Dragon Age's Lead Writer Avoids BioWare's 'Increasingly Toxic' Forums

It can't be easy to be a BioWare writer. You and your co-workers run yourselves ragged crafting huge, sprawling stories, and afterwards you're subjected to all manner of intense feedback, much of it shouted by the more extreme corners of your fanbase.

So it's perhaps not a huge surprise that these days, Dragon Age lead writer David Gaider tends to avoid the BioWare Social Network (BSN), his own company's forums, which he describes as "increasingly toxic."

In a thoughtful and nuanced post at his personal blog, Gaider discusses fandom and toxic environments broadly, as well as his personal relationship with the BioWare forums. The post was prompted by a fan mentioning a hope that Gaider and the rest of the BioWare creative staff don't assume the more extreme posters on the forums speak for all BioWare fans.

After assuring the reader that no, he doesn't think that the more negative forum posters speak for all fans, Gaider goes into detail about his relationship with the forums, and with fan feedback in general.

I tend to largely avoid [the BSN forums] these days, myself. Why? Because spending too much time there starts to make me feel negative- not just about the games we make, but about myself and life in general. That's not a good feeling to have. I'm sure there are folks there who would bristle at that comment, suggesting that all negative feedback is justifiable and that ignoring it is the equivalent of us sticking our heads in the sand. How will we ever improve unless we listen to their scolding and take our lumps like good little developers? That is, of course, ignoring the idea that we haven't already digested a mountain of feedback- both positive and negative- and there's really only so much of it you can take. Eventually you make decisions (informed by that feedback, though only in part- it can only ever be in part) and move on.

And I'm sure there are also people there who would say that there's plenty of useful, thoughtful feedback. Not all of it consists of angry ranting. You can, in fact, meet and talk to some very keen and intelligent posters. And that's very true. If it weren't true, I wouldn't go there at all. Yet the signal-to-noise ratio does seem to be worsening, and eventually you get the feeling like you're at one of those parties where all anyone is doing is bitching. It doesn't matter what they're bitching about so much as, sooner or later, that's all you can really hear. Engaging starts to mean partaking in the bitching until you feel like that's all you're doing. Even when I try to rise above, those who are most negative will seek me out in order to get a rise out of me- and not unsuccessfully. I am only human, and I'll end up responding to score points just as they do, and end up feeling shitty for having done so.

There's a lot more in the the full post. It's an interesting, balanced, and welcomely candid look how video game creatives can feel in the face of overwhelming, often toxic fan feedback.

On fandom and toxic environments [David Gaider via Penny Arcade]

Picture: Leyviur.net


Comments

    Don't envy anyone producing for a rabid fanbase in any medium, especially ones that get ragged on as regularly as Bioware. I've always felt a little sorry for these guys.

      I agree, but we it shouldn't swing too far the other way either. If they make legitimately bad decisions they should be called out on it. Not with a steaming pile of vitriol mind, but they shouldn't get a free ride just because they are Bioware.

        I'm not talking about criticism, though, and neither is the bloke in the article. He's talking about anger, hatred and personal attacks. There's no excuse for any of that shit.

          Oh I agree completely. But just as people are too zealous with their acrimony, I think the demographic that will pander to Bioware and treat them as the new messiah of videogames are just as damaging and vile, albeit less vocal. Bioware is no different than any other triple A developer and has fallen for many of the same pitfalls as many of their contemporaries.

          Shane, I love ya, but that doesn't really happen on the DA3 forums, or at least not any more than any other forum that exists, even the non gaming ones. You do get the occasional poster engaging in personal attacks, but more often than not that's just someone trolling and they don't actually feel anger or hatred towards BioWare, they're just being an idiot.

            I haven't been on any Bioware forums. But even if it's just the same amount as what was floating around Kotaku when Mass Effect 3 was released, it's too much. Tongue-in-cheek troll hostility doesn't often translate as funny on the internet, especially to someone who's invested years of their life and passion into the project.

            And I'd be willing to guess it was quite a bit worse than what was around here. :)

            Don't forget that in terms of direct feedback, someone with a problem is going to be more likely to speak up than someone with no problem, which means that the responses trend heavily towards negative, and frustration spills into anger and blame very easily. As a developer/writer/artist/creative producer, there really is only so much of that you can absorb, as David Gaider said.

      im not a fan of bioware, never have been and never will be. Do they deserve the critisms that they have been copping since Dragon Age 2. They fucking do! do they desrve vitriol, no! They same goes for Blizzard and bethesda and every other game studio including valve

        There's a difference between constructive criticism (eg: Okay, that was a bad game for x, y and z reasons) and vitriol (eg: You are the worst bunch of assholes in the world for x, y and z reasons and you deserve to be (Insert horrible thing here) )

        No one deserve the absolute lashings that the Bioware staff get and no one is ever justified in doing that unless they're in the Bioware team. Like Ian Gould below us, there are way too many entitled idiots in gaming who think that they're the be all and end all of everything. Sorry to break it to you, but you aren't. You're a small person in a larger pool.

        Last edited 10/01/13 2:11 pm

    It's a sad reflection of the fact that a lot of people are entitled losers who spend their whole lives bitching.

    If you've got nothing better to vent your anger on than the people who make the games you supposedly enjoy (remember, nobody makes you buy or play Bioware games) then thats more an indication of you than anything else.It's perfectly reasonable that people were disappointed with the end of Mass Effect 3, but to turn around and hurl ridiculous vitriol at the makers of a series you've enjoyed to that point is just fucking sad.

