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Editor's Note

Jon Wood, the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, gives his opinions on news, games, and all things MMORPG.

Author: Stradden

Player Polarization... Fanbois vs Trolls and How it Hurts

Posted by Stradden Friday October 10 2008 at 1:16PM
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Did I miss a memo?

Was I out sick the day that we, as MMORPG fans, decided that there would be a law stating that only one MMORPG may be popular or even considered good at any point in time and that those who disagree must fight tooth and nail until a winner is declared?

I have to assume that this is what happened, because what I am seeing more and more of with the release of every new MMORPG is a concerted effort by those who enjoy new release MMO X to convince the world that the game is the greatest thing since the microchip and a counter effort from fans of MMO A,B and C trying with all of their might and energy to prove that MMO X is the biggest waste of money ever to see the light of day.

Have we really become so polarized as fans that there is only good and bad with no in between? Has it really come to a point where my enjoyment of a game has to mean that no other opinion is valid?

I really wish I’d been there the day that memo was handed out, because this attitude has created a number of serious problems that are doing nothing but hurting the industry as a whole:

Hyperbole

The first thing I want to talk about is the damage being done by the hyperbole and exaggeration that have become commonplace in the world of MMORPGs. Every single day, on numerous forums and elsewhere, I read that MMO X (and you really can fit pretty much any title into that space… go ahead, pick a title and I bet you’ll find these examples) is the buggiest game ever, or it’s a scam by the developers, or it’s an unplayable PoS, or it’s exactly like MMO Y, or that MMO X killed babies (ok, I made that one up). The list goes on.

Don’t worry, there’s plenty of hyperbole going around on the other side of the coin as well: Game X is going to kill WoW in a week, or Game X has no bugs, or Game X had the smoothest launch ever, etc. etc. etc.

The problem is, where everyone is jumping up and down to tell you how extremely good a game is or how extremely bad a game is without any real commentary or follow-up or apparent thought whatsoever that extends beyond personal opinion, people have just stopped listening, and who can blame them? Other players who are looking for genuine thoughts on a game are going to pass right by these overly glowing or overly critical assessments and discount the posts as more of that garbage you read on the internets through that series of tubes. Developers (who read these and other forums far more than you think) who you might be trying to convince of your point of view are going to do the same thing, I assure you.

I’m not saying that sometimes these harshest of criticisms and glowingest of praises aren’t completely justified. After all, there IS going to be a worst launch ever, there IS going to be a smoothest launch ever. It’s really just a good old fashioned case of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Everyone’s heard these arm flailing arguments so many times now that no one believes them. They`ve lost all meaning, even when they`re valid.

The net result here is that when MMO X really is an unplayable mess that was probably some studio’s version of a scam, or when MMO Y really does exceed all expectations and revolutionize the way we see MMOs, no one’s going to be able to talk about it. Well they will, but who’s going to listen?

Name Calling

One of the single worst after effects of the single-game supremacy philosophy we talked about earlier is the name calling, or maybe it would be more appropriate to call it labelling if we’re going to use the jargon of the politically correct.

Anyone who has attended school, or seminars at work, or even turned on a television over the last couple of decades knows that labelling is a dangerous thing. Labelling allows us to easily dismiss the ideas and thoughts of others who differ from us without giving the other side any consideration at all. It de-humanizes the “other side” so that we don’t have to admit that people who aren’t like us (or in this case who don’t share our opinions) are simply wrong.

The terms Fanboi and Troll are thrown around way too often in the MMO realm and are used in the exact same way as all of those nasty labels that you learned about in school. These days, anyone that has anything good to say about a game is nothing but a raging fanboy, but anyone who has anything remotely negative to say about a game is a flaming troll.

Personally, I don’t really agree with the use of either of these terms, even in extreme conditions, but just for kicks let’s look at what appear to be the accepted definitions of Fanboy and Troll (at least to the best of my understanding):

Fanboy: A person who blindly supports a game without question or a critical eye and at every opportunity regardless of the game’s actual state or condition. Generally, they are characterized by overly defensive and optimistic posts and the tendency to label anyone who happens to dislike their chosen game a Troll.

Troll: A person who blindly hates a game without question or an eye for positive aspects regardless of the game’s actual state or condition. Generally, they are categorized by overly critical and pessimistic posts and have a tendency to label anyone who even remotely enjoys the game that they troll as a Fanboy.

