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.
Thank you. This mirrors a lot of thoughts that I’ve had about the D&D community as well as, specifically, my own experiences with the #dnd regulars on Twitter. I definitely think I fit into the third tier, and have often wondered what I am “doing wrong” when I get ignored by “top tier” people like NewbieDM, DaveTheGame, or SlyFlourish.
As a result, I try to be as friendly online as I can be, and do my best to reply to anyone who replies to my tweets, and always reply to any comments on my blog articles. I don’t know enough about web design to have a shiny, customized blog of my own and don’t have the head for rules that some other bloggers do, so I’m still trying to find my own niche to fit into as I go.
So I have some thoughts about these “tier” labels, and I don’t know if I agree with the basic premise of them. I’m not sure what qualifies someone, in this case, me, as a “top-tier” member of the dnd community online… Do I post a lot on twitter? Yes. Do I post on message boards a lot? Not really. I’ve had a D&D blog for three years where I’ve been posting non stop, but does that alone make me “top-tier”? I don’t know, I’m not sure what qualifies as that, and I’m a bit uncomfortable with the term to be honest.
I think everyone out there, and I mean both blogs and twitter, have an audience, it’s just theirs to find it… Using the #dnd and #rpg hash tags on twitter and blog posts that belong to the RPGBN for example are good ways to find an audience. I think it is also unfair to call me out as someone who ignores people on twitter. I try to reply to as many possible people as I can, I tend to RT a lot of stuff I find interesting, and I’m completely approachable whether it’s through my blog, email or twitter.
Quality posts and commentary will get you an audience, that’s the trick. Patience is a virtue.
While I didn’t write today’s post, I understand where @blindgeekuk is coming from with the “tiers” although for me it’s just two groups: folks I actively follow and folks I don’t actively follow. Perhaps there’s a third group of “folks whose stuff I occasionally catch”. If I weren’t me (that’s getting zen or something), I probably wouldn’t be on the list of “folks I actively follow”. But NewbieDM, you’re certainly on that list.
For me, I’m not passionate about getting a lot of blog hits and I’m certainly never looking to make a dime off my blog. But I’d like to get to the point where I feel like I belong. I’m guessing that’s what a lot of people are looking for, whether in RPG blogging or everyday life. I have a place where I belong in everyday life, but I’d like to have that for the online RPG community as well.
Personally, I haven’t had any problems with feeling ignored or anything like that. When I’ve actively reached out to someone, they’ve usually reached back. For me, I think the issue is that I haven’t reached out all that much yet. But I’m working on it.
Hey, I had someone approach me about doing a guest post on my blog, and here we are discussing it. That’s a good step!
Thanks again for the post, Adam.
Thank you for your response here and on Twitter, Newbie. I appreciate the chance to engage in dialogue, and your suggestions. 🙂
From my own point of view, it does occasionally feel like there is a set of people who have a lot of cred (because they make and/or write a lot of good content) and they all know each other and it sometimes seems difficult to get noticed by anyone in that group unless you’ve already set up and established yourself in some way, no matter how friendly you try to be. And that can honestly be both discouraging and sometimes a bit off-putting.
I agree with OnlineDM; I think a lot of it has to do with wanting to have a feeling of belonging in the community.
As Newbie said to me on Twitter, though, with more cred comes more followers and this can make it difficult to sort through the chaff. So, I get that and I try not to take it personally. Like I said, I just wonder what I need to do to make my own star shine brighter.
I think you’ve hit the nail on its head there.
Most of what I would call the top tier bloggers/tweeters in 4e know each other personally, hang out at conventions, and record podcasts together. My view of this is tainted by he fact i’m in the UK and thus can’t make it to the cons, and am asleep by the time they record, but it definitely feels to me like that is a close kit group of friends with a fairly harsh entry criteria.
I’m not having a go at @NewbieDM @SlyFlourish etc, and I don’t think it’s something they intended or actively encourage, but that is how it comes across to me. I suspect there is a similar viewpoint with regards the UK scene, where the top tweeters over here meetup and game together, and all tweet while you guys are asleep, and breaking into our crowd (with the exception of @symatt who tweets to everyone) is probably considered difficult.
I’m really glad that OnlineDM’s article and mine have prompted so much discussion and feedback, and I think that this is good for the hobby, it’s certainly shown me a few names in what I consider to be that outer tier of people I wouldn’t normally notice.
Great post, Adam — and kudos to you, Online DM, for the guest poster…you’re well on your way! 😉
Personally I feel this topic is one that we as a community should embrace and discuss in more detail, because of the importance of social media in today’s world…something perhaps doubly important to us as gamers, because role playing IS social media, and yet a lot of times I see where we don’t fully grasp the full potential of this medium…speaking from personal experience, anyway. Twitter is a perfect example for myself: I begrudgingly use it, because I don’t feel comfortable on there and find it’s an awkward way to carry on a conversation. Because of that, I miss a lot of opportunities to connect with other users and grow my network. I much prefer other social outlets — facebook and Google+ in particular — as a means of finding, sharing, connecting, etc. Still, Twitter is a very powerful tool, and something I need to get more involved in if I want to establish myself even more in the community.
