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The Soapbox: The best complaint is an empty seat

Eliot Lefebvre

Disclaimer: The Soapbox column is entirely the opinion of this week's writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Massively as a whole. If you're afraid of opinions other than your own, you might want to skip this column.

This is a public service announcement for you. Yes, you, with the post open for the message board and your finger hovering over the "post" button. I can't see what you've got written there, but I'm willing to bet some form of "turning the game into World of Warcraft" is there if you're posting about another game. Or possibly FarmVille. Hopefully I'm getting warm.

Look, the point is that I now you're about to post this hateful diatribe about threatening to leave. But I've got a better suggestion for you. How about you delete that post, unsubscribe, and then head outside for a walk with some friends. Play a different game, maybe an offline one, for a couple of days. Don't whine and just leave.

My four-letter words will make you rue the day you reduced my DPS by five percent!  RUE!Yes, I know, the developers need to hear this. They're ruining their own game for reasons I'm sure you feel are screamingly important. I know! I've been there, and I've left many a game for precisely that reason. When I was younger, I was right there with you. I would have been cheering you on.

But let's start at the very basic level, OK? Let's ask whether or not this post is actually going to convince the developers of anything.

I'm sure you've written a lot of constructive posts in your time, so I'm not even going to address that. But this... this is the same issue you've posted about before, isn't it? It's old news. And your previous posts, I'm sure, were more polite and reasonable and filled with suggestions. You're posting this now because none of the people in power has listened before, so you're trying to pull out the big guns. Like the guy screaming in front of a restaurant that he is not moving until he gets a free sundae, and he is not going to be giving a good tip!

You've probably seen that guy before. Or the old woman arguing about an expired coupon for five cents off a thing of yogurt. Or the guy in a tank top yelling at the cops that he didn't do anything.

Now, ask yourself: Were any of these people successful in their actions?

Volume and nastiness aren't effective tools of persuasion. You don't become more likely to listen to someone when he gets louder. You're usually less likely, as it happens, because any legitimate points he might have are lost under a sea of volume and complaining. It doesn't paint a flattering portrait. So why are the developers going to be more likely to see your point now that you're making yourself into one of those people?

I know, I know, you considered that, right? Your goal here isn't to convince the developers any more; they've proven they won't listen. Your goal is to convince other players, right?

Except the same rules hold true. Being a jerk gets you a small circle of allies, yeah, but once you've reached the outer limits of the jerk sphere, you'll find that no one else is really eager to get inside said sphere. Protests don't start when one man starts screaming; they start when one man starts organizing others, finds a place, and starts speaking in firm tones while making things more difficult for whatever he's protesting.

That's what you want, of course. You want to lodge a protest. So how do you do that in a way that ensures the development team will actually hear?

I could have sworn we had some players here at some point.
Simple. You leave. You warn others off the game in the event that they ask you. Not in a screaming fashion, but with calm reason. You don't go around posting "this game is trash," but you do respond to those asking about the game that it's simply not very good any longer for reasons X, Y, and Z.

Heck, for most subscription games, you don't even have to do that. Nearly every game that has the option to unsubscribe includes an exit survey, and you can outline the reasons why you don't want to play any longer right there. That goes straight to the top, and then you can just wash your hands of the whole thing. There's no need for a mess of resentment; you can just tell your former gamemasters to peddle their no-longer-tasty candy elsewhere.

Of course, you're still looking at that post. I mean, my suggestion isn't satisfying. You want to unleash some invective. You want to be nasty. You want to whine because as horrible as it sounds to say it, whining is really darn satisfying. You don't want to stop and think about what you're doing because then you might have to look at what you're actually upset about.

Maybe it's not such a big deal. Maybe you're protesting a simplification that the game actually benefits from, removing some arcane terminology or mechanical element that just makes things harder. Or maybe you're getting upset over a specific set of problems in a specific part of endgame content, something that's going to change in a few months anyway. Maybe, just maybe, the part that's getting you so angry isn't something worth leaving over.

But let's say it is. Let's say it's a persistent issue. Instead of explaining why you're leaving -- something you've already done, I'm sure -- why not just leave? Why give the team another chance? Why go out gracelessly when you could just say good day and head for the hills?

That's my advice to you. Stop whining. Don't log in and moan about how something is broken while you continue playing. All you're doing then is telling the development team that however bad issue X might be, it's not bad enough to actually motivate you to stop playing (and paying). In other words, your continued presence is code for "this issue is not actually a big deal."

So stop. Consider. And instead of whining, just say good night and good luck. Just a tip.

Everyone has opinions, and The Soapbox is how we indulge ours. Join the Massively writers every Tuesday as we take turns atop our very own soapbox to deliver unfettered editorials a bit outside our normal purviews. Think we're spot on -- or out of our minds? Let us know in the comments!

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