Friday, November 9, 2012

The Way of Customer Service (For the scholarly gamer and developer alike)

The Customer is not always right. There I said it. Lately I’ve seen a shocking and disappointing trend in video games. Some very vocal and less then well-mannered section of fans seems to think that what they want or think matters. Now let me start by saying that video game companies are not allowed to work in a vacuum, there has to be some back and forth between themselves and their customers. However, and this is the big part, customers do not always tell the truth. This can arise from many reasons. Sometimes customers don’t know what they want, sometimes what they think they want has no bearing on what they actually enjoy and look forward to having, sometimes they just plain tell untruths, but mostly customers can be swayed by the mob mentality. For example, when World of Warcraft first launched a very vocal section of the MMO-sphere was aghast at the idea that most of the experience gained would be from quests, the idea that a person wouldn’t spend hours upon hours in ‘camping spots’ grinding out experience was anathema to them. Think that’s too long ago to be relevant? When World of Warcraft came out with its dungeon finder, a small but vocal minority of gamers were aghast that Blizzard was committing heresy by having a dungeon finder, tales of badly made PUG’s, with loot hungry fiends abounded. In the last year every MMO that has launched but especially The Old Republic, The Secret World, and Guild Wars 2 has been criticized roundly for not having a Dungeon Finder at launch. The Customer is not always right.

Business is for the customer, but not by the customer. No country on Earth has ever been ruled by a mob successfully. That’s right; it’s not possible for governance to be by committee. I mean look at Congress (I’m joking, probably, maybe). As such gamers should have no bearing on a final product past a certain point. I read an article detailing the Halo 4 multiplayer. 343 employees were mandated to play at least an hour a day of multiplayer. This was so that the developers could test out what worked and what didn’t but also it was to have a microcosm of the real world. Not everyone thinks or feels the same about any one thing and 343 Studios were cognizant of that fact. Those differences can make wonderful things, but they make creating an experience as a one-size-fits-all a nightmare. 343 studios got around that by having its large staff take time out of their busy days to make sure it worked as well as humanely possible. They did all this to make the game as enjoyable for every single gamer as possible; they didn’t make it for a single type of gamer, or even for a FPS enthusiast. They didn’t play to the mob, but they made certain that the mob would enjoy it as much as grandma would. Business has to be designed for the consumer, but they shouldn’t be allowed to dictate policy.

Manners. Manners. Manners. As soon as you make a barely-veiled insult, write an obscenity, or any other obvious lack of good manners; no one is listening. Civility is unlikely to return to the internet anytime soon, but the fact of the matter is that what you write people will read, and by in large they will not read what is offensive to them. No matter how articulate your argument or how right you might be, as soon as you break the Queensbury School of Manners Code, nobody is going to pay attention to you anymore. Yes, it’s the internet, but No it doesn’t matter. I know in my day job, when dealing with customer complaints, as soon as the customer is overtly hostile to me, all my responsibilities are gone. While I’m not likely to get into shouting matches with a customer, as soon as they break the faith with regards to manners, I’m excused from the conversation. My manager does not wish or desire for me to have to take any form of abuse from a customer in the name of business. No matter how valid an argument, breaking the code of conduct in regards to manners is the quickest way to lose the argument.

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