Gaming communities are where players go to play, interact with or communicate with other players who share the same interests. These can be clans, actual communities, servers, forum boards or any combination in-between. As players being socializing with one another they often find other players who share similar interests which allow for the foundation of a community to begin. Throughout my long gaming career I have been in dozens of clans and even managed to lead some of them at some time or another. These communities are key to the survival of games because they create relationships and give content that the user would otherwise not have. The only reason that I even bothered playing games for more than a few months was because of the people that I got the chance to play with. I decided to take a look at how gaming communities affect the games they gather around and how it in turn affects the players who game.
The fascinating thing about gaming communities is that they are the leading reason a game can be continually successful. Any game when first launched can make big news in the gaming market only to flounder months after its initial release. Any game can sell big because of its name, visuals, reviews, or play style, but that does not mean that it will be successful long term. Long term success requires players to actively participate with each other in the game. Before you all ask, No playing the game is not enough to build a community. You need interaction between players to build a sense of comradely and they do this by completing goals together. Goals can be as simple as completing a quest together or as complicated as taking over the world.
Most of these gaming groups have a voice server where you can talk outside of the game to other members of that community. From experience I can tell you that 90% of members who participate in a community never bother to get on these servers to talk to other gamers. It usually isn’t required so players don’t see a reason to waste their time getting on a voice server when they are in the same game server. I know that players are inherently shy and that might be the reason they are attracted to online games more than they are offline games. Voice communications in game or outside of a game build friendships between players in communities no different than those friendships made in the real world. Without a doubt if a player makes the effort to join in verbal conversations after a few weeks that player will become part of the community that they are participating in. Through my own experience I can assure you that if you really want to have fun with online gaming then getting on a voice server is a must. It allows you to communicate with others easily and creates a more personal connection with your fellow gamers.
One of the longest running games around, Team Fortress 2, would not have lasted nearly as long if it were not for the communities that actively engage players to join them. Most FPS games like TF2 will have thousands of servers to choose from at launch and slowly those numbers will fall as players begin to lose interest because the game doesn’t really evolve into anything new. Having a gaming community that you can socialize with makes all the difference in the level of fun that you have in a game. You can easily discover the most successful communities in gaming by looking to see how long they have been around and how active they still are. If they have been around for many years and still have hundreds of active members then they are doing a good job of maintaining their community.
How does all this tie in exactly? Well, a thought out game will attract a big demand for community. The communities will form and the game will become even stronger because these groups exist. These communities then add content into the games that they participate in. Whenever a gaming community hosts an event such as a pvp roam, tournament, or some other competition it gives purpose to their members and to the game they play on. This in turn causes other communities to form these events to compete with the other community. As these communities compete they create content that all users can enjoy. As more user content is created more players join in and it snowballs making the game better than how it first started. The more in-depth a game is the more content a community can create. This engages players into a game long term and allows them to continually be successful. MMO’s aren’t successful because they are large they are successful because they tend to be complex and force players to build communities to survive.
A perfect example of user generated content can be found in Eve-Online. There is a constant flow of player created content in the forms of tournaments, events, pvp roams, and galactic conquering all of which involve corporations and alliances. Last year there was an player announced event that encouraged ganking in high-security space. This makes a normal “safe” space into a potential hostile space and because of this it changes the way players play the game. It caused chain reactions throughout the universe that could be felt in the market. This content was created by a community and they encouraged participation by awarding prizes to players.
There are some downsides to joining a gaming community. Drama, like so many things in real life, occurs when you put people together and there are bound to be disagreements. Drama in games can come from any source whether its a power struggle, a disagreement of values, or even gossip itself. I have seen it happen to some degree in every single community I have been a part of including those that I lead. Drama is the one thing that will always be around no matter what a player does to avoid it. It can be devastating to a community as it often causes rifts between players who sit on the various sides of the issue.
I always recommend players find a community that they can enjoy so that they can better their gaming experience. Communities contribute player generated content to games that encourages more activity from all players involved. They are the reason that games are continually successful. There is of course the looming cloud of drama that rains regularly but no matter what you do you can’t avoid it. Avoiding a community to avoid drama is like trying to avoid rain by driving in circles, it just isn’t possible. Drama exists with or without communities though it tends to be more explosive when you mix drama with close friends.
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