Learning how to deal with Internet trolls is an important skill for indie game developers to master. Why? Because knowing how to effectively disarm these vicious online personalities can not only save your game’s creditably, but your sanity as well. Like most outspoken people in the Web world, trolls are attention hogs. Problem is, their methods for attracting attention are slanderous. Next time you wonder how to deal with Internet trolls, try one of these psychological tactics to dissuade negative and reinforce positive behavior.
How to Deal with Internet Trolls
Turn Useless Insults into Constructive Feedback
Often times the hurtful comments trolls make are unfounded. However, if you respond with genuine interest, you can sometimes turn negative, useless comments into constructive dialogue.
Let’s imagine, a troll makes a nasty comment on your blog about how he thinks your game “sucks.” Instead of lashing back or ignoring him, try to encourage constructive feedback by responding with something like, “Thank you for your comment. I would love to hear more about where you think the game is lacking so I improve in my next update.” While his response may still be negative, if he offers specific details as to why he thinks your game is lacking, instead of meaningless, hurtful words like “suck,” you’ve succeeded. You have now started a dialogue that dissuades useless insults and rewards constructive feedback.
Incorporate Feedback in Your Next Version
If you successfully encourage trolls to turn useless comments into constructive feedback, reward them by incorporating this feedback (where possible) in your next release, update, etc. This act not only reinforces good behavior, but gives trolls the ultimate in attention: bragging rights for your game’s future success. Feeling included in the creation of a game at this level, can turn any troll into your biggest fan.
Translate Cynicism into Bug Finding
It may seem a bit extreme, but as you ponder how to deal with Internet trolls, consider inviting them to become beta testers. Obviously, you would want to do some vetting first, but think about it… The most cynical people often make the best testers. Why? Because they scrutinize every detail and uncover even the most minor of issues. In addition to the QA benefits, the act of including trolls in your creation process encourages positive behavior, as discussed above.
Ignore the Crazies
There will be times when you encounter trolls so extreme, none of your efforts work. In these situations, simply stop trying. Allowing trolls to discredit themselves with their irrational behavior is sometimes the best course of action.