It sure is good to be back. Between a crazy schedule at my day job and game designs coming and going, I haven’t really had the energy to write – even if I did somehow come up with the time. However, something happened recently that I feel compelled to talk about. So, let’s get down to business and tell you a story that will hopefully help you out of a similar jam.
About a week ago, a random guy off the street stepped out a doorway and stabbed me right in the chest. Well, not exactly. That’s what it felt like, at least. You see, a guy came to a public forum on the internet where I was talking about one of my games and threw out an accusation of it being “broken”. Seemingly out of nowhere, we have this dude telling the whole world that he played with his friends and it not only lasted way too long, but they couldn’t really accomplish any goals, either. It was a hot mess and he was extremely disappointed. Worse yet, it turns out that he has a blog where he called me and the game out, again. Here’s the real kick in the pants: based on his description of the session, I could tell right away that he completely fumbled at least 1 critical rule. So, he played incorrectly and is now complaining that my baby is ugly.
Now, what would you do? Ignore him? Tell him he’s an idiot? Be nice and explain what he likely did wrong? How a person responds to an hurtful accusation really depends on what their goal is. Defending your pride, correcting the mistake, keeping the peace – all common motives. Be careful, though, just as anyone can come along and see the accusation, they will also see your response.
Here’s the key to this entire situation: why did this guy come over and stab me? Why did he tell everyone my game is broken? This random person I’ve never met or spoken to before PRINTED MY GAME and played it with his friends! Then, instead of blowing off the situation, he came back to me to explain why his session sucked. He CARED – that’s why. Clearly, he was concerned and wanted me to know that there was a problem. I can only assume he didn’t think about the repercussions.
Really quick, let’s talk about why his accusation hurt – why I’m being so dramatic with my analogy. As an indie designer and publisher, reputation is everything. I literally cannot do business without the trust of the public. Because I’m “new”, I have to borrow trust by showing how much labor, study, and work has gone into the thing I’m presenting. Therefore, a random 3rd party crying “It’s broken! It’s broken!” completely shatters the little bit of trust I was starting to build.
Now, I’m sure by now you’re aching to know what I did. Well, I surprised myself. I read his message 5 or 6 times and put myself in his shoes. The fact that he came to a public forum with a story of how the thing he wanted to like disappointed him, means that he will likely be a little on edge already. So, even though I was certain this was HIS mistake, I couldn’t make any accusations of my own and risk sparking a fight. So, I read it some more, I prayed, and I counselled with my closest, and most level-headed friends. After a couple of hours we came to the following formula:
- I apologized for the bad session.
- I thanked him for the work he put in.
- I explained how important it is for me to investigate any problems.
- Finally, I asked to take the conversation private so that I could gather details and make sure there wasn’t a rules mistake.
You see, my goal was to show appreciation. This response allowed us both to save face (sort of). The damage is already done – there’s no sense in showing my anger and creating more problems. Even in the private conversation, I didn’t lead of with how he screwed up. I mentioned that I think I know what happened and clearly my editor and I have some more work to do if such a critical rule wasn’t apparent to him. Again, I don’t want to blame him for messing up – clearly my rules could be clearer.
After our chat, he made another comment and another blog post sharing my game, stating that he made a mistake last time, and proclaiming just how good the game really is. I’m not saying that every situation will work out this way. You can’t control other people in the world. You can control your reaction. The damage is already done and continues to spread from that initial comment. However, through the challenge I was able to show a level of professionalism which converted him into a real fan and allows me to borrow and build a little more trust from people who see our interaction.