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Information Cascade in SW: BF2 Controversy

Although the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront II game has been highly anticipated, sudden controversy that occurred right before the release has caused a wild community backlash. In response to a user comment on how the iconic Darth Vader character was not unlocked from the start, an EA employee posted an “explanation” on Reddit, a popular social news aggregation site, that was met with a flood of down-votes. In fact, the number of down votes that the employee was faced was broke records, with more than 600,000 down-votes becoming the single most down-voted comment in Reddit history.

For some background information, the site utilizes an up-vote/down-vote system to help moderate discussion, with up-votes helping making comments more visible, and down-votes obfuscating comments. The intent of the system is to up-vote comments that facilitate discussion, while down-voting those that are not on topic. However, a common use case is to instead up-vote comments that one agrees with and down-voting those that are in conflict with ones beliefs, whether or not the comment actually facilitates discussion.

The question is, how does this apply to the topics presented in class? A plausible explanation for the flood of down-votes is through information cascades. Most people when presented with EA have a negative signal (the company voted as one of the worst companies in all time for multiple years). However, the comment that EA posted is not immediately seen as negative. In fact, one unfamiliar with the shadier business tactics of the company (e.g. fostering addiction through micro-transactions in games) would perhaps have a positive signal through the comment. On the outside, it appears that the company is listening to the community and trying to promote change. In fact, for the first few hours of the comment’s life span, it did not suffer many down-votes. Although most people had negative signals (those who had experience with EA in the past), some others could have had positive signals (those whose only source of information was the comment), which caused oscillations in the up-vote counts. However, as the chain of negative signals increased and the down-votes counter sunk lower and lower, it is likely that some disregarded their positive signals and instead participated in this down-vote information cascade.

However, there is one small caveat. In the situation presented in class, each person could see the individual selection of all the people beforehand. In this case, one can only see a difference measure (number of people up-voting minus the number of people down-voting). In addition, there are many people voting simultaneously. Although this is a slight difference from the traditional information cascade scheme, the overall concept still applies.

Link: http://digg.com/2017/most-downvoted-post-reddit-ea-star-wars-battlefront

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