Tobold's Blog
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Thought for the day: Entitlement

Game by Night Chris asks whether players are wrong to feel entitlement to easy gameplay, fast leveling without grind, and other luxury features we didn't have when we played Everquest a decade ago. But is that really the only entitlement players feel, and is it only the noobs as Chris says that feel it? What about the sense of entitlement of those who play the most, and who think they are entitled to special treatment by the game company, to exclusive content, to the fanciest outfits?
I think the assumption that spending more time playing will give better rewards underpins a lot of games, even if just because you get more practice and therefore more skilled, do more achievements, etc etc. So it's not surprising if most gamers take that as a default.

The odd assumption is the one that other players will never catch up and that sinking more time into the game will give you an unassailable eliteness. Our MMOs don't do that sort of permanence any more. You can 'win' without other people being required to lose.
All segments of players feel entitled to the stuff they like in a game. The fun comes when they feel entitled to contradictory stuff.

Developers also need to be wary of giving players what they -say- they want. It might end up a case of 'be careful what you wish for' or gamer boredom when all their ambitions and desires are fulfilled with nothing to strive for.

You can't completely ignore what players clamor for either. They might pick up and leave to another game who deliver the experience they're looking for in spades.

Ultimately, it's the gamble of the balancing act and hoping you've got a grip on a good game design that appeals to enough gamers to keep you financially solvent.
The enormous sense of entitlement some players have is one of my pet peeves when it comes to gaming.

Just look at the Infinity Ward debacle. On just about any game forums you'll see dozens of post about how IW owes PC gamers as players, how the PC version deserves to be better then the console version, how PC gamers deserve dedicated servers, how PC gamers were the ones that built up IW and therefore IW owes them...I could go on and on.

While there are many reasons why the lack of features in Modern Warfare 2 are a bad thing (and lack of features IS a bad thing), non of the above are them, and all of the above stem from a strange sense of entitlement players have.

To answer your question specifically, no it certainly isn't only one subset of players who feel game companies owe them something.

If you look at an mmo like WoW you have egos and entitlement across the board. There are plenty of hardcore players, both PVE and PVP, that feel that Blizzard owes them. That they should be the only ones with the gear they have, that they should be the only ones able to down a certain boss, that casuals and scrubs shouldn't be in their raid they should be a tier lower at all times, etc.

Some "noobs" do have a sense of entitlement as well, as Night Chris points out, but it has less to do with them being "noobs" then it does with a general trend across gaming as a whole.
This is a no-brainer to me. Customers are entitled to whatever they are prepared to pay for as long as they don't interfere with the rights of another customer.

If customer A want easy mode game-play and is prepared to pay for it then I'd say he is entitled to it.

On the other hand if customer B is prepared to pay the costs of hand crafted challenging raid dungeons then I think they can feel entitled to that also.

The only thing neither customer is entitled to is to restrict the rights of the other player. Customer A is not entitled to insist that there is no hard mode content just because he isn't able to do it and customer B is not entitled to insist that customer A be excluded from some part of the game just so customer B can feel special.
I don't think it's entitlement to demand tested and polished content, tuned risk versus reward ratios, hassle-free gameplay, consistent difficulty curves and no fake difficulty. It is our right as consumers to demand the best possible product for the least possible price. As it is the developers' right to try to sell us the worst (read: cheapest) possible product for the largest possible price. Hopefully, that conflict eventually results in a compromise acceptable by everyone.

And yes, back when I was a kid, we had to walk both ways uphill in a snowstorm to play Nintendo Hard games. Those old days are gone. Good riddance. As the games industry keeps maturing, the goalposts for a game of acceptable quality keep moving. If we want progress, then we need to keep that conflict alive.
People are entitled to have fun in games. However they aren't entitled to have fun in any specific game. So for example, if I complain that Super Mario isn't fun and it needs to have less jumping and reflexes, I should shut up. In this instance, the problem isn't the game, but me: I'm not playing the right type of game. I think this problem is widespread in WoW, people who aren't really MMORPG players are trying to change it to suit their whims when they would be better off with a FPS or RTS or some other genre.

This is easy to over-apply when people fall into the trap of thinking MMORPGs must be exactly one set of conditions, any deviation ruins it all, and therefore anyone who complains needs to quit.
The only sense of entitlement I feel is that I expect new games to match old games in terms of what they deliver.

I do feel a bit ripped off by all the DLC that we used to get for free as PC gamers that we are now being charged for. It's easy enough not to buy it, though.

