Gaming Toxicity – What’s Next?

I’ve talked about this one at length already but it bears repeating after recent events.  There are a lot of asshats in the gaming sphere and the level of anonymity that the internet provides is a cloak they abuse.  The concept of privacy on the internet is something we’re eventually going to have to give up (or have already if you pay attention).  The advent of social tools without the social skills to use them makes for a mess of a time.  This is still the Wild West and the sheriff is more or less whoever wants to wear the badge.  There are many countries that are making changes to their laws to make people accountable for their actions on-line – the UK is the most advanced in this (but also has amazing trolls).  Canada is getting better but the US is like a ballpit of dumb when it comes to this – in particular around their understanding of what Free Speech actually means in a legal sense.

And let’s be clear about this.  Reasonable people saying reasonable things don’t get attention.  It passes the logic test, and we say “they’re ok”.  It’s the people on the extremes that get attention because what they say makes little sense.  So you end up hearing the 1 idiot spouting stupid (and we getting dumber for hearing it) and the moderate voice that counters it is barely heard because everyone is arguing against dumb.

Never argue with an idiot; they’ll bring you down to their level and beat you with experience. –

Back to the gaming world now.  League of Legends (LoL) is making a few changes to their system.  You might remember them from the concept of tribunals a few years ago.  A group of (volunteer) players who act as a council to vote on players who have been reported for bad behavior.  They assign bans or time outs or what-have-you, based on in-game logs.  The recidivism rate is actually surprising, with something like 90% of them never coming back to the tribunal.  But let’s make no mistake here, with the millions who are playing, there are still many who cause issues and the penalties are currently very black/white.

There’s an old story about UO and the Trammel split, where Origin at the time didn’t understand the problem with griefers and the open PvP plaguing the game.  If you recall, it was not a terribly complex thing to lose your house to a greifer, people would stack bag and bags of crap to hide their keys so that the PvP looters would take forever to find the right one.  The concept was as this “a griefer is one who costs you more money than they pay”.  So you might make $15 on that griefer but if they cause 2 people to quit, you’ve lost money.  And UO was losing money.  I am not saying the split was the right choice (in fact I would easily argue other things could have been done – I was a noto-hunter in the day, which could have been a much more elegant solution) but it was a hard solution to a very large problem.

XBONE has a reputation system of 3 tiers.  Regular, borderline and scumbag.  Ok, I’m paraphrasing but you get the idea.  Regular and borderline play in one bucket, scumbags play in another.  Your rating decays over time so you can come back to the clean area.  I haven’t seen any reports on this program since launch mind you…

LoL once again.  They are implementing a new type of penalty where poorly rated players can no longer play ranked games.  Ranked games have rewards, they are seasons, they allow you to join the professional circuit.  It’s pretty similar to the XBONE solution except that non-ranked games are where the casual players are found.  This is really putting the wolf in with the sheep, when you look at it from the outside.  I’m sure there’s some thought as to how this can impact the bottom line but it’s rather clear that the bad players need more types of punishment.  I’m guessing the matchmaking process aligns no only your skill level but your player reputation, which should make it fun to watch from the outside.

I know Hearthstone’s approach to this is to not allow chat at all.  Just some basic pre-canned messages.  People will quit before losing, which is another topic.  When Heroes of the Storm does launch, and as with all Blizzard items attracts DragonSoul to complain/grief, I am extremely curious as to their plans for managing that issue.  (And yes, I realize I’m avoiding the SC2 scene, which is arguably pretty tame).  Once we get passed LoL into Blizzard casual-land, I’m of the opinion we’ll have reached a gaming crest of toxicity management

Your Voice Matters

I have a personal rule in my line of work, if no one says anything, then it’s approved.  I tried forcing people to approve things and nothing moved, so now everything has a disclaimer.

You have x days to provide comments, otherwise you’re indicating approval for the content.

It took 2 or 3 passes before people realized I wasn’t messing around and now feedback is quite quick.  It’s also something I use when talking to friends and politics comes up.  “Did you vote?  No?  Then shut up.”

The link to gaming, and actually more like social studies, is as follows.  A lack of action is an approval of another action.  In much simpler terms, if you’re not calling an asshat out, then you’re ok with their actions.  If you’re not /reporting someone for clear harassment, then you’re supporting them.

Now, people can make all sorts of excuses around that and that’s all they are, excuses.  If you aren’t standing up for something, then you’re standing up for nothing.  Things don’t change by just sitting there and looking at them.  They need action, they need people.

