Well I have been managing a FPSMOG group called LRS-HQ.com which, right now, is focusing on COD4 and COD5 WaW game titles. The main challenge we had was keeping people around in the beginning. Many of these communities run on donations and that is often the weak spot of the communities over all health. Well I set this group up with a few things that set it apart and keeps it healthy 5 years later.
After watching other communities I noticed that the only vested interest the players had was their stats against other players on hosted servers. Usually communities are managed by the person that funds them. That tends to lead to frustrations by the members who would like to voice an opinion but see it squashed by the person funding the website, forums and servers. So I decided to make our group an 18 and up only group. That you have to meet certain requirements to get voted in by elected leaders called council members but once you are voted in there are no minimum time requirements of time.
Next I made it harder for people to just walk away by offering up different areas in which players could volunteer to improve their experience with the community. I had the group vote to make our group dues based to fund the operations of the community. It makes it harder for people to walk away; it makes the group have a more exclusive feel, and provided for a more stable financial situation where you do not have to hammer on members for donations month to month.
Once money issues were taken care of, a group of leaders were established, rules were created and voted on by the group, administrators elected to monitor the servers and moderators added to help with the forums the community stabilized and grew. We created match coordinators to help increase server traffic and awareness of our group amongst the larger communities. In addition we created recruiting positions where people would get dues paid for if they recruited members that were voted in.
The big hurdles today are more along the line of the game being played and the service offered by the publisher of that game. Our original game was discontinued from the publisher and left thousands of players stranded who played that game around the world. It was a major test of our community.
That was when I realized that people join the community for the sake of the people and that the game is just a common bond and “excuse” to hang out. Similar to when I was a kid and my parents played bridge at the neighbor’s house. It was the companionship not the game that they enjoyed. Same goes with most communities I would think.
Our community is so strong that we take up donations for members going through hardships, we share computer equipment with others so that they can move up to the newer games and look at ways to invest back into our group in efforts to keep it strong. We have people leave from time to time out of frustration of the game and that it’s not played like they want it to be but 99% come back because they miss the people.
It’s like that old show Cheers. If you were Norm on Cheers and started going to another bar where “everyone didn’t know your name” how would that feel? Maybe you left because the beer was cheaper or better at the place down the street but you didn’t have that feel or vibe like the old place.
I believe the goal of a good community manager is to constantly look for ways to improve the community, offer opportunity for involvement, and moderate conflicts. Another piece of the puzzle for gaming communities is usable content. I found that if I can go out and find all the files, tools, etc that are needed by the players and add them to our downloads section it helps keep them “home” and not at other sites. I believe that site traffic and server traffic are intertwined.
The people that volunteer to admin our servers always encourage guests to visit our site so that we can capture their data and invite them back. We work on recruiting to help grow the group and lower the over all costs by increased head count. Our method has areas for improvement but works much better than the majority I have seen over the years.
I hope this helps garner a little insight into what I believe creates and maintains a healthy online gaming community.