I've always considered the
official forums for most games to be...well, sort of a crap shoot.
Occasionally, if you know how to look, you can find great advice and
insight into your game of choice. But far too often, what you'll find
is a bunch of terminally unhappy gamers at each other's throats.
Sometimes the action gets downright brutal--threads are closed, players
are banned. And on the Dungeons & Dragons Online official forums,
banning doesn't just affect your forum status, it affects your gaming
status. This from the forum
“You must have an active DDO subscription to post to these forums. All
forum accounts are tied to a DDO account. Violations of this Code of
Conduct can result in action upon the game account, including
suspension and banning.”
Make sense? If you act up in the forums, you can end up being suspended
or even permanently banned from the game. (And obviously it works vice
versa. If your active game account is suspended or banned...no forum
access for joo.)
So why is it that some gamers refuse to act civilized? It is indeed
possible to criticize or even complain without being disrespectful of
the game, its developers, or other players. We do it all the time here
at Ten Ton Hammer in the form of editorials. It's also possible to
accept criticism, either of the game or yourself, without getting one's
tightey whities in a whirl. You may sleep in DDO Underoos and have
every collectible Dungeons & Dragons miniature known to humankind,
or you may have played every DDO class to 10th level, but that doesn't
mean you've been granted some special dispensation by the gods to trash
anyone who disagrees with you, does it?
Now, I'm not the be-all, end-all authority on giving and receiving
criticism, but I've been a forum moderator in one form or another for
nearly a decade, so I'm going to take a whack at it. Here's my forum
philosophy in a nutshell:
- Debate, don't argue.
State what it is you disagree with and why. Use the forum tools to
provide direct quotes--things that the other person said that you think
are either factually incorrect or that you don't agree with--then state
your case point for point.
- Don't make it personal.
Remember, your beef is with what the person said, not with the person
himself. Personal attacks almost always end in flame wars, and nothing
worthwhile ever comes of flame wars (unless you're into that sort of
thing, in which case you don't need to start a flame war of your own,
just find an existing one...and bring popcorn).
- Be specific. Broad
statements are almost always misconstrued. Pinpoint exactly what it is
you're disagreeing with, and then make targeted statements.
- Give the benefit of a doubt.
You know what your middle school teacher always said, right? When you
assume, you make an “ass” of “u” and “me.” If what someone said was
unclear, ask for clarification before you get down to the nitty gritty.
- Just the facts, ma'am. If
you're too lazy to look something up, then don't go making statements
about it. You can't say something like, “80% of the people who played
in head start no longer play DDO!” because it's ludicrous, and you
don't have a single shred of fact to back it up.
- Sit on it. I don't
exactly mean sit and rotate; I mean sit on whatever it is you have to
say for a few hours and see if you still want to say it. When you write
in the heat of the moment, you're likely to say things that are
inflammatory. The single best trick I've learned to do when I'm pissed
off and want to write a blistering forum post is to open Windows
Notebook, write out my thoughts there, and just let them simmer for a
few hours. Then I can go back and read them a after I've calmed down
and either discard them, edit them, or post them as is. 99% of the time
I end up editing them so that I'm stating my case more rationally.
- Don't take it personally. Just because someone disagrees with you
or doesn't like what you've had to say doesn't mean that person hates
you. Face it, that person is an anonymous blip on your computer screen.
So are you, for that matter. Just because somebody says you're a
clueless idiot doesn't mean you are. Just because you think someone is
a classless biatch doesn't mean she is, either. Rising to flame bait
makes you reek of insecurity.
- Don't judge, lest ye be judged. If you're going to be critical of
what someone else has had to say, expect your criticisms to be held up
to...criticism. If you can't agree with someone else, don't be
surprised when others don't agree with you.
- Flame not the flamer. It's pretty simple, really. If someone goes
off on you in grand style, and you respond with a similar torrent of
insults, then you're no better than they. If you can respond calmly,
you'll look cool and rational while the other person will look like a
raving idiot. Composure equals dignity...and power.
- Don't feed the trolls. You know, sometimes it's just best to let
the troll stay under his bridge, no matter how much he tries to trick
you into tossing him something juicy to chew on. Silence is golden.
And one last note before I go: if you're going to express your opinion
about something related to the game, by all that is good and holy, make
it productive. Nobody likes “This game suxx0rz!” posts. Those types of
posts most often get the response, “Don't let the door hit ya where the
good Lord split ya.” If you have what you believe is a legitimate
gripe, state it specifically and factually without attacking the game,
the franchise, or the developers. I know you can do it.
We all have opinions, and we all want our opinions heard. We want to
know that what we think and say matters. I'm all for debate, especially
in the gaming industry. Criticism, in my opinion, is far better for our
games overall than rampant fanboi-ism. But it's important to keep in
mind that no single opinion is either right or wrong--it's an opinion.
You don't win a debate by proving the other party wrong; you win it by
making the strongest case and maintaining your composure.