A Mild-Mannered Reporter: To save City of Heroes, we must be jerks

Sometimes it feels like a very dark environment.
The City of Heroes community has been great in rallying to save the game, but I'm wondering whether that's enough.

If you missed it, this week has not been a good one for efforts to keep the game alive. I'm not going to reprint everything laid out in TonyV's recent post, but the short version is that there are currently no signs that things are changing. NCsoft has set up an email for players to send letters, one that I suspect is not read vigilantly, and there have been no signs that any of the various talks about the game's future have resulted in anything.

It's the email thing that really set me to wondering about whether or not City of Heroes fans are the right people to be protesting. While I love you guys -- beyond a shadow of a doubt -- there's a certain revolutionary spirit necessary for an effective protest. I'm not entirely certain that we've got that. And if there was ever a chance to save the game, we may just be unable to do what's necessary.

Some people, of course, have the stomach to do too many horrible things.It was the email thing that prompted that line of thinking, and it started with an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

For those of you who haven't watched it, seriously, it's all on Netflix right now, so go to town. But the relevant portion is that there's an episode in which a group of terrorists have captured Gul Dukat and are attempting to interrogate him. The problem is, as Dukat gleefully points out, the terrorists in question aren't really murderers or torturers or interrogators. They're colonists defending their homes. Dukat takes great pains to point out that while they want information from him, they lack the stomach to truly harm him in any way, and as a result, their threats are empty.

One of the big watchwords of the entire movement to save CoH has been that we will act politely. When NCsoft's upper managerial types started getting flooded with email, they complained that it was disrupting normal business operation, thus the setup of another address to collect protests. And as a group, the players obliged.

The problem is that disrupting normal business operation is the entire point of this sort of protest. The goal is to unleash a tide of mail so persistent that the management has to start looking at it, a deluge of email that isn't stopping and isn't slowing, so they have to at the very least look at what's going on and understand why someone is flooding their servers.

Seriously, what's the worst that can happen in this situation? They shut down the game? That's already happening. The best we as players can do is force the company to sit up and pay attention to how unhappy people are with that decision, and that's the only way to have even a slight hope of making the company change its mind. We, as a community, have to make ignoring us painful and inconvenient.

I don't think that the CoH community has ever been up to that, though. As a whole, it's a community composed of polite and respectful people, players who want to calmly and reasonably explain to NCsoft how much this game means. Everything organized thus far has been done with an eye toward maintaining the image of a polite group that's not going to let the game go quietly into the night... and in the process, any hope of us being so loud and aggressive that we can't be ignored goes right out the window.

Sometimes, being the good guy is sort of unsatisfying.But no, we went over and stopped disrupting business operations, and we sent our emails to an address that is probably filtering everything straight into deletion. Let's be cynically honest with ourselves: If heartfelt letters were enough to sway NCsoft's upper management, the shutdown announcement would have been in the form of a poll on the main site.

"Oh, it turns out the fans don't want us to shut the game down. Couldn't have predicted that one! Turn the servers back on, boys."

It may not have mattered either way. This may have been a futile effort from the beginning, and it may be even more of a futile effort now. We all knew that walking in. But in the event that we could have had some impact, I'm wondering whether being polite and civil has in part been our downfall. And with things going the way they are, I'm wondering whether that might be the only trick left for us to use.

And that raises an attached question: Do we want to do that?

It's no secret that it's really easy to annoy a company if you want to. Certainly it's within the realm of our ability. Doing so would still mean that we as a community were crossing a line, that we decided that we were willing to do whatever it took to try to save the game even if it meant doing something reprehensible. Even if it meant being jerks, flooding NCsoft with requests and demands and anything necessary to gum up the works.

The movement would be a lot more visible. It would also be a lot less defensible. And while I don't want the game to go anywhere... I think I'd rather lose our game than taint our legacy.

I don't mean to sound hopeless. Unfortunately, while the efforts to save the game have gained visibility, they haven't gained the traction we need as a group. And I don't know that there's anything to be done or whether anything we do will be too little too late. But after this week's events, I felt the need to say more.

As always, feedback can be left in the comments below or mailed along to eliot@massively.com. Next time, testimonials and recollections of the game proper, since this week kind of derailed those original plans.

By day a mild-mannered reporter, Eliot Lefebvre unveils his secret identity in Paragon City and the Rogue Isles every Wednesday. Filled with all the news that's fit to analyze and all the muck that's fit to rake, this look at City of Heroes analyzes everything from the game's connection to its four-color roots to the latest changes in the game's mechanics.
This article was originally published on Massively.