Vaeris

What’s socially acceptable is a tough one because many times one person’s view of what is isn’t necessarily a universal. There are many things that are near universal, such as being civil while disagreeing (at least conceptually…most folks these days don’t practice it letting their political hatred for the “other party” bleed over into every other aspect of their life).

One major trouble is people take criticism of a game personally because an (perceived) attack on something they love is surely a devaluation of them as a person. This happens often too when other real world issues bleed over into the discussions on this gaming website. I’m assuming the mods are human and if true then they aren’t exempt from letting their feelings/bias guide their judgement at time when issuing a warning. It happens. /shrug

smuggler-in-a-yt
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smuggler-in-a-yt

Johnny Carson is currently playing on SiriusXM and it is super interesting to me to notice some of the subtle differences in how some very serious challenges are handled at the popular level.

I can’t help but feel like some of this is driven by an overly serious approach to, well, everything. When everyone is tightly wound because everything is perceived as being absolutely critical to success (and that includes entertainment and relaxation) then the fallout is binary. This is reinforced with some data/research that shows nuanced scaling, like the Likert, just don’t work anymore. Everything has become passionately like/dislike.

And it isn’t just gaming where this is happening. Amazon reviews, Yelp, Airbnb, even Uber are struggling in a world where binary opinion matters so much that it becomes critical to become as broadly appealing (even to a targeted population set) as possible.

Tl;dr – Peeps need to chill, yo.

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Robert Mann

There is some of this behavior to be certain. There’s some people who are toxic who will reform like this… and there’s a lot of both cases not really fitting as well.

The truth is that the best thing we all can do is make every effort to be fair. If people want to stop being jerks, by all means that is to be supported. That doesn’t mean we stop calling those actively causing problems out. The same must be true of games, and the industry at large, as consumers. It should (and often is) the same with regard to the hate-mongers.

I would add that people attacking justified criticism that isn’t mean, spiteful, or sourced out of such a grudge are another issue to tackle with this particular topic. People do just as much harm through attacking others and trying to change reasonable criticism into something else to mock it… as with the rest of these things.