n50036bcb6e46a_largePerusing my favorite subreddits for games today, I came upon an interesting thread in /r/Guildwars2 about people who quit games and why they feel the need to publicly post about them. It was definitely a partial rant on wanting to stab their own eyes out so they didn’t have to read about what they pretty much called whining:

One thing I’ve never felt the urge to do is publicly declare that I’m no longer playing a game. Who would possibly care? Why would any of the millions of WoW players care that I got bored with their game? Why would any DCOL, DO, DDOL, or LOTR players give a shit that there’s one less person on their servers? There are, however, a number of players who feel the need to advertise their exit on FB, the official forums, wherever. My question is: Why?

 

What’s the point? Do they expect people to beg them to stay? Do they think they’ll convince people who enjoy GW2 to suddenly stop doing so? Are they just trolling because their pet game isn’t getting as much hype? Do they think anyone really gives a shit if they stay or go? I realize that there probably isn’t a single answer, but I am curious about this phenomenon and wondered what other people thought.

I’m going to set aside the whole idea of “why” for another day’s posting, because I think that gets a little bit too far into the kind of psychoanalysis of gamers that, like Camelot, is a silly place. What I will talk about, however, is the question of “who would possibly care?” and why – and how you might be able to provide some value next time you decide you want to post that a game isn’t for you.

The obvious answer to “who” is, well, us Community professional types – you know, the poor saps who have to click into all the threads and read all the forums and peruse all the subreddit posts for chunks of feedback and valuable information. This includes all of the places that regular players get to have the choice of not reading, such as that one thread that starts with the subject “THE WORST EPIC FAIL OF ALL TIME” (not made up) or the posts that contain little more than an ASCII middle finger or the classic Picard facepalm (also not made up). The best analogy I can think of for this are those folks who panned for gold. There’s a process for digging, sifting, and shaking out for good and proper feedback that’s much like trying to find those tiny little gleaming bits and nuggets of gold in the mud, dirt, and grime, and it is partially a Community person’s job to sit by the river and do the dirty work of it all.

The thing is, Community people are always interested in why people decide to leave a game they represent, which is why all the people who inevitably respond to “I quit” posts with the notion that they should somehow shut up, go away, go back to WoW or whatever else, doesn’t really help us. In many ways, the conversational, sometimes candid nature of “I quit” feedback can provide another channel and method for people to communicate to the developer what might be wrong, beyond the sort of constraints a survey or feedback email request can give. But like everything else that Community people have to analyze, it’s better if the feedback is constructive and means something. So that being said:

What I usually discard if I’m reading “I quit” feedback:

  • Personal Insults – If you want to denigrate the hard work of development teams (regardless of success or failure) and be an outright jerkface, then know that the insults you level at the team in your post only go so far as the post you put them in. They’re going nowhere near the development team. I have yet to write about this, but naming and shaming developers does pretty much nothing.
  • Suggestions that aren’t feasible - If you tell me to fire a whole team, my boss, or my boss’s boss so that somehow the quality of the game will improve, that’s just not going to happen – and if it somehow does, it’s out of my control to actually make happen. On a lesser level, removal of whole classes, rollback of events planned over months, and other such drastic changes are pretty improbable, too.
  • Generic, non-supported negative statements – I can’t really do something about “the game sucks”, or “endgame is boring” except to wrap it into a general report or trend of why people might be churning out of the game. I need to know why the game sucks, why the endgame is boring, and what kinds of things were a driver in players leaving. I’ll note the statement, sure, but don’t expect it to be at the top of my list as to why.
  • Forum tropes – Slaps in the face, nails in the coffin, accusations of lying from our marketing pushes and vision posts – none of this usually makes the cut. If you’re more concerned with creating that “oh snap” feel to your post, that’s fine – but I’ll probably disregard the fact that it was done.