As to things like easy leveling and the like, it's not that I feel entitled but that I'm not going to put up with a lot of grind. I will never repeat the EverQuest experience again. Give me brisk leveling or I won't stick around in your game.
I think "entitlement" is too pejorative a term (see Wikipedia entry) for it to be useful in such discussions. The implication is too often that those with a "sense of entitlement" are wrong to feel that way. It's less inflammatory and more accurate to use "expectation" instead.

Every player goes into a MMOG with desires and expectations. For example, some players desire grindy gameplay and had expectations that the grind would remain. Others desire less grindy gameplay but, in the past, had no expectations that their desire would be fulfilled. It's not generational; new players coming into MMOGs aren't different in their desires than players a decade ago; people haven't changed. What has changed is that MMOGs over time, bit by bit, fulfilled that desire for less grindy gameplay and thus created new expectations.

Hm, I feel like I'm stating the obvious (and probably am). I'll stop here.
"Game developers owe you nothing".

That was the mindset of game developers in the not too distant past, and it seemed to serve them well.

Gamers have the right to ask for a bug free experience, but beyond that there's not much a gamer should expect from a game.

The problems we are seeing in the MMO community stems from a dangerous game of "one-upmanship" that is being perpetuated by gamers across all age groups and interests. If game "A" has a certain feature that gamers really like, then game "B" had better have just as good of an implementation if the game has that same feature.

A LOT of gamers fancy themselves as subject matter experts and, they may very well have 4+ years of WoW experience under their belt, but very FEW of them possess the ability to remain objective and judge a new game on it's own merits...instead of resorting to the "but WoW did this better" argument that the majority of them fall back on when the reality sets in that their vocabulary is limited to WoW speak.

Game developers really do owe us nothing. They make a game and hope that enough people will like it, play it and refer the game to their friends in the hopes that sales will recoup development costs and put a little jingle in their pockets at the end of the day.

If you want fun game play and innovation in future games, then we as gamers need to recognize the fact that the current industry model of game development is horribly broken, and in turn we need to vote with the strongest political tool we have as gamers:

Our wallets.
Well, in terms of mmorpgs I thought it's because the grindy design treats players like a bitch, then they start acting up about how they should be treated and what they are entitled too. It's like one of those bad relationships where the woman (or indeed, the man) doesn't get out, they just wine to the other person about how they should be treated.
Players are clearly entitled to something from developers, that's the nature of a commercial transaction. Exactly what and how much is basically quibbling.

What is much more interesting is the entitlement players feel with regard to other players.

Most games assume standards of honesty and integrity. Sometimes these may be quite extreme to outsiders or players of other games.

In EQ2 it's considered very bad form to just walk up to a node and mine it if someone else is in the area clearing trash nodes to force the good nodes to spawn. In several games it's considered bad form to undercut by a copper or to charge expensive prices.

In Vanguard there was even a blacklist for any player using the Sony-sanctioned RMT system. If you bought a high level character completely legally no raid guild would have you on the server I played on.

The opposite extreme is Eve where everyone is assumed to be out to screw you over and screwing over other players is a significant part of the entertainment. Players are entitled to nothing but hassle from their peers.

In WoW I saw the paradigm change over the years from old school EQ style where players make sacrifices for the good of the guild to a new model where a few hard working players produce entertainment for a posse of whiny consumer-type players.
Thanks for the linkback Tobold!

What I've come to realize is that the old school MMO players aren't the target audience anymore. MMOs never used to be mainstream and, by consequence, those early MMO players weren't mainstream. It was a niche we all fit into. Now, however, WoW has opened the genre up to a much wider array of players that, in all likelihood, pay more of the bills at Blizzard than the former fan base. Those are the players I see as driving the industry in its future direction, since theirs is the greater money pool.

They feel entitled to modern MMO gameplay because it's what they know MMOs to be. Their "entitlement" is based on the generation of MMOs they stepped into the market with. There's something to be said for expanding horizons, yet, I doubt many will be happy to go to a grindier, less polished, fewer featured game. So, it's in development studio's best interest to design to what these players want.

For a long time, I pretty much wrote those players off because I didn't like the attitude many of these entitled players came into forums with. I still don't; I don't like demanding posts and rudeness over video games. To me, that's silly. Yet, when they come into forums and make their voices heard in the right ways, I see that as advocating for their generation. I refer to them as noobs not derogatorily, but rather in the same way I'd called the EQ generation vets. There's some years difference there and in a market that's developing so quickly, it can have a big impact on how players perceive not only individual games but the market as a whole.

(Forgive any typos here, I'm responding far past when I should have been asleep :-) )
Players are clearly entitled to something from developers, that's the nature of a commercial transaction. Exactly what and how much is basically quibbling.

