I can sum up this experience in 7 words; passionate nerd-fest with a side of awesomeness. The anticipation of getting inside, the energy levels on the exhibit floor, the excitement of the latest thing, the video games obviously and the people watching makes me want to attend year after year.
I was able to attend a handful of sessions, but I’d like to focus on two that made the biggest impression on me; “Online Gaming Communities and ‘Real Life’ Relationships” and “What the Heck is a Community Manager”
The goal of the “Online Gaming Communities and “Real Life” Relationships session was to discuss the communities we all have created and support, and how they impact real life relationships for gamers of all types. Basically, the relationships we form online, translate into tangible relationships offline by means of casual acquaintances, friendships or as far as marriage in the case of Morgan Romine (Frag Dolls Manager & PhD Candidate, Ubisoft) and her husband whom she met on Xbox LIVE. It turned into a very personal discussion and it was apparent just how affected the panelists were from their online interactions. Hamza Aziz (Community Director, Destructoid) went as far to say that “Online communities saved my life.”
Trolling is a product of online anonymity.
Online communities are social support systems.
What offline relationships have you formed as a direct result of online interactions?
The goal of the “What the Heck is a Community Manager” session was really to address what he or she does and why there is a growing number of community management positions at publishers and development studios. This was especially interesting. The attendee turnout was phenomenal. The panelists mostly spoke about their career paths, all of which were different. And each touched upon how they manage their respective communities.
There’s no direct path to becoming a community manager. Use the skills you have, network and be passionate.
Moderation of an online community is like giving a colonoscopy…you’re always in there looking for something wrong.
What words of advice would you give an aspiring community manager?
The Exhibit Hall
Ok, here’s the fun stuff. Armed with my iPhone and a Flip Cam, I set out to capture the essence of the event. Enjoy!
The online community manager’s role as we know it only recently exploded as a sought after career within the past 5 years. Little do people know that online community managers have been around since I had my Atari 2600. Why am I mentioning a 30 year old home video game console? Well, because gamers have been forming communities to share cheats, tips and codes since the introduction of Pong.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Sam Houston, the community manager at Playfish EA in San Francisco. Sam was nice enough to carve out some time from his busy schedule (His baby, Monopoly Millionaires, launched this past week, check it out!) to chat with me on the differences and similarities of community managers within the gaming industry and their corporate/enterprise counterparts.
Dan: First off, do you refer to yourself as a community manager?
Sam: It really depends on the company. At Playfish, my official title is “Online Content Manager.” It straddles many disciplines; marketing, content management, community management, project management. One thing it doesn’t cover is moderation and enforcing community guidelines. Those functions are left up to the Community Admin that oversees the forums.
Dan: Hmmm, that sounds very familiar [The Many Hats of Community Managers].
Dan: Do you have a nickname for community managers like me? White-collar? Suit? Enterpriser? Corps? I promise I won’t be offended if there is one.
Sam: No, not to my knowledge. I belong to quite a few gaming communities and there’s no mention or reference to any such nickname.
Dan: Bummer. If I was gaming community manager, I’d definitely make one up.
Dan: Have gaming community managers ever made the leap to the enterprise? Or vice versa? Is this frowned upon? How do you get your foot in the door?
Sam: I can’t speak for all, but I started on the fan side of things. I started my own website. Soon after, a game developer ended up contacting me and asked if they could host my site. I ended up working for them and have been on this side of community management ever since. I would suspect that most start the same way. Compensation is structured very differently. You don’t become a gaming community manager for the big bucks. These are super passionate people. They’re in it for the pure love of the industry.
Dan: What are your primary responsibilities as an online content manager?
Sam: Email campaigns, copy-writing, bug tracking and resolution, feature requests management.
Dan: Hmmm, that also sounds familiar [The Many Hats of Community Managers].
Dan: What’s the most difficult part of being an online content manager?
Sam: Keeping my finger on the pulse of the community. Always being aware of what’s going on. I’m so busy; there are not enough hours in a day.
Dan: What sort of analytics do you care about?
Sam: Daily Active Users count, or DAU. It’s all about getting members to come back and play again.
Dan: Ah, sort of sounds like our Active Participants metric
Dan: Lastly, anything else we should know about the gaming world and its community managers?
Sam: It’s continually evolving. Even though the role is nothing new, we’re still trying to figure it out; especially now with social gaming on social sites, mobile apps and in-app purchases. There’s always a new challenge.
Have you ever wondered about your counterpart in the gaming industry? Were you surprised by some of Sam’s responses? While you mull it over, check out Monopoly Millionaires on Facebook. I’m off to build some hotels…