Editor’s note: My post on my feelings about my place (or lack thereof) in the online RPG community from Wednesday sparked a fair amount of discussion, most of which made me feel better! As part of that discussion, Adam Page (@blindgeekuk on Twitter and a contributor to Daily Encounter) asked if he could put up a guest post here on Online Dungeon Master talking about his feelings regarding the online RPG community. I was pleased that he asked. His post follows.
Becoming One of The Community
I wanted to write this post to tie it into OnlineDM’s comments from Wednesday, touch on my experiences, and emphasise why an existing member of the D&D community, like @ThadeousC getting the job at WotC is not only important, but is crucial.
I’ve been a gamer for 20 years. I was writing my own 2e and SLA Industries stuff before I knew that mailing lists and BBS hosted fan books existed for these games. It was only when I got a data connection for my cheap nokia phone, that let me dial up to the internet at a staggering 9.6 kbps that I was enlightened.
I only recently got involved in the D&D 4e community, but for most of the 00’s was a major figure in the SLA industries fan scene, publishing, at my last count, about 600 pieces of material for that game, and helping to form Team8, a group of UK rpg’ers that support the hobby. At the time, that community was effectively lead by a couple of well known names, and the goal of Team8 was to publish material without the stigma of a name attached to it… everything would be anonymous… The theory lasted 1 issue of our fanzine, before the names stepped in again to promote it and take control of the group. I left/was forced out, and to be honest, it was one of the best moves I made, because it showed me that I wasn’t after the glory or recognition, I just wanted to support my favourite game.
Having missed most of 3e, and the rumours of 4e, I checked it out when it hit the torrent site’s and I loved it, and have picked up pretty much everything since, spending several thousand dollars on minis and books in the 3 years i’ve been DM’ing. I reformed my old 2e group, I started up a roleplaying group at my FLGS because there was nothing for gamers there, and I heavily promoted that. In order to do so, I built a website…
And suddenly, unbeknownst to me, I was part of the community, people would google stuff and end up at my site, which I had intended just to be for my local players. When the rumours about Dark Sun started to hit, I collected them, and people like @Alphastream linked to them. I posted some rough ideas for content on there as well.
But it was the Encounters program, with it’s Twitter buffs that was the final transition. I’d checked out @wilw’s timeline a few times, and watched #gencon tweets flood in each year, but Encounters convinced me to create an account, and follow a few well known uk tweeters like @symatt and @greywulf. From there, the #ff system gained me followers, AND people to follow, and Twitter is all about the interaction with these people. I was starting to tweet to people whose blogs I read, and they were tweeting back… I was becoming one of their community.
After a year of this, I suffered a serious case of depression, and I decided to stop tweeting as me, and tried an experiment: was quantity, or quality a factor in getting recognised in the community, and how quickly could someone get accepted as being a contributing member of the community. I created a fake persona, twitter account, email, wordpress blog, and started filling it with content, from themes, to mundane descriptions to encounter summaries. I was surprised by the response. While it wasn’t the amazing ‘welcome to the community’ I was hoping for, some content did get discussed by people that most of us consider to be important tweeters (e.g @ChrisSSims).
I ended the blog early, scared of the implications if people found out, and because @SarahDarkmagic gave me a perfect opportunity. She had finally gotten the recognition she deserves with Lost City, and articles in Dragon, and she was discussing how she had become accepted into the community by basically introducing herself to people. My fake persona, and the real me grilled her on this, and we came to the summary that to be acknowledged in the community you need to:
“you have to write a regular schedule of good quality material, which shows attention to detail and a clear understanding of the game world/rules, it needs to show your passion for the game, you have to promote yourself in various places including twitter, the forums (enworld and wotc) and be heard on podcasts, and you need to build relationships with other bloggers by guest posting for them”
I closed down the persona, and started up my own blog, again, posting content until another bout of depression saw me slim down my online presence. However, prior to that, I was spotted doing stuff with Hirst Arts bricks by @mikemearls, opening up the chance to make the 3d version of Lair Assault.
Since closing down my own blog, I’ve taken that summary to heart. I’m posting here, there, and everywhere. While I don’t want the massive recognition, or to be named as one of the top ten D&D twitter people, I’d like to know that what I write is read and appreciated, and if anything, that’s something we fail in as a community, thanking each other and praising each other on a good blog post.
So yeah, thats my summary of how I became a member of the D&D community.
OnlineDM’s comments about not feeling part of the community mirror my own feelings until very recently. To me, there seems to be 3 levels in the community. You have your big names: @NewbieDM, @SlyFlourish, @SarahDarkmagic, people whose opinions are listened to and who are respected. Then there’s a middle tier, full of people who post regularly, but who don’t get the recognition they deserve: @ObsidianCrane, @PaulBaalham, @WastexGames. Finally, there is an outer tier, which is where many like OnlineDM feel they are. In this tier, you post but people never seem to respond, you tweet replies at people and never get re-tweeted etc. To me, it is important that people in here are supported, because there are a lot more of them than there are big names, and often, it’s these people who have the best content, but it’s just never seen…
At the start, I mentioned that I think a member of our community, like @thadeousc being WotC’s new social/community manager is important… There are lots of reasons why someone who understands twitter should get the job, but Thad is a known member of the community, and trusted by us all. If it came down to a situation that the community had reacted to, such as the announcement of Essentials, him saying ‘Trust me about this’ in a tweet would probably calm most of the raving fans down.
WotC have acknowledged that they lost touch with the fan base, that they have failed to communicate with us properly, and I think that reaching out to the community and hiring someone from there, who knows how we perceive things, and has the contacts amongst the twitterverse and blogosphere is the right thing to do.