My point is that in a commercial transaction, what you are entitled to as customer clearly depends on the amount of money you hand over to the seller. So why do people think that they have extra entitlements when they pay the same, but play more? It's like somebody eating twice the normal amount at an all-you-can-eat buffet and then thinking he is entitled to extra service from the restaurant because he did so well.
"My point is that in a commercial transaction, what you are entitled to as customer clearly depends on the amount of money you hand over to the seller."

No, not necessarily.

Imagine you subscribe to cable TV. The monthly cost for someone who spends 10 hours a day watching TV is probably the same as for someone else who spends one hour a day.

Or what if you buy a game and get bored with it before the end. Someone else might play it through several times and get all the achievements, but they still spent the same amount and are entitled to the same customer service.

Some of it really does come down to the customer and how they choose to use the goods or service. Some people will throw money away by buying things they don't need or can't use. Others will make more frugal use of what they have.
I'm not entirely sure why people are like that, but it's a significant trend that I've been noticing for a while (the last 4 years in particular).

From WoW forums, to CO forums, even from people to bloggers, and web cartoonists.

"Hey man! I come to your site, so you owe me!"

And it only gets worse from there. People are feeling entitlement not just because they put effort in, or money, but just because they showed up.

My guess is, is that they've been going to parties where things were free, and so they feel that just for being there they deserve something.

I'm also thinking their 12, or have a 12 year-old mentality.

(to those who ARE 12 and feel they behave better than this, you are 12 with an older mentality, congrats!)
You're entitled to what your transaction allows for.

MMOs have been all-you-can-eat buffets for many years so the people who eat a lot ARE entitled to more since that is the payment model.

As we move towards other payment models there's bound to be a weeping a wailing and a gnashing of teeth.

The big shift in the future is that up until now if you like the look of a game you can just play it. They all cost pretty much the same. Even F2P games can be played by budgeting a set amount, like I remember you doing with Free Realms Tobold.

We are entering an age where some of us will look at games and decide that's too expensive.

Naturally people will complain but one can hardly blame the industry or look at it in terms of entitlement.

If a company charges too much for you you don't play their game, there is no customer relationship and you are entitled to nothing except your free speech right to moan about how expensive it is.
In several games it's considered bad form to undercut by a copper or to charge expensive prices.
Funnily enough, Gevlon and others like him are considered griefers for not doing this.
"Funnily enough, Gevlon and others like him are considered griefers for not doing this."

Absolutely Hirvox and that illustrates the point I was trying to make.

Gevlon upsets players who feel entitled to make X amount of mark-up on their sales. He exposes the lie that it's somehow fairer to keep prices up.

Clearly players are not entitled to particular profit margins or uncompetitive behaviour although on servers with a tradition of such behaviour they come to believe they are entitled to it.
Clearly players are not entitled to particular profit margins or uncompetitive behaviour although on servers with a tradition of such behaviour they come to believe they are entitled to it.

Step back for a minute though and consider other things that players -were- given in the early incarnation of WoW, such as the select guilds who labored day and night completing all of the turn-in and long chain quests that was required to open the gates of AQ.

Did players who were not in these guilds have a right to demand -when- the gates were to be opened?

Were the guilds who completed the requirements for the AQ event not worthy of the entitlement they earned to pick and choose when and how they wanted to enable the event?

The problem concerning WoW is that it was released as a subscription based game, and the example someone gave using cable TV was spot on in my opinion. Whereas everyone who has a certain package pays the same, regardless of how much content or programming they allow themselves to be exposed to, and regardless of how much time they have to invest in enjoying it.

I think this debate is bringing to light that there are two or more distincts areas in which gamers are feeling a sense of entitlement:

One area is the cost versus enjoyment aspect of gaming - regardless of the time required to reach whatever goals the game provides.

A second area is the direction a game takes after its initial launch, and how much control gamers feel they have over influencing future changes, versus what the developer actually chooses to deliver.

The main issue here though is whether the developer makes changes based on what players ask for, or whether the developer makes changes based on the best interests of the game itself. The differences between the two, however, are huge.
It's like somebody eating twice the normal amount at an all-you-can-eat buffet and then thinking he is entitled to extra service from the restaurant because he did so well.

Isn't it precisely the opposite of that? Someone who eats 3000 calories at a sitting gets more food than someone who eats 2000. That's probably unhealthy, but both get the same experience of eating until they decide to eat no more.
I think spinks really summed up my feelings on it. I have to keep reminding myself there are many like-minded players out there even if most or all of the ones yapping about it in chat or on the forums are only the unhappy ones talking.