    I can somewhat emphasis with people blowing up about being F'd in the A by EA when they forced Bioware to release Dragon Age 2 with one shitty little town and then fight through the same warehouse and cave about 200 times.

      Pretty much. And sadly enough, said entitlement is rampant in the entirety of retail; where customers enter a completely unreasonable state of mind homing in on getting 'compensation' for the apparently horrendous treatment they've had to endure.

      I am 100% for constructive albeit negative feedback, you can't improve something without it; I just think things would go much more smoothly if people were a little more reasonable rather than approaching as droves of self-entitled arseholes.

    I feel for Gaider. I am a creative type so I know how easy it is getting drawn into stomping on irrational opinions and blind haters when really it's about as constructive as arguing with creationists. Haters gonna hate. The net is full of people who are entitled wankers. Even when they loathe something you did, they somehow can't seem to move passed it and get on with their lives.

    Granted it does feel like Bioware has sort of lost touch with there fans, based on some of their choices, so in this particular case the criticism and general malcontent expressed on their forums may actually serve to impress upon them a need to drastically improve. It wasn't long ago that the name Bioware meant something and had a lot of automatic goodwill attached to it. I sense that's a large part of the consternation on the forums, is a general disappointment in Bioware that does get expressed as anger more then it should. We may even be able to see the stages of grief represented there? I have personally gone from a great fan to merely hoping they don't mess up DA3.

    Personally I think BioWare's writers deserve all the crap that gets thrown at them.

    Yeah they are a little nuts over there and tend to become too heated up about things. But on the flip side BioWare do stupid things with their games that make fans angry and expect them to sit back and take it like a chump or champ or a yaoi character....

    You know what, I'm going to come in here and do something I don't often do, and that's call this article and most of the comments so far as complete and utter crap. As someone who frequents the DA3 forum, and the DA2 forum before that, let me tell you that those forums are practically a paradise compared to other gaming forums out there. You get the occasional troll, who gets locked down pretty fast by mods, and I can name maybe one or two posters who tend to try and get into arguments with the DA team, but that's it. Most people there try and post constructively. Gaider and other members of the DA3 team engage with the community regularly over the forums, and if Gaider considers that he's avoiding them I'd love to see what he considers engaging a community, because at the moment the DA3 team is engaging more with the community than any other developers I've ever seen and it's been so bloody refreshing.

      It would be good if up voting a post moved it up to the top of the comments.

    THIS JUST IN:

    Some game forums are nasty, sometimes.

    " You and your co-workers run yourselves ragged crafting huge, sprawling stories"

    don't you mean "run yourselves ragged copying from Deus Ex"? I don't think David Gaider was actually involved in ME3's story. But that's basically what the writers of ME3 did with the story.

    The fact is, when they ban people for making calm, rational and intelligent constructive criticisms, those calm and rational people will leave. So the only ones left are the dude-bros that they were trying to pander to in the first place when they decided to dumb down everything and cut corners all over the place.

    I always remember seeing an interview between someone from bethsada and a long running fallout fan site way before Fallout 3 was released. The fans very first question was why couldn't bethsada call it something else besides fallout 3 because it wasn't a true sequel. To bethsada's credit they were civil and informative, I would have told him to fuck off and if he wanted a "true" sequel he should have got off his arse and bought the rights.
    So I think when your job is to create expectations then deliver on them you just gotta go with your creative vision and not let too much outsider input affect you.

    I'm genuinely concerned over the use of a few words here... Namely "improve". Now this is a creative medium where things like story are close to being entirely subjective and interpretive. I wonder if people think there's a rulebook out there for a good story. I don't even want to touch ME3 because i value my life, possesions and family but for however bad or good it was, no one seemed to give a shit what anyone said either way. No one listened constructively to opposing viewpoints. If your friend hated it, you did too and if they didn't then they were wrong and ended being bullied into agreeing. I mean the gall of people going to the writers and telling them their work was thematically incorrect and then rejecting a number of valid theories that fit in perfectly with established themes just because they were still angry at what? Not being able to choose EVERYTHING EVER? If you choose to interpret a story a certain way and then the internet tells you you're wrong and Bioware is wrong then exactly where does the joy in experiencing a story go? Why within hours of release are people bitching on forums claiming knowledge of perfect storytelling instead of JUST TAKING A SECOND to think about what's just happened? Don't like the story? Great! Let's have a discussion about whe-NO I WILL NOT SIGN YOUR PETITION TO HAVE IT CHANGED FOR YOU! Why do gamers, perhaps moreso than any other medium, feel they know more about games, story, design etc. than the people who make them? This sickening, entitled culture of always getting what you want despite any feelings to the contrary is taking over and it's distressing to me that this could affect an industry that so rarely takes chances in the first place. Want an ambiguous ending? Forget about it, sandy beaches or you'll have your life threatened.

    Guess i don't care about my family so much anymore.

      Doesnt want to touch ME3. Precedes to base his entire argument around ME3

      No one listened to each other, because one argument was from fandom and the other argument was from casuals who think its disgusting that a game can be perceived by others as more than a game and will tell you "you need to get over it" as well as one side being angry that they were lied to and the other side not giving a shit.

      But i still love when people use the word ambiguous for the ME3 Endings. Like ambiguous is suddenly the word people use to explain plotholes.

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