I love the fact that game makers are finding new ways to engage their communities. It's great, really. Twitch streams, twitter accounts, coordinated relief efforts for natural disasters, AMAs, etc. All of it is great. I think most people thin it's great – but the thing I don't understand is this – if it's great why do they have to bribe players to participate?
I remember when Borderlands 2 came out Gearbox basically said, "We'll randomly tweet shift codes that you'll have 60 minutes to redeem." I didn't like it. I don't like twitter, I don't like the fact that I have to follow a community manager account to get a chance at rewards. I made a comment about it on the subreddit and people basically said, "It's just a random key to random rewards, it's no big deal."
I still didn't like it but I can at least accept it. It's a small, stupid, reward that can be easily ignored. And then 8 years passed. Over those last 8 years we've seen more and more things start to crop up – donate money to a relief effort through Destiny and get a badge. OK, fine, it's for a good cause and it's cosmetic. Link account 'X' to account 'Y' to get in game swag. Follow us on 'X' and you'll get 'Y.' Hell, I remember Dragon Age releasing a stand alone Facebook game that you could follow and play to get extra rewards.
It's annoying but most of the time it's just a skin or something. Plus it's usually easy to get. Simply connect a service or click a button on a website at some point in a 3 month time period.
But some games, Warframe is the one I'm most familiar with, has been doing 'Twitch drops' for a while now. It's not enough to link your account – you have to actually have a stream running to get your rewards – you have to drop what you're doing and sign in or you miss out. I despise this – its basically a bribe to a games community to increase the viewership on their videos. It's inconvenient and annoying. At the very least, in the past, most of the rewards have been minimal. Things you can get elsewhere with a little bit of time or something so insignificant that's it's not a big deal when you missed out. When I have cared about a reward I put it in a browser somewhere and then ignore it.
But apparently that's not enough now. Now I guess you have to click a button to redeem your reward once you've 'earned it' in the stream? I can't just ignore the stream – I have to actively pay attention to it so that I don't miss out on the reward that I'm trying to get. And as part of their first use of this new system – one of the only resources in the game that's legitimately rare.
Why? If the community engagement is something I care about why do you need to bribe me? If it's not something I care about why try to drag me into it with the promise of a reward? Is this a case of any marketing is good marketing? I play along and get my reward and walk away with a lower opinion of a company but hey – at least I engaged? Is it not a big deal and I'm just an old man who hates new technology?
I have seen community engagement occur in a wide variety of ways and I've enjoyed some of it – but the ones I've enjoyed are ones I've participated in because I wanted to – not because I was suckered into it with the allure of something shiny.
Is this an evolution of the ARG type community engagement that used to exist? 17 years ago we had "I love bees" and participation was the reward, but now it's easier to just dangle a carrot to get people involved?
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