It's a bit disheartening, because it reflects a very strong culture of instant gratification that is not a good thing for anyone to learn, let alone a new generation of kids from any country.

I'd best relate or explain it in terms of weight lifting. No matter how much you'd like to fool yourself, you cannot have instant muscles. It takes time.

The brain is the same way. Anyone who ever accomplished anything smart/noble/grand, took a lot of time and work.

Games aren't work, yes, but they are never ending. In that sense there is no such thing as end-game. Even if you are level cap and won all achievements in a MMORPG, the game goes on.
Entitlement is a tough one to quantify as surely it's all a matter of both perspective and design within the boundaries of the game. I don't think I'm entitled to "easier" grouping but I will take the easiest road from A to Z and, if something becomes too boring, move on and find another game.

Actually, I think you're exactly right on this one. From an economic perspective, it's really rather odd: I spend more hours playing the game (putting more load on your servers and probably more load on your customer service team), so I expect better treatment and more consideration.

From that point of view, yes, it's silly. From the company's point of view, the perfect customer is the one who pays $15 a month and then never logs in. Almost as good is the customer who pays $300 for a lifetime subscription and then ragequits the next day. The absolute =worst= customers are the ones who login sixteen hours a day, hit the level cap, and then cry about "nothing to do."

I remember one Marketing professor who made no bones about the fact that there are some customers a business really doesn't want, simply because they cost more in support than they bring in as revenue.
"So why do people think that they have extra entitlements when they pay the same, but play more? It's like somebody eating twice the normal amount at an all-you-can-eat buffet and then thinking he is entitled to extra service from the restaurant because he did so well."

Hmmm, that's a good question!

I guess because that's what they get!?

People who play more, get more, even though they pay the same. So they start to think that's how things work.
I think games cater to this sense of entitlement, but another name for it is a sense of proper rewards due for effort put in.
"My point is that in a commercial transaction, what you are entitled to as customer clearly depends on the amount of money you hand over to the seller."

Since you're fond of running analogies...

I paid my $30 entrance fee for this 5k race and I'm entitled to a champion's trophy. Sure, I may not have practiced (grinded) on a treadmill as much as others, and I may not be as fast (skillful) as others, but I paid my dues and showed up to the race and I deserve that trophy, damnit!

As far as I'm concerned, this is what happens when the "Everyone's a Winner" generation gets their hands on a video game genre.
@fester: So World of Warcraft is a race? How exactly are you planning on winning that race?

You know, I -almost- agree with you. I do believe that the most recent couple of generations have been raised to believe that "everyone is a winner" and "everyone is entitled to [whatever]."

But I don't that's exactly what's going on here. Some look at MMOs as "games" (even though there really is no way to "win"); others see MMOs as "worlds," "persistent shared virtual spaces," or just "entertainment." And from that point of view, you're entitled to ... something. What that something is varies from person to person. Personally, I feel entitled to pursue any playstyle that has been or become viable since the game launched, I feel entitled to have some route to the "good stuff" no matter what my chosen playstyle, and I feel entitled to have my voice heard by developers, whether or not they choose to listen.

I think that's pretty reasonable.
Game developers owe you a lot. In fact ultimately they owe you everything.

Games are a service industry. If we don't like it and pay - it dies. Hence it's an industry that is so directly tied to consumer satisfaction that principle of some game developers that the gamer is too stupid to know what good gaming experience is, is quite silly.

The problem is really that MMOs bring divergent skill and more importantly attitude sets together. People who'd play some game on Nightmare mode play with people who'd want to play it on Tutorial mode. When you'd play offline noone knows what mode you play it in. If you wanted to be part of a competitive friendship circle you could, but there was no mixing of attitudes. Now in MMOs competitive folks play the same game at the same time in the same world as cooperative and just more relaxed folks, or folks who want to have a more relaxed rather than high-tension experience.

It's not at all surprising that there is a persistent clash of expectations. While I wish that everybody had the maturity to not look at other people's experiences to feel good about themselves, that certainly isn't the reality.

And ultimately if someone asks for an experience that meets their needs one can always just call that "entitlement".

I think that WoW for example serves a surprisingly wide spread of needs and attitudes. That some people will come out and bark at you advocating for your needs and preferences is kind of the real world.

Not raiding now for quite a while I will say that WoW is biased towards raiding. If I'm not mistaken the next patch will contain no substantial solo content, which leaves me with limited new stuff to do. And yes I pay full fee. If I would advocate for anything it'd be more solo content. I don't want less content or such for others, but I do want to have a continuing gaming experience for myself. Am I entitled?
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