Online Game Community Manager?

There’s a belief that I have had for a while that I recently mentioned when talking about using WoW to learn about community building and teamwork.

I honestly believe that games have the potential to be so much more than just about fun. A young fox cub chasing a butterfly through a field is more than just having fun. It is learning how to hunt. So too do games have the opportunity to teach us more about ourselves, which we can then take back into the real world.

With this thought in mind and while visiting Raph Koster’s website today, I was reminded of a profession that might just possibly be the next stepping stone that I’m looking for. Raph mentioned that his game company is looking to hire more people and one of those people is a senior community manager. Now while I don’t think I can apply for their position, primarily because it looks like you need to work in San Diego (although I’m still not 100% sure), it still seems like I’m seeing a lot of connections between what I’ve done in the past and the requirements for a community manager. For example, let me go over some of the points in the job posting for Areae’s Senior Community Manager to show you what I mean.

The Senior Online Community Manager will have proven experience in building, growing and nurturing a strong, positive community.

Even though this wasn’t my “official” job description while developing and maintaining sites for Sierra and other publishers, this was always my internal goal. I was basically first and foremost a strong user advocate. I believed that for a community to truly exist, you needed two way communication. Therefore, it’s not just about you as a company communicating your message to your customers but you should be actively gathering the input of your customers as well. Yes via emails but more importantly by just observing and listening to the community on an active basis (i.e. reading forums, in game chatter, etc).

  • Develop information roll-out plans to foster community growth through the regular release of product features.

I believe this is critical before a game is even released. You should have a plan to build up prior to release and a plan after release as well. All of it is critical to the overall game experience (which happens inside and outside the game). Did this happen with the community sites I built? Not often. Why? Because we often didn’t get the final say, even though the team I worked with knew more about their customers than they did (and one exec even mentioned this once to us).

  • Build positive relationships with key community leaders and product advocates.

This is actually one of the beliefs of my In Giving You Make Yourself Stronger approach which is why I’ve always disliked the “exclusive” route that game magazines take with game publishers. You should be giving and supporting to the whole community around you as much as possible, not just one exclusive group. The more you give and draw attention to those who truly love your games and products, the more they will give and draw attention to you in return.

  • Help provide development direction by being the voice of the player community.

Indeed! And this is what I meant above about a two way communication for a community relationship to work. The funny thing that I’ve noticed in these situations is often times those who the complain the most in the communities around you are often the ones who truly love your product the most. Of course, while it’s important to listen to the feedback of your customers, it also important to ensure the original vision of the game, therefore you can’t listen to everyone if they start suggesting things that will dilute the primary focus of the game (i.e. “Ya we should have dragons and rocket launchers!”).

  • 3+ years of experience managing large online communities
  • Previous experience launching and building new online communities

Yes to both of these. I worked for a firm in town for 3 years and we built and maintained community sites around various large gaming publishers (with Sierra/Vivendi being the largest). These community sites were often a combination of product sites (with frequent content updates) and moderated forums.

Now funnily enough, I’ve actually been posting my resume online at Craigslist over the past few months looking specifically for an online community “developer” position (you can see my cover letter shown below) but maybe what I should be looking for is an online community manager position, since it would allow me to focus on more of the things I love (i.e. communities, culture, interacting, connecting, etc) rather than the backend coding stuff.

Experienced Online Community Developer Seeking Startup To Help

What I’ve Done

I’m a professional web developer with over 10 years of experience developing online websites and communities. Most notably I previously worked as the Senior Web Developer for a small web firm in Vancouver that assisted in the development of online communities for some of the largest computer gaming publishers in the world such as Sierra/Vivendi, Activision, and Konami on some of their biggest brands, such as Half Life, Star Trek, and ESPN. I was also a focal point within this small company, assisting and providing advice in a wide variety of operational areas and roles, be it with web development, community development, standards/process development, information architecture, usability, branding, proposal writing, computer support, business advice, and more.

What I’m Looking For

I’m looking for a full-time position within a Vancouver startup company, or a small established company with a startup culture, with which I can pass on my knowledge and experience on a company wide level. Of particular note, I’m looking for a company that has a very open, sharing, and caring culture within it whereby all team members can actively participate and contribute towards the development of the company. I am not, however, interested in startups which are looking to ‘flip’ or ‘sellout’ quickly but instead are committed to building a product or service with which a long term sustainable community can be built around.

What I Can Offer

If you’re a startup looking for an individual who can assist your company in a diverse variety of roles, including business advice, than I believe I’m that person. If you’re a company looking for an expert / specialist / rocket scientist with unbelievable skills in one specific area then I’m most definitely not that person. If you’ve read 37 Signals book called Getting Real, I’m what they would define as a “quick learning generalist”. Therefore I rapidly learn skills whenever I need them, usually to the point that I have an above average working knowledge when utilizing them. It is this ability which allowed me to be so effective as a team lead, since it allowed me to have a deeper understanding of the various professional roles that I was leading (i.e. graphic designers, web developers, web programmers, etc) similar to how an orchestra conductor must have fairly good understanding of the various instrumentalists he is conducting.

Therefore, in closing, if you’re looking for someone who is part web developer, part company evangelist, part community manager, and part startup business advisor, I believe I can most definitely help you.

Nollind Whachell
nollind@whachell.com

PS. If you’d like to get a better feel for me and learn more about my community and cultural interests, feel free to visit my web site at the address below.

http://nollind.whachell.com/

Hmm, and a final note to self, maybe I should be categorizing a lot of my previous posts that relate to community and culture development. That way when people come to my site, they can easily see a train of thought focused around a specific subject (i.e. gaming, community, culture, etc).