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Vicarious Existence

To blog about what is going on in the MMO genre from a casual MMO player's viewpoint.

Author: UnSub

Why the Whiners Win: Social Psychology at Work in Online Communities

Posted by UnSub Monday September 1 2008 at 4:25AM
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MMO communities can often appear to devolve in to 'us vs them' arguments, or the loudest (i.e. those who post the most) people being the ones who appear to be driving popular sentiment. I've thought for a while now this was due to the way forums work - whoever can post the most can control the direction of the conversation, particularly if they can do it over a page or so, since most people don't read all of a multi-page thread before posting their opinion. Sometimes this control can take a perfectly sensible conversation off into realms of idiocy, particularly when a bunch of people jump in with "/agree" or "/signed" posts. It can appear that a large number of people support some very stupid ideas.

However, it turns out that there is a reason for this kind of behaviour hardwired into us - a psychological study has indicated that if only one member of a community repeats their opinion several times, bystanders are likely to take that opinion as representative of the whole group. If three people repeat the same opinion, the results are a bit stronger, but not by much. It's the repetition that makes people think that the opinion is held by the majority and, barring a bystander having a strong contrary opinion, it makes them more likely to hold that opinion too.

As a social animal, humans generally hate sticking out. So, if the first time you've ever heard of the +4 Rogue Dark Sword of Enlightenment being overpowered is in a thread where everyone is saying the same thing (despite it being an echo chamber fueled by the same three people) then you are more likely to think that Dark Sword must be overpowered... and then "why haven't those stupid devs nerfed the Dark Sword already!!!".

So the next time you see something posted that you disagree with, it is in your interest to comment. The more devs / customer managers see a diversity of opinion, the more likely they aren't going to think that the loudest voice has the majority on their side.

Slampig writes:


Mon Sep 01 2008 4:30AM Report
TheTruthTold writes:


Mon Sep 01 2008 5:51AM Report
Death1942 writes:

it took a study to figue that out?


Mon Sep 01 2008 6:19AM Report
DeserttFoxx writes:

So what your saying is... the group of people with the stronger conviction win the arguement?

I dont know why you have to call them whiners, if a group of people arent satisfied with soemthing and they are smart enough to complain, the people who are satisfied have the option to pose an intelligent comeback.


But most of the time they cant, they just call teh people trolls or fanbois or whiners, or whatever ridiculus title they want to give, not knowing that name calling isnt a valid comeback and they will ultimatly lose.

If more people knew how to properly pose and defend an arguement, we wouldnt need pointless discussions ot tell us the obvious.

Mon Sep 01 2008 7:18AM Report
MacScarfe writes:

if a group of people arent satisfied with soemthing and they are smart enough to complain, the people who are satisfied have the option to pose an intelligent comeback.

So what your saying is that forum posters should play a large part in dictating the future development of a game?

If more people knew how to properly pose and defend an arguement, we wouldnt need pointless discussions ot tell us the obvious.

So what your saying is that we who pay a subscription should stop playing the game and defend ourselves on the forums so that the game isn't skewed in the favour of a very small number of players who post frequently? I can think of a better way to spend my money thanks.

Your entire argument boils down to noise, that the very small minority should always have greater importance than the vast but silent majority? That sir is a major fail.

Mon Sep 01 2008 7:45AM Report
Yarisagos writes:

What happen to the idea that game company makes a game to their vision?

Not have a bunch of whiners try to change every game out there because they are bored.

Mon Sep 01 2008 9:42AM Report
BigHatLogan writes:

The real reason for this is that the people who are whining care enough about their issue to keep posting about it.  The people who like things the way they are don't care enough to respond.

Mon Sep 01 2008 2:21PM Report
zagreos writes:

well it is actually really pointly for me to hang around forums when i can read just read news. I don't value a opinion i think is wrong thus i don't bother to read.


of course if you say something over and over people will think that is what the majority thinks. I don't think you need to do research to figure that out, but thanks for the statistical study.

Mon Sep 01 2008 6:48PM Report
DeserttFoxx writes:


What i am saying is, if you odnt like something dont pay for it, its not rocket science, though i guess you make it seem like it is.

I dont know what fantasy world you live in, but history would tell you the loudest people get the most down, if you think silent endurance with defeat a vocal rejection then you are sadly mistaken.

The people who frequent the forums, do so because they have more interest in the success or failure of the game then anyone else. If people dont want too add any input into the game by using the valid source they have availble too them, should their opinion matter.. of course not, thats like saying people who dont vote make a difference on the country.

