Mobile Mavens

Love your game vs. Hope you die: Is Twitter worth the hate?

Love your game vs. Hope you die: Is Twitter worth the hate?

For communication theorist Marshall McLuhan, 'the medium was the message'.

By this, he meant the type or format of the communication that can be carried on different media is their message.

In this way, all books are an internalised linear argument, while a movie is a directed assault on the our eyes and ears.

Quite what he'd make of Twitter - a noisy, ill-mannered Speakers' Corner stretched out across the entire global village? - is interesting to speculate.

Certainly for the games industry, Twitter's ability to enable direct communications with players is increasingly being over-shadowed by its ability to amplify and encourage nasty criticism.

In this context, we asked out Mavens:

Do you think the sort of 'heated debate' that's now enabled - particularly by Twitter - is positive for game developers in terms of better understanding and communicating with their players and their desires?

Or is the ability for anyone to spout their every opinion, no matter how ridiculous, ill-informed or hurtful, creating dangerous precedent that the loudest and most shrill voices have too much power and are restricting sensible debate?

 

Will Luton Luton & Son Founder

I had a heated email from a Pixel Miner  player the other day - who claimed to love the game - demanding a refund.

The game is free, no ads, no IAPs, so no idea what he want a refund of. His time? That's a considerable sense of entitlement.

But the vast majority of my players are overwhelmingly good, kind and generous. I hope they will continue to drown out the hateful voices.

There was a great TED talk by Anita Sarkeesian about here experiences with trolling. Well worth watching.

Scott Foe Chief Product Officer Ignited Artists

On a personal note, this is a timely question for me.

Last week, (in my uninformed psychiatric opinion) a bat-poop crazy fan of one of my games told me that he is waiting for me to leave the United States so that he can kill me.

 

Not the sort of Twitter conversation anyone wants

It's poppycock like this that makes me want to hide from public discussion of any kind. As developers, we want fame for ourselves and our games, but we also want privacy. And privacy is dead.

The finest gem is polished through friction, as the old saying goes, and any discussion of ideas will always lead to positive effect, partly in thanks to the shit-sayers standing in the nosebleed section of the peanut gallery.

But, when the idea being discussed is "stalk and murder Scott Foe," well ... that's the risk of success. It's a cowardly, new world.

Dave Castelnuovo Owner Bolt Creative

This issue has been around for a long time and is not unique to our industry. Look at the music industry. How many people get upset when their favorite artist goes mainstream. Young girls sending death threats to Selena Gomez when she was dating Justin Bieber. Damon Lindelof getting hate mail over the ending of Lost.

Even George R.R. Martin gets death threats over not completing the next Game of Thrones book.

One of the things that is great about our culture is that people are taught to believe that they are special and that they can achieve anything as long as they put their mind to it. Regardless of social standing, background, economic standing, everyone deserves the opportunity to achieve their dream.

The only way to improve the situation is to teach people to not only dream for themselves but to respect each other's dreams.
Dave Castelnuovo

The side effect of this is that we produce a lot of self-centered people that think they deserve 100% satisfaction in all things. Somewhere the idea that you have the ability to work to achieve your dream gets confused with the idea that everyone owes you exactly what you want. And since you are self-centered, obviously your opinion is the only one that matters and that you have the right to intimidate people into giving you what you think you deserve.

At the worst, it comes in the form of death threats, but it does appear in forms that seem thoughtful at first but in the end is just another game of intimidation.

Take our recent Occulus conversation for example. It's this same form of entitlement that drives our fellow developers to think that they somehow have a say in whether a company like Occulus gets acquired by Facebook. Disappointment is a justified feeling in these cases, even expressing your disappointment is valid, but the idea of being outraged has its roots in this same entitlement issue.

That said, I'm not sure whether we can solve this. The genie is already out of the bottle in that everyone can freely share their opinions over the internet.

Accessibility to creators has never been easier. I would never want to change our culture. I believe in the idea of giving people dreams for their future and building a society that teaches people to try the impossible.

