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Guild Wars 2: This is how you do community management Exclusive
 Guild Wars 2 : This is how you do community management
August 29, 2012 | By Mike Rose

August 29, 2012 | By Mike Rose
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    32 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



The internet can be a scary place at times. It can take just one person to moan about an issue they've had, and suddenly thousands of voices pile on top, allowing the entire outcry to snowball without a single shred of evidence ever offered.

The community team at ArenaNet knows this all too well. Earlier this week as its flagship title Guild Wars 2 launched, reports began appearing all over the internet from users saying they had been banned from the game unfairly, usually claiming that they had done absolutely nothing wrong and pointing the finger at ArenaNet's trigger-happy admins.

"The community team at ArenaNet monitors social media networks constantly," notes Regina Buenaobra, ArenaNet's community manager. "We noticed that a few people were increasingly vocal about their account suspensions, accusing us for suspending them for 'no reason.' These posts surfaced on fan forums and sites like Reddit, but readers were only seeing one side of the story."

Buenaobra decided enough was enough, and her community team took to Reddit to provide an example to the community of how these supposed unfair bans were far from the truth. It was after seeing the positive reaction to this interactions between developer and community that ArenaNet realized that a full post on Reddit may be the best way to deal with the issue.

As part of the full post, the team responded to angry players who believed they had been banned for no good reason. "I would love to know what I was banned for," says one Redditor, after which the ArenaNet representative pastes the exact crude chat which led to the ban, complete with vulgar, racist and sexist terms.

Having a scroll through the comments of the Reddit post is quite the eye-opener. Here's just one example of an offending comment from the game's in-game chat: "the worm IS fucking hard if you're a fucking mentalpatient no we fucking dont you can take a keep with 5 people if you're not a fucking dickhead."

"We wanted to set the record straight in a more visible way," notes Buenaobra. "We've done this before on a small-scale, one-off basis on fansite forums for the original Guild Wars. However, this is the first time we've done this in a more visible space such as Reddit. It's also the first time we've broadly solicited information from players and quoted the actual chat that caused those account suspensions."

Any indie developer will read this and simply reply "I've been doing this sort of community interaction for years." Indeed, you can catch multitudes of gamers commenting daily on internet forums and message boards about how brilliant it is being able to talk directly to an indie game developer, and how you'd never get that kind of reaction from a bigger name studio or publisher.

You have to question why all the triple-A companies don't typically follow suit -- it's not like there aren't the tools in place to allow them to do so. Imagine if, next time some awful rumor began circulating around the internet about Electronic Arts, instead of hiding behind "no comments" and official press releases, a down-to-earth EA spokesperson jumped on Reddit or the like and began dispelling the rumor, talking to its community on a one-to-one basis as ArenaNet has done. It's a lot harder to call someone evil when they aren't such a faceless corporation.

[Editor's note: Jessica Merizan, community manager for Bioware, got in touch with me after reading this piece to note that she has in fact participated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything, which at least partially calls me out on the EA comment. Apologies EA, and good job!]

guild wars ss.jpgThe fact that so many people were posting about the Reddit thread on Twitter and Facebook yesterday shows just how surprised we are when a bigger brand does make a move like this -- a simple tweet from myself received over 100 retweets, with people bemused and delighted in equal measures.

The move didn't just dispell the rubbish people were talking about the game either -- it also appears to have brought both the game and the development studio a great deal of good PR. I lost count of how many people said on Twitter that they are now considering purchasing the game following this debacle, especially after seeing the level of commitment from the studio and its stance of having a zero tolerance attitude to homophobia, racial slurs and sexual harassment.

"That kind of negative behavior pushes away players who contribute positively to the health of our community -- players that we want in our game," notes Buenaobra. "It's awesome that people are now interested in our game because they see that we're trying to keep the environment friendly. We welcome players who want to help us build a great online game community."

ArenaNet is now definitely considering similar one-on-one community interactions in the future following the success of this -- other triple-A studios should be taking note.


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Comments


Eric Lunden
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Personally I would prefer the option of a profanity filter rather then the foul mouth gestapo.

Alex Boccia
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I agree, this sounds pretty ridiculous to me.

Chris OKeefe
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People aren't being banned for using foul language, they are being banned for being hostile and offensive. I will be totally honest here; you can 'bleep' every word in the example quote and it won't stop being hostile and offensive to a lot of people.

They are trying to cut down on the kind of vitriol and exclusive behavior of many existing game communities. Simply bleeping people won't stop people from being horrible to one another.

Magnus Soderberg
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A profanity filter won't do anything about people being dicks. Be a dick and get banned and you only have yourself to blame.

Tom Baird
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How do you filter sexual harassment or racial slurs that use otherwise acceptable words?

