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.
(Image via Leyviur.net)