SOWING SEEDS OF DISTRUST: VIDEO GAME PLAYER PERCEPTIONS OF COMPANIES IN ONLINE FORUMS
Video games have become a major source of entertainment across the globe. Along with this growth as a form of leisure, video game companies have recognized the importance of the communities and cultures that consumers build around their products. Fans establish identities linked to their gaming habits, whether they are playing games themselves or viewing games played by professionals. Fans also participate in communities, often facilitated through online forums. As part of this, fans discuss, express, and assess their relationship with the companies in charge of their hobbies. How do fans establish and negotiate trust with these companies and why might consumer trust to lapse? This project analyzes approximately 2,500 online forum posts from video game players and esports viewers to understand their perspectives on the companies involved in these spaces. Ultimately, the landscape appears to be developing increasing negativity where fans feel exploited and progressively concerned about company decisions. Fans have called into question the quality of video games and esports streams, motivations for specific decisions behind the scenes, and whether or not their actions as fans reward companies who are using them to meet a specific financial goal. A sense of common knowledge is developed that certain companies will make decisions at the perceived expense of the audience to increase profit. Although these sentiments are not present for all forum users, these discussions reveal increasing negative associations toward specific companies, games, and franchises.