So, what we’re left with is the total inability to have any sort of rational discussion about the pros and cons of any game when arguments on one side dismiss the other as being either a troll or a fanboy. Because each label represents such an extreme, it is impossible (once those labels are applied) to have a meaningful dialogue that accepts both the good aspects of the game and the negative.

A lack of legitimate discussion between players makes it very difficult to make any kind of assessment as to a game’s value, or even the value of the opinions being offered.

Escalating, Outlandish Claims and Demands

The last problem that I`m going to talk about that is being caused by this kind of extreme polarization comes in the form of escalating, outlandish claims. If we assume that all discussion about any new MMO is going to involve a great and almost overwhelming number of these extreme posts and claims, we have to also assume that as these things become the norm, we are going to see an escalation to another extreme.

Players who are dissatisfied with MMO X will now be seen calling for the resignations or firings of entire dev teams, or of specific individuals, while players who feel that MMO Y is the bee's knees are predicting doom for every other MMO, claiming that entire game populations will now move to their game leaving even the most popular games as barren wastelands.

At best, this serves to rile up players with opposing viewpoints. At worst, these attitudes are damaging to players, companies and the industry as a whole.


Escalating Hype Machines

As player polarization becomes more and more extreme, it seems as though we are seeing an escalation in the perceived hype machines that surround the releases of these games. Sometimes, this is the fault of an over-zealous marketing team attempting to appeal to as many potential players as possible without too much thought toward the final launch day product, but other times, the hype-machine is spun out of control by over-zealous fans of the game. Viral marketing is becoming a bigger and bigger aspect of game promotion. Word of mouth on forums and the like go a long way to promoting a game toward launch and fans who feel that in order to have their voices heard amongst the din of extreme opinion will often over-exaggerate the positive points of a game and will help to (notice I won`t go so far as to say that they solely cause… that isn`t the case) promote unrealistic expectations which lead to disappointment when the product finally reaches the market.

Once these unrealistic expectations are not met (and it really seems like they never will be), it starts the whole vicious cycle again, creating three distinct groups of players. Those who liked it from the beginning and like it now, those who didn`t like the game to begin with and who point to the not meeting of the raised expectations as reasons to further hate the game and those who had no strong feelings before launch and ended up either liking it, putting them in one camp, or being disappointed by the not meeting of hype and join the other side.

Conclusion

In the end, most of these problems are caused by good old fashioned human nature and the nature of the internet. I think though that there are some things that we, as fans, can do to help and the answer really comes down to a very basic concept: Not every MMO is going to appeal to every MMO player. As the genre has evolved (some say for the better, some say for the worse), games are being made to fit many different play styles so that even MMORPG genre fans are going to have different opinions. I think that part of the solution is to simply acknowledge that while we may totally disagree with someone`s point of view, it is possible that we are both right or at least that the other person is welcome to his or her own opinion. If we, as a collective, could hold to this thought, there might not be so much reason for one person or another to exaggerate their claims. If we acknowledge that while I may have had a bug free experience with MMO X`s launch, that other poster may be experiencing problems that we`re not seeing.

Now, I`m not really a ``love makes the world go `round`` kind of guy, but in the end just taking a step back and not immediately dismissing the thoughts of people whose opinions differ from our own might be just what the doctor ordered and might let us all enjoy our MMO hobby just a little bit more.

Remember, I`m not writing this to try to discourage honest discourse on the subject of any game. Any game has the potential to be liked, it has the potential to need work and it has the potential to suck. Honest and level opinions are never a bad thing…

Valentina writes:

Wha

Fri Oct 10 2008 1:29PM Report
Belsameth writes:

Isn't this the problem with most of the internet? As soon as people are behind a browser and thinking they're annonymous their opinion suddenly becomes The Truth Everything Else Must Bow Down To(tm)

It's sad really, but it doesn't really look like this is an mmo exclusive.

 

Oh, and before I forget. WAR Equals God! :p

Fri Oct 10 2008 1:34PM Report
NotArkard writes:

World of Warcraft made MMOs pretty much accessible to everyone with a computer. Early MMOs used to be populated by people who enjoyed role-playing and table-top games(although not entirely, of course). MMORPGs, having become so accessible through World of Warcraft has led nearly every conscious being on the internet to apply the concepts of offline instant-gratification games, like FPSes into MMOs.

