Social media has opened up avenues never thought possible for companies. Have a minor issue with a service and need a quick answer? All you have to do is @ them on Twitter or Facebook and they’re sure to help you out. In fact, that’s how I recovered my Spotify account when it was hacked in.
But social media has also given a voice to developers, specifically video game developers. Before, the only voice they had was at conferences, launches, emails, etc., but social media grants these developers, producers, designers, and vice versa a way to communicate with players on a more intimate level, and it’s fantastic.
However, some don’t think this is fantastic and believe that these workers should stay professional and cold. I think it’s because some don’t want to view these developers as human, but just a worker for a product they bought, which is abhorrent in of itself.
Today, I want to focus on a specific instance that happened this past week: Respawn Entertainment and their community.
Can Compassion “Respawn”?
EA, one of the biggest video game publishers, has always been in the limelight when it comes to controversy. From their incessant use of microtransactions to frequent closings of developer studios, every move they make is scrutinized. The hate for them has gone so far, in fact, that one of EA’s PR employees has the most downvoted comment in Reddit history.
So when EA bought developers Respawn Entertainment, the online community felt uneasy. Respawn viewed the move as a win, as they were a small studio that weren’t doing amazing, event though their Titanfall series was popular among the people who actually played it.
Now, Respawn runs the highly successful video game Apex Legends, a free-to-play battle royale game. The game has enjoyed a controversial-free run until this week, when an in-game event saw Respawn charging high prices for in-game cosmetics, AKA microtransactions.
The community was—understandably—upset about these high prices and ripped on Respawn and EA about this move. Now, I am all for constructive criticisms and calling out mistakes of companies, but there were some…exaggerations made by the community; you’d think Respawn burned down their houses!
The community’s response worked though, as Respawn issued apologies for the pricing and offered solutions. However, this is when trouble starts.
Holding No Punches
As I said earlier, I think developers should be able to talk to their community like they themselves are part of the community. My belief stretches to responding to criticism, at least to an extent. Of course, as a company, some sense of professionalism must be held.
This is where Respawn went wrong.
In the Reddit thread explaining their thought process, apologizing for their decisions and offering solutions, the community insisted on criticizing the developers personally, which I don’t support. This led to the developers responding in tandem, meeting the same level of rudeness that the community set. Perhaps next time, developers can opt to voice out on their own behalf using online personas while connected to a VPN to avoid damage to their professional reputation in a heated clash.
This altercation led to the developers and the community fighting to the point where the CEO of Respawn has had to offer an apology for the developers.
But the damage is done. Reputations are shattered, the community is fragmented and Respawn has lost the respect of the community.
If you ask me, both sides went too far, but I think this sets a precedent on communication between a community and the developers. Communication requires a mutual feeling of safety and personality to work, and developers have gotten better with it, but this can easily go away once the community overreacts and starts insulting/threatening/ignoring the developers, and the same goes for the developers themselves.
Overall, this whole debacle has, in my view, set back the evolution of communication in the video game industry; an industry that is infamous for it’s disrespect of developers and publishers. Come on everyone, use your Internet privileges for more than insults and threats!