Where do gaming communities go when they die?
Posted on Friday, November 27 2015 @ 19:40:57 PST
All good things come to an end, and tis the season to be thankful! Tis the season to also trample your fellow man for a deal on something that will be practically free by this time next year, but also to be THANKFUL! I’m thankful for a lot of things, my family, my friends, my health, blah, blah blah.. One of the more fringe things I’m thankful for is this relaxing hobby and the community with whom I share my many gaming & life experiences. Which is why it makes me sad when someone stops coming around to play or talk because, a change in staff is made, or the larger community's activities starts to die down and the servers get taken offline. This kind of thing happens a lot more in MMORPGs games/communities than any other genre I would imagine (MOBAs are slowly creeping into the mix), but if you play games online then you're used to the nomadic culture of online play.
If you’ve been gaming long enough and have played an online game or have been apart of a guild/clan then you know what I mean. We’ve all experienced it, and the longer you age and game the more likely it is that you will experience the loss of a cherished community again and again. These games and their release windows are snapshots in time, and some pictures fade more quickly than others. I’ve experienced the slow death of a game with both MAG and Matrix Online. Honestly, now this is also why I’m now skeptical of ANY newly released game that is entirely based online and whose success is measured by the amount of players in-game (and probably why Star Wars Battlefront will die violently after the Xmas holiday). Hype be damned! If its an online game you better show me a 10 yr plan if you want my money.
When a game your playing dies, the amount you’re impacted is probably directly related to the amount of time you’ve spent in the game itself. And even then, you’re not too disappointed because you expected this to happen at some level or some shiny new toy has caught your eye and is now eating up all your time. To combat this people in guilds will even open up new branches in new games, before the old ones die so that you can transition easily if you want to without missing a beat.
Is the protocol the same when your web-based hobby community dies? I mean, obviously a website is a slow death and the fight to keep the community alive is an ongoing war of attrition, but you guys know what I mean, I’m sure. People just disappear. Sometimes the loss means you miss out on snarky forum commentary or interesting perspectives, but sometimes a disintegrating community means you lose friends. Life happens, I get it. A game loses its appeal, servers get shut off, clan mates log on less frequently, you move on to a new stage in your life, marriage, kids, etc., but it doesn’t make the loss any less painful if you're the sentimental type - like me. *sniff sniff*
Maybe its the holidays turning me into a sap, or maybe I’m getting nostalgic in my old age but what were some of your first or favorite online communities? What makes a strong in-game and out-of-game community in your opinion? Here, at GR, we are a few more steps closer to each other than the anonymity of the sub-reddits and the kotaku’s of the world (which is a bonus), but we also lack the numbers and contributions that go along with having numbers. Have you been a part of other communities that have died (gaming or not) - what’d you do after? Stay in touch with the other members still or did you guys naturally part ways?
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What I learned at TwitchCon
Posted on Monday, September 28 2015 @ 20:32:04 PST
What I learned at TwitchCon
This past weekend in San Francisco, CA there were a lot of interesting things taking place. Folsom St. owned the day with its world famous Street Fair on Sunday. If you guys don't know, this event is famously known for being one of the only places in America where you can shut down an entire street for a whole day, share a beer in the sun, and watch BDSM aficionados of all types come together to put their well endowed skills on display. Seriously, Google it. A day earlier the city was concluding its Folsom Street Fair warm up act, which also included a similar celebration of depraved individuals who think that it is perfectly acceptable to immerse themselves in alternate fantasy universes for 5+ hours a day and broadcast their disgusting activities to their friends and the world… That warm up act was TwitchCon.
When I first found out about the event I was extremely curious about what to expect. I’ve been to Cons & Expos before and I’ve see other industry events celebrate their successes and make announcements, but this was different. I’m not sure if it was different because I actually cared and knew about the company and the industry, or if it was different because it is the first gaming focused streaming convention and it gives our hobby that much more legitimacy in the scheme of things. The feeling of legitimacy as a streamer didn’t leave either, because going to TwitchCon was the first time I viewed each broadcaster as a small business and not some DIY hobbyist.
The people on the panels, signing autographs, and playing in the invitationals were small brands with their own value, and this Convention was a way for other small businesses to share their knowledge and try to improve the community. I was lucky enough to be able to attend TwitchCon and I found the entire event extremely entertaining. For people interested in getting their broadcasting career started a lot of the panels werevery informational. Some panels felt like celebratory circle jerks of Twitch celebs, but they were still informational in their own way nonetheless.
While I do stream on occasion, I don’t really consider myself a part of any “gaming” community outside of GR. Until the Twitch Keynote (for the first half anyway), which was great. It really worked on our feels by reminding us of how far things have come and that we were all involved in getting gaming and game streams to this point. I mean for real - gamers have a lobby group (http://videogamevoters.org/), gamers raise tens of millions for kickstarters, gamers help improve the quality of life of thousands of people by simply playing a game (http://gamersoutreach.org/ & http://www.extra-life.org/) ! As much as some of us try to fight it, we’re adults with an adult hobby whether you like it not. Not adult on the BDSM Folsom St. Fair level, but the Oculus will see to that soon enough.
Side note: The gaming lobby might become pretty important to you in the near future, especially given the a lot of the infringements on home data capping and net neutrality.
Either way its good to go somewhere and feel comfortable around people that you know, recognize, and who share your interests. In my opinion, this was TwitchCon’s greatest attribute. Even though the show floor felt very bare compared to a Pax or E3, the buzz in the air was still definitely felt throughout all three floors of The Moscone Center. Visibly and spatially it felt like large areas of the floor were vacant and a lot of real estate went unused, but to be fair its the first one and they will more than likely hit TwitchCon hard as hell next year. Like the first-born child, its growth and nurturing environment are largely an experiment, so if it winds up a bit ****ed up - you learn and move on.