Obviously, this has turned the once tight-knit MMO communities into festering holes of hatred. Just one look at the official forums for some of the more popular games will at plain sight show just how much hatred has spawned for people with different tastes, different opinions, or whatever.

In the old days, if you hated Ultima Online, you stopped playing it. You didn't campaign to have the devs fired, or sent them death threats, or anything. The fact of the matter is that most people on the internet are morons. Since World of Warcraft took them out of Counter-strike and Warcraft 3, we have them here now.

Fri Oct 10 2008 2:14PM Report
IGaveUp writes:

Fandom of MMO games has become a sport of it's own.  The battles are fought in the forums.  There are winners and losers, and the spoils of victory or the losses of defeat are just as real to these warriors as those of any other battle.  Even as far as life and death.

Warriors in `Life and Death' battles in forums?  Surely you think me odd, but allow a clarification.

An MMO with strong financial security, rewards those loyal to it.  Continued support and development is expensive, and having the money to do so yields a more in-depth experience for players.  Look no further than WoW to see an example of this happening.

Alternatively, a fading userbase and depleted financials can lead to stagnation of content, or in some cases the (even worse) fate of having the developer "improve" the game by taking away characteristics that the current fan-base enjoys.  It's certainly no challenge to think of at least two games who have fallen victim to this "improvement" scenerio.

Life and death, as mentioned earlier, refers to the potential closing of an MMO due to financial hardship.  When it dies, so does the avatars of it's warriors.  Such is the ultimate defeat.

Why does this situation exist?  Investment both in terms of time and emotional energy in an MMO game is significant.  The desired result of the game developers is having their game be "so good" that it cannot be easily set-aside, thus preserving continued income.  They (developers) have done their jobs well, and have gained the loyalty of their warriors.

Is it unexpected that such players treat `their' game with such personal intensity that they become real-life warriors fighting for its cause?

Fanboy = Someone who is a warrior for a game that someone else doesn't happen to like.

Troll = An individual expressing an opinion other than what is appropriate for a given forum based on the opinion of a fanboy.

(NOTE: these reverse if viewed from the opposite perspective)

It is unfortunate that this event has taken a firm grip on the MMORPG.com forum.  However, given that a significant amount of these forum members are people who "like going into a 3D simulation to kill other players", is it really all that avoidable?

"Now now kiddies, play nice in the forums?"  :-)  ... surely they would label ME a troll ~grin~.

Regards,

XAPKen

Fri Oct 10 2008 2:30PM Report
Ozmodan writes:

Quite true.  It is so easy to sit anonomously at your computer and pass judgement on any thread.   It would be nice if everyone at least attempted to back up their claims with facts, of course that is a bit difficult when it comes to some of these non released games.

I think one of the problems with this genre is that it has literally exploded.  No one person can try them all.  So people read a post that sugar coats the game, the people then try it, are disappointed and come back with a vengence.

I guess the important thing to realize, that others are entitled to their opinions too.

Fri Oct 10 2008 2:30PM Report
miagisan writes:

I agree, why can't people respect other people's preferences without forcing their opinion on someone else? It's become a sickness, and the only real cure is to nuke everyone and start over! :)

Fri Oct 10 2008 4:02PM Report
vickykol writes:

I agree with XAPKen, and his recognition that people who like a game feel threatened by criticism.  I would add another layer to that -- it isn't just the financial/development element of the games, but also the social/grouping element that suffers when people depart a game.

I would add that there is another component: a desire to match or exceed WoW, either because WoW represents everything that a player hates about MMORPGs, or because they like it but are bored and want something new but also populated.

Fri Oct 10 2008 4:07PM Report
cpauls writes:

Where are Jay and Silent Bob when we need the the most ???

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mH_Sl_gk4ck&feature=related

Fri Oct 10 2008 4:21PM Report
Darwa writes:

Personally, I blame MMORPG.com and World of Warcraft for todays state of affairs.

There wasn't this black/white attitude before they came on the scene.

Fri Oct 10 2008 6:25PM Report
Balkin31 writes:

Bravo I think you spelled it out pretty good..... I see some people blaming the games themselves for the birth of the Troll Fanboy debacle but it is clearly people that are the problem not the games...

