Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fans and Critics

The buzz has surely died down by now, but I wanted to take the time to make a well-thought out comment (part of why you read this blog, I hope).

Right about 2 weeks ago, KS posted an "informal survey" that he had conducted among fans and varying employees about the how the company was doing. Since the general vibe of this was "Keep on keepin' on, KS!" many people in the gaming community (including members of the Palladium forums) cried foul. The two main complaints seem to be that KS only asked people with a vested interest in keeping him happy, and that the survey was so informal and unscientific that its results could not be relied upon.

The official response to this doubt must be read to be truly believed. He opens with befuddlement. I can almost imagine a cat macro with a kitten looking piteously into the camera "Y U no Liek gud nooz?" Then it shifts into betrayal rage at all of the people who he thought were fans (including one uber-fan whom he calls out by name) who clearly aren't because they had the temerity to doubt his survey.

He also details some means that Palladium is supposedly looking into so that they can finally experience some growth. My guess is that these moves are just like the Palladium fan page on Facebook: Something they were trying to avoid as long as possible while pretending to "work on it" but ultimately got shamed by the fans into actually doing.

So as much as the "fan" numbers were telling him to "keep on keepin' on", the actual fans want him to be doing more to promote and advance Palladium as a company.

Watching this play out both on the Palladium Forums and makes me want to take a slightly closer look at fans and critics. Because the Palladium "party line" seems to indicate that you have to be one or the other. You can't be both.

Now, I'm a publisher, too. I don't talk about my published work because it's not often germane to the things that I'm talking about over on this blog. It's a neat little indie thing that is designed for an entirely different demographic than BTR is. Check it out!

Speaking as a publisher, I consider my critics to be some of my best friends. Firstly because they are people who are not me who are talking about my game. Free advertising is worth its weight in gold. Really. Secondly, critics tell me what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong. For example, my game has gotten a couple of reviews that pointed out that the magic system didn't really work (They loved the game otherwise, so I think I'm doing okay). So I looked, and sure enough, the magic system was missing a key rule. So I updated the PDF versions of the game (both the one that I sell direct to customers and the one that I have printed into book form) and released an errata notice via the blog for that game.

One poster on the thread made a very interesting point: In order to criticize, especially with the vehemence that Palladium critics do, you have to care. And the other posters seemed to confirm this. Several of them, in fact, were ex-fans. Some of them were introduced to gaming via Palladium products, but then found other games that did what they wanted more easily. Or some other action on the part of the company made them decide never to give the company money ever again. (Like the infamous Cease & Desist policy on fan publication.)

I think that if Palladium is going to grow and thrive, it needs critics at least as much as it needs fans. It needs criticism and it needs to listen and learn from that criticism rather than using it as an excuse to circle the wagons even tighter. Especially since the circle is so small there's not room for everyone within it.

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