A Primer on eSports Communities

ESPN, a popular sports TV network, aired an eSports event for the first time earlier this year. Some of their viewers balked at seeing kids playing games, instead of their much more serious physical sports players. Regardless of this knee-jerk reaction, the airing was an all-around success, and signaled that eSports is not just a passing fad or a niche game industry term.

The game industry is just starting to push against the notion that sports are only a physical activity. While eSports is similar to your garden variety physical sports on the competitive level, it's all played in electronic form, thus the 'e' part of the name. While you still have the physical component in super-fast mouse clicking reaction times and hotkey presses, eSports games are almost entirely intellectually grounded. Mind over matter truly takes on a new meaning here.

What is an eSports community?

The great thing about sports of any kind is that they brings together players in a fun and competitive environment. This is usually on a reoccurring basis in such a way as to build a community around the players. Everyone is involved and collectively engaged from match to match, season to season. eSports communities are just as involved as traditional sports communities in this regard, they simply play in front of a computer instead of in the stadium (though this is changing too).

An eSports community differs from other online game communities the most for two reason that tend to go hand-in-hand; heightened competition and live broadcast coverage.

Heightened competition is the combination of the player base and game itself both developed around a competitive environment. Nearly all MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games are of this nature, such as DotA, SMITE, Heroes of the Storm, and League of Legends. Starcraft 2 is another prime example that fits into the RTS genre. There are also FPS games like Unreal Tournament that have this capacity with more genres seeing games developed for eSports every year.

Live broadcast coverage started with pre-recorded matches uploaded to sites like YouTube. Combined with the ever increasing power of computers and faster Internet connections, Twitch and other broadcast services quickly grew in popularity, providing true live action to anyone around the world. Watching online matches is now even easier than your traditional sports event via television.

Building a community from the ground up

Building an eSports community begins with many of the same tools and resources you will build any community by, but with the same above emphasis on competitive play, as well as ensuring that competitive atmosphere doesn't become toxic in the discussion forums and other social areas.

If you are part of a studio looking to build your first eSports community, a few starter ideas and tools will be critical in supporting players looking to both spectate and be spectated. I've listed out some of the more immediate ones below:

Suggested starter tools:

- Pre-emptive rules and guidelines for the entire community
- A subset of these rules with legal backing for tournaments and other competitions
- Additional supplementary rules that focus on mitigating toxic players
- Multiple moderating tools both on the website proper, and in-game
- Livestreaming website (Twitch or YouTube are prime choices)
- Livestreaming software (OBS or XSplit are good choices)
- Preferably two shoutcasters (not necessarily from the community dev team)
- Programs that engage the wider community from the core competitive players
- A thick skin when things get ugly or go horribly wrong (which they will)
- Support by the studio to empower you to do all of the above, including a recording space

Recognizing community leaders

Expect community members of all types to be participating in the forums, on Reddit, and other social networks you've established. While forum trolls are always going to be right around the corner waiting for an opportunity to disrupt the community, so too will the more positive community members that want to help make it grow. These other members are the ones you want to empower.

Recognizing toxic players

Toxic players are those that either intentionally or inadvertently cause problems for the rest of the community. Not only that, but the behavior can quickly go viral and cause others that would not normally exhibit such behavior to become toxic themselves.

Select examples of toxicity:

- Attempting to corral other players to promote a negative message to others.
- Shouting profanities toward players, regardless of direct intent toward another player.
- Calling out new players in a way that excludes them from being part of the community.
- Continually dropping out of games, feeding points to the opposing team, or otherwise disrupting the normal flow of gameplay.
- Any other type of behavior that doesn't promote a positive community response.

As long as you have the tools above and an experienced community team ready to handle toxicity, your community will grow. Keep in mind though that toxicity may never entirely go away. Having the tools to manage it with the community recognizing that you have the power to handle it, is what's most important.

The eSports future is bright

The industry is starting to see eSports spectatorship that goes back to what gets fans of traditional sports communities so excited; the live stadium. More room is made every year at events like PAX, gamescom, and Tokyo Game Show for eSports tournaments.

