games “Video games have evolved from a standalone product into vibrant online communities,” says one expert. Kitfox Games, publishers of titles like Dwarf Fortress and the upcoming Boyfriend Dungeon, employs Victoria Tran in the role of community manager.
It’s a pivotal position in today’s gaming industry, as developers and publishers may communicate directly with gamers via forums, social media, and in-game chat.
Managers of online communities are tasked with a wide variety of tasks, including data collection, advising developers on features to add, coordinating marketing efforts, and creating new communities from the bottom up. This position requires more than just tweeting.
“The bit [players] can see, it’s the tip of the iceberg,” explains Grace Carroll, community and social media manager at Total War creator Creative Assembly.
“Games are, primarily and ultimately, produced for players to enjoy; thus, it is essential to include the community’s voice within the studio. As crucial as it is to serve as a go-between, our responsibilities also include developing strategies, preparing reports, and offering advice.
“I tell the uninitiated that community management is essentially PR for the consumers you already have,” says Harris Foster, community manager at Finji, a collaborative game studio known for games like Wilmot’s Warehouse and the upcoming Tunic. “Being the throughline from developer to the player,” is defined as “connecting with your existing customers, offering support, and being an open ear.”
It is essential for community managers to be present where their communities already exist, which involves engaging with them on numerous social media sites. According to Carroll, “the first thing [I do] every day is to catch up on whatever I might have missed overnight.”
I’ll be keeping up with our subreddit, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. While it’s impossible to address every concern, community managers who stay abreast of developments are better able to provide feedback on emerging themes.
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Foster states that he spends a major portion of his day making social media promotions for Finji’s games, after which he turns to social media again to address requests from enthusiast press and streams. “I’ll be creating internet memes, for lack of a better term,” he continues.
On the other hand, he stresses that there’s more to community management than just making sales. I’m really pleased with our Discord server, he says. As the band members put it, “We didn’t want it to feel like we were in some sort of elitist ivory tower when people came here to interact with us.”
Most of the time, we are representing only ourselves rather than our organisation. Yes, this is a promotional tool we’re trying to keep people interested in our games, but it’s also where many of us go to vent about our days and swap memes.
As proof, he reads an online review that raves about the restaurant’s waffles for breakfast. (There’s an entire baking-themed channel on the server called “ALL BREDD ALL THE TIME.” Some of the best bakers in the area are here.
At times, Discord will gain new members who aren’t quite accustomed to its chill vibe. Finji has released Tunic, an action-adventure game starring a cute fox with a little sword. A single programmer, Andrew Shouldice, is responsible for its development, hence progress is slow. Some fans are more tactful than others when asking for a release date.
Feel free to relax and have fun hanging out with us.
“Every once in a while, someone will stop by and be like ‘Yo, tick tock, where’s Tunic?’ And I feel like I’ve been waiting forever,'” Foster exclaims. And it’ll get, not shut down rudely, but by people who have been in [the Discord server] for a while and are like, “yeah, no, we’re all waiting, you’re harshing our vibe, just chill out and hang out with us and be cool.”
Foster, some of the other Finji developers, and a few volunteers who are close to them moderate the server, but Foster claims that it is becoming increasingly self-policing. He claims that the low barriers to entry and the resulting high quality of participation mean that they almost never have to ban anyone. “Most of the people that come in seem to grasp it, and those who don’t tend to leave really quickly.”
Tran is passionate about laying the groundwork for communities built on kindness. (Before the cancellation of her session at this year’s GDC, she was scheduled to speak on the topic.) “If you’re a community manager, you get to construct your own tiny social structure,” she explains.
Three Kingdoms: Total War.
Both she and Foster stress the significance of rules and how to avoid “rules lawyering,” which is when someone argues against the clear intent of the rules or looks for loopholes to rationalise their behaviour. However, they both arrive at their intended result in distinctive ways.
According to AD Foster, the regulations of the Finji Discord server are purposefully ambiguous. Main rules include things like “be friendly” and “use common sense,” with additional rules covering things like “any type of harassment, abuse, conjecture, or hate speech will not be accepted under any situation,” giving Finji the option to kick out anyone who causes a disturbance.
Foster explains, “Being in our Discord is a privilege rather than a right because we are not an internet service, we do not charge a fee, and we are just indie games.” Because we want to, not because you have to… We should be spending our time making games instead of debating the rules.
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The trolls aren’t the only ones who can be a pain, after all.
Tran is one who values precision. Someone will act rudely even if you tell them, “Be polite, don’t be a dick,” and then they’ll say, “Well, I wasn’t really being a dick because…”
You should therefore be as clear as possible. Rules establish a baseline for how members of a community are expected to behave with one another. She adds that rule breakers who aren’t obnoxious trolls frequently respond positively to direct, one-on-one explanations of why their actions were inappropriate. “Quite frequently,” you hear, “they turn into ambassadors for your town.”
Carroll stresses there is no silver bullet for keeping neighbourhoods peaceful and secure. It’s hardly unexpected that Tran and Foster take different approaches to encourage that kind of behaviour, given the need for adaptability and making concessions to the unique characteristics of each community.
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