The only way to improve the situation is to teach people to not only dream for themselves but to respect each other's dreams. Teach them that you don't always get what you want. (I always thought it would be funny to create a children's book where the girl tries, and tries, and tries, but just can't become the princess and has to settle for a job at the local pub.)

The question is What is most important in our society?

Is it shooting for greatness and competitiveness so that we can create the next Steve Jobs? Or is it to teach compassion, an understanding that the people behind your favorite games, music, movies are people that have their own dreams and sometimes they have a different vision than what you would do in their situation.

Sometimes they have the same vision but real world events happen that cause them to go with something that seems more practical at the time.

[At Bolt Creative] we actually created a song when we are getting a lot of harassment over not being able to keep up with weekly updates [for Pocket God].

Patrick Liu Senior Product Owner, Spotify

My personal experience of this comes mostly from so-called hardcore gamers when working with traditional console and PC games. Even with paid products, a lot of people expect indefinite support and change for their sake.

It's all good, and we should do what we can to meet customer demand. The problem is that for every voice that ask us to turn left, there are as many to ask us to turn right.

So which way do you turn?

I found that the best way to meet some persistent trolls is to ask them constructive questions.
Patrick Liu

Everything considered I think it's a good thing to have the clear direct communication with our fans, there's little we can do to control or educate everyone how to behave as a polite human being on the internet.

As Dave points out, this happens everywhere, not just games. What we can do is to help and educate other creators how to handle the feedback we get: being able to separate proper feedback from pure trolling; where to draw the line between useful feedback and unhealthy sense of entitlement; and how to sift through the ocean of noise to get to the real gems of feedback.

Also, not everyone can take this kind of direct feedback, privately or professionally. If you come to that realisation, try to find someone to do it for you. That's part of what community managers do, they're your shit shield and filter out the relevant feedback.

I found that the best way to meet some persistent trolls is to ask them constructive questions and get them thinking, try to inform certain individuals of how reality looks like.

And if nothing else works and you have dedicated fans, they'll set things straight with the trolls for you :)

Harry Holmwood European CEO Marvelous Entertainment

A 20-year veteran of video games and online space, Harry is European CEO of Marvelous AQL, a Japanese developer and publisher of social, mobile and console games, known for console games like No More Heroes and Harvest Moon, but now highly successful in the free-to-play mobile and web space in Japan and Asia.

A games programmer before joining Sony’s early PlayStation team in 1994, he then founded developer Pure Entertainment, which IPO’d and launched a free-to-play online gaming service way back in 1999.

He was also a director of pioneering motion gaming startup In2Games, which was sold to a US group in 2008.

Along the way, he’s been a corporate VP, troubleshooter, and non-exec to a variety of companies and investors in and around the games sector.

I think you have to consider that the people making the kind of threats are a tiny minority of the audience, making them from a bedroom in their parents' house, who wouldn't say boo to a goose in real life and who are just trying to prop up their tiny, damaged, teenage egos by exercising a little bit of illusionary 'power'.

The tragedy is, though, that a lot of people on the receiving end don't necessarily have the ability to brush off a mass abuse campaign.

I also think quite a few people who claim to be in gaming need to grow the hell up.
Harry Holmwood

As with the wider public, a lot of game developers suffer from mental health issues and someone suffering could really be damaged by the ignorance of those who think they're just having fun. It's a matter of time before one of these campaigns leads someone to suicide.

What upsets me more than seeing a few members of the public behave in this rude and cowardly way is to see those ostensibly inside the industry engaging in the same. I see a new 'outrage' every few days and the same faces cropping up, and ganging up, time and time again on Twitter to pass judgement on some poor journalist, developer or publisher.

There seems to be more anger about these terrible game injustices than there is about the rather more significant world events going on right now.

Maybe I need to prune my Twitter feed, but I also think quite a few people who claim to be in gaming need to grow the hell up.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Ideas Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

We have effectively created a whole set of new ways to almost instantly communicate with both people we know and complete strangers, anywhere in the world, day or night.