 

Fri Oct 10 2008 6:36PM Report
davvin writes:

very well put Stradden, definitely worth the read

Sat Oct 11 2008 12:52AM Report
sairusco writes:

I think you are right, but I also think this article is not going to change anything. However it was a good read, thanks for the effort Stradden!

Sat Oct 11 2008 3:35AM Report
Distiler writes:

MMos are not just games anymore. Nowadays, MMos are more like life styles.

Sat Oct 11 2008 4:03AM Report
rounner writes:

10 years ago if a game company said they were going to have this feature and that feature I wouldnt dream of questioning their claim. Now I frankly don't believe too much without seeing it first hand.

The flag waving at either extreme is a bit silly but I guess people are just passionate about their games. At least they're not swinging punches at a football stadium!

Sat Oct 11 2008 6:09AM Report
Brenelael writes:

Very well said. I have been labeled both Fanboi and Troll on these forums myself for simply stating my opinion and have used the terms myself although 5 years ago I would have never done so. I usually have a moderate viewpoint of any game especially if I haven't played it yet and I do have real issues with these extreme viewpoints. I have been banned several times in the last 6 months because I've let these people get the best of me and I've flamed them for stupidly stated out and out lies on both sides of the fence. I'm a person that has a low tollerance for out and out stupidity so these extreme viewpoints get me fired up more than I would like.

 

I usually have the outlook that they are just games and won't cure cancer or bring about world peace so people should just relax a little and enjoy them as that is what they are for. Games are supposed to be fun, period and are not worth the type of devotion that they get from both sides. When a game isn't fun for you, you move on to something that is fun and don't go on a holy crusade to destroy all that it stands for.

 

I can at least understand the devotion that a die hard fan feels for their game of choice and I usually respect that even if I feel the game in question is just not that great. What really gets me are these people that go on these holy crusades to destroy a game that they feel is less than perfect to the point that it becomes a total obsession to them. This is tatally alien to me and I just can't understand why some people get so much hatred toward a game that they feel its their holy duty to put it down for the sake of the community. These are the people that cause the majority of the issues as if it wasn't for them the fans wouldn't have anyone to get them so worked up in the first place.

 

Oh well I've gone on long enough so I'll conclude by saying that this piece by Stradden should be required reading for all that post here before they can post but sadly this whole thing will fall on deaf ears. Also sorry for any mispellings as it is quite early here and I haven't even had coffee yet. Seeya all around the forums.

 

Bren

Sat Oct 11 2008 6:13AM Report
cosimusta writes:

 fanbois or troll

republican or democrat

thumbs up thumbs down

whatchoo talkn bout

Sat Oct 11 2008 6:47AM Report
slask777 writes:

It's human nature. You must hate all that which is different than yourself. Mmo's become mainstream now, and the asshats that usually where restricted to some fps', now play these games and troll our forums. It gotten very bad lately though, and I really think alot of these furums need stronger moderation. A no tolerance policy for trolls/fanbois/flames/vm and baits is a good start.

Sat Oct 11 2008 6:54AM Report
brostyn writes:

The problem is your considered a fanboi or troll with no in between. There are true fanbois, and true trolls, of course. Those are far more rare, though, than the individual how happens to like or dislike the game. Anyone that is critical is immediately labled a troll. For example, I stated on the WAR forums that they need to add battlegroup servers to lower the queue time like WoW. The very next post was some idiot telling me how I was a WoW fanboi. I played WoW for a total of 3 months. The problem is the lack of moderation on these forums. We let the worst of human nature flourish on this website. There needs to be moderation of assanine comments and threads.

Sat Oct 11 2008 12:00PM Report
markoraos writes:

Hmm, I wouldn't agree with your definition of a "Troll". Imo "Hater" matches your definition more closely.

A Troll, as I've come to see it, is a poster who is ignorant and yet pretends knowledge in order to confuse and mislead readers intentionally.

For example a hater troll would be somebody making a very harsh criticism on a game while he hasn't actually played it or even got properly informed. Conversely a "fanboi troll" would be someone making glowing assumptions on the game that have no basis in fact (say "the game is bug-free" or "all the other games are crap although I don't know anything about them")

Additionally a Troll can be an extremely stubborn poster who refuses to acknowledge facts that would question his original assumptions. A: "the game is bug-free" B:"no, I saw several bugs and there are hundreds of posts reporting numerous bugs" A:"these are all lies and propaganda, i never saw a bug, it is bug-free!"

