197/366 – Community Manager Line of Credit In Games
There’s a few intangibles that a community person in games comes to understand once they’ve been working with players for a while. Perception of the game, the quickness with which developers respond, the advantage (or disadvantage) of very active social media from the studio – all of these aren’t really able to be measured in any exact amount but nevertheless contribute to how a community of players views a title on the market and on that title’s official channels.
One of the most interesting intangibles is something I like to call the “line of credit” as it applies to Community Management in games. I like to define it as the measure of latitude and understanding a community gives to a developer or a community manager to deal with the inevitable issues an active game faces. Everyone knows that a game isn’t going to run perfectly all the time, and when it doesn’t, how understanding the community is about that depends on how much credit the community manager has built with its players.
How is this credit earned? Well, that’s dependent on the work the community person does to make players trust them. They can be responsive to an issue that players are concerned about. They can not only promise that something will be fixed on time, but also then do the work to ensure that it actually happens when that time shows up. They can, in a very visible manner, display that they are listening to their players on a huge problem and acknowledge something that players have strong feelings about, and get answers about it. In other words, it’s things that have a positive influence on how players view the way developers work with them on game feedback.
With a healthy line of credit, a huge server crash, big mistake on the part of the developers, an exploit that forces features to be disabled – all the bad things that can sometimes inevitably happen in a game are a lot easier for players to see as realistic events that can happen and for them to trust not only the studio’s ability to fix the problem but also the promises of the community manager or other developers that get posted. But just like a real credit card, the danger of maxing out that line of credit through too many issues or bad things that happen or aren’t addressed, means that the community begins to become distrustful of the development team – a difficult hole for a community manager to dig the studio out of. It’s a real balance that’s needed to be maintained, and the soft skill required to keep it going is one of the CM’s best and most valued tools in their tool belt. I’ve personally seen games with lots of “line of credit” and games that had none, and the difference is staggering. It behooves every studio to understand the value of being able to do this, because it can pay dividends in the long run.