Tuesday, March 29, 2005

What's a "mature" video gamer to do among the adolescent jerks?

If you're a video gaming addict over the mental age of 21 and you play a lot of multiplayer online games, you've undoubtedly noticed that the online gaming services are full of griefers, assholes, racist homophobes and other misfits. It seems that the anonymous nature of pretty much all such services encourages antisocial behavior.

It makes the online gaming experience pretty miserable for the rest of us. The gaming companies are doing what they can to mitigate the problem, but they really can't control behavior especially when the services are being used by millions of people every day.

Fortunately there are solutions, and they're all community based.

Instead of going and playing against the general masses, playing with and against other mature gamers works wonderfully well. There are several online communities for more mature gamers, one of which is Seasoned Gamers. I joined October 2004 and the change in the online gaming experience since then has been like day and night.

The group is made of over 500 people between the ages of 17 and 72 mainly from the United States, but there are a few Europeans and a strong Canadian representation in the group as well. The people are XBox owners and mainly play multiplayer online games on XBox Live.

There's really nothing else common with any of us, except that we like to play video games, online. In fact, in every other aspect we're probably an extremely diverse group of people. Do not attempt to discuss politics or religion in the group, you'll get an earful from someone on the opposite side of the opinion spectrum.

As a somewhat of a online community geek, it's interesting and fascinating to me how this particular community and communities like it have all successfully worked around an otherwise "unsolvable" problem. It truly demonstrates the power of a user driven community building. The online communities Microsoft has tried to build around XBox and XBox Live! are perfect examples of what's wrong with online communities formed from the top down. They are cesspools of antisocial behavior, overt marketing by the community "owner" and generally tend to be useless. Yet the user driven communities thrive.

-TPP

1 comment:

Mr. Joshua said...

Hey Mr. Finn, or should I call you Mad?

I too am a member of Seasoned Gamers, and I find the Phenomena pretty fascinating myself. I've been thinking now for quite some time that large conglomerates (like MS) would be brilliant and thinking ahead of the curve if they actively went out and supported sites such as Seasoned Gamers. One example of support could come in the form of free game trials. It would make such terrific sense to loan a copy of a game to a representative, or group of representatives, within a mid-sized community like SG. I for one am actually more trusting of a review by a fellow SG'r than by some faceless entity at a big gaming website. Furthermore, I can't tell you how many more games I've purchased because I belong to SG. The power of peer pressure is not to be underestimated, and I think it works brilliantly in a setting like SG to keep people interested and engaged in gaming. When the new Xbox is released this fall, I plan on being first in line in large part b/c I don't want to miss out on the experiences with my fellow SG'rs.

Of course, any involvement by MS in a site like SG could potentially have a negative impact. Furthermore, I could see them giving into the temptation to meddle more directly in the affairs of SG, as well as even attempt to artificially attempt to create SG's. But you know, if they did that, and if it only worked 1% of the time, they'd still be way ahead of the curve.

I dunno, I'm not a marketing genius, but I can see the benefit to a company like Microsoft being more targeted and nuanced in their marketing strategy. Rather than simply flooding the market with commercials, it seems they could use their marketing muscle to continue to woo and sway the customers they already have.

There's my $.02.

-Ookluh