Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Navigating a Negative Review Crapstorm

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 18, 2016

This is how reviews generally work on the Internet. Which is more of a magnification of how word-of-mouth has worked since the dawn of language:


(Image from Happy Monday Comics)

Again, this is human nature. My brother once called the number on the “How is my driving?” bumper sticker to report how conscientious a particular driver had been. The person taking the call was incredulous and kept asking for the nature of the complaint. Nope, no complaint, my brother told them. Just a complement. He was a good driver. They literally had no process for handling positive feedback.

Even where feedback may be more varied, there tends to be a pile-on effect, especially with negative reviews. This can sink a flawed but promising product in no time, demoralize the creators, and delight the trolls. Nicholas Laborde of Raconteur Games explains how his team was able to turn this catastrophe around into some measure of success:

What I learned from our game having a “Mostly Negative” on Steam.

There was a bit of discussion this week about a “rogue” PR person manning the Twitter account for the beleaguered BART system who perhaps single-handedly deflected a lot of this “pile-on” effect by … get this… being transparent and honest and turning it into an actual two-way conversation for a few hours.

Wired: BART’s righteous Tweetstorm reminds us its problems are our fault

I hopefully won’t have enormous call to deal with something on quite this magnitude anytime soon, but the truth is that anytime you create something and put it out there for the public, especially anything experimental, this is a risk. Not as big a risk as being ignored completely, but it’s a risk.

More importantly, dealing with complaints and negative reviews are a fact of life, even if they don’t escalate to crapstorm-levels. I think there are some things to learn here on a smaller scale. You can never please everyone, and the anonymity of the Internet brings out the trolls. Responding defensively is rarely the answer, but good communication, a pro-active response to complaints, and an inhumanly good attitude and willingness to turn it into a learning opportunity really do help.

Filed Under: Biz - Comments: 3 Comments to Read

  • Maklak said,

    Yep, I do that. A lot. If I don’t tell them what they did wrong, how are they supposed to know and want to improove? Having hundreds of similar bug reports is a great motivation to fix something, just to shut people up, right?

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I almost shared this story, but it didn’t fit with the whole “loads of negative reviews” theme.

    I gave I think the lowest review (just mediocre) for a book called “Small Town Monsters” by Craig Nybo. It was competently written, not mind-blowing or anything, but I loved the way he treated Werewolves. Like, serious force-of-nature monsters. It starts out as as some disappearances, ends with taking a town completely off the map. Anyway, I probably would have given it 4 stars, but there were some problems that dragged it down to what I felt was a mediocre review.

    Well, not only did he use the criticism to release a newer edition (or so I heard), but he actually quoted my review for promotional purposes. And since that time, I’ve actually met the author (he’s local) and we’ve become friends… in spite of my review. Or maybe because of it. I dunno. He never asked me to change anything, and I think having a lower review in there helps “keep it real.”

    Anyway, I thought his attitude was a good example.

  • McTeddy said,

    I agree entirely. I’ve had some FURIOUS customers over this or that and I’ve done my best to approach each one openly. I may not be able to make it better, but I’ll try.

    Fast forward a few years and I recognize names of people of former angry customers actually speaking positively about me and my work or trying to help me do better the next time around.

    Sometimes they’re still mad, disappointed or whatnot but at least they know I’m both listening and that I do care.