I find myself wondering how much the phrasing of a particular game effect changes the way people think about it. In particular there are a few new mechanics in the Cataclysm expansion for WOW that are obviously set up to abuse the perception of a bonus instead of a penalty. The new guild levelling system has a number of different bonuses you can get for your guild members including bonuses to getting gear with faster Honour and Hero Points as well as other percentage bonuses to gathering, mount speed, etc.
All of these things are phrased as a bonus, never as a penalty. The idea of course is that we look at all the shiny new things we are going to get and rejoice instead of being frustrated at having to overcome a deficit but any really objective look at the system must conclude that Blizzard will balance around everyone having these bonuses maxed out and anyone not having them is at a disadvantage. The initial stages will be full of people being excited by getting all these new things but I foresee that very quickly they will change from celebrated bonuses to mandatory requirements.
In particular this is going to be a real mess when starting a new guild. It will be very difficult to convince anyone to join a guild where they gain gear 9% slower, receive less resources when the mine/herb/skin and even move slower. That initial perception of 'bonus' is going to rapidly become 'required' and any new guild is going to have a hell of a hard time getting people in since they have to be that much better than an established guild. There are some bonuses that won't have this effect like the mass resurrect that will be usable in instances but any numeric bonus that directly affects the player's income and gear acquisition is going to be seen as required and guilds without them are going to have a terrible time getting new players. In my mind this is a very bad thing; players should be encouraged to join whichever guilds suit them socially rather than being very substantially rewarded for sticking with whoever has been around a long time. It may also lead to people selling guilds that have levelled up to others because of the real value in the guild name now - this might actually prove a dramatic problem when people get hacked.
A similar thing occurred when I played a game of FMB this weekend against a new player. He seemed to like the game overall but didn't like the fact that every space on the gameboard was either a neutral space or a space with movement penalties associated - no space actually gives bonuses to anything. I wonder if I should try to incorporate some bonus effects on various spots on the board. There are certainly many places in the game where I made the decision to phrase things as a bonus instead of a penalty because I find I get very strong negative feedback about effects that penalize opponents instead of providing a boost to the owner. I don't want to pander to this entirely though since a few 'screw you' effects are fine but I certainly make the vast majority of abilities work to increase the caster instead of disadvantage the opponent. It is a tricky balance to strike.