One thing that I’ve had to deal with a TON lately is a certain type of person who so completely believes that when they state their opinion, they need to state it over and over again, as loudly as possible, in as many places as possible. On first glance it seems like they just want to make sure they’re being heard, but when you get deeper into it, that’s not the case at all. In fact, usually they start this behavior only after they know for sure their feedback HAS been heard. The behavior, in fact, comes from not liking that their feedback was not agreed with, and/or not acted on, and that somehow, becoming louder and overall more aggressive about that feedback somehow makes it better. In this post I want to discuss the ways that this does the exact opposite, and makes the feedback less credible and reliable, and ultimately less likely to be used to make changes, for better or worse.
So here are the ways, in my experience, that louder actually makes your feedback worse, not better.
1) When responding to the community, either in every day business practices, or in a playtesting setting, the goal is to get as many unbias opinions as possible. No matter how loud or persistent a person decides to be, their opinion is still ONE data point, in a sea of 1000’s.
2) When someone is terribly loud, they actually corrupt my ability to get unbias data points, and as such I actually have to adjust my data analysis away from their point to compensate for the effect they might have on the online community giving feedback. This makes my job harder. And since the online community is at most 10% of our total audience, and my efforts are for the entire audience, the more my sample is corrupted by a single voice who decides to get loud about their opinion, the less reliable it is. This makes it harder to use any feedback from this sample to improve the final product. It is very obvious that the person is trying to make change by rallying support for their ideas, and get a majority of people to support them, but they are still only doing this within the tiny sample, and no matter what the results of their effort, all they are doing is corrupting my sample and my ability to get an accurate sample of the entire audience.
3) Usually the person being loud IS a tiny minority of the feedback received. Somehow this never gets through to them, that just because they feel REALLY strongly about something, it doesn’t mean that very many people agree with them. Trust me, when I get a majority of people pushing for a change in a certain way, the change is made. When I get particularly compelling feedback for change in a certain way, it’s made. Loud accomplishes neither of those things. (but remember those two criteria for change, since they’re relevant throughout this whole post)
4) When someone is so completely sure of their point of view that they are willing to become a spectacle in order to hero their point of view, it actually gives me less confidence in that opinion. More times than not it reflects an emotional connection to their opinion, not an intellectual connection. Of course they will use any intellectual rationale for why they are so undeniably right, but that doesn’t change the fact that ultimately they’re so vehemently behind their opinion because they’re emotionally attached to it. And while I feel for the person and the emotional distress they may be in, this again does not achieve a particularly compelling reason for me to make a change, since again, it’s one data point, and the way in which it’s delivered shows me that it’s an emotionally bias data point. Because of the bias, it’s hard to find the arguments for the change particularly compelling. (notice how again the delivery basically sabotages the chance of the message being acted on.)
5) More often than not, in order to be loud, the person being loud uses over the top rhetoric to make their point (actually, being loud itself could be seen as rather extreme rhetoric). When someone tells me that “everyone” they’ve spoken with agrees with them and will quit the game unless they get their way, it’s so obviously a complete lie. When someone tells me the game is COMPLETELY ruined unless I make their changes, when the majority of feedback I am getting tells me the opposite, it’s hard to take them seriously. Basically when someone is willing to lie, speak in absolute terms, or set up ridiculous straw men to tear down, I’m not likely to take their message seriously, because this is not the way to present a compelling argument to me. I’ve been in enough arguments, and actually smart enough to recognize the difference between rhetoric and well thought out and presented arguments, and I am not going to be bullied or pressured by extreme rhetoric. In fact, I think it would be safe to say, that in general, the more extreme the rhetoric, the less valid is the point being made, and in fact the rhetoric very often covers for the weakness in the actual message (or reflects emotional attachment to that message – see #4). This is another way that getting extremely loud or any form of extreme rhetoric actually only serves to undermine the message, because it basically reflects a weakness in the message itself.
6) The people being loud are potentially from a group that I like to call “that guy.” In this article I discuss the ways in which, if they had their way, games would be made worse. Therefor I will not be making the changes they are being super loud about, because I disagree with them. Someone who decides to be super loud, is often a “that guy” red flag.
7) Someone who is loud is actually changing the subject from discussing the game, to one of a potential PR issue. Because the person in question isn’t getting their way, they essentially threaten the company with a PR headache with their loud behavior in order to somehow get their way. This does the exact opposite. Re-framing the discussion in this way makes it so as a company we have to focus on dealing with the consequences of your actions and your behavior, and the message you’re actually trying to yell about gets pushed aside. We are forced to act against the behavior, and not the message, and in fact the message frequently gets lost.
7a) One of the most frustrating things when being forced to act against bad behavior, is that the person claims that somehow we act because we’re “afraid” to hear, or deal with, their message. It happens over and over again. It happened last week in the forums when someone with completely inappropriate behavior was removed ONLY for that behavior, and in fact we had heard the message already, and all their behavior was doing was getting in the way of their message and making the forums an unfun place for everyone else.
8) People often get loud about something that is already done! Yelling over and over again about something that is done will not change it. In fact we can’t change it because it’s done. Perhaps a change can be made in the future…but in order to get there takes time, and time can not be sped up by being loud.
9) I’m human. Being a dick to me, actually will make me like you less and be less likely to take your feedback seriously. It’s a natural reaction that everyone has. Don’t try to claim otherwise. 😛
10) There may be reasons that the person being loud has NO idea about, that their feedback is not being taken. Being loud isn’t help anything.
10a) I think 10 points is enough, how about we finish this up with a fun subpoint. One of the things that was loudly brought to our attention was that certain people didn’t like upgrades in Malifaux 2E, for various reasons. And yes, we heard you, I promise, and it’s pretty obvious that we didn’t remove upgrades due to that feedback. I like them, a the vast majority of people I’ve spoken with and gotten feedback from like them. But while we’re discussing it, look at some of the things that upgrades might allow us to do. This gives us is system where there is a relatively standard base model with a set number of abilities, and abilities beyond that are granted with upgrades. Models are no longer just an arbitrary set of stats with an arbitrary number of abilities. Giving this a system creates a blueprint that helps with balance, but more importantly creates meaningful constraints in character building, which allows a few things to happen, including some degree of crossover with RPG characters, allowing a system for campaign development, allowing a system for cooperative play options. So yes, sometimes there are things happening behind the scene. (No promises though!! 😉 )
I think that addresses most of the issues, happy to hear your feedback on any of all of these!
PS. Yes, I will follow up this post with one in the future about the best ways to compel change.