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Armchair Philosophy

Random thoughts about gaming, both online and offline.

Author: Eindrachen

Dealing With Criticism

Posted by Eindrachen Tuesday May 12 2009 at 2:59AM
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The recent internet drama that came out of Eurogamer and Aventurine's little... disagreement about the arguable quality of Darkfall made me realize that one of the worst things in the internet to do is to criticize anything.  And given the kinds of comments being made about the issue, on both sides of the fence, that statement of mine is almost as close to "fact" as it gets.

Basically, people do not want to hear that anything they love and adore isn't perfection.  A person I know has a significant other who apparently insists on being the end topic of every conversation.  They've done more, know more, are capable of more, etc.  They have some personal insight to everything, and if they don't like something, it is obviously inferior no matter what they say.  This is the kind of person who makes judgements of your moral character based on the breakfast cereal you eat.

When they make a mistake, this person is incapable of accepting criticism.  It's not their fault.  Ever.  Obviously it is either a defect in other people (they got in the way, they didn't do something right, they didn't tell me what I needed to know, etc.), or the universe isn't as perfect as they are and thus the task is simply impossible.

It should be obvious that a sensible or reasonable person will laugh at such a fool and simply ignore them.  If a person can not accept that a given thing is flawed or "not perfect", they eventually become incapable of improving because they presume a set limit to knowledge or skill that can not be exceeded beyond their preconceived notions of such things.  That significant other will never attain the level of competency that other friends of mine already have in various games, because they've decided that if they can't win, obviously it isn't something they can personally do anything about.

Well, that's not true.  They can make it someone else's fault, thus covering their own lack of willingness to keep trying to improve.

This has vast implications in the current MMO industry.  People who play video games will complain.  That's just a given.  How the companies respond to the sentiments of their customer base is an entirely different matter.  It can set the tone of things for years to come.

It's not that companies like Aventurine are not entitled to an opinion.  The problem is they don't want to hear anything negative and spend more effort trying to invalidate negative opinions rather than reinforcing positive ones.

If their product is strong enough to stand on its own, then opinions in a magazine can't really amount to much in the end.  Those who love the game, despite the flaws, usually refuse to see any flaws in a game for what they are.  Those who dislike the game, despite the innovations, usually refuse to see any good in a game for what it is.

That, in the end, is the best way to deal with criticism: to treat it as another opinion, but don't let them get your hackles up about it.  Some criticism is designed to do just that, and create controversy where none existed before.  Some is misinformed.  Some is spot-on.  But all of it is subjective, and taken individually, reviews are worthless as a metric for how well a game is doing.

The worst part, however, wasn't Tasos' response.  He isn't the most professional public relations person to be speaking on the matter, but he has passion and conviction, which I respect.  No, the worst part is that I fear most of the Darkfall fanbase will polarize over the issue and become insular and unwelcoming of new players who don't start with a positive opinion of the game.

Darkfall isn't the only game this has been or is a problem with, either.  There are a few other games with players so mean-spirited that they don't want anyone to play their game.

Sadly, they may get their choice, only to see that an MMO without a good playerbase isn't staying online for long...