A more perfect union

Some of you may remember Tseric.

For those who don’t, Tseric was a Blizzard World of Warcraft community manager. One of those forum admins who gets to explain to the inpatient players why something happened or something didn’t happen they way that exact player wanted it to.

On May 13th 2007, after a series of postings in the Shaman class forums, Tseric posted the following about his job, the challenges he at the time dealt with and his relationship with the community.
Shorty after the thread was deleted.

“When you can understand how a group of belligerent and angry posters can drive away people from this game with an uncrafted and improvisational campaign of misery and spin-doctoring, then perhaps, you can understand the decisions I make. Until you face mobs of psychology, you will not see my side.

Until you see some bright-eyed player coming onto the forums wanting to know what they should spec as this class, and see them shat on and driven away by petty and selfish people who are simply leveraging for game buffs, you will not understand.

You will not understand until you have to see it daily, for years…

Until you understand that many people will trod over you to get where they’re going, or to get what they want.

Until you understand that so many people will agree, completely, 100% with a loud, vulgar and assertive individual, not because he is right, but because he is making a stand against “the Man”; to take no critical thought in what they say, but simply to hop on board.

Until you actually try to acknowledge those who do not speak on the forums, for whatever reason they have, you will not understand.

If you think an archaic business formula like “the customer is always right” works, you fail to understand customers, not a customer. It is a collective. No one person, even myself, is truly above the whole.

I simply have the unfortunate quality of being easily singled out.”

A short time passed and Tseric wrote and published a second post.

“Can’t help it.

Posting impassionately, they say you don’t care.
Posting nothing, they say you ignore.
Posting with passion, you incite trolls.
Posting fluff, you say nonsense.
Post with what facts you have, they whittle down with rationale.
There is no win.
There is only slow degradation.
Take note. It is the first and only time you’ll see someone in my position make that position.
You can be me when I’m gone.”

On May 17th 2007 (the following Thursday), in response to a thread about a new CM job opportunity, Eyonix, another Blizzard CM, revealed that Tseric had moved on to different things. No further information was given.
Players still to this day argue whether Tseric was fired or if he wrote these last posts to go out in a blaze right before he gave his resignation.

The tale of Tseric is often seen as an episode of subtle comedy. He was ridiculed by some after he left Blizzard. Others took the opportunity to discuss the bad manner, the immaturity, the trolling and the ridiculous cater me always expectations of the World of Warcraft community in particular and the mmo community in general. This discussion is one of importance. Too many believe that “trolls are gonna troll” and that’s the end of it.

But.

It’s not the end of it. If polite, mannered and mature communities are to be built, all the participants must engage to make it so. Here the game companies has a huge responsibility. One often sees that when this responsibility isn’t met it can lead to horrible outcomes. Many players simply leaves the game in which trolls thrive. One example of this is ofcource the game HoN, which probably has one of the worst communities of all time. In every category.

Game development companies can do a lot to establish a well mannered culture within their game communities. It’s all about which norms they choose to promote.
At the same time the communities themselves have a responsibility to eachother. Older players can make the choice to in a calm and mature way set a standard in the tone of conversation, which actually inspire change. It might not make it all the way in it self when it comes to building a well mannered and positive community, but it’s an important step.

Three incentives seem self apperent to promote, to build a nicer community.

1. In-game rewarding sytems for being well mannered. Helping others, showing and explaining. Basically creating opportunities of playing together, but at the same time with some rewards for being mannered.

2. Incentives outside the game. The posts on forum, website and comment sections should be rewarded when posted in with manner and good tone. doesn’t have to be much. Just basic incentives.

3. Real time incentives. Now this is important. Regardless if you are in-game or in the forums, all game companies and community sites must focus on hard and fair chat, comment and forum moderation. Skilled moderators determens if a community floats or sinks. There are countless examples of this. Instead of mentioning names of community sites that did or didn’t do well here I will simply say that all communities that tends to have a this is our house mentality, and demands respect for it, has a much more positive, well mannered and interesting visitor and member base.

Here is where the unfortunate story of Tseric matters. If both Blizzard and their World of Warcraft community had taken more responsibility to establish a positive culture, less responsibility and weight would have been put on the already overburdened community managers. This applies not only to the Blizzard community, but to all of them.
In order for gaming and game developing companies to thrive, these demands should be met at a much lager rate. It needs to be a priority, both for the owners of the game companies and community sites, and for the community participants themselves.

In the opinion of yours truly, that’s the main way gamers would create a more perfect union.

What are the best ways, in your opinion, to create politer, kinder and more helpful gaming communities?

