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Feature: 'Communication Through Gamers'

Community management in games is another angle on the communication between a publisher or developer and its customers, and in this in-depth Gamasutra analysis, MMO community liaison Wera
April 01, 2008
Publishers may have once prioritized selling boxed software above all other things, but in a networked gaming era, failing to allocate resources to keeping the lines of communication open with the community can have serious repercussions. Strong community management can improve player retention by giving players a sense of belonging, Wera explains. And when something goes wrong and the players leave, a lot can be learned just by asking them why. In looking at what different types of communities can do, Wera also elaborated on what they are: "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." The idea that people "come for the game, stay for the people," is partially true -- but often an entire community can migrate from one game to another. Wera discusses: "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 play." You can now read the full feature, which features many more insights from Wera's years of game community management experience and advice on the subtler cultural issues behind player retention (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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