SOEs Linda Carlson on Dealing with the Community and Trolls
Anyone that has ever worked in a job that requires you to deal in a civil way with customers to ensure that they remain happy knows just how much of a challenge and test of patience it can be for the person trying to help a sometimes agitated and increasingly aggressive customer. When it comes to gaming, thats no different, and it can require just as much patience, if not more, when dealing with your playerbase.
At this years GDC Europe, Linda Brasse Carlson, director of global community relations for SOE, held a talk to discuss her first experiences in an MMORPG community beginning back in 1999 with EverQuest, something that by her description was a rather unpleasant time in gaming. Carlson recalled first making a female wood elf character, which was quickly met with sexual advancements from a few individuals looking to cyber (nice job landing that stereotype whoever you were). The experience is what led Carlson to eventually become the bearded dwarf we all know and love today.
Since that time, Carlson has become the head of SOEs community team responsible for keeping the community happy and civil. GamesIndustry had the chance to speak with Carlson following her GDC talk, where she revealed more about some of the trickier aspects of her job and dealing with public perception.
"You could implement a small change that maybe only affects a few thousand people, but for them it's huge," she says. "They can't believe that you've just done this, and that you've done it to them personally. Because you hate them, and you don't want their money, and you don't value the five years they spent playing your game.
What Carlson refers to is common talk on forums. Everything from a small balance change to a major retooling of a class can spark heavy discussions by the community. Some of the people that play that part of the game may see the change as a major event, while others look on and scowl at them for complaining. A while later when the roles are reversed, and the scowlers are the ones getting changed, we have the situation in reverse. As Carlson puts it its all a matter of perspective.
Thats just one of the many challenges that Carlson and her team have to deal with. Another is the problem of online trolls and bullying, which is not uncommon on gaming forums and social network pages and has been even more in the spotlight as of late with issues such as Phil Fishs departure from the gaming industry, the death threats to a Call of Duty developer for mildly changing the balance on a gun, and a multitude of other instances that were the subject of a fantastic article by Polygon last month.
With that in mind, that that would engage in such activity may want to think twice before doing so with the SOE team. Because Carlsons team is not above having your account banned from all of SOEs games, and that includes a Twitter or Facebook style tirade against developers.
If we know who you are and you're abusing somebody on Twitter, we will ban your game account and we will not accept you as a customer ever again. It's not always possible to identify people [in that way], but we take that seriously."
Carlson doesnt care if the transgressor is a member of a high profile guild or a popular player, they'll be cast out none the less. It's a good reason to keep things civil aside from the sake of civility itself. You can read more from Carlson over at GamesIndustry.
Source: GamesIndustry International
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