The Trickledown Theory

The “Trickledown Theory,” also called the “Contraposition to the Vocal Minority Theory… Theory,” is fairly simple: The mood and opinions of the vocal minority can have widespread impact on those of the voiceless majority.

The “Vocal Minority Theory,” as I understand it, goes something like this: The thoughts and opinions of a small but outspoken segment of a population are of little concern, as they are not accurately representative of the majority.

Oftentimes when I or someone else brings up the concerns of a group of community members (whether its in an official capacity or simply in casual conversation), the immediate rebuttal is that they are the “vocal minority.” There’s no cause for concern or necessarily validity to their arguments, because they are the few who feel the way they do.

I agree with this to a certain extent–when there are one or two people passionately in opposition (or concord) on a particular subject, there is no cause for concern. However, there are many times in which the vocal minority happens to be a few dozen or even a few hundred people. When compared to the population of a relatively successful online game, their opinions are no big deal, right? That’s where I disagree with most people.

It just so happens that many of the members of an online gaming community who fall into the vocal minority category also fall into another rather important one: influential community members. These players like to talk–they like to be heard, and they are sometimes armchair lawyers (they won’t give up hurling their opinions at you until you agree with them).

While those who make up the vocal minority aren’t always guild leaders or even officers, they sometimes have a wide social network both inside and outside the game. Eventually, the opinions of these few can become the accepted opinions of a larger portion of the community. That larger portion of the community spreads the opinion to other members of the community, and it ultimately can become part of the canon of a game.

I’ve observed whole classes in games be deemed “useless” by the majority of a community because of constant preaching by members of the vocal minority. Classes that were, surprisingly enough, not at all useless and potentially more powerful than many others. It’s the power of opinion and social programming.

Keeping the vocal minority happy should always be a concern if you want your game’s general populous to remain so. Should you bend to their will and implement exactly what they demand? Probably not, but you should take their opinions into consideration and act accordingly.

If you still don’t understand the Trickledown Theory, please feel free to comment and I can elaborate more on the subject. Coming up sometime soon: a related theory! I like to call it the Big Bang Theory of Nerfing, which discusses social dynamics and the grand scheme impact a minor change can have in a game.

22 Responses to "The Trickledown Theory"

Comments are currently closed for a server migration!

Return to Ryan Shwayder's Nerfbat »