Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Guild Wars franchise review

This week, we took the Guild Wars franchise under the scrutiny of our talented reviewers. The Guild Wars franchise is developed by an american company called Arenanet, which has been a part of Ncsoft for several years. We looked at the different ways hate speech is apparent in the community, and in what way the developers have helped to keep their game a safe place for everyone. The key items we looked at was player behaviour, community management and hate by design, and how these things have changed from the first game to the second.

Guild Wars 1 is a hugely succesful free-to-play MMO played by millions during it's heyday. The community consists mainly of ingame gamers and guilds, along with unofficial forums ran by major gaming sites. Guild Wars 1 doesn't have it's own official forum so it relies heavily on fans to spread information and make the community outside of the game a safe place to be.
Guild Wars 2 is quite new; it came out a year ago in August and sold over a million pre-release copies alone. The game has it's own active official forums, and a large playerbase that spends hours ingame and offgame creating community content on their own.

Player behaviour

Both games have been praised for their general matureness and safe environment. Players are free to choose whether to interact with other players, since neither game requires you to group up to play it normally. Bots are a recurring problem in both games, but they are dealt with to the point where they rarely bother anyone.

Even so, our team of reviewers found that both games had their share of hate speech and harassment. Generally it 's mainly limited to one or two major cities, where people gather to kill time just chatting or goofing off, but there is also a lot of discrimination when it comes to forming parties to do dungeons or other co-operative events. Quite often the discrimination turned to outright hate and harassment when a person, who was unable to follow other players' suggestions/demands, tried their best in the way they could and were shot down by the rest of the group.
Guild Wars 2 tried to prevent this by breaking up the traditional Holy Trinity (tank, healer, DPS), giving each class it's own heals and support skills along with damage. It hasn't completely eradicated the harassment – now people concentrate more on gear and stat number crunching, giving grief to players who don't wish to play in such an involved way.
This is one of the main reasons that PUGs (pick-up-groups of strangers doing an area together) still have such a bad reputation in the Guild Wars community. They tend to have one or two people who troll or demand impossible things from the rest of the group, often resulting in flame wars and hate speech where people insult each other as much as they can.

With Guild Wars 1, we found that it also mattered if your character was female or male. Female ingame characters received much more sexual harassment than males, with many gamers demanding for a voice chat, a lap dance from an armorless female character, and doing lewd things with ingame animations. The most glaring example of this used to be the Presear area in Tyria – lots of elementalist female characters would strip off their armor and advertise for lap dances in return for money. 

We also had experiences of needing to intervene in a hate-speech situation several times ingame. 


Community management

Guild Wars 1 community felt more personal and involved to many of our reviewers. They had their own community management person, who was called Gaile Gray, be in contact with gamers as much as possible, tirelessly answering questions and concerns both ingame and at the official wiki. Any major community concerns were visibly dealt with – for example, a huge bot problem was eventually dealt with by introducing an ingame animation where a banned person was killed by Grenth, a reaper-like ingame god. Grenth continued to drag other banned people to the Undeworld even after the large bot bans. Guild Wars 1 forums were also found to be more pleasant, since they were run by the community and had more power over who to ban and what kind of rules to enforce. 


The main gripe we had with Guild Wars 1 was the ignore function. You could only ignore a certain number of people, so if you were targeted by a larger group, you had no way of keeping yourself safe from them except to leave the game. Guild Wars 2 has a better ignore function and has the possibility to report ingame harassment. However, the harasmment button doesn't really give you the possibility to give details of your own about the situation – all you can do is include a screenshot, then find a category it fits into. There is no feedback to what is going on, and no way of knowing if that person actually gets banned.

The Guild Wars 2 forums feel less welcoming to our reviewers than the community forums of the first game. Everything seems less organized, and while there's clearly moderators who read the forums and forward news to the developer, the community doesn't seem to be as tight-knit and there are examples of threads and replies being deleted outright.

All in all, Guild Wars franchise has a strong community that features both good and bad behaviour. The good mostly outweighs the bad, and thanks to the game's structure of allowing you to play alone, the game itself gives the player lots of freedom to choose how much interaction they will have with other gamers.  

Review done for GameOver Hate conference assignment. 

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