What hasn't evolved as quickly as technology is the social conventions around how we correctly use these channels. We also preach self-empowerment, and that everyone is entitled to their opinions. So it's no wonder that a subset of these views are abhorrent, immature, and totally unacceptable.

Harry, I feel the same about how over-communication seems to have led to a loss of focus on what is most important; but then, who is the curator that decides on what we should care about?

That is the benefit and the problem with what social media, email and smartphones have given us.

Personally, I make judicious use of the 'off' switch. It works wonders to recede your blood pressure and insulate you from idiots with a keyboard.

Jon Jordan Contributing Editor Steel Media Ltd

Just to add to the debate - what's the view on the new #welovegamedevs‬ hashtag as a zang to the zing of Twitterhate?

This is the background from Keith Stuart - games editor at The Guardian.

  • So, today I started the ‪#‎welovegamedevs‬ hashtag on a bit of a whim. I know there are serious issues underlying everything that's happened in the video game community over the last week, and I'm not trying to lessen or detract from any of that. But I thought that the overwhelming sense of gloom and alienation on Twitter about games, game makers and game writers was becoming destructive and debilitating - I wanted to do something. I saw so many tweets from wonderful game makers along the lines of "this is too much, I don't want to create for this audience anymore". And we've all seen what's happened to Zoe and Phil.
  • So I did this because I wanted to remind developers that their work is loved and admired. And it's been pretty amazing, because people have gone with it - so many people. Game developers and publishers I admire have got involved - Yoshida-san has retweeted. YOSHIDA-SAN.
  • Anyway, thanks to my friends and colleagues who have taken it up and retweeted it. Thanks to anyone who tweeted a developer. I think my writing has made it abundantly clear over the last decade that video games mean the absolute world to me - so, yeah, thanks. Thank you. Thanks everyone.

Harry Holmwood European CEO Marvelous Entertainment

A 20-year veteran of video games and online space, Harry is European CEO of Marvelous AQL, a Japanese developer and publisher of social, mobile and console games, known for console games like No More Heroes and Harvest Moon, but now highly successful in the free-to-play mobile and web space in Japan and Asia.

A games programmer before joining Sony’s early PlayStation team in 1994, he then founded developer Pure Entertainment, which IPO’d and launched a free-to-play online gaming service way back in 1999.

He was also a director of pioneering motion gaming startup In2Games, which was sold to a US group in 2008.

Along the way, he’s been a corporate VP, troubleshooter, and non-exec to a variety of companies and investors in and around the games sector.

I like that a lot! Have immediately jumped on the bandwagon of love.

Thomas Nielsen Osao Games

I'm sure a lot of good comes out of 'direct access'. Certainly game developers are quick at exploiting it to their own good, whether it's using it to generate buzz and awareness, or it's to shape products more into what the audience wants. With positive buzz, there's no end to what you can achieve.

The reality is that there is very little you can do to change how idiot haters and hackers behave.
Thomas Nielsen

But if you choose to exploit that, make sure you can handle negative buzz as well. If you manage yourself 'indie' style by being transparent and putting yourself out there, you need to realize that at the same time you're living, moving target for haters.

Be sure you can deal with it well, or protect yourself. Through PR, or through a corporate identity, which is a lot easier to protect and to distance yourself from.

On Friday, Phil Fish of Fez  fame was hit by hackers, who publicized his bank and personal information. Probably just because they didn't like him. Phil brought that on himself with numerous Twitter meltdowns, and he's a textbook case of how to not handle yourself online.

Of course you should be allowed to be a jerk (or even just vocal) online without getting hacked, but the reality is that there is very little you can do to change how idiot haters and hackers behave. What you can do is manage yourself, or your brand, in a way that provokes or attracts it as little as possible and deals with crisis in the most positive way.

Fortunately, there's hope for mankind. After everyone has watched both seasons of Ricky Gervais' Derek, everyone will appreciate how cool it is be nice. Right?

Jared Steffes Co-founder Muxy

I know it is a bit off target but fits the theme. A hacker has diverted the flight of Sony Online's president.

This is pretty crazy.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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