Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Trolling Tax

According to Slashdot, there's a new game coming out. Depending on how you play, it could be free. Or it could be $60, plus another $100 for the ability to speak to other player with a microphone. This fee depends on if you're a nice guy who helps other players, or a shameless troll. The article doesn't explain the exact mechanics, but I assume that there'll be a fee for the game as usual, but players who are well behaved will collect refunds until they have all their money back.

Left unmoderated, the average Internet community quickly declines in quality, as trolls and other attention seekers make the area significantly more annoying to be around. The attention seekers will go to any length of effort to be the center of attention, and the trolls just like pissing people off for the sake of being obnoxious. This is bad for business, as you now have a community of people who annoy the crap out of you pretty much for the sake of annoying the crap out of you. And players who get insulted, harassed, or intimidated too often will stop playing. There's not enough funds from these obnoxious jerks to pay for the server alone, so clearly they must be punished.

The helpful players, however, tend to encourage additional sales. A community of useful and helpful people is fun to be around, to the point where you'd pay money to stay. And this is what the company is banking on.

Most other games just charge everyone the same price, and then ban players who become excessively obnoxious. And even then, the bar is set rather high, as a banned troll will stop paying on the spot. I'm quite familiar with this model, as my own job revolves around removing the unproductive customers that pay $19.99...and then cost the company $10,000 in bad behavior.

The parent company, Valve, is now quite famous for their unusual payment plans. They recently made one of their games, Team Fortress 2, completely free to play, but made customization options available for extra cash. These customization are super popular, as it differentiates your character from the teaming masses, and players are gleefully paying out the nose for the chance to show some personality.

This is not the first time the Internet confronted these issues either. Cracked's David Wong wrote an article several years ago about the radical moves that would be required to prevent trolls from destroying the Internet. Why? Because people want to make money, and obnoxious people are threatening to ruin that. And if there's one thing I've noticed about America, it's that threatening people's income never goes well.

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