What I might check out and use:

  • Rants - This is a grey area. Most of the time a rant isn’t something I’d actually get something out of, as it’s more of an expression of trying to get something off your chest more than really giving feedback, but there might be something of value here. If someone is particularly upset about one thing and it was a progression of events that they communicate, that might be helpful to know in terms of how game systems are treating players. The devil’s in the details. Otherwise, I’m probably not interested in complaining for the sake of complaining.
  • Sentiment and tone – The lines blur a bit when it comes to getting value out of the tone of someone’s swan song post. On the one hand, straight up emotions like anger, rage, and disgust aren’t really things that force a developer to action, mostly because by itself, the emotion isn’t enough to evoke the right kind of response. We definitely are sorry you’re pissed, but being pissed all on its own just simply doesn’t cut the mustard in terms of how to fix things. But the reason for the tone and sentiment or a clear pointer to why people are upset have a bit of value to them. If a recently installed patch, balancing change, or game mechanic alteration creates a vastly negative sentiment in the community and is the cause of a significant amount of people posting about leaving, that’s not something I can ignore, and it has a little substance.
  • Perception statements - I define these as any variety of “my guild was huge with 100 members and no one logs in anymore”, “all my friends quit”, “we used to have lots of people in the main city and now it’s empty”, all of that. The game could very well be healthy and there could be plenty of things to explain why someone feels as if the game is somehow lesser than it once was, but talk about whole guilds leaving and servers having some population issues is something to file away and look into to see if the metrics and the corresponding posts from others in guilds or on servers match up. Perception, even one mistaken, is very powerful and can become poison in a community if it isn’t somehow looked into if not addressed.

What I definitely extract:

  • Constructive criticism – for the criteria to be met, I need to know what the problem is, why it’s an issue, and what could feasibly be done to improve things. If you need a group finder, tell us why, how it’s crippled your enjoyment, and how it could be implemented. If a system has become bland, give us something to work with that might be an incremental change to introduce to fix things and spice them up. The ideas that players have, even if they can’t be delivered right away into the development timeline, are huge in terms of making sure the team understands what the players want to keep them playing.
  • Dissatisfaction details – If the endgame was boring, why was it boring? Are there accounts where you and your friends tried to do endgame and didn’t find it engaging? What about growing frustrations with your class, specifically what decreased your enjoyment, and what was the tipping point that sent you over the quitting cliff? It’s important to developers to know what happened to mess up someone’s enjoyment, or what got them to the point of no return, as these are specifics as to how the mechanics didn’t pan out ideally from the design documentation. Not just why it happened, but what, is the key.
  • Player profile – This isn’t completely necessary, as there are likely metrics and reports that are around about players, but it does help. Are you a casual player? Hardcore? Raider? PvPer or guild leader? These are nice things to know, because they help in compiling analysis on what types of players and what kinds of players are enjoying or not enjoying the game as its designed.
  • Service concerns – The bringing up of customer service or account management concerns is something we always look into when we can. Interactions with the company, especially as it relates to resolving issues and problems that crop up with the game, need to be in tiptop shape. If someone cites being treated poorly, has a customer service experience that isn’t expected, or has a specific instance that contributed to their being turned off by the game, we need to hear about it. It doesn’t always mean that the specific incident gets addressed, as what’s done is done, but it does put up a flag to check with CS to make sure things are firing on all six cylinders.

As with anything, these parameters are flexible and adjustable to meet the post and the situation. But generally, if you leave a game,  the developers want to know why – they just want to know in a way that is respectful, constructive, and filled with detail and suggestions for improvement. Really, it’s all about intent in the end. If you’re more concerned with getting that last bit of attention, attacking a developer in that “from the depths of hell I stab at thee” way, or creating more shame than action, don’t post that you’re quitting – no one will get anything out of it. But if you’re concerned with improving the game, making sure things are better even if you never return, or otherwise giving feedback about your experience, then we definitely want to hear from you – because we might be able to stop it from happening to others, and maybe even get you back at some point.