We’ve all seen it before, whether it’s on Twitter, Reddit, or YouTube. Some games have a positive community designed to inspire and encourage others in the game. Others are toxic that constantly downplay or rip the game, its developers, and its community members.
So what is the difference between the communities? Why do some games thrive and maintain a positive nature and others suffer in the doldrums of toxic muck? Is it simply the game itself? Does it depend on how “big” the game is? As a long-time forum user and Reddit/Twitter user, I’d like to believe I have a small perspective on this matter after seeing a lot of great (and not so great) gaming communities.
In my opinion, one of the first aspects of a positive gaming community is having clear, fun, and meaningful discussion between the game developers and the community of gamers who inhabit those games.
Take a look at a game like Star Citizen. While Star Citizen has had no shortage of its dilemmas, most of these have been outside the game community itself. People have called it everything from a scam to saying it will never release fully. Yet, almost every comment on the Reddit is positive, productive, and informative.
So why is that? The game itself is/will be highly competitive and include Player vs. Player combat. The game has already a massive following with well over two million users. Well, one reason is the game is arguably the most transparent, upfront, and consistent in communicating with its loyal followers.
Every week contains consistent updates based on the communities feedback. Community concerns are never left unaddressed long. When the company missteps, it addresses those concerns directly and quickly.
Compare this community to that of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds. Arguably it is one of the most popular games of all-time. Yet, look at it’s forums, it’s sub-Reddit, or the messages directed at it’s developers and you sure wouldn’t know it.
Anyone who steps foot into those spheres will see consistently negative ideas thrown around, people bashing the game with little to no constructive criticism, and generally toxic behavior.
(As a side note, I’m a huge fan of PUBG)
Now, some of that can be linked to issues with the game, but the communication from PUBG Corp (the developers of the game) largely go dark or inactive for large periods of time during difficult times. When a broken patch was recently released (update #22), we didn’t get much more than a Twitter post acknowledging it. While developers and community managers are happy to show up when players are excited by new patches and maps, they are frequently missing when the game stumbles and messes it up.
That’s a huge way to lead to a toxic community. Instead of addressing, acknowledging, and suggesting steps to fix the error, people are left to stew and fume with their fellow gamers in the community. Not surprisingly, this leads to a ton of negative feelings about the games.
So what else can lead to positive game communities?
Encouraging new players as they progress in the game. Kerbal Space Program’s Reddit is frequently filled with up voted threads and images of “first time getting to orbit.” The game developers often feature community members mods or cool moments on their forums and social media.
I’m a big believer that a games design can lead to more positive attitudes or “weeding out the negativity.” For example, in Kerbal, you will fail frequently. Yet, if you maintain a positive attitude, persist, and keep working hard you will eventually succeed.
I think another underrated element is implementing game mechanics to encourage positive behavior. Overwatch was notoriously one of the most toxic games that I can remember in recent history. Yet, recently, I feel like it’s improved. While it still has a long way to go, the recent additions of in-game mechanics to encourage good behavior I think has been a welcome change. You will still get toxic players from time to time, but the rate at which this happens seems to be significantly lower.
Reward your players for being positive members of the community. Give them gifts! Give them positions of leadership in your community. Embrace the positive and outcast the negative. Never go dark, even when you want to so badly in difficult times as a game developer.
Well, that’s in on maintaining a more positive gaming community! I hope you enjoyed! If you’d like to be part of my own positive community, feel free to swing by my Twitch channel. Likewise, drop me a message sometime on Twitter. That’s it folks! See you next time, friends!