Whether players are competing in a physical showdown in real life, or virtually between their minds and the more than occassional press of the mouse button, is all indifferent to the results of the event. It's a sport, and that's what counts... including the final score of course.

Civilization Book Preview: Chapter 4: Earth as a Proxy For Life

Happy Earth Day‬! The following quote from my upcoming civilization book kicks off 'Chapter 4: Earth as a Proxy For Life'. I think it was fitting for Earth Day:

The universe has no obligation to create anything more than rocks, yet life managed to make a grand entrance on at least one tiny pale blue dot in a truly spectacular way. The Earth has been orbiting the sun for 4.5 billion years and has rotated well over a trillion cycles. The solar system itself has carried it past other stars, journeying around the galactic core over a dozen times now. In all of that time, Earth has avoided cosmic rays and supernova that could have stripped away the atmosphere, oceans, and life in an instant. Something about our planet has made it an ideal place for life to evolve and one day contemplate its own existence.

I refer a quote from Star Trek: The Next Generation, where the ‘Q’ entity is teaching Captain Picard yet another lesson. Q transports the captain back in time to a primordial hellish Earth. As volcanoes spew lava all around them with a bleak sky overhead, Q kneels down and dips his hand in a pond of a thick oily substance nestled alongside a massive rock outcropping.

Q says to Picard, “See this? This is you. I'm serious! Right here, life is about to form on this planet for the very first time. A group of amino acids is to combine to form the first protein.” Picard squints down as if he can actually discern this activity.

Q continues, “Strange, isn’t it? Everything you know, your entire civilization, it all begins right here in a little pond of goo.”

Out of all the theorized habitable planets, it could be that 99.99% which have life’s signature only ever produce goo. Earth may be the end result of a grand natural experiment tucked away in a quiet suburban corner of the galaxy. We should feel lucky to have won the cosmic lottery. Let’s find out what those winning factors mean then for the rest of the cosmos.

A Letter of Encouragement to a New Era of Community Leaders

Over the last few years we have seen a renaissance in online community roles with their inception in the game industry at the birth of the Internet. The field has been building ever since into a truly recognized profession. Today, we are seeing an explosion in the need for entire community teams, and this isn't just for large scale MMORPGs. Having a face to the company is needed in today's world for any game that has an online presence.

A letter of encouragement to future community leaders...

Are you hoping to make a profession out of the passion you have to bring together a game's community, or build further your career that is already established? I have good news for you then! I've been talking with a lot of new community leaders that are seeking advice on how to get started, or what to watch out for when jumping into the field. I thought it time to write some of my thoughts down on the subject. I hope others will chime in to share their perspectives as well.

To ensure I'm not leaving out any related roles, such as social media strategists, e-sports managers, forum moderators, community managers, and all the other titles involving the community, I will lump these under a single term for the sake of this article – community relations. Another article will be needed to better define what these other roles are about, and how they relate to each other. Since I am a community manager, I will of course be using my perspective for these points.

Achieving a successful career path in community relations is as enjoyable, and also challenging, of any game industry role one can undertake. Most of the time it's a rewarding adventure that makes you feel like you're truly building that dream job. Even when it gets 'interesting', the proverbial coffee tap fed through an intravenous line is usually no more than an arms reach away. You learn new things and meet new people all the time, which helps in bringing fresh ideas to the table for building community content.

Get excited, as this is just the beginning...

Do I sound excited? I am! You should be too, and here is why.

Community teams get to interact with both the players and the developers. You are the conduct of communication for these groups. You get the chance to learn from the developers about upcoming content that the community hasn't seen yet. Once the community reads all about it, they will get excited and share it on fan sites and other portals dedicated to your game. The developers love seeing this activity, and take notice of those community members that produce it.
Dishing out the good news is of course the exciting part of being a cheerleader of sorts for the company. You will also come across many instances of issues and concerns the community brings up that make you think carefully about how to respond or take action. Should that dampen your excitement at looking into this career? Not one bit... it's worth the effort. Have a thick skin and don't take things personally. Keep that in mind and you're already tempering half of the concerns you'll likely come across.