 






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5 Responses to “A more perfect union”

  • Unfortunately the biggest language abuse is often used in-game or by private notes which makes it hard (I imagen) for moderators to intercept and monitor. A new gamer with little experience might get discouraged and sadly enough leave the gaming enviorment due to bullying.

  • captrench says:

    Rules are there not for those who understand how to function within a community, but for those who don’t. And communities are shaped by the rules that bind them. This actually applies to communities in game as well as forums. If a game has toxic systems that encourage negative behaviour with little to counter it, the community will mirror it.

    I’ve seen forum communities shaped by a few toxic ringleaders that moderators did nothing to address, and then seen that same community metamorphosis into a more reasoned, calm one when the moderators started applying consequences in the form of temporary or permanent bans after public warnings.

    Some forum posters are toxic to the community. But that’s ok. What’s really poisonous is when those same forum members are allowed unchallenged to dictate the state of the community, and become its leaders. When well mannered forum members are left to effectively police a forum on their own, you will get a toxic community.

    The answer is a zero tolerance policy of toxic behaviour where members feel that its worth reporting that behaviour.

    Disagreement and debate is the life-blood of a forum. And it should be encouraged where it promotes discussion. That does not mean allowing a free for all of bad behaviour.

    • gReep says:

      Yes true. One of the main factors for the game developers themselves to pay attention to, in my opinion, is what sort of incentives you could give players ingame in order to make them have an easier platform for good manners to stand on.

      Some real research effort should be put here I think.

      Those incentives (might include points for good manner, group questing with manner rewards etc ets) could vary but they should be there. The question is if they work well enough today, or at all for that matter, and how you could make those incentives stronger.

      • captrench says:

        I think one of the main difficulties with managing and influencing communities for the better, whether in game, their forums or everyday life, is that so much of human behaviour is an emergent result of many factors. Its really hard to predict sometimes (not always) how so many separate systems and mechanics can have a negative domino effect on the community in it.

        Its a weird phenomenon that the societies with the most control are not often the safest or happiest. Neither is it true to say that those with no controls are happy or safe. Like so much, a balance is the key, and that’s easier to philosophise about than achieve ;)

        It was actually on the massively.joystick.com website that I read the rather enlightening phrase that communities over time always end up mirroring the systems they are within.

        I read one article elsewhere that highlighted that so much of the mmorpg industry actually encourages solo play by virtue of Need or Greed loot mechanics, the possibility of kill stealing, xp competitiveness, and awful LFG systems. Placing players in direct competition with each other, in an environment theoretically based on cooperative play sets up background tension that a lot of players (after a hard day in the office/shop/building site etc…) actively or subconsciously work to avoid when in a game. Hence solo play.

        I don’t think the answer is in supplying an opposite incentive to counter the negative one (nor do I think you are specifically suggesting that), as much as I think they should alleviate the negative one directly as much as possible. A dose of sugar straight after a mouthful of sour grapes does not make the sour grapes any more acceptable, gaming wise, so to speak.

        Conflict is inherent to most mmorpg’s, its core to 90% of the content (combat). Even chess is a metaphor for war and conflict. But the systems to play the game need not mirror the game itself.

  • gReep says:

    Interesting. Incentives, if you’d even want to call it that, should not be provided through a framework of control I think. Rather constructively focus on promoting a more qualitative social culture, from many different angles.
    All of them may not even focus on multiplay, since an important point is that many prefer to play by themselves. On the other hand these are games where the idea is to gather many players and so they are “stuck” with eachother, no matter if one likes it or not.

    Before this site I worked for a big gaming community and we had targeted out one site in particular as our main competitor. We had several things they did not; a larger staff, more quantity in regards to news and editorial work.
    They however had one thing we always wanted but never got; a largely nice and mannered community, when it came to the postings and their forums. Their strategy was simple, a firm moderation policy. They had the “this is our house” mentality and acted on it. One can discuss if that led to an overly strict framework for interaction, but it worked for them, they had a great community and a large portion of their followers very much wanted it that way.

    Promoting a nice culture, with many different tools, while at the same time not controlling or restricting players too much should be in the forefront, in my opinion. Question is how you practically would do it. How one would find those tools, regardless if you belong to the game creators or the community itself. The balance you mention is very important I think, to achieve results. Hopefully this subject and discussion will be payed more attention in the future, given what one sees in some games, HoN for example, where the community slowly dries out any lust for playing the game for many.
    Question then becomes in what practical way one would tackle these challenges.

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    gReep

    March 18th


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