[Gaming] Community Managers: How to Maintain the Unmaintainable

Posted by Chris G. on Oct 23, 2017, 10:56:52 AM

3 minute read

As you’ve likely heard by now, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) has recently taken over the online gaming scene.

It was just announced that it has smashed past records for most concurrent players on Steam, at a whopping 1.34 million. Regardless of your preferred platform or distribution network, this record speaks volumes about the current and future state of the game.

Without a doubt, PUBG will see an extremely successful and lucrative future, assuming none of these happen:

1. Hacking ruins the average player experience.
While dealing with cheaters is inevitable for any online game, newer developers who are less in-tune with modern defense strategies are susceptible to taking a serious hit when game-breaking exploits and software become public.

While less of a concern than other scenarios, it’s very relevant to the modern online gaming scene, especially with the prevalence of e-sports.

2. The game doesn’t evolve.
Stagnation is a dangerous problem as it’s much more challenging to regain momentum than to maintain it. If the community grows tired of the same gaming experience month after month, they’ll be more likely to see if the grass is greener in other games.

Even significant updates are ineffective at winning back players who’ve lost interest. For example, no matter how many updates come out for Team Fortress 2, the core gameplay is predictable and a relatively small number of players are likely to reinstall it to experience the newest content.

3. The community becomes toxic and unmanageable.
According to SteamSpy, almost 11.5 million players own a copy of PUBG. Even the PUBG subreddit only has 300,000 subscribers, so how fragmented could a community like this be?

While it’s certainly advisable to create a proprietary community to effectively observe and moderate player behavior, it’s impossible to contain that many players in one community. As long as the game is entertaining enough, nothing should go wrong, but it’s easy for threads, forums and even communities to derail, grow toxic and ultimately dissolve.

As a community manager, how can you maintain the unmaintainable? The short answer is: there is no short answer. At this scale, there’s no “standard demographic” for community behavior.

While community managers can do little against hackers, they can have a significant impact on how your audience deals with players who abuse the game at the expense of the community. By monitoring trends in user reports you can provide useful information to the development team that may indicate the extent or diversity of the abuse. You can also provide personalized attention to notable users affected by abuse while offering general support and promise of reward for anyone else affected. While not related to hacking, Rocket League rewarded early players with a unique cosmetic item when the game servers were under-performing. While there’s no best way to give gifts to players who’ve become victims of technological abuse, offering some level of comfort and understanding can make a huge impact to your community.

Unfortunately, community managers can do even less when the game development stagnates. Without new content to discuss and announce, there’s little they can do when players speak out about stale gameplay experiences. Ultimately the best strategy to avoid challenging situations is to sensibly plan announcements and new content discussions when you’re anticipating extended periods of slowed releases.

If your community has become toxic and unmanageable, it’s ultimately easier to take a step back and work on absorbing positive members and content creators from existing networks. As previously mentioned, PUBG has millions of players, many of which are perfectly comfortable on third party networks like Reddit. As a community manager, you have no influence on what kind of content is shared and what conversations are had. By offering exclusive content and experiences in your proprietary network (e.g. fan art showcases, giveaways, contests), you will attract users already interested in contributing positively, leaving general toxicity in the unmanageable communities. If done effectively, this should act as a filter and draw out negativity from an ever-evolving and relocating community.

As a developer, your most significant contributions to the community are reflected in what you implement in response to community demand. While your development team may not always decide what gets implemented, they do have a direct role in how closely a requested feature meets community standards. On the other hand, community managers have a greater impact and responsibility when it comes to maintaining a community well past critical mass.

Acknowledging all legitimate feedback is a must. Once your community reaches a certain level, it becomes nearly impossible to individually tailor responses to every comment. Still, it is absolutely vital that you respond consistently and show transparency to your community.

Keeping an eye on the the largest third-party communities is also crucial because you have little control over the activities of social networks like Facebook and Reddit, and many of your users will treat them as their primary network. Now, since you obviously want to consolidate your players, you need to look out for content which t draws meaningful attention outside of your proprietary network.

Topics: Gaming

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