While you should get excited that community relations is a solid career option, know that its expectatons and potential are different from QA, Customer Support, and other related fields you may consider. It's as important of a role as any other, but it isn't always as easy to jump in on an entry level basis. When you do find your footing though, it will open up a great expanse of potential for you to explore higher level roles, such as moving on to production or senior level options.

You may already have an idea on which school to get a degree at, which social networks and blog tools to use to show that you can type as well as you speak, and which company will offer the most immediate benefit and prestige with an entry level position. I bet some of you even have everything listed in a notebook and ready to implement or build upon as soon as you finish reading this post.

Get excited and have those notes ready, but first and most importantly, have you considered... you?

Being a community leader is not just about other people...

What matters more than all of the things you can write down on your resume is who you are and how you manage yourself. Over my career, I've seen great community managers rise and fall on the drop of a mouse click because their expectations conflicted with the type of role they commanded. I've also seen community managers fit with their team and community like peanut butter and jelly because they had a great personality, knew what to expect, and had a proactive focus on the job at hand.

A bit of a disclaimer is in order here before I rattle on further. I'm not a psychologist and shouldn't be offering advice on what will work best at home and outside industry influences to shore up one's 'self'. I'll just plant the above thought of focusing on this important aspect.

Now we can move on to the juicy career related details I can talk about in confidence.

Don't be afraid to sparkle...

Why can it be a challenge to get a community related career started? Partly because we are unable to present our work as upfront as you can with many other fields. Take artists for example. If you are a budding artist, with a little luck it can sometimes take just that handful of masterful concept pieces to get you in the door. This is similar to a programmer with great code, a designer with a playable map, a writer with readily available stories, or any other tangible asset. Displaying amazing visuals goes a long way in the impressions department.

These entrancing visuals also ties into the self in other roles like community relations. Personality, intelligence, proactiveness, and all that other good stuff is extremely important to a company hiring you. The difference with these other roles though is that it's not as often tied as closely to the public and a game's player base. I'm emphasizing being a nice yet strong willed person because it really is part of your job to be a leading face of the company in the eyes of the community.

Your work (and success) is in working with people that won't have room to be featured on a resume that a headhunter can easily call to learn more about you. Regarding what to list on your resume then, don't just slap down a bunch of references, games you've played, forums you've posted in, and proudly proclaim that you're a community manager because you've learned how to press the big red ban button. It's not that simple, but it most definitely can be done. Experience takes time and will come from a few different angles. Just keep in mind that all angles lead back to you as a person.

Baby steps... try these three first:

There are three approaches that stand out to me as straightforward and worthwhile options, though there are many others that may work perfectly well for you:

1: Volunteer to write for news outlets. You can also become a moderator in the outlet's forums or chat rooms. The idea here is to get your face visible to any game communities that you can. You have to show that you are capable of working with other people, especially online gamer crowds. Share and blog about content released by your favorite product/game in these communities to add a little bit of power to your presence. Working with other communities is a good step in eventually building your own.

2: Start a fansite or become a gameplay streamer by starting a channel on sites like Twitch, UStream, or YouTube. This latter possibility may be easier to setup, and is becoming a hotbed of interest in e-sports communities. Simply get noticed by the developers for talking about the game. This can work out better than you might at first expect. At every company I've worked at, we tried our best to take notice of the more vocal community members that made an effort to build the community for others. They get noticed, even if it takes time for them to realize it. You can get noticed too, especially in indie game communities that are just getting started.

3: Get to know people in the industry. Schmooze. I attend conferences and other networking events as much as possible, even if it's expensive to get there. Consider yourself lucky to be in a city with events going on year-round. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, and Austin are the top five in the U.S. game industry. Sometimes it's as simple as being a nice person and landing in the right place with the right person whom happens to be looking for a community manager.

In this last example, have your business card ready! Ask for theirs discreetly by presenting yours. If you are lucky enough to meet a prominent developer, play it cool and don't present your business card until the moment feels right. This is either after an initial conversation has concluded when it's just you and them, or if it's part of a group discussion you walked into. In the latter case, present a card after someone else offers up theirs. There are almost certainly others in the group ready to do so.

Your Swiss army knife of skills and tools...