Also, profanity had nothing to do with the bans, and this article is about ArenaNet's attempts at clearing up that exact confusion you are currently having.

And if you want to be racist, sexist, or homophobic, in Guild Wars 2, just do it privately and don't broadcast it to everyone in earshot and you'll be ok.

Adam Bishop
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Wow, this article didn't take long to get Godwinned.

Things that the Gestapo did do - blackmail, extortion, torture, imprisonment.

Things that the Gestapo did not do - issue temporary bans for computer games

Joseph Legemah
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i cuss in GW2 non-stop. i don't cuss at people and get hyper agressive though. so many guys use to TERA chat, time to acclimate yourselves to being around normal people again.

From Anet:

"Already answered: We're gamers. Dropping the F-bomb in the heat of the moment is entirely different than calling someone an F#*%&%. I'm not saying you could drop the F-bomb all day long, but it's highly unlikely you'd be suspended for a single use."

Ernest Adams
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Bravo, ArenaNet! This kind of vigorous, unapologetic enforcement of the basic standards of decent behavior is LONG overdue. Keep it up and don't back down. If you lose a few whiners, your game will be the better for their absence.

Aaron Fowler
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To quote the Reddit article, "Take these reports with a grain of salt, because you're not seeing the whole picture."

- Neither are the ones who are actually getting banned! (trolls excluded)

This problem could have been remedied from the start!

I have no problem with ArenaNet trying to enforce their own rules. But when those rules deviate from the norm, extra steps should be taken to communicate to the players that those actions will not be tolerated here. (This kind of behavior would be overlooked by most online communities.) It should also be communicated in more than just the TOS.

If players are playing online games like they always have, and all of the sudden they get banned, and are not exactly sure of what they did wrong. Of course players are going to feel angry and take it to the forums, etc. I don't see why ArenaNet is acting surprised by this.

It should be communicated to the banned player what exactly the player was banned for. They have the records, why not back it up with something a little more concrete than a vague general broken rule?

Sure, it takes a little more effort than just issuing a quick ban hammer, but isn't that what good community management is about? It seems like ArenaNet could take the time to do this considering how much they value their community, which is why they are so strict on these issues anyway.

Again, I'm all for enforcing the rules, and I am glad that someone is finally standing up with these issues. I just think it could have been better communicated to the community from the start. Instead of trying to clean up the aftermath.

Aaron Fowler
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I agree with you that the norm in most online games is very deviated from the norm of modern society. After all, people have their monitors and TV's to hide behind, and say things to people that they would probably never say to someone's actual face.

The problem is that players are able to get away with this kind of behavior in other online communities. Therefore, they do not see it as being an actual problem. Which is why ArenaNet should make it well known to their community that things are going to be different around here.


Jacek Wesolowski
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Warnings don't help much. Back in early 2000s, the Counter-Strike clan I was a member of had a very strict policy against both mean behaviour and swearing on our servers (we had more than one). The usual procedure was this: you got a warning for your first offense, a kick for second, a two hour ban for third, and a permanent ban for fourth. You might get more than one warning prior to the kick if the patrons were feeling generous at the moment (we usually did).

A really, really big portion of offenders would "earn" the permaban in just one evening. They would be told about the restrictions in very clear and very plain words - and they would ignore them. They would get kicked, only to go back into the queue, rejoin the game some fifteen minutes later (we had long queues), and insult us some more. They would get banned - and then they would go to some forum or another server to whine about it - or they would wait for two hours, come back, and, yes, you guessed it, start swearing like there was no tomorrow. And through all that time they would constantly feel mistreated.

If someone is spoiled enough to think the kind of foul language the article quotes is fine, then they are most likely spoiled enough to not take your words seriously. If you're just saying it, then you don't mean it. ArenaNet spoke through their actions, and my experience tells me it was the right choice.

Ramon Carroll
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@ Joe

"I can think of no better way to make it well-known than to do exactly what they are doing."

100%

Jonathan Carruthers
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I'm not sure, but I would wager the information was related to the suspended individual just as you described. However, some of those individuals can apparently look at those chat logs and say, in effect, "I have no idea what I was suspended for" and would probably make that argument even after being called out on Reddit.

Jorge Molinari
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I pay for my Xbox live service something like $50/yr. I find that overpriced yet still pay it reluctantly because I like playing multiplayer on my Xbox. Conversely, I would GLADLY pay $80/year to Microsoft for a top tier version of Xbox live that is constantly monitored and douchebags are banned for foul language, unsporting conduct, racist comments, etc. Nobody bothers with a mic these days unless you are playing with real-life friends. How cool would it be to jump into a game lobby full of complete strangers and have civilized conversations about world events or the game itself. Or how about a simple “good game” after a match is played. Wouldn’t that be something.