Greifer – someone who through their actions, costs you more than they pay into the system

I could care LESS about what people think about the UO Trammel split.  It was the solution, at the time, that was meant to stop greifing.  There was such a furor on the forums and in-game, people were simply just abandoning completely that Origin needed to make a drastic change.  You can blame the “carebears” if you want but the cause was always the greifers.  The solution… we can talk about that another time.

I won’t be linking to any hashtags or websites about the garbage going on today.  It’s really not that complicated.  There are a bunch of people who would rather stroke themselves and put everyone else down rather than share the ball.  I get that.  We used to call them schoolyard bullies.  They all ended up pumping gas for a living.

The gaming industry is undergoing a revolution.  The old days of pumping out shareware crap at Radio Shack are long gone.  The old guard of online games has long since retired or morphed into today’s MMO/online presence.  Today’s gaming must be inclusive.  It’s beyond financially irresponsible to ignore 50% of your market – it’s ignorant.  Gaming is a business, it needs to make money.  Focusing solely on greifers as your target audience is stupid.  XBOX One even has a cesspool of players with low score to avoid this problem.  If you want to be an asshole, that’s fine.  Go circle jerk with the rest and leave us alone.

There is a massive storm of ideas and mandates going on today.  It will not get better in the short term.  This is what happens when you want a revolution, people will get hurt, business will suffer and after what seems like an eternity, the industry will come out stronger.

But the only way this thing will change is if you use your voice, because every single one matters.

Pew Pew for the QQ

The tears, they taste delicious. For what seems 5 years now, gaming in themeparks has been more or less the same ride. A few tweaks here and there but the dance has always been the same. That leads to expectations and thereby disappointment. How people deal with the latter is the subject today!

The culture of go-go-go still persists but is enabled by games that only reward success and don’t punish failure. If there’s no risk, then people try crazy things. Zubon has something along those lines.

That mentality combined with a relatively stable combat format for the past few years leaves people for little patience. If it takes too long, then it’s broken.

I started playing as a DPS back in the day. Fun times, lots of pressure to pick the right target, CC everything. WotLK came out and that model died. I stopped raiding by that point. When you level, DPS is the only option in most games. Grouping mechanics (or social ones) are typically horrendous compared to single player DPS. That path of least resistance.

This then means that unless you’ve been grouping along the path, you’re going to be a bad healer and an even worse healer. And because the model is static, and easy once you know it, people expect you to know it. It’s not so much a learning curve but a cliff.

I’ve tanked before and I spent most of my time healing now. There’s a rythm needed to do it well when the content is challenging. Overgeared only happens once you’ve gone through it. So when I see a new player come along I think “that’s brave”.

I mentioned previously that I think FF14’s mechanics are so challenging and restrictive compared to the standard that only those with interest stick around. It is extremely unfriendly to the MMO tourist. Consequently, the level of patience in dungeon runs is extremely high compared to average. Players know it’s a slog. They know CC is important and hard. They know that a bad ping can kill you.

There’s some comfort knowing the people around you can sympathize. It’s just so strange to experience again after all these years.

Social Economies

Oh boy, what a simple title for what would fill books in content! First a definition. Social economies are those that are based on intrinsic values, i.e. of no physical value. A hug, a smile, but not a sword or a house.  They can however be composed of extrinsic items, in part, such as a village.

MMOS succeed or die on social economies. Otherwise, they are just large group single player games. Like Diablo3. A true MMO rewards you for making relationships and sustaining them. It’s the reason you log in, more than the shiny object on the corpse.

Outside of MMOS this is how social circles work. You are a part of a greater whole. You give time/affection for the promise of some in return at a later date. What else explains helping to move a friend in the pooring rain?

Take a step back to Ultima Online. Arguably designed with little foresight into the masses, it provided a basic toolset for social economies. Extrinsic value was so sparse, essentially only the house was a stable investment, that people used the tools to build more than the sum of parts. Entire villages sprung up with dedicated causes. There was one that had hundreds of books written by other players. Another was a rune set for practically every screen in the game.

EQ1 kept that up with an artificial group requirement wall. If you wanted to progress you needed a social group. I spent a lot of time in Guk with no experience gain to help guildies. Horizons (remember that one?) was all about this and had next to nothing to do otherwise. Sort of an odd Second Life I guess.

Wow changed this model drastically and more and more so every patch. Today you can do evertying in the game with no social investment (save minor parts). When you’ve had your fill of the trough, there’s no need to log in, making for empty guilds and empty servers. They tried to fix it but guild levels, achievements and transmog suits are a poor replacement for friends.

This is a hurdle next to no game has been able to overcome, en-masse. And that’ll be the topic of the next post.