Cultivating a healthy community of fans who enjoy your work is key to long-term success in the game industry, but it's rarely an easy or simple process.
Even if you enjoy a large following, it can be tricky to ensure that conversations in your community are healthy and positive. It's one thing to design and market a game that people want to play; it's another to design and foster a community that people want to stay engaged with.
Enter Victoria Tran, Kitfox Games' communications director, who's coming to GDC next month to deliver a promising Advocacy track talk on "Designing Game Communities for Kindness" that aims to help you build kinder, healthier communities around your games.
Here, Tran opens up a bit about what to expect from her talk, how her background in sociology shaped her career in games, and what studying prisons teaches you about how communities influence our behavior.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your path into game development!
Hi! I'm Victoria Tran, the communications director at Kitfox Games. We're a lil' studio in Montreal, Canada, making things like Boyfriend Dungeon and Lucifer Within Us... and publishing Dwarf Fortress and Mondo Museum, too!
I never really thought I'd be in game development, so this question is a windy one for me. In a nutshell, always loved games, didn't even realize it was a career path I could follow due to having a very traditional "hey you're going to be a doctor/lawyer/dentist/accountant right?" upbringing. I graduated with the intention of going into healthcare PR when I suddenly realized I didn't want to do it!
Luckily I had a lot of experience in marketing from odd jobs I did to pay my way through university and landed a role as a Social Media Specialist at an outsourcing company for games. Fast forward a bit and I applied to the Community Manager role at Kitfox Games (thanks, Twitter) and... here I am! :)
What inspired you to pitch this talk for GDC 2020?
I’ve always been fascinated by the different ways people gather and interact with each other (hence getting a degree in sociology), and the internet has been the most interesting place for this. But of course, we all know it can be a terrifying place to be.
As part of my degree, I actually spent a lot of time studying prison systems and deviance. Learning about why people act out, how rehabilitation works, why social connection is so important, etc. was incredibly enlightening. So I wanted to bring this to GDC. I wanted to make us realize we have a role in HOW players love and interact with our games, and not just WHAT they love. We can make it a less terrifying place to be.
How did studying prison systems and deviance influence your perspective on the game industry?
Haha, that we're all criminals. Nah, I'm joking. I think my background has made me hyper-aware of the ways games socialize us as people, whether you're in the industry or just a part of the community.
For many of us, game communities are a HUGE part of our social groups, and we learn a way of talking, acting, joking, etc. from them. (Case in point: saying "pogchamp" to someone who knows their way around a Twitch chat to someone who doesn't and see what reaction you get.) I see a lot of trolling/anger stemming from people who are part of very different social groups, where that stuff is fun or acceptable.
As people who form communities, we need to be thinking about how do we deal with rule-breakers, and how can we create environments that are kinder, more compassionate places to be in?
So what are you hoping your peers will get from your talk?
I think we, as game developers, are amazing at developing technology and harnessing creativity - but why not do more with it? Why not marry it with compassion and ethics?
I think we all have a vague notion that we want "healthy, positive" communities, but haven't really explored solid steps on what that would entail. I hope this talk is helpful to anyone who wants to explore ways they can make their community a little more kind.
GDC 2020 runs from Monday, March 16th through Friday, March 20th. This will be the 34th edition of GDC, and now that registration is officially open, you'll want to take a look at the (ever-expanding) session schedule and your GDC pass options -- register early to lock in the best price!
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