Might have to start doing this again...

2010-08-22 15:40

So, I recently read an interesting book (Pragmatic Thinking & Learning), and it’s gotten me to thinking about the whole blog thing. I have a hard time remembering to do things that don’t call themselves to my attention, but I really enjoy the sort of thinking-out-loud that a blog provides, so I think I’m going to start trying to remember to post more often, possibly even setting up reminders so that this happens automatically.

FWIW, my current topic of thinking is mostly MMOs, as I recently switched from World of Warcraft to City of Heroes. On the whole, CoH is a lot more fun in many ways — and I’m trying to sort out what they are, because I think that gets pretty strongly into the question of why I find these games as a category fun. Activision’s recent behavior is also a stunning example of how completely you can create disaffected ex-customers by showing only a little bit of total contempt for them. I refer, of course, to the Real ID thing. As people are quick to point out, they backed down… But consider this:

1. They said, during the outcry, that they were aware that a lot of people would leave, but they felt that this would improve the community. Keep in mind, the people who were leaving were law enforcement officials, people with “real jobs” that are picky about internet presence, women who don’t like being harassed online, transgendered people, and so on… Not the forum trolls, who were all big fans of the proposed scheme. So Blizzard’s clear message: If you’re an adult with a real job and family to think about, you’re not welcome here. We want kids who have nothing to lose.
2. When they backed down, they made it pretty clear that they were backing down, not due to the substance of the complaints, but due to the quantity. There has been no acknowledgement or recognition that some of the complaints might have real merit.
3. In a later interview with Eurogamer, a Blizzard rep said they are not moving in that direction “for the time being”. That’s a phrase which consistently connotes an already-established plan to do something later, just not yet. In other words, they have only temporarily backed down; they already plan to resume the stupid scheme later.
4. Even ignoring all of the above, I cannot take seriously a company so badly run that a scheme so obviously and catastrophically dumb ever saw the light of day.

That said, all of the above pales in comparsion to the discovery that CoH’s servers are actually maintained — people who consistently act out get made to stop. Blizzard’s never been able to effectively keep up with their work load. And yes, you can reasonably argue that they have a ridiculous number of customers. Those customers pay them a ridiculous amount of money. It should not be that hard to hire, if necessary, a ridiculous number of support staff to keep up with the ridiculous number of trouble tickets filed for overt in-game harassment… But they don’t.

I’ve been playing City of Heroes a bit over a month. I have seen, once, someone openly make a comment that attempted to denigrate someone else by implying that the target was gay. In WoW, that was something I’d typically see every half hour to an hour. CoH’s community and staff care about harassment in-game; WoW’s don’t.

Peter Seebach

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