Thank you ArenaNet for doing your part to make the virtual world a better place.

Aaron Fowler
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I like your thinking. But Microsoft would probably lose money by not being able to hire enough moderators fast enough to keep up with the abuse. ;)

Rob Bergstrom
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Other gems in the thread: "Let's kill these niggers!" "Fucking stop with the non-english!" "If you're going to rape you gotta rape 'em right." All from people wondering what they had possibly done wrong.

Matthew Mouras
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None of those comments are appropriate in isolation, but I giggled at one of them and can imagine a context in which all of them are amusing and would add to a discussion.

AN certainly can determine what is and isn't appropriate in their world, but I'd rather not play in such a space. They'll win some users and they'll lose some. Good for them for trying to create a unique environment.

Ed Macauley
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I'm with the "considering buying the game to support this level of enforcement" crowd. Good job folks.

Ramon Carroll
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+1 Arenanet. Congratulations on introducing the internet community to a healthy dose of the real world. Try walking into your local car lot or Best Buy with that level of hostility and see how far you get.

A W
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Words disappear quickly when spoken, they do not so easily when typed.

I commend them for enforcing the rules on their own playground.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Wiz 1974
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it could save you a lot of trouble (although not sure if logistically possible) if you sent out a ban email to the offending person and actually had the chat, name, reason etc in the email.

something simple like:

UserName,

This is an email to notify you of a temporary ban.

Reason:
Chat: "..............."

Thank you

Kelly Johnson
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I've played Guild Wars since it's release and it is one of the few multiplayer games I play because the community overall is quite mature and respectable. Constant foul language ruins the experience for other gamers plain and simple. If one is inclined to use foul language there is always the option to play in a private game with people who are not offended.

Jeremy Reaban
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Doesn't Microsoft do this on the Xbox live forums? People complain about being unbanned unfairly, and then someone from MS posts the real reason

Trent Tait
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No, sorry, Bioware do not talk to there customers, not even on their own frigging forums, and yes, loads of people leave because of it. Bioware have turned from one of the best developers to one of the worst in a very short amount of time.

Point in case, I've never heard of Jessica Merizan, and i read the forums (all 5 posts) daily.

Matthew Mouras
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I cringe a bit when I read this - 'Sed Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?' and all that. ArenaNet should be commended in part for holding true to their TOS, but heavy-handed moderation always bothers me. I understand that AN is trying to make their space inclusive, but their approach is certainly a trade off. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoy steeling myself up for a trip onto the lawless outback of online gaming. Do we all want the real world's social mores enforced during our online experiences?

Reading this makes me wary of interacting with people in their game space. I'm just going to say it: Sometimes hateful speech is hilarious. See Louis C K's "don't be such a f@&got about it" bit.

Matthew Mouras
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I don't think Louis CK's position on... well... anything has a bearing on my argument. Sometimes a filthy, brash, hate-filled litany of abuse is funny to deliver or receive. I'm not excited about a community that may or may not be tolerant of my sense of humor.

Are you here to tell me why I'm wrong, Joe?

True - ArenaNet is a video game developer and in that sense, we don't need to be too concerned about who watches them. But AN has defined themselves as the watchmen of the world they have crafted. It's their right. They have taken a strong position in the moderation of user content and I respect that, I just won't be playing their game.

Matthew Mouras
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ha ha... Joe... come on... his "position" on social equality has no bearing on my argument. I mentioned one of his routines as an example of how hate-filled speech can be amusing. Surely you understand, but enjoy being argumentative?

We disagree. I'll comfort myself with the fact that there are many more options available to me for online gaming than there are for someone who enjoys the approach AN is taking. I'm glad they will have their... 'less colorful' place to play as well. :)

Jonathan Carruthers
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Does anyone else find it odd that some of these accusations of racism/sexism include references to "white males" does the race/sex of a perpetrator of hateful language really matter? Worse these references aren't even in respect to a particular incident or comment, they're generalized statements about an entire group of individuals based on race and or sex... I think there's a word for that.

Jonathan Carruthers
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Calm down Joe, I was only responding to comments on this particular article. Just because the posts I was commenting on are no longer visible doesn't mean they weren't there when I made the previous observation (at present there have been 53 comments made about this article according to the homepage and I think only 35 display at once).

I suppose I should have quoted; but, I was attempting to keep the discussion from becoming personal and was trying to avoid what may have been misconstrued as an ad hominen argument. So rest assured, you can keep replying to every comment in this thread you find objectionable and eventually you'll have the last word. Thanks for reminding me why I should never violate my personal rule forbidding wading into comment threads.

Congratulations

John Flush
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Hum, an online game that isn't complete trash when it comes to the people... makes me think I might try online again.

Gregory Booth
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+2 Anet

Good Job.


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