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7 Jan 2014

Your Indie Game is Going to Have ‘Trolls’ – Here’s How to Deal With Them

Everyone hates a troll. Well, maybe ‘hate’ is a strong word, but they sure are annoying. Constantly trying to get other’s skin so they can have some sort of odd self-satisfaction, trolls have haunted the Web for years in their quest to make as many people mad at them as possible, and the worst part? They’re going to haunt your game(s) one day, and it may be tomorrow.

Except, what if these ‘trolls’ are speaking the truth about your game? What if some of the people that lash out at your game (the people we label ‘trolls’) actually have a point to their attacks, yet it’s the way they express their discontent that is flawed? Can you use the attacks of these ‘trolls,’ these flawed yet correct critics to improve your game and turn a negative situation into a positive one that will not only shut down the troll attacking you, but ensure that your studio remains strong? Absolutely. Here are some of the best practices for dealing with trolls while dually improving your game.



“Your game [expletive deleted] sucks!”

Ever heard this phrase before? I’m sure you have, and while our grade school teachers taught us to never respond to bullies (like that helped in the first place), responding to these types of trolls in a constructive manner can actually turn the negative comment into a positive one. Thank them for their comment and ask what they didn’t like about the game. If they don’t respond well hey, they look like just an ordinary troll and you win.

But if they do respond? This gives the two of you a chance to dialogue and for you to learn exactly what they didn’t like about the game. While their tone will likely be negative throughout the dialogue, you have found some constructive feedback that could help you to improve the game.

That isn’t to say that all criticism in this dialogue isn’t going to be constructive. For instance, if the individual tells you they didn’t like the game because it was a platformer and not an RPG, that’s his/her problem. Yet if he/she tells you that they didn’t like the platformer because the jumping mechanic felt too stiff? That’s a great piece of constructive criticism that you can use to improve the game. Again, not all trolls are ‘trolls’ – their delivery in providing constructive criticism could simply be lacking!



“I could have made a better game than this!”

“Oh yeah tough guy, is that right? Then prove it.”

While you shouldn’t respond to trolls using the response above word-for-word, the idea behind it is pretty similar. If you have an individual that keeps telling you that they could have ‘made a better game with their eyes closed,’ invite them to beta test your game. Tell them that they are invited to find every flaw and bug in your game, and they can be as nasty and vile as they want to be when they tell you about your game. Invite them to tell you how much your game ‘sucks.’

And if they take you up on the offer, do you know what is going to happen? They are going to be unknowingly improving your game in the process. The people we often label as ‘trolls’ are cynical in nature, yet they make the best beta testers. Whereas most of the playtesters you will find generally do not want to hurt your feelings and are grateful that you value their opinion, cynical people want to tell you every little thing that is wrong with your game. It’s their very nature, and you are going to get a wealth of awesome data from these types of playtesters as you use their data to improve your game.

It almost seems like you are using an enemies’ secret weapon on them without their knowledge doesn’t it? In a sense you are, and take it from me: it’s going to feel incredible.



Get a second opinion

Before pressing the ‘submit’ button when responding to a troll, get a second opinion on the entire situation. Have a co-worker or friend read over the troll’s comment, read your response, and see what they say about the entire situation. This method will ensure that your response is level-headed and free of any anger that could entice the troll to keep insulting you and your game even further. Which brings me to my final point.



Never comment when you’re angry

You know the rule of never texting when you’re drunk? Or calling your mom when you’re drunk? The same rule applies when you’re angry and a troll tells you that your game stinks. You’re going to say something you will regret and you are going to make yourself look bad in the process. Plus, you’re going to give the troll a little more fuel to their cause, and you don’t want that.

What about you guys? How do you deal with trolls that insult your game? Let us know in the comments below!

2 Responses

  1. Stephen

    Awesome write up, love the idea of getting a Troll to become a Beta tester. One question, is it possible to contact people who have left feedback on the app store?

    1. Dusty Wright

      Not to my knowledge, although that would be handy. If you’re looking to start a dialogue between people that have something to say about the game, the best way IMO would be to just provide an email address for people to contact you about any questions/concerns they may have.

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