One of the MMO’s I’ve been playing, and enjoying, for the last couple years is DC Universe Online. The fights feel fun, there’s room for exploration and achievement hunting, and I love being able to interact with my favorite DC characters. As much as I tend to prefer games where my character can play any role, there’s also fun to be had in the creativity of coming up with new characters – I’ve got almost my limit of 16.
The game has a number of changes planned for an update that’s coming up, and there’s a section of those changes that I hugely do not like. The short version (to the best of my understanding) is that instead of getting less, but still relevant, currency for running things below your level, you will now get zero relevant currency (so only item drops and achievements where applicable) if you run things below the set of missions deemed to be appropriate for your level.
I primarily play DCUO as my wind-down, relaxing game; once I got into endgame with my main characters I stopped pushing so hard to get all-of-the-gear-asap and prefer to rerun old content. Having said that, I do still need to feel like I’m making some form of progress, so gaining currency slowly by running easier content is exactly how I play.
Obviously, I’m not super thrilled with the proposed change. It got me thinking, though, about the way I react to something like that, how others react, and why I react the way I do. (Note that this is not meant to call anyone out. Anything I mention is something that I’ve seen across games and across years of gaming, not trying to launch rockets at anyone in particular.)
So, for one, when a game makes a decision I’m not a fan of I try to avoid inflammatory or hyperbolic language. “Everyone” and “no one” are poor choices for sharing my personal views. In some cases, I can honestly say, “myself and a good chunk of my friends,” of course, but I think it’s important to remember that Jane over there might disagree with me and might also have multiple friends who agree with her. Just because no one I know plays a game a certain way doesn’t mean “no one” does, and just because everyone I know likes something it doesn’t mean “everyone” does. I can legitimately believe something is a bad idea for the game, but that is still just my opinion and it behooves me to remember that when I speak or write. “I believe this change limits players’ options for running content that rewards relevant currency, and I find that disappointing,” is different from, “This is going to kill the entire game, no one in their right mind would support this.”
Related, I try to avoid the troll/fanboy/fangirl false dichotomy. There are certainly fans of all things that will support anything their object of adoration does, and there are unquestionably folks who are just out to piss people off. Assuming that of someone else doesn’t contribute to the discussion at all, though. If you’re correct, then nothing you say is going to change their minds, yes? And if you’re wrong, you’ve just launched a personal attack at someone who was trying to legitimately share their views. (As a sidenote, serious trolling tends to be the sort of thing to report to moderators, as most forums tend not to allow that.) I cannot actually know someone’s motivation and it’s rather presumptuous to tell someone else what their motivation is. I can talk about their actions and words, and how they come off to me, but I’m not going to tell someone else why they do things. Even if I’m completely right, it’s going to make them argue back and the thread of the actual conversation will most likely be lost.
(Again, when in doubt, blatant trolling or abusive behavior is definitely an issue and should be discouraged and reported to mods. Blatant “fanboying/fangirling”? Erm…doesn’t really hurt anyone; I legitimately don’t see the point of trying to convince someone they should hate something they profess to enjoy so long as it’s not hurting anyone. To get “I’m smarter than you are” points? Disagree if you disagree, but I’m boggled at the point of being *angry* at someone else for the crime of liking something you don’t.)
The reason I try to avoid the troll/fanboy/fangirl comments isn’t “to be nice” or anything like that, as it happens. It’s because I’ve been on both sides. When a bunch of folks disliked the AEGIS system in The Secret World I was not being a blind fangirl…I legitimately enjoy the mechanic as a player and also thought it was a clever way of avoiding powercreep. I respect that not everyone did, but my opinions were my honest opinions. With this change in DCUO I legitimately am not a fan of what they’re doing; but I’m not trying to crap on folks who think it’s a fine idea.
Having said that, I do think I have an obligation to be clear in my speech and my writing when giving feedback, perhaps even more so when it’s something I don’t like. I ask myself, “What is my goal in giving this feedback? Am I honestly trying to give useful information for the devs to consider, or do I just want to argue with people? Am I just venting?” It can be easy when you feel passionately about something to believe you’re giving constructive criticism, but come off in what’s really more of an emotional splat. Asking myself what my goal is, and examining if my approach is in service to that goal tends to cut out a lot of less-than-constructive comments. Making personal attacks and exaggerating a problem aren’t in service to a goal of, “I just want them to take my serious feedback into consideration; I’m hoping to improve the experience for everyone.”
On the topic of emotions, that’s something else I watch in my language – making appeals to emotion. “Wow, you know I’ve really enjoyed playing this game, but with these new changes I’m not sure if it will continue to fit my playstyle,” is rather different from, “OMG, you know I USED to really love your game but now that you’re going to do something so STUPID I guess I’ll just unsub; hope you’re happy driving away a loyal player.” One of those is trying to appeal to emotions, I don’t think I need to point out which one. Being emotional about something that matters to you makes sense; I’m just not a fan of using that in a way that feels manipulative. I’m going to hazard a guess that most dev teams do not, in fact, make decisions with the sole goal of pissing me off or pissing off other players. Approaching a change I don’t like as if the change was meant as a personal insult is foolish, and not likely to help anyone. I understand feeling disappointed, I just think it’s useful to look at how I’m responding to that disappointment.
I also try not to make assumptions about the company, the dev team, the game director, or otherwise blame a vague and evil, “They.” Companies need to make money, companies make changes to their products because they believe the benefits will outweigh the costs. I may not agree, a bunch of folks may not agree; but somewhere in that company they were having meetings and discussing player statistics, and making decisions that they feel are best. This one is a little trickier as sometimes the tinfoil hat theories appear to be pretty realistic. I suppose that, to me, in that case it’s on me as a player to decide if I want to stay with a company that I don’t trust. And again, I’m not talking about making big sweeping attacks because I “know” what they’re doing and why – I cannot know that, no matter how sure I think I am. All I know are the actual actions of the company, and how I personally feel about those actions.
In the end, no game is going to be all about me and my personal preferences. That’s not saying games shouldn’t care about their customer base or anything like that; but realistically I have got to know and accept that they can’t make every decision please me, personally. For every update I love, others will hate it; for every change I hate, others are going to think it’s the best thing ever. I always have the choice to stop playing a game when it stops being fun for me, either through an update or just the normal passage of time. I don’t mean that in an “if you don’t like it, unsub” way, either – constructive feedback is a super useful thing, and I support folks who take the time to write AND read it.
Eventually it reaches a point, though, where you ask yourself, “Why am I spending time that I could be enjoying my gaming being pissed off and yelling about a game I don’t currently enjoy?” If I still love the game enough to play it, my time might be better spent giving my feedback and then playing the parts I do still enjoy. If the changes have honestly killed the game for me…then there are a LOT of other games I could be playing. I know you get into sunk costs, and no one wants to pack up and leave a game they’ve been at for years. It sucks when something you used to love changes into something you don’t enjoy. But continuing to wallow in how much it sucks…to me, that feels like hitting myself in the face. It’s like hating your job but never putting out applications to anywhere else – where’s the cost-benefit there?
[EDIT: To be super clear, I know different folks have different goals. If my goal was, “I want folks to consider the idea that excessive microtransactions in games can be a bad thing because [reasons],” then using games I’ve stopped playing as examples of that issue would make sense. There’s always exceptions, and this post was just for me to talk about some of what goes through my head when I think about responding to game updates – not meant as “this is the one right way to give gaming feedback.”]