This week I caught up with Zach Boasberg, a Player Experience Specialist for Rovio Entertainment Corporation. We recently published a Rovio case study (“Promoting a Welcoming Player Environment“) that we collaborated on with Zach earlier this year. I wanted to get his thoughts on the content moderation and the current state of the industry.
Zach has an incredible knowledge of and passion for fostering awesome player experiences, so I was very excited to hear his insights.
Carlos Figueiredo: Can you describe a day in the life of a Player Experience Specialist at Rovio? What drives your purpose in this area of work?
Zach Boasberg: As part of the Player Experience team, my focus is on bridging the gap between the players and the developers making the games. On a daily basis, I’m using the different player touchpoints at my disposal (support tickets, player communities, reviews) to get an understanding of how our players feel, what they like and dislike, and then bringing that feedback to the developers in a constructive manner.
I care about our players having the best experiences possible in our games, not just because I play games myself and know how they feel, but because ultimately happy players means better business. So I’m always on the lookout for where the pain points are, and making sure that anyone that chooses to play one of our games has a lot of fun!
CF: Many companies still look at designing a positive community and having content moderation as a necessary evil and a cost center. We know that it’s quite the contrary: content moderation is a fundamental piece of a sound strategy to reach new users, retain them, and increase revenue. How does this play a factor at Rovio?
ZB: Social elements are a feature of many of our games, as it’s a great way to keep players engaged. Being able to chat with other people and make friends, or collaborate with a team, is a great driver for retention.
But players aren’t going to want to come back to your game if they have bad experiences while interacting with these social features. This is why we see content moderation as an important part of the puzzle.
By doing what we can to ensure that the interactions players have in our games are consistently positive, friendly, and safe, we’re optimizing the return we get on the social features we’ve invested in.
Ultimately, players want these social interactions, and I don’t see that demand slowing down. So we definitely see it as worthwhile to make sure our social features are as polished as any other feature we put in the game, and that includes having robust content moderation.
CF: We just collaborated with you and your team on a case study. One of the highlights for me is how you have operationalized mechanisms for a positive, welcoming, and safe community across all the games you produce. Why does that matter to you and the team?
ZB: When we began strategizing on how we wanted to approach content moderation, the first key consideration that popped up is our brands. We’ve of course got a very strong brand in our Angry Birds franchise, but we also have our Rovio brand as a game company.
Many of our players know us as a company, and we have a commitment to meet expectations of quality when it comes to Rovio games.
Therefore, by ensuring first that we have a solid baseline of settings for our content moderation, we’re making it so that our players can know they’ll have a consistently safe and fun experience when engaging in social features in any of our games. And in this way, we’re also protecting the integrity of our brands.
However, the other side of it is that our games are quite diverse, and the different communities of each game might have different needs or expectations. So while we’ve decided at a high level what sort of interactions are never OK in our games, we’ve also left room to tailor our content moderation to different genres.
A clear example is that while players in one of our competitive player-versus-player games might expect to be able to trash talk their opponents a bit, that sort of behavior could come across more strongly as bullying in a casual puzzle game.
We try to remain aware of these genre and community specific considerations, and balance having spaces where players can talk they way they’d like, without allowing disruptive players the room to cause harm.
CF: What’s your favorite thing about the community of Rovio players? What makes it unique?
ZB: We have an amazing community of players, and I think part of what makes them so great is their passion! Our fans, especially our Angry Birds fans, love the games as much as we do. They’re also not shy about making their voices heard!
Any time we’re able to hear directly from our players is great, because it gives us a lot of insight, and helps us make even better games.
CF: Last question: How has 2020 fundamentally changed the way you and your team work to ensure players have a positive and welcoming experience? What is the biggest lesson you learned so far this year?
ZB: I think the biggest point we’ve reaffirmed this year has been that content moderation is not something that can be set up once and then forgotten about. Having an automated filter is an important tool as a first line of defense, but if you never go back to check what’s being filtered or not filtered, you miss out on optimizing the overall experience.
On top of that, user generated content is always evolving and changing. This means it’s necessary to stay on top of what’s going on in your communities. This all adds up to taking a proactive approach and treating content moderation as a persistent function, rather than a one-off task.
CF: Thank you for your time today, Zach!
ZB: My pleasure, Carlos!
About Zach Boasberg:
Zach is originally from near Boston in the United States, but has been living in Helsinki, Finland since 2015, and has been a Player Experience Specialist at Rovio since 2017. A passionate gamer himself, Zach enjoys being able to interact directly with players and help craft great gaming experiences for them.