When someone behaves badly in a game, players want to see some punishment. This is true anywhere on line, in fact. We need to clamp down. We need to punish.
Let me tell you something interesting.
Behavioural psychology identifies three methods of reinforcement that can be used to modify behaviour. Positive reinforcement (reward), negative reinforcement (removal of something bad) and punishment. It also tells us, overwhelmingly, that their level of success is in the order above. An awful lot of literature points out that positive reinforcement is more effective than punishment. Some more recent work suggests a combination can also be effective in certain circumstances, but that combination still leaves positive reinforcement playing a role.
League of Legends is hugely successful, but is well known for having one of the most toxic playerbases of any game. LoL has done the whole punishing thing, but that didn’t really clean up their playerbase. LoL, however, has its own Player Behaviour Team and those experts know their basic psychology. The solution? The Honor system. Honor is a currency you earn by being awesome. After each match, other players can say if they thought you were ‘Friendly’. Be friendly or helpful enough, and your Honor will accrue to let you buy things such as skins.
Carrots in SWTOR
LoL is not the only game to try this. In PvP in SWTOR, you can vote for the man of the match. It’s a simple thing. It gives you a minute bonus to your currency gain, but it makes players feel good. It also demonstrates the problem, however, with rewarding good behaviour. If you are doing your PvP with a friend, you always vote them as man of the match.
What might carrots look like in WoW?
Both of these systems give you a reward. Actually, you don’t need the reward – the positive reinforcement alone is probably effective. MMO players, however, like rewards. They like to collect stuff, they like to get epic gear and pets. However, any reward would be subject to the problem in SWTOR. Only in WoW, it would be exaggerated. People would offer votes for money and gold. Its hard to see how any reward system in WoW would not be open to abuse. That isn’t a reason not to introduce some positive reinforcement into the game, however.
Imagine you ran LFR. At the end you get a list of players and you can give positive (and only positive) feedback to them. The other day I went out of my way to praise the healers in an LFR. They were doing a great job and I thought they deserved to hear it. Make that systematic. If I want to say ‘tank you were awesome’ I should be able to. There is no record, no reward, no ‘look at me I have more of this than you’. Just a moment of positive reinforcement that enhances someones experience of playing the game.