With all of that said, I know you still want to know what tools, resources, and tangible abilities you need as a face to the company. Here is a brief list of what I think is essential to know. While this list comes from my more recent experience in the game industry. Many others industries share similar points, should you wish to focus on an industry closer to home.

Knowledge of and experience in using:

  • The product the community you expect to manage is using (duh!).
  • Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and all those other social networks.
  • Website forum and news software from Wordpress, xenForo, Invision Power Boards, or vBulletin.
  • Basic HTML/CSS for website updates and crafting of news announcements and sending out campaigns through services like MailChimp and ConstantContact.
  • Photoshop and other basic image editing programs to add that little extra spice to a social network post you thought up that very morning.
  • Streaming and video recording software like Fraps, XSplit, Open Broadcast Software (OBS), and interacting with Twitch.TV chats.
  • Communication and organization tools, such as: Skype, Toodledo, Outlook, video software and networking apps.
  • Production tools to keep on the same page as the rest of the team, such as: Confluence Wiki, JIRA, Trello, and Basecamp.
  • Analytic tools from Google, Facebook, and services like Jive and Ninja Metrics.
  • Support tools and services, such as: Zendesk, Assistly, Alchemic Dream and Metaverse Mod Squad.

Ability to:

  • Communicate effectively! Especially online when you're interacting with the community, or amongst others at the office and during industry events.
  • Encourage others to become involved in the community... be a people person!
  • Moderate the moderators, which includes both paid and volunteer.
  • Develop regular community activities, such as contests that drive retention and growth (this may be shared with marketing if you have a larger team).
  • Take flak for when there is a problem. You are the community's outlet, so have a thick skin and pause before responding and taking a comment personally.
  • Work in tandem with the developer and community to keep everyone on the same page for community expectations. You are not only a face of the company in the eyes of the community, but one at the office as well.
  • Have just as thick of a skin when needing to lay down solid rules and guidelines that all (including your team) must abide by.
  • Say 'No' to the community in a positive way without lying or being deceitful. Also, don't let a concern by the community go without a response for too long!

Obviously there is a lot to learn about if you're just getting started. Don't expect you have to know all of them out of the gate. Some companies won't need a particular tool or service. Try these out first if your team doesn't have a solution at hand. If they don't work for your situation, there are always alternatives to consider!

If I could turn back the clock, I wouldn't. I love being a community manager so much, that I spent my afternoon writing this article about it. I really hope you will stand up and help our small segment of the industry to reach new heights. As I've said before, you will be noticed, and needed!

Now tweet to @mathewanderson that you're working on that community portfolio :). You can also chat me up at mathewanderson.com.

Do aliens cry?

To reflect on tonight's season finale of Cosmos, I wonder...

I wonder if aliens, should they exist, are like us at all. Then again, they might be more like us than we would think possible--perhaps uncomfortably so. Eyes have independently evolved six times on Earth, so aliens somewhere probably have those to see all the stars high above in their skies. Maybe we meet somewhere in-between biologically, as depicted in so many science fiction stories. While nature has her restrictions, it also shows incredible variety of depth.

Do aliens go to school, grow up, get jobs, have a family, and then retire? Are there streets that extend for miles through vast cities like ours, where they can walk endlessly to ponder their own existence? Are those streets lined with the inevitable consequences of civilization's engine, such as clothing shops, grocery stores, banks, schools, and prisons? Do they laugh during the good times, and mourn with each other during the bad times?

Take a look up at the night sky tonight and count the stars. If there are none to be seen, imagine for a moment thousands of them turning on and off over millions of years, like a never ending ocean of lighthouses.

That's our Universe breathing.

Are those the lucky few stars that have life filled orbiting planets, tucked away in whatever far off rural safe haven this vast cosmic ocean is capable of generating? Do those civilizations go through all of the trials and tribulations that we humans have struggled through and triumphed over for eons? What hopes and fears do they share with us, or have that we could never have imagined to befall such fragile conscious creatures as ourselves? What are their worlds really like...

Do aliens cry?