So of course, i firmly believe the community should influence the game. I think once an MMO is released, 90% of it should be fueled by the community, the other 10% is up to the devolopers too weed out, for the devolopers to figure out what is a good idea and what is just nonsense, if they fail at doing that and screw up the game it is ultimatly their fualt.

Let me try to explain this in seiseme street vernacular:

If 100 people gather in a room to hold a vote on whether or not the sky is actually blue, and 20 people raise their hand and say it is, 5 people raise their hand and say it isnt...and the remaining 75 people say the answer is obvious and stay silent, who do you think wins?

The 20 people who said yes, why? Because even though they are clearly wrong, they are the majority, the 5 that chose to fight, made an effort but it wasnt enough, and the 75 who decided to sit there and say nothing, dont matter, because they non-entities. Thats what happens when you decide its more important to endure then use your voice. If the majority stays silent, does anybody actually know they are the majority, i assume anyone who doesnt oppose an idea simply doesnt care either which way, and that is how society as a whole thinks.

Of course my entire arguement comes down to noise, noise gets heard, noise makes changes, good or bad changes are a matter of opinion, if people didnt make noise, nothing would change.

The problem with your arguement is, you made my point at every turn, and even topped it off with a cherry, "major fail" you clearly had no understanding of what i said, yet took a blind stab at trying to dissect it.

Mon Sep 01 2008 8:40PM Report
DeserttFoxx writes:

Kind of annoying to have grammer mistakes, but this blog system wont let me fix it.

Mon Sep 01 2008 8:41PM Report
UnSub writes:

The point to take from the study is that those who make the most noise get heard. Because these people get heard, it is taken as being the majority opinion. And, if the majority want it, shouldn't that opinion be strongly considered.

As for the people being 'whiners': I took the controversial title over the Social Psychology angle because it was more likely to attract attention AND because it's true - if you complain, you get the attention. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. What's really interesting is that people come away from repeatedly hearing one person's opinion thinking that it is the majority opinion. Now that's scary.

Mon Sep 01 2008 11:55PM Report
Haelix writes:

That is frightening. However, if you look deeper into it you'll notice a trend, every action tends to create an equal and opposite reaction.

   Think about this, every time you see a posting by some pissed off forum troll going off about whatever it is that's set him off this day, it's almost always followed by another posting in the thread by someone else  saying the guy is a noob, idiot, or my favorite, fanboi of another game so he's hating on this one.  Two sides of an extremist coin. Kinda balances itself out some.

So person A posts the sky is green, and everyone who doesn't agree is an idiot. Person B sees it, gets righteous about how they know its really yellow and starts flaming the first poster, voila, you've got the stereotypical fanboi flamewar in just two easy steps.

Point being that you show me one thread that would fall into the category of having one unopposed opinion being expressed over and over for mass consumption without anyone taking the extreme opposite view and fighting back and I'll start to worry more about sheep following a crazy shepherd. Forums aren't organized or logical enough for this to have a major effect.

I generally don't get too worried about the crazies until they start handing out blue koolaid.

I really don't think we have any worry about forums not having diverse enough opinions, hell, the day I see a thread where everyone universally agrees about something I think I might faint from shock.


Tue Sep 02 2008 1:13AM Report
biofellis writes:

Actually your bias out of the gate shows a stronger point- how anyone who doesn't go with the pack mentality is a 'whiner'. Everyone should shut up and enjoy- and if something makes you not enjoy it- 'keep it to yourself' or 'stop paying but get out of my face'. Community? Hah! 'Anti-whiner' mentality is the real repetition.

'According to the actual quote is: The worst wheel of the cart makes the most noise'. In Japan, the expression is 'The squeaky wheel gets replaced.'

Just thought you'd find that interesting.

Also, the link you give doesn't give anything about the actual details of the study- just their take on it. Which you made your take on. My 'best guess' on what I saw from the link you gave was that a bunch of people 'not arguing' with one person talking for a group is more compelling than two people agreeing with a third. This has nothing to do with whining- this has to do with leaders and followers- and assumption. One leader and (assumed) nine followers (for example) is more compelling than 3 leaders and- well- with three leaders (or one leader & 2 confirmed 'potential followers') what are the other 7? Followers of one of the three, or maybe a fourth will chime in.

But I didn't read the study, it's $11.95

The actual abstract is here.

Anyway, the important bit is "The results also indicate that the effect is due to opinion accessibility rather than a conscious inference about the meaning of opinion repetition in a group."

Nothing about whining vs cheering, and specifically dismissing repetition.

Tue Sep 02 2008 1:37AM Report writes:
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