In-game protests are nothing new. In World of Warcraft, everything old is new again. Since the WoW expansion, lots of people aren’t happy. In fact I think the only truly content class are Warlocks (note to self: watch for Warlock nerfs next month).
It’s somewhat ironic, really, that these protests almost always impact just the customer service staff, most of whom usually agree with whatever grievance the players have (since they almost always play the game themselves, it usually being a hiring requirement). So the CSRs have to spend time clearing out the hundreds of Tourette’s-afflicted level 1s, thus causing them to fall further behind on their queues. Meanwhile, the designers and producers who made the decisions the players are up in arms about, if they become aware of the in-game discontent, will usually see it as justification that the players can’t be trusted to actually make decisions. Look, they’re all running around naked and screaming obscenities and you want to listen to them? Don’t mind us, we’ll be reinforcing the boiling oil we keep up in the Ivory Tower of Solitude.
As developers, if your players are literally rioting in the streets, you’ve failed in multiple ways.
- Your players don’t feel like they’re being listened to, and feel that antisocial behavior is a justified response. To them, it probably is. Aggro management is SERIOUS BUSINESS.
- Your community people are being ignored, whether by the players, the developers, or both. My guess: both!
- Your managers are going to pick that week to read a random board thread to keep up their street cred, and come charging into your office asking WTF you did now. Get ready to justify those nerfs!
I don’t think we’ll ever see again the likes of Abashi threatening people to be quiet or their tradeskill backpacks will be nerfed, but the lines of communication breaking down into virtual violence and very real drama seems to be always with us. In a way it’s a good sign – after all, if your players just sullenly assume you’re incompetent, they won’t bother to protest any more! But once things escalate to the level of gratuitous gnome nudity, you have issues — and despite how silly gnomish butt usually looks, they’re serious ones. Much like rioting is a sign of social disorder and breakdown in the real world. And for much the same reasons. Your broken windows have no less effect on the social environment for being virtual.