Video Game Community Management, by Gamers, for Gamers The intricacies of the Internet are plenty – from inside jokes, to popular memes, to trolling, to the darkest alleys of the web. These complexities are often foreign to most people but as gamers you grow up in and live these stories, legends, and myths. So what’s the benefit of having people who were raised in the digital sandbox managing your online video game communities? From a marketing point of view, providing a community management service is something that most people in the communication industry could do. That might be true for most communities, but then we all know that some groups of people have these bizarre quirks and habits. Gamers are definitely one of those communities, so if you’re planning on outsourcing your community management, it’s important to select a company with proven gaming expertise. What are the Benefits of Using Gamers? Imagine, for a second, being thrown into a group of people you don’t know and don’t share any common interests with, but those people all have one thing in common. Obviously they’ll start talking about the common denominator and you’ll soon start to feel left out. Now imagine trying your best to fit in and get involved in the conversation. Chances are they’ll be slinging inside jokes left and right and using specialized references and language that you just can’t keep up with. Eventually you retreat to the background and resolve to just let the ‘cool kids’ hang. Gamers are very much like this, so using a nongamer to try to relate to these groups of people and nurture a healthy and active community with them is going to be tough, if not impossible. But the benefit of having a gamer manage your video gaming community doesn’t stop there. Not only are they up to speed and able to talk to the community as their peers, they’ve also experienced a lot of similar problems that your community might be having with the game. They can understand the frustration and can think how it is they would’ve wanted to be treated. Through past experiences they might even be able to help you pinpoint what the real underlying problem is or at least point you in the right direction of what you need to fix. This, of course, is only reactive community management. The real strength of having a gamer manage your video game community is in the way that they can be proactive! It’s not necessarily a community manager’s job to discuss suggestions to the game itself, but they often have a good idea of what a gaming community would really like to see – sometimes before the community itself realizes they want it! Imagine being able to anticipate community requests for game updates and features. Not only does your reputation as a developer skyrocket because you’re able to act so quickly on the wishes of the players, the community around your game will also grow. Gamers are
very social beings, and the recommendation of one gamer to another is pretty much as holy as it gets (especially if your last name is Newell – then pretty much everything you say is gospel). The community suggestions for your game work both ways as well. As many gems as your community might bring forward, there will be an abundance of unusable suggestions. A gamer acting as community manager can quickly see what could be viable and what isn’t. They can also explain to the players why a certain suggestion is feasible and why another one isn’t. On top of this they can also explain it in the gamers’ own ‘language’, if you will. This is what most developers lack; they give a very technical description of why suggestion X wouldn’t work. Something about the 33 Rack server load that wouldn’t sync up properly to the Flux capacitor which would cause a major malfunction in the mothership mainframe. An experienced gamer in the position of community manager can translate this to something your players will understand. So your community manager would be a great filter for suggestions, meaning the developer will only get the finest selection of practical player suggestions. Another benefit of using a gamer for your game community management project is the way they will understand your game. They’ll be able to work through it fast, and understand it thoroughly. A lot of companies make the mistake of not letting their community manager actually play the game, but it’s an essential part of the job. Video game community managers need to know the game inside out. They need to know how the monetization works, what the current bugs are – everything. This can only be achieved by playing. A lot. The benefit then, of having a gamer as a community manager, is clear. He/she won’t be ’noobing’ around, coming to terms with basic gameplay mechanisms, or figuring out keyboard controls. It’ll be second nature, which means the learning process will be much faster and efficient. They’ll also be able to pick up on new bugs when they see them. Of course, your community manager should be expertly versed in handling Facebook, Twitter, and forums, as well as knowing how to deal with fansites, fan groups, bloggers, etc. The benefits you’re reading here are what distinguishes a mediocre video game community manager from a great one! Why Outsource? While most companies think that keeping their community management projects in-house is the best course of action, this is not always the case. The main advantage to outsourcing your project is the bridge that it provides for communication. The way that internal community managers operate is often clouded by their proximity to the game developers and the ethos of the company. Out of house community managers have the ability to step aside and view your game not only with fresh eyes, but with the eyes of a fan. This means that they can bring ideas to the table that your internal team may not necessarily have thought of.
Additionally, as part of an agency, out of house teams usually have the advantage of having worked with a variety of different developers and games. This gives them a much broader knowledge set that often extends beyond the reach of your internal community mangers’ experience. They already know what works and what doesn’t, so they won’t waste time blundering around, ineffectually trying to engage your community. In order to get the most out of your network, it’s essential to use community managers who are gamers, but it’s also worth considering outsourcing your project. In closing, a fine example of good customer support and community management: - How many GMs (Game Masters) does it take to screw in a light bulb? - Two – one to screw in the light bulb and another to apologize for the inconvenience it’s caused.
NASA hire rocket scientists, so why would gaming companies hire non-gamers as community managers? When it comes to online gaming communities...