Last week's Devil's Advocate got a lot of responses, and I wanted to take some time out to put five of these front and center for everyone to read and digest. These comments provided a great context for additional reflection, and I'm really happy to see these responses on The Devil's Advocate.
Here are a couple of responses that provided me with some great food for thought or otherwise made me smile. After each, I've chimed in with thoughts of my own.
If anything, the term for what you describe would be powder keg.
A common example of tipping point is population drop in an MMO. Once the population drops to a certain point, people start leaving because others are leaving, causing a steady or slow drop to become a rapid decline. An example of a tipping point in the other direction is how WoW caught on fire during beta and then at release due to the game's evangelists being spread through MMO, RPG and franchise circles. Between the lack of expectations of what an MMO should be, an avid fanbase and a really solid game, the game shot through the roof, attracting so many more in just the first month that the devs had to turn on reserve servers they didn't expect to have to use for another six months.
Other than that little nitpick of mine, this is the first article here where I really wish someone with more understanding or familiarity with the subject matter wrote it because it's a great topic.
As I commented on the piece, I thank Loktofeit for providing a much better term than the tipping point idea.
More to the point, what he talked about when he discussed World of Warcraft was really spot-on. WoW's popularity (not the game itself, but the effect of the game existing and gathering mass) is a sort of entity that changed the landscape of MMOs.
For some gamers currently, WoW is probably their starter MMO, and with that in mind, if they want to be opinionated online, they do so from the lens of WoW as a standard of MMOs, rather than as an outlier that started a change in the MMO industry.
Also, I do agree: We need a psychologist or sociologist on staff to attend to these sorts of really complicated thought processes.
Negativity sells. Just turn on the television and see what news stories lead the way. Wars, death, accidents, screw-ups, cover-ups, sex scandals -- that's what people seem to want. Show me a positive news channel that is successful.
Players have the right to voice their honest opinions. If we buy into the hype of a game and pay good money for it, and if that cookie turns out to be a rotten turnip, we should be able to express our distaste.
This was a short excerpt from a longer comment that really made me pause.
As I do write for a news website in the Philippines, it is kind of true. Unless it's a weekend where people like happier stories and human interest pieces, the idea of conflict (not necessarily negativity) as a driving force in social change is very evident.
As for voicing opinions, I'm all for expressing distaste. The problem is when we say things without giving substance to bring richness to the discussion, or when we let the anger or disappointment cause us to disrespect the the thing we're talking about.
Distaste is great! Respectful distaste through discourse, much better.
In the end, a comment from maplestone says it best: "I cannot control what others say, only what I say myself."
From Neyjour (on crab mentality):
We have something very similar in the Bahamas. The old people have a saying for those who like to tear others down: "You just like black crab!"
In the Bahamas we have two types of crabs we like to eat. One is a very large white crab, and the other is a smaller black crab. If you put black crabs in one bucket and white crabs in another bucket, walk away for a while and then come back, the bucket with black crabs will still be full. The bucket with white crabs...completely empty.
The black crabs will always reach up and pull down any of the others that try to escape, whereas the white crabs will pile on top of each other, creating a ramp of sorts for the others to climb up, and the second-to-last will actually reach down and pull the last one up and over the edge with it. It's pretty amazing to watch, and always made me feel a bit guilty for eating them...
Neyjour's comment is interesting to me because she has not only seen the teardown mentality at work, but has also seen how an organized group fighting for their combined good worked together to get out of a sticky situation. And they did it probably because they either have their own organized language for working together, or they instinctively know that working together is what's best for all of them.
As I don't eat crab meat, I'm pretty stoked to also know some of the crabs can get away.
I think the issue is that it's become more cool to deconstruct the negative aspects of the game -- to critique it and diss it -- and then move on to diss the next game -- than to play the game and build community in the game itself. That has become the gaming community. The metagame of most gamers.
And that is toxic to the economy of creating AAA content. If you create content on the premise that people will come and linger and sub or spend time in the game spending F2P funds, but people come in like locusts (or as I prefer to think of them, piranha) to swarm to level cap, tear the game apart, and then move to the next victim, games will stop being profitable, stop getting funding, stop being able to afford to create AAA content, and the spiral we are already seeing will create a catastrophic collapse.
The above is an excerpt from Shava's comment, and this one made me think for a while on how to respond. Below is what I came up with.
One of the big differences between movies and games is that games tend to have community building features that movies don't have. At the same time, because MMOs are always constantly updated, there's more of a mechanism in place to allow for changes that fit the situation of the gaming industry based on feedback.
How does that relate to the topic? Well, deconstructing the negatives of a game is (I feel) also a valid form of helping a game grow, so long as you can back up your ideas with data and say things respectfully.
For instance, the mathematical metagame behind WoW's stats is awesome to behold, has data that allows for more informed decisions, and allows for healthy discourse and community building in terms of the min-maxer side of gamers.
I would surmise that criticism of a game's development is even more helpful than criticism of a movie, even though movies have been there longer, primarily because of the ability to create changes in a game as opposed to the static nature of a movie.
As for how toxic it is for the industry to analyze and provide opinions, that's definitely up for debate.
In any case, these are only a handful of the really interesting comments I saw on the article. Feel free to chime in on these ideas!
Also, special thanks to therain93 for pointing out cognitive dissonance, which I hope to discuss in a later article maybe two or three weeks from today.
As for next week, I plan on discussing how gamers can better present themselves to the community with a column on improving discourse and discussion online. If you have ideas you'd like to send in that might move the discussion along, feel free to comment below, and I'll see if I can incorporate it into the article. Cheers!