Maybe some of us on the “fringe” can band together in a support group and help one another become more marketable. 🙂
Thanks! Yes, it’s strange that my initial discussion of this topic a few days ago ended up kicking off so much more conversation and eventually leading me to feel more connected to the community than I did previously. My next post talks about this in more detail. I’m glad that I’ve at least given “fringe folks” like me the understanding that they’re not alone out there.
I think part of the problem is: grouping together and organizing into tiers is a big part of human nature. We do it in all areas of our lives. I don’t think that particular people exclude others on purpose just because someone isn’t in the “right” tier. I think that it’s human nature to listen the most and interact the most with people you are closest too – and if you are in the top tier, the ones closest to you are also in the top tier, so you tend to interact amongst yourselves the most. A position in the top tier doesn’t come with a rule that says one must ignore people in the other tiers. But a top tier position does come with many more people trying to speak to you and interact with you, and, frankly, it would be impossible for some people to do that.
Imagine: If @wilw responded to every tweet or blog post written to him or about him, he would never ever get to sleep, work, spend time with his family, or anything else in life one must do on a daily basis.
When I started my blog and logged on to twitter the first time, I did it because I love the game and wanted to have fun and interesting conversations with people. I think most people are like that, and some people get more popular than they could have imagined, while others do not. I have no idea what the secret is – some just have natural talent and are able to speak to a huge group of people, and so they naturally fall into a top tier group and stay there. Some of us have to work really hard to interact with others and produce interesting things on a constant basis.
For myself, I have no idea what tier you consider me to fit into, but if I see that someone has tweeted to me, or about me, I respond. Sometimes I don’t see it, and therefore don’t respond (obviously). I also try to respond to comments on my blog post. I think I do a pretty good job of including everyone in a conversation if they want to be. The key for me knowing that someone wants to be in a conversation with me is for them to respond to me and write comments and replies with a manner and attitude that tells me “this person will have a good conversation with me.” In other words, they have to follow wheaton’s law and not be a dick.
Not sure I offered any insight you haven’t already thought of, just wanted to chime in and give my 2 cents.
Thanks for chiming in, Sam! For what it’s worth, I personally consider you among the people I follow regularly, largely through your podcasting work (sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet you along with the other DM Roundtable folks at GenCon). Your point of view on the topic is certainly helpful for me, at least, and I imagine for Adam, too.
I’m first of all really glad to see you post and share your experiences. I’ve long dug your comments and posts on Twitter and the Forums. I’m thankful Encounters brings us so many new players that find the game compelling.
I don’t see the community as so segmented, at least not in some manner that can be compared to really tangible tiers. Knowing a committed gamer is as simple as reaching out to them. If you contact most gamers they will respond. I don’t know any that don’t do that, outside of some people who just get far too much e-mail to do so. I’ve been constantly blown away by how accessible the community is. It can appear to be a club, but it is a tremendously open club.
A big part of the separation will really be about devotion. Several bloggers have jobs that give them the time to dedicate to their hobby. Or they are single. Or they are unemployed. That will always separate them from those that simply cannot spare the time. If you can’t be on Twitter during the workday, need to be with the family, and believe in decent sleep… well, you will have about 2 hours in a day to blog and Tweet… not much compared to the devoted.
To some extent there is some quality/experience separation, but I think it is minimal. While people respect quality, there is a diverse enough audience to support different types of experience levels.
I think the question worth asking is what you want to do and why a tier matters. Becoming a top 10 blogger… what does that do for you? Notoriety? And what is notoriety? If all you want is numbers of followers, there are better fields in which to get that. RPGs do very poorly. If what you want is people playing your stuff, that has nothing to do with followers. Creating tools for D&D Encounters, fliers for game stores to advertise Lair Assault, and ready-to-use encounters will get more people playing your stuff than will a Twitter feed. I really advocate not worrying about followers or comparison and just enjoying what you want to share. If you care about the craft, then hone it. If you want to help people, find ways to do so. Don’t worry about followers or hits unless you really want to start talking about Tigerblood and other such nonsense!
I also think keeping the benefits of the physical world is important. Online can be lonely, even when you have forums and Tweets. Playing at a real table, teaching a young person the game, seeing gamers have fun… those are really tangible and more likely to be better at lifting our spirits.
All the best!
I am definitely one of those fringe bloggers, and am fine with that because I am writing and creating the things I want to. I used to submit stuff to WotC, but basically gave up because I never seemed to pitch what they were looking for. Now I just post up stuff I think of in the hopes that someone actually wants to use it.
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Bravo. Really interesting guest post for Online DM. Articles that make people stop, think and then re-discuss are always gold. Thanks for including the Twitter names. I was missing a few. I read lots of my 4E stuff via Flipboard on my iPad so I’m always looking to add new community members (and it’s never an easy task to find gamer twitter names).