I wonder, as it may be the only thing we'll ever be able to do for them. I know that with my knowledge of physics, astronomy, and practical reason, in all likelihood our civilizations will never meet. And yet, all civilizations are holding back tears for each other in a vast ocean that never ends. We are the wakes of ships passing in the night, never to experience each other's interests. We just see the dim light of our stars briefly shine for a few billion years as we dance together around the center of the galaxy, only to burn out after just a few rotations.

If there is life elsewhere in the Universe, isn't it worth both shedding a tear at the idea, and in celebrating that a place like our world could exist, and perhaps may just do so in countless other locations? Will we ever meet and defy the seemingly impossibility of swimming through an ocean of harmful radiation and other unseen icebergs that extends for eons? If we come to the conclusion that we are alone for all practical purposes, would that change the way we think of ourselves on the only planet we know can support us? Would it change us otherwise?

What is objectively true about our shared existence is what matters in civilization's end game. The long history of Earth's roaming bands, tribal groups, and eventually great civilizations like the Roman empire came close, but not anywhere near our own. For the first time in our planet's history, we have the opportunity to complete a monumental quest in discovering alien civilizations. It should be about learning how they navigate life's turbulent currents, and perhaps even to understand their deepest thoughts in reasoning their own existence against the backdrop of it all.

No, I don't think we should cry. Instead, we should be excited that we have the ability to at least make the attempt to find life elsewhere with guiding shows like Cosmos. The ultimate achievement in any species should be its ability to discover and learn from what nature provides us, what it doesn't, and to be intellectually honest with each other about those conclusions. All of that despite our deepest hopes and dreams, because that shared quest in itself is what's worth living for.

I only shed a single tear in comfort that alien life is probably reflecting the same as we are today, as it did long ago, or perhaps will millions of years from now.

Let's find out.

- Mathew Anderson, Community Manager and intrepid Cosmos explorer

A new community adventure begins

This month I began a new adventure in my career. After working at Petroglyph for an amazing five years, I've moved to Houston to work at Six Foot as a community manager for an upcoming game.

It wasn't an easy decision, as Petroglyph is such an incredible studio to work at. The founders are extremely considerate about your time, and the team is amazing in their work. Many of them come from Westwood Studios and have over 25 years of experience in the industry. I learned so much just absorbing discussions during meetings, milestone updates, and chats around the coffee pot. The studio is quite open to its employees, something that's rarer in this industry than it should be.

It can be difficult to accurately describe what a place is like to work at, so a couple of years ago I put together this 8th anniversary video that I think summarizes the work environment and offline culture at Petroglyph nicely:

Reflecting back, I recall the first week on the job was tasked with rebuilding the community website in preparation for several projects we were working on, including a few board games. Actually, me being the inquisitive type, I just dug in automatically with further needs quickly became apparent. Studio tours, press meetings, and other PR and marketing work were all needed.

Months later with other projects well underway, we began working on a community plan for a MOBA game, the first major IP owned online game by the studio. I didn't hesitate to lead the community facing needs for that project. Since the team was small, it was also great to work with the producer and others directly. There was minimal red tape - a let's just get it done kind of project.

When preparing community plans for a game release, I love talking about the characters and other gameplay content. Seeing the community's reactions, both positive and critical, make me smile with joy. Here are a couple of other videos I put together for the MOBA mentioned above:

It's interesting how studios seem to have a wide range of sensitivity toward the importance of someone maintaining their game's communities. Petroglyph saw that continued need in 2009 when they hired me. I feel just as fortunate to have been picked up by Six Foot this year to continue my work. EVERY company that has an online presence should have a community manager, or community team to lead and grow their online presence. It's a must!

While community managers should focus on their core discipline -- managing communities -- having an understanding of other skills can be invaluable to a project. This is especially true at smaller studios that don't have the resources for a wider marketing team. A community manager there can learn a great deal about how to start a community. You discover all of the intricate systems that go into making a community foundation solid and capable to be built upon, such as:

  • Web development with HTML, CSS, PHP, and adding SQL databases
  • Building social media pages that link to each other via RSS feeds
  • Building videocasts, dev diaries, and other developer facing features
  • Promoting early access phases on press and social networks
  • How to coordinate with community leaders to build fan sites
  • Filtering analytics from services like Ninja Metrics and custom tools
  • Building images and promo banners through programs like Photoshop
  • Analyzing community feedback for the devs with tools like Zendesk

And just as importantly, knowing when to ask others on the team for advice!

