Blizzard’s Flame Wars

“The single biggest problem in communication
is the illusion that it has taken place.”

George Bernard Shaw

Yesterday’s Blizzard Forums experienced what could only be described as a Flame War. Echoes of Usenet and 1980 and fury unleased in full public display. This spilled over into Twitter. People feel like they’ve been lied to and people are reacting to being called a liar.

It was ugly. I imagine it is still going on but I won’t be going over there, let the damn thing burn down.

The game designers and developers for the World of Warcraft are wonderful at their job. Sadly, they’ve been thrust into the public eye and forum. They are not public people and yet, these are the guys we want information from. It was and is a mistake to follow this path.

Asking for Feedback is all they know and it is primitive, naïve and so vague that it is hurting the community and themselves. The idea of Feedback is as broad a concept as Freedom or Value or Taste. Pointing to a individual’s response and saying “that is good feedback” isn’t helping anyone as it gives no clue as to the information that they are looking for at that moment.

I don’t know, but I imagine very few of the Blizzard guys got a masters degree in communication. I took classes on Feed Back when it was still a new (ish) idea when it was being expanded into physical areas of medicine even though it’s roots were in communication. The use of this tool must be deft to be effective.

Unless there is a major overhaul of their model, Blizzard will be cultivating a culture of anger and frustration beyond what is happening now and now is a Flame War.

They need to:

  • Be specific in their Forums on what they want the players to tell them.
  • Drop Twitter as a discussion forum.
  • Redesign their Forums so there are not pages upon pages of empty responses.
  • The forums have professionals hired to moderate but the designers are not trained to deal with a rowdy public.
  • Be honest! The idea that feedback will create change must be (must be) squelched completely.
  • Give information for the responders to react to; not Bait.

The trap is that by offering an avenue of communication, those who respond believe that they can change the game. That message needs to be the clearest loudest message; feed back does not mean your ideas will be used! People believe that because of the gestalt of public forums moderated by Blizzard employees.

Players will not make changes to the game. They have to learn this, be told this, taught this or they will feel burned and angry.

I love this game. I love knowing information, often in advance of it being in game. The process is ugly and Blizzard needs professionals to clean it up. The opportunity must remain, lets hope from these ashes that they will fix a very flawed system.


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