GDC Europe: How Community Management Is Like Dog Training

At GDC Europe, Playdom's Gordon Walter explained how community management is like dog training: reward good behavior while ignoring bad behavior, and your audience will conform to the way you need them to be.
In the old days, game companies thought of their communities as faceless individuals with no connections to each other. Now, we live in a world "where the community is more connected than we are." That's according to Playdom's Gordon Walton, whose keynote opened GDC Europe's Community Management Summit on Wednesday. According to Walton, online game communities are evolving into much more than a game's audience, they're evolving the games themselves in ways we have yet to understand. "We're just trying to understand how these micro-communities work and how they bring other people to us. Communities are communicating with one another and not just us. They're making their own decisions about how to view product," he said. Communities aren't like traditional game consumers. Communities are so tightly connected to a game that traditional marketing techniques just don't work. "Communities are smarter than us. They will figure stuff out, they will figure out what is really going on," said Walton, stressing that a community manager should never lie, because they are "not politicians." As the designated voice of the entire company, everything a community manager says will be dissected and taken apart by a community, so Walton stressed the importance of working closely with both PR and marketing to make sure messaging is concise and on message. A good community manager must resist the urge to "feed the trolls," he says, acknowledging that it's sometimes difficult to ignore situations that strike an emotional chord. "What you should do is ignore things you don't want and reward what you do; it's a well-understood way of training mammals," he said. Walton concluded his talk with a call-to-arms to his fellow community managers to demand their jobs get the recognition he feels they deserve. "It is time for community managers to rise to the occasion. We must educate and we must get active about things. No one is going to hand [recognition] to you. You have to demand it," he said.

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