In such a constantly evolving industry, we don't often get a choice when or how we want to move forward with our careers, as various forces tend to push us one way or another. I look at my current situation similarly, but in all the right ways that make it worth pursuing. Petroglyph is an amazing studio with people that are focused on their passion. I couldn't have been more happier there, but things must move forward when it makes sense for a change.

Early this year I had to ask myself, “Just how do I best move forward?”. It's an important question everyone should be asking in their careers on occasion. Are you where you want to be?

Since I give my career such weight in my life (some say too much and that I should run to the hills to find a likable someone before it's "too late"...), I end up being very dedicated to the place I work at when a transition does take place. Fortunately, Petroglyph and Six Foot both have been fantastic at helping to make this transition possible. It's a unique situation and one that I wouldn't dare turn down. If you see an opportunity along your career path, take it!

So, this is my next adventure. I'm a little disoriented, extremely excited, and very much relieved to have everyone I've connected with over the years as mentors, guides, and friends. They check my sanity to make sure I don't walk straight off a virtual community cliff, at least without a parachute :).

I can't wait to show you what game I'm working on now! It should make a lot of more sense then as to why I chose Six Foot...

Looking back at a successful 2013, and forward to a hopeful 2014

Every year I look forward to the holidays and heading home to the family back in Wisconsin. It's the time of year where one eats way too much cheesecake, but also where everyone opens up presents in grandmother's living room. What better present in itself could one hope to have? It was a good couple of weeks with the family, going by far too quickly as always.

I look forward to the new year and what opportunities it will bring. Before we know it, summer will approach, another birthday will occur, more games will be purchased (and hopefully played) and the holidays will be as close as they were a year earlier. There is always something to be looked forward to then, so start your 2014 shopping spree now :).

Hope everyone had a happy holidays and will have a prosperous 2014! Game on...

A fun little fan art project

I love games from the family-friendly Monopoly board game, to the dark and gritty Hello Kitty Online Adventures (kidding). While my work and passion focuses on Real-Time Strategy (RTS) and Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games at the moment, I get a lot of excitement out of others genres as well, such as the core of my career in Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG). Turn-Based Strategies (TBS), First-Person Shooters (FPS) and Simulation (think SimCity) are other favorite genres.

As a community manager at work and a guild member at night, I can't stop creating and sharing content for these games I am having a joy at playing. I don't have enough fingers to count how many upcoming games I am looking forward to, but three in particular are striking my fancy with one I had recently created a fan art piece for, Shroud of the Avatar:

After taking awhile to get around to getting into the game again, I've been playing Starcraft II and Diablo III. I am also highly looking forward to Sony Online Entertainment's EQ Next MMORPG. There are others, but this is a blog, not a diary :).

So many games, so little time!

Attending the Largest Game Guild Conference in the World

I recently wrote a post on Gamasutra about my attendance to the yearly guild convention, SyndCon. The convention is put on every year in a different city by the MMORPG gaming guild, The Syndicate. They are the only guild that I know of that has lasted over 15 years and have a consistent member base of over 500 players between Ultima Online and World of Warcraft.

I've attended the last three conventions and am a close friend to many of the guild members. While I am known by the game name, 'Berek', they prefer to call me by my last name, 'Mr. Anderson'. It's stuck for good I think to my place in their history. In getting closer to the guild over the years, I finally made the plunge and officially joined them in a right of honor at SyndCon 2013.

Visit Gamasutra to read the entire blog post and my experience at the guild convention. If you want to learn more, you can signup to the guild at llts.org.


Revisiting China four years later

I had the opportunity to visit China again after nearly four years of being away. While the visit was work related and not to the city I stayed in last time, it would still be a great opportunity to really understand if I ever wanted to return long-term. I would be visiting Shanghai for the game event, ChinaJoy, to write about it for my Events For Gamers website that covers all sorts of game industry events.

