356/366 – Meeting The Communities

If you end up working in Community in the games industry, it’s no secret that a lot of the days are going to be spent trying to dodge verbal bullets and sometimes explosions from the players you are responsible for shepherding. Whether they’re pissed about a patch that didn’t work out correctly or a quote from a developer that went awry, there are days when being in games at the forefront of player feedback is a bit painful.

But a lot of that can be washed away when you think about the fact that community meetups, where players get to spend a bit of offline time with members of the development team, are a sometimes common event in the industry. Whether it’s at a convention or at an event organized specifically for the game in question, the community meetup has long since been a way for community professionals to both plan something that is good for the players as well as take a little bit of the edge off of having to deal with online barbs all of the time. It’s also an opportunity for players themselves to get a good look at and have conversations with people who normally are pretty distant from them as far as interaction is concerned.

Meetups are more than just “face to name”, however. They’re a way to humanize the person behind the username or the forum icon, a way to attach something just a little more real than what is displayed to people in front of a computer screen. In being at a bunch of community meetups, I’ve discovered that even the most critical of players at least learn to have a little more respect for the developers and for other industry professionals when they’re actually talking with them as opposed to typing to them. Certainly part of this may be because of the fact that immediate consequences exist for someone mouthing off to someone’s face as opposed to over the internet, but I also think that another part of it could be the fact that meetups are designed to build community in a way that creates a real connection between developers and players – something that both parties can take back to the internet and relay to others that couldn’t be there.

I’ve never really failed to see a meetup that didn’t result in a positive experience for at least a few players that attend. Some of the more prominent personalities, both on the development and on the player side of things, become just a little bit more real when it comes to having a meetup happen in a city or at a convention somewhere. ┬áThat realness, I think, is what makes some of what gets experienced online almost worth it. I say almost because of the fact that there are some things that community people go through online in the course of dealing with their players that no amount of meeting up will help them with. But for the most part, when you meet your players, you meet, in essence, a community that is interested in and has only a small idea of what it’s like to not just develop a game but to work for one. To help them understand a little bit better what that’s like is one of the core tenets of the community manager, and even if you only manage to impact just one person by giving them that insight, that’s worth a ton more when their real life meeting translates into a better understanding online.

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