This is worth a read: BioWare writer David Gaider on the repellent nature of the “increasingly toxic” BioWare Social Network forum. In his blog post the lead writer of Dragon Age describes how the forum’s atmosphere makes him feel pretty crappy, “not just about the games we make, but about myself and life in general”. There’s a lot of issues involved there: what’s the ideal relationship between developers and their fans? And should directors sacrifice their vision to the whims of anonymous internet jerks in the first place?
Gaider’s quick to point out that it’s not all bad, and that somethoughtful and considerate feedback can still be found on the forum. The problem, as he sees it, is shared with most large online communities: the moderate opinions are first drowned out by the extreme ones before being driven away almost entirely, leaving a population of bickering “fanboys” and onlythe mostacerbic of cynics.
“The signal-to-noise ratio does seem to be worsening,and eventually you get the feeling like you’re at one of those parties where all anyone is doing is bitching. It doesn’t matter what they’re bitching about so much as, sooner or later, that’s all you can really hear. Engaging starts to mean partaking in the bitching until you feel like that’s all you’re doing. Even when I try to rise above, those who are most negative will seek me out in order to get a rise out of me— and not unsuccessfully. I am only human, and I’ll end up responding to score points just as they do, and end up feeling shitty for having done so.”
It’s heartening to know that BioWare have an understanding of exactly how representational this angry wedge of their community isn’t. Of the biggest AAAdevelopers though, they are perhaps the most ready to work closelywith their fans. The Extended Cut of Mass Effect 3’s ending addressed some of the most common problems players had with the trilogy’s finale. AsEurogamer note, the relentlessly negative reaction to parts ofthat game is said to have weighed heavily on the minds of recently retired Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk.
Gaider’s solution is deceptively straightforward life advice. “Best to take a breath, smile and remember there are a lot of really genuine, positive people to talk to. People who challenge you in a way that doesn’t make you feel worse about yourself. You should surround yourself with them the same way you’d surround yourself with such people in real life.”