Dark Places on the InternetMarch 2, 2010
You might have heard by now about the promotion at Atari.com this weekend that has caused quite a stir in the Star Trek Online community. Unfortunately, that promotion isn’t available anymore, due to the controversy first sparked by some current subscribers on the game forums who felt that this sweet offer to entice new players was a betrayal by the game company. If you want to read more about the whole thing, you can take a look here. Personally, I’m not that fazed by the issue, even after my visit to the STO forums to see what the fuss was about. To be honest, I’m more disturbed by the state of things over there. I mean, seriously, what the hell happened? I can’t believe these are the same message boards I visited three months ago when I saw its members avidly supporting STO as the most anticipated game of 2010 for the Voodoo Extreme awards.
I don’t want to single out the STO community though, because I have to say I hold a distaste for the unfavorable aspects of all game forums. It’s like you can’t navigate them these days without tripping into a cesspit of negativity. Sometimes, it’s so bad that reading game forums actually gets me depressed. No, I don’t think all MMO forum communities are like this, but you have to admit, a lot of them are. There always seems to be a certain level of discontent, but not all of it is bad sometimes; once in a while, you’ll see a legitimate complaint here or a bit of constructive criticism there, and I think mostly we just accept the fact it’s the internet and you can’t please everyone all of the time.
But what happens when the bitterness reaches a fever pitch? That antagonism seems to spread, and you start to see the rage posts and general trolling that serve nothing but spread anger and hate towards the game and the companies involved. Sooner or later, you reach a point where it starts to seem like the entire universe hates the game and are ready to burn their developers at the stake, while the reality is that the majority of subscribers are probably satisfied customers, too busy playing the game to care about the forums or the haters on them. The forums might not represent the actual player-base, but it’s not hard to see how naysayers can drive people away when the ranting gets too aggressive, whether it’s simply from gamers being turned off by bad vibes to the extreme case of the recent STO sale fiasco that resulted in the lost opportunity to attract new players. With regards to that particular issue, I can empathize with both sides. Perhaps Atari did offer the promotion a little too soon, but I also can’t help but think that some of the head-shaking at the STO community has been very much deserved. And it’s not just STO. In general, it gets a little difficult for outsiders to treat a real problem seriously when the levels of nerdraging about anything and everything start to reach stratospheric proportions, no matter how justified a complaint is.
Why is it that so many MMO forum communities degenerate into such a sorry state? It’s clear that this generation of gamers has become more demanding over time, which isn’t necessary a bad thing when it drives game companies to bring us bigger and better games. But when higher expectations lead to a demand for instant gratification and an unreasonable sense of entitlement, it’s inevitable that things will get ugly. Regardless of what’s happening, the lesson here is: if you want to enjoy an MMO, stay far, far away from its forums.