Sanya Weathers, an blogger of exponential blogs, has started writing over at the community manager watering hole, Metaverse Mod Squad. In the latest post she discusses the fiscal responsibility of the community management team (not without comparison to another department), but the crux of the post is on Leaderboards. Sanya writes that “achievement, respect, and a sense that time spent on your product is not time wasted can all be checked off with leaderboards, or whatever you want to call your comparative ranking system.” Dan Gray at his blog echoes Sanya’s thoughts by saying “it’s free content, it’s recognition, and it’s a fantastic tool for your community.”
There is a dark side though. A darkness that harms community. We shall name it “elitism.”
Leaderboards are very fun. Take, for instance, Turbine’s leaderboards for their relatively new skirmish system in Lord of the Rings Online. The leaderboard captures most points, most points per hour, success rate, and so on. The leaderboard can be filtered by skirmish type, classes, level range, and even kinship (guild). A lot more data is actually published than ranked, and in-game players can see a ton more statistics. Following Sanya’s suggestion, there is no reason not to also rank things like number of Lieutenants killed.
Another fun one in Guild Wars was published a long time ago, with only the top ten, was the people with the most Sunspear and Lightbringer points. Now this was in the waning days of The Scribe articles ArenaNet was posting, and in hindsight it appears they were scrambling for content. But, I agree with Sanya that it was fun to see nonetheless (even if I wasn’t listed as person 483,237). What both showings have in common is that they are fun statistics with little showing of worth as a player. For example, the person with the most Sunspear points (133,166 M B End) had nearly three times the amount necessary to gain all mechanical benefits.
The harm to community arises when the community starts to believe that somehow the leaderboards show a person’s inaccurate worth as a player. Take Guild Wars Hero title, which is a tiered ranking system showing the amount of Fame a player has received from playing Heroes’ Ascent. Really what it shows is how much time that player has spent in Heroes’ Ascent. Players forming teams for PvP began to exclude anybody below a certain rank because it was an easy way to find “better” players. Players with hours worth of Fame were simply snubbed because of the ranking system.
There is also the Gear Score in World of Warcraft, which calculates arbitrary numbers to show a player’s equipment. The community took it upon themselves to use this tool to rank each other. While on some level the Gear Score can actually help determine that a player’s equipment simply is not good enough for the specific challenge, there have been plenty of posts on the elitism the ranking system created. All Blizzard can really do is laugh at themselves.
I think that solution is partly in Sanya’s list of helpful tips in that developers should rank everything. The more information players have the less chance that the community will hone in on one number. I would love to see the amount of kobolds I’ve killed in Dungeons and Dragons Online, or the amount of times I have used Rallying Cry in Lord of the Rings Online, or the number of feathers I’ve looted in Guild Wars. The amount of information would just crush the creation of a simple score that defines the worth of player.
you judge too easily, Merlin