Sat Oct 11 2008 12:39PM Report
Isane writes:

You get what you reap, I class this post as a pure troll and attempt to try to indirectly regulate. The minute you try to tell people what to do you fail as is this blog if it can be called that. You wasted your time OP.

Sat Oct 11 2008 6:40PM Report
Kainis writes:

great points Stradden. However, you have to remember one thing: in these uncertain times, when devs aren't as prepared to spend the kind of money on traditional media ads as say, WoW- simply because their marketing budgets aren't as large- they will go for the viral marketing attack. They will annonymously become fanbois of their games, while trolling others. They will get their friends and their friends, and soon word of mouth has become a double edged sword +99 Hate modifier.

It is because of the viral marketeers that we have the flame wars today, where constructive criticisms are buried before they are uttered, by fanboys; or you have reasonable accolades given to a game, only to be flamed into oblivion. Sometimes literally into the Oblivion game itself, with various comparisons.

This is the problem of the internet. It brought all the koolaid drinkers out of the kitchen, and all the trolls from under their bridges. Soon you will be seeing national policy based on forum discussions. Why? because the world will inevitably become more polarized as those that shrugged it off before, become so upset by events that they side with one or the other. Lies will be taken as truth, truth will be called lies. And unless you have the foresight to research the beginning of the problem, you will be drowned by your percieved ignorance. Such is the state of man.

We haven't really evolved. I would argue that we have in fact, devolved into basic primal instincts of kill or be killed. It has only metastasized in the disguise of free expression on the internet. The only thing you can hope to do is sift through the conflict and maybe, just maybe you get lucky and find a nugget of truth about a game. Other than that, there really isn't any ethical way of stopping the devolution.

Sat Oct 11 2008 7:13PM Report
wootin writes:

Wait, don't you get it?

Every fanboi thinks of themselves as a knight. Every troll is gleefully admitting that in their black little hearts, they love being a troll.

So every troll is going to target every would-be knight fanboi and try to make them fall visor first in the mud, and every fanboi/ wannabe knight  is going to launch themselves lance-first at every troll they can.

It's just the way things are :)

 

Sat Oct 11 2008 7:48PM Report
Narug writes:

Yes this is destructive to communities and it's even more destructive when sites have sections of their forums commited to gamers "battling it out".

An example of this is the System Wars of Gamespot.  Even though it's system fans against system fans it still contributes to the attitude of the wars between gamers which helps bring the war to MMOer and MMOer.

The devs that don't have forums for their games are probably right in not having them.

Sat Oct 11 2008 8:08PM Report
Reborn17 writes:

Jon, what you are seeing is Wow's chickens coming to roost in your coop. Just like someone mentioned earlier, MMO's USED to be comprised primarily of ex-table top players, or at least more cerebral gamers. If you dumb down the parameters of a game and appeal to the lowest common denominator, that game brings in throngs of people who have not been penalized for their immaturity or lack of patience or forethought, hence you get people on the forums who think these things aren't necessary to coexist.

Sat Oct 11 2008 9:58PM Report
Tordak writes:

  Stradden, you didn't miss a memo, one was never sent.

 Although, I agree with your conclusions and the spirit of Reborn17's statement, the drive to claim marketshare has devolved the MMO consumer's voiced opinions into little more than a pissing contest.

 I believe you've finaly voiced a concern that you've long held but at this stage, these points of wisdom are but pearls before swine.  

Sat Oct 11 2008 11:06PM Report
Belsameth writes:

Someone above me said:

-----------

Obviously, this has turned the once tight-knit MMO communities into festering holes of hatred. Just one look at the official forums for some of the more popular games will at plain sight show just how much hatred has spawned for people with different tastes, different opinions, or whatever.

 

--------------

 

I can assure you this isn't true. Having been a moderator for the DAoC EU boards I've seen this then as well. Just less because there were less players. It was just as vile tho. Not the magnitude changed, it was merely the volume.

Mon Oct 13 2008 1:02AM Report
TheRedPill writes:

(Points to Stradden.)  What he said.

Mon Dec 01 2008 6:35AM Report
Oracun writes:

(Points to TheRedPill.)  What ever he's agreeing with.

Fri May 08 2009 10:51AM Report

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