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Guild Wars 2: Soapbox

If there’s one thing gamers love doing, it’s insult games they don’t play. Any news item, editorial, hands-on, review, or general pile of text dedicated to a few key games — normally those with high profiles — receives an instant and visceral response from a collection of commenters who seem to exist only to insult a particular game and berate its fans. Much of the time, these commenters have no actual experience with the game in question.

Here on Massively, EVE Online and World of Warcraft seem to be the biggest magnets for such tomfoolery. Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic attract these behaviors as well, and WildStar is well on its way to becoming the next troll-favorite comment piñata.

There’s nothing wrong with not liking a game, of course. And a little conflict is good; why allow comments if everyone’s going to have the same opinion? There’s just one problem: If your opinion of a game is based on preconceived notions and not actual experience, that opinion is adding nothing to the dialogue. In short, you are trolling.

The braying of donkeys

In many, many instances, the best word for gaming sites’ comments sections would be “cacophonous.” They are a messy, chaotic pile of anger, bitterness, personal attacks, and uninformed opinions. Our moderation team tries to keep things relatively civil here on the site; some of the comments we remove are absolutely stunning in their idiocy and bile.

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria

The whole idea of comments is that they enable two-way communication between a site and its readers. Theoretically, a comments section provides the opportunity for visitors to voice their agreement or disagreement with a post’s content, especially in the case of opinion pieces like this. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, comment sections changed from “place to offer your opinion” to “place to be a huge jerk for no reason beyond your own futile boredom.”

That’s not to say that all commenters are bad, or somehow unwelcome. Far from it. We have some amazing folks writing amazing things in the space below our posts, and have even been known to hire those folks when the right opportunity shows up. Massively commenters offer hundreds of examples every week of the types of two-way communication between writers and readers that make the internet such a wonderful place to exist.

But the trolls. Oh, the trolls.

Insight vs. inane

There is a massive gulf between an insightful comment that works to shed more light on a subject and a troll-bait jab that exists only to fulfill its creator’s need for attention. Troll posts are, by nature, self-serving; they move the conversation away from the topic at hand and onto the individual who made the post. Any time you see a post on Massively that says, “WoW is for casuals,” you can read that post as, “Look at me, everyone!”

Argyment Pyramid

We’re a community, here. A group of completely different human beings bound by one particular niche interest. If we all didn’t like MMOs and online games, we’d be off on some other site reading about fast cars or celebrities or bathing suits or fancy gadgets or celebrities in bathing suits with fast cars and fancy gadgets. It makes sense that we would want to treat each other with respect and to build something inclusive and supportive as opposed to spending our time finding new and creative ways to hurt each other’s feelings.

A community bound by a desire to learn and grow is a community that thrives.

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