From my experience walking through the floor and going home to watch some streams, the one thing they made sure to do was to massage four themes into your subconscious throughout the convention and those were Learning, Loyalty, Promotion, & Monetization. I didn’t go to every panel, but the ones I did sit in had these themes floating around the room. I’d love to hear from people who went, because maybe it was my experience and selection of panels but I think they were pushing people to find success because they obviously had an interest in making sure savvy streamers stayed within their community, got exposure, improved their streams, and made some mulah.
Duh, right? I know, whatever, but the feeling of community was definitely there and given that the size of their streaming pie is being shrunk significantly I can see why they would want to foster that feeling. Either way, I respected their efforts to educate. A lot of the breakout sessions and panels were about education. Education on the importance of building your own rig so that you can learn the troubleshooting tools you need when your PC and stream inevitably crash. Education on how to clean up your “local” community, because in the end it helps all the other businesses seem legitimate.
The business theme wasn’t something that was passively mentioned, and I’m wondering if the panelist got light talking points from the staffers because the idea of your Subscriber being an Investor in your business was mentioned more than once. The comment was followed up by the idea that as a broadcaster, just like you pay stock holders dividends you should engage with the subscribers as the payout, get to know them, interact with them, and involve them in your stream - because they've invested in you. Again, this makes sense right? After all, why stream if you’re not going to engage people? You might as well be recording it and then uploading it.
I know a lot of this seems like common sense stuff, but we have to remember that streaming is still relatively new to most people in general, so a lot of the ideas we now take for granted are things that we had to learn through trial and error. One new thing I learned from this event that I didn’t know before is that publishers (especially independent developers) are always looking to give games to streamers, free. Not “free” like Oprah’s studio audience giveaway free, but “free” meaning that they give you the game with the stipulation that you play it on stream. You win because you don’t have to pay for a game out of your own pocket, and they win because it is free publicity. So, how do you get free ****!? If you’ve got twitter and a channel, then you’ve got a resume that you can give to them with a simple tweet. That is really all they want to see. There are only limited supplies for promotional games so it might take some time to get their attention, but if you’re streaming their games ANYWAY, tweet the link at them and I promise they’ll at least take note. There is human on the other end of that twitter mention after all. Now, how your channel looks once they land on your page is on you, but at least you’ve now got their attention and might be able to finagle a few codes out of it.
There are things you can do to help yourself stand out too like improving the quality of your channel’s aesthetics and nurture the type of “community” you'd think they would appreciate, but again you’re the entrepreneur - its your call what type of business you want to run. Figure it out! If you can’t and you need a bit of help the interwebs is your best sounding board. Go to reddit, go to twitter, come to GR, heck you might even find someone willing to help build assets for you on craigslist, but I would advise against resorting to that. These communities outside of the streaming community are full of entrepreneurs like yourself and are key to how you get build inertia behind your channel. Post and promote there, but there is a thin line between a few thoughtful posts and shameless spamming.
Sometimes, all you want are views. Thats fine, we wouldn't be doing it if we weren't interested in sharing. Looking for a quick surge in viewership? As one panelist put it, “Play a niche game.” Those older games have dedicated communities that support them and who will support you for bringing a bit of nostalgia back into their lives, and they are constaly searching for these videos. AGAIN, like a small business - if you don’t promote your channel, your stream, and your stuff - no one will know you exist.
A streamer is definitely a brand and a name, but the idea that they are also a small business and an entrepreneur stuck with me due to how the panels spoke about their everyday dealings, setbacks, and inspirations. The idea that you can get rich quick streaming is still possible but largely fading, and now the focus seems to be how to have a semi-sustainable “career” streaming games, and I think that is right way to look at it. Its also the first time I’ve heard "game streaming career" spoken aloud seriously, in a business setting, without laughter, and while not being under the influence of some intoxicant. It was a good feeling. And many beers were had later.
The tools available to you are easier to access and easier to use than any other endeavor you might try from scratch so if you’re looking into making something in good quality then just get cracking. The “streaming on a budget” panel advised you against throwing money at stuff and just trying things out at first. This way you'll build a slow inventory of things you ACTUALLY need. I completely agree and think that novices interested should just fire up their PC or laptop and do a simple screen grab with a webcam, because then you’ll learn about what you need, what can go wrong, and what your current limitations are. On the other hand, those of you who stream already *cough* longo/Ugh*cough* have no excuse for not putting your best foot forward.
Lastly, the panelist and the convention goers in conversations I overheard were constantly offering encouragement to each other and would probably offer it to you, the reluctant streamer, if you were talking to them. Everyone acknowledged that their first streams were terrible, and that they’re constantly learning and improving as they grow their experience with their stream, but the fear of failure shouldn’t stop you from streaming and joining the ranks of game broadcasters the world over. In the words of the famous Tay Zonday, “This is the web, and its going to murder your TV”. Get in there while the gettings good. Online gaming for both the viewer and the streamer are becoming more and more popular, but you probably already knew that. This Con made me feel like streaming has hit its critical mass and everyone I interacted with there was the embodiment of that feeling. I’m glad I got to experience it. So, what don’t you know now thats keeping you from streaming? How easy it is to get started and why you shouldn’t be afraid to try it out, I mean.. you were going to play anyway right? If you stream - let us know, send a link.. a few of us will probably pop in, throw out a few dongers and contribute to your experience.
Sorry about the text blocks. Rant over.
I'm definitely going next year, hopefully I'll see you there.
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