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Online Community Management: Communication Through Gamers
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Online Community Management: Communication Through Gamers


April 1, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 8 Next
 

What is a gaming community?

A community is basically something very simple: it's just a group of people, gathering somewhere to talk and exchange ideas about one or several subjects. There have been gaming communities for ages, but they began to grow bigger and stronger with the internet.

Of course, in the past, to gather with your community, you needed to meet somewhere in your city, or travel a long way to see your fellow community members -- or even use snail mail. With the internet, all you need is push the power button of your computer, have an internet connection, and be able to read and write something barely understandable.

Beyond all sociological considerations, a gaming community is a group of people from all around the world, gathering mainly on internet to talk about games. And more specifically, about your games, whether you want it or not.

To build a gaming community, the players just need a game to talk about, and a place for discussion. Most of the time, it all starts with a forum, a few people, a lot of passion about a game. That doesn't mean that it will be a healthy or constructive community. That doesn't mean it will grow bigger and bigger, and spread your word all over the internet. That doesn't mean it will be of any use for you, whether you are a developer, a publisher or a player. It simply means that it exists.

But beyond technical tools like a website or a forum, a real community is characterized by something that's not material: community spirit. This strange thing expresses itself in many ways, but the point of it, in the end, is to keep the players together.

It is what motivates players to write strategy guides for other players, to create fan sites, to lead guilds, to create events on their own, to post on the forums even when they're not looking for any specific information, to give more than they receive, and so on.

In the end, community spirit is what makes players feel they're part of something bigger, and sometimes, an important part of this "something".

Networks and Meta-Communities

As community websites grow, they often join a network and contribute to build a meta-community. Not all networks are meta-communities, but all meta-communities are networks in some way.

Website networks are just gatherings of many websites in a similar web architecture, to share tools, structures, costs and audience in an overall scaled economy. Some of the best-known networks are lead by professional editorial teams which create many specialized sites to expand their audience and land more advertising, but they may also be lead by regular gamers willing to provide others with information about their hobby.

It can be hard to tell the difference between a community, a network and a meta-community, but again, it's all in the "community spirit".

A meta-community is a community of communities. Basically, it works like a network, with many fan sites and forums linked to each other on a same platform, but beyond the audience, these fan sites will share their community to create a bigger one with common rules, codes and habits the newcomers will have to understand before being integrated. Even if they play very different games, the people will still feel part of a unique community, and that is the whole difference between networks and meta-communities.

As it can be very difficult to distinguish a network from a meta-community without being part of it, here are some examples to discover: JeuxOnline.info (French), GuildCafe.com, The Warcry Network, and Stratics Central.

Community Migration

Some people in our industry say, "Players come for the game, and stay for the people". That's not totally true. Indeed, some players may begin playing a game simply because it's attractive to them, but very often they just go from a game to the other to follow the people they play with -- their friends, their community. We can call it "community migration", and it's a very common fact in multiplayer gaming.

Go on a popular gaming forum and you'll see a lot of topics like "Who, from Flyff Server X, will play Rappelz?", "Which team from CSS will play TF2?", and so on. Why do they want to play with people they already know?

There are many explanations to this fact, but one may be that by playing on the same game server in the past, even if they didn't know each other, they were part of the same community, playing with the same rules and values, and so they want to stick together because nobody wants to get lost in new rules and different social codes.

By targeting communication toward an existing community and providing the right tools, publishers can attract groups of players instead of lonely players, and make community efforts more effective.

This process could easily spawn another article, but to keep it short -- and counter the fact that many funny-minded people still say that video games tend to isolate people -- video games remain a social way to entertain, and the primary reason many people buy a game is to play with their friends. The advice of a friend will be a lot more effective than any review or advertising, and communities lead people to create friendships with other players.

 


Article Start Previous Page 2 of 8 Next

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