Upon arriving in the Pudong airport, I suddenly had this giddy feeling about me. I quietly whispering to no one in particular, “Yep, smells like China.” The smell wasn't bad of course, but just unique enough to recall it from my past trip. The next thing I noticed was that I had no immediate concerns or curiosities about the surroundings, having apparently lost that air of mystery when traveling abroad the first time. Even walking the city streets felt like a walk in the park back in Vegas. Been there, done that, romance over... at least for now.

If you are interested in how the event went, you can read about it at Events For Gamers.

After the event it was time once again to head across the Pacific back home. A year of being abroad, especially when it's your first time, not surprisingly gives you a great urgency to return to friends and family you hadn't seen in that time. Having to pay $1,700 for that return flight and quite vividly remembering the experience gave me the same exact sense of urgency to get back before trouble had a chance to set in, not to mention I seemed to be quickly coming down with the flu. It looked like I wasn't about to pay $1,700 for the flight home, but possibly just as much to stay overnight for another couple of days in some mysterious Chinese hospital, which consequently would demand I purchase a ticket anyway for the flight I missed.

Fortunately none of that happened, except for the additional night stay paid by the airline. We were on the tarmac waiting to take off when the captain came on and announced a "minor" delay (which ended up being three hours long) in taking off while the Chinese airlines got priority to fly out. It was a busier day at the airport than usual. Sensing the plane moving again we managed a few corners on the tarmac and then the engines suddenly shut off.

Damn... that close to taking off.

The captain came on again and announced a mechanical issue with the aircraft. It would be a few more minutes to get the tools to fix it. At this point in 90 degree heat inside of the aircraft and coming down fast with the flu, I began to doubt my decision of returning to the country. Several more minutes passed as everyone kept asking for water that was quickly being depleted. The captain once again came on and announced that we would have to taxi back to a gate because the tools had mysteriously gone missing.

Oh shit.

At this point we were simply glad to get off the broiling aircraft. To no one's surprise as I watch nearly everyone roll their eyes after the airline apologized for the additional delay, we waited in the airport for another hour as we started to form small groups to discuss which hotels were preferable for an emergency overnight stay that was inevitably going to occur. As if on queue, they announced a rebooking of the flight for the next morning and a hotel voucher for that night's stay. I sprinted full tilt down the hall toward the voucher counter to ensure I got that free hotel room, got in the room and collapsed for the night. I prayed for the flu to subside before the next flight. Did they check at the customs checkpoint for sick people? Was I going to show up on some sick-o meter and be banned from boarding the aircraft?

The next morning and not feeling any better, thoughts on the medical scanners were forefront in my thoughts as I pushed the luggage cart back to the same terminal and got my new ticket for another aircraft in supposed working order. Wheels touching down in Las Vegas 16 napping hours later and feeling quite a bit better, I ran to the nearest burger joint and ordered a double whopper with an extra slice of cheese.

I smiled and took a deep breath, whispering to the hamburger in my hands, “Yep, smells like America”.

What are the ways you interact with your community?

For the Rise of Immortals community team at Petroglyph, there are four primary methods we use to communicate with our community - 1) Website/Forums, 2) Game Interface, 3) Chat/Social Networks, 4) E-mail

The website/forums is number one in importance simply because it provides both short-term and long-term communication. You can post a news announcement valid for that specific period of time that anyone can reference repeatedly through a common link, or something that can be archived for review months later.

The game interface is next in importance because we can post news directly on the launcher, in-game ad sections, and send updated messages to those that are playing a game at that time. The downsize is all of these areas, particularly one-off messages in chat are time sensitive and mainly only apply to that moment. This is why I place it second in importance, as you can always regurgitate news via the website/forums.

Then there's all those social networks, excellent ways to spread the word about an announcement after it has been established in the game and main website/forums. Just as important are tools like Skype which we use constantly for those one-off messages and more personable discussion between community leaders. Skype is excellent for active group chat.

And last is e-mail, used sparingly every week or two for key announcements consolidated through newsletters. The best way to reach older community members that may have drifted off to another game. Use this to give them a friendly reminder at how awesome your game still is, especially after that last game update announced in the previous methods.

From previous discussion on LinkedIn.