Thursday, October 12, 2006

Vox Populi, Vox Dei

Allow me to introduce myself - I’m GreyPawn… and I’m a Community Manager. Admitting it is the first step to recovery, I’m told.

Kidding aside, I’m different from my colleagues here, in that while my pedigree certainly contains a heavily MMO-centric theme, the community I manage is based in the real-time strategy genre. This brings me to the very first subject I’d like to touch briefly on - the proliferation of community management in the games industry.

It is interesting to note that since the advent of the very first video games, communities have naturally formed around them, as they are apt to do with any entertaining pastime. Until the widespread adoption of the internet in the 90’s the scope of these communities tended to be limited by technological and geographical constraints. With the relative freedom of exchange provided by the net, communities that were relegated to the arcade or BBS were suddenly given room to grow. A lot more room.

In that iteration came some of the early communities built around the more popular releases. As the first genre-defining titles were released, the communities that naturally coalesced around them took on their own unique flavor and demeanor. As developers were further pushed by their public for more and more information and interaction, community management was born. Only until the recent advent of the MMO genre has the profession reached any kind of maturity. MMOs and to a lesser extent any game with a multiplayer aspect have much higher demand for communicating with communities.

The bulk of players in these games are no longer playing in the worlds we create, but rather living in them. The demand for assurance and interaction from those responsible for the well-being of these part-time lives of players has increased as a result, and we are seeing the effects across the board as more and more developers and publishers bring on Community Managers. Well, the smart ones, I should say. The unfortunate industry hardliners who refuse to engage their public in meaningful discourse with a unified voice will predictably soon find even their die-hard loyalists gravitating towards the more cohesive social structures of the competition.


At 4:14 AM, Blogger Garthilk said...

Heya Pawn,

I think more than anything the profession of CM'ing really hasn't reached maturity yet, and that as a whole it's barely left it's infancy. However, the growth in the last 10 years is still pretty amazing. The market and need for structured communities is more apparent today than ever before. What it indicates is that, like an enormous leisure class, gamers have had the time, money and option to pursue their own interests within a group. I think it's wonderful really.

But really I think we're still in the toddler stages. As you said many developers, and especially publishers have yet to recognize the significance of the CM.

From an outside perspective I've heard of MMO developers having to goto their publishers and justify the need for a CM. IMO, if the need isn't apparent already, well there's something wrong with the publisher.

So while it's perfectly clear to some at least the absolute need, it's clear from my perspective at least we've got a long ways to go before we reach maturity, or even our early adulthood as a profession.

Course, this is all from the perspective of a habitual fan site maker.

At 11:18 AM, Blogger evolve pr said...

I wrote an article for Next-Gen that touches on community management as a necessary element of any PR/marketing campaign:
It's amazing, though, how many companies still don't see it that way. Watch the best-sellers lists... the games that have strong community support -- or which have features that promote community -- are the ones that stay on the list week after week. Companies that rely solely on PR and advertising leading up to a game launch will see their games quickly fall off the list.


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