Origins

Origins

I’m going to tell you a little story today.

It won’t take up that much of your time, but it’s not WoW related.

I get often get asked this question from real life friends and contacts in game.

“Matt, how did you get your job and get to where you are? What did you do?”

If being a Community Manager or a gaming journalist or some other related position appeals to you, then take a read. I’m still learning on how to be a great Community Manager myself. Believe it or not, you may already have a few skills that align with community related stuff. You don’t have to represent a gaming company or some website. If you’re a blogger, you have your own community reading about your thoughts. If you have your own podcast, your community is listening in. Managing a guild? That’s a community of your own.

For today, I wanted to offer you a brief outline of a path that I took.

Here’s a full list of my responsibilities (Professional and otherwise):

Birth of the blog

How the heck does a Criminology major go into writing about video games?

This was the summer of 2007. There weren’t that many WoW blogs around at all. Of the few that I ran into, most were limited in content. I wanted to read blogs about raiding and how to be better at the game. None of the ones around at the time were enough to satisfy me. That’s when I decided to start my own blog. I managed my high school’s website for three years so I was familiar with web publishing and writing (I overhauled the site from standard HTML to a PHP driven backend which took weeks of effort).

Blogging is not easy.

There is no way I can stress this enough. Expect to spend hours going from idea to content to headline to promotion. I would go to bed at 2 AM and start hauling ass next morning at 8 AM so I wouldn’t miss the bus for school. I kept a little moleskin notebook which I used to write down ideas and thoughts. I’d scope out the news stands and quickly scan magazines. I paid attention to what headlines caught my eyes and what made me want to read them and applied it to my posts.

What’s the point of writing an awesome, lengthy post if no one’s going to read it? Give them a reason to read it. Make the title stand out amidst a sea of “How to Spec Your <class>” or “Best in slot list for <character>” or “My adventures in <zone>”. Having an attractive headline pays off dividends.

Actually, read this article on how Forbes stole an article from the New York Times and grabbed a nice share of the page views. I don’t literally mean steal content. The right title will pique curiosity which will then in turn cause potential readers to view your post instead of skipping over it.

Lesson 1: Vow to make some kind of impact. The end game of my blog was to teach and help players improve. This blog was never meant to appeal to the world and server first audiences.

WoW Insider

The first real shot at the spotlight came when WoW Insider asked directly for my contributions to the Priest column. Someone over there was impressed enough and I’ve been with them ever since. For the longest time, our class columns were mainly class columns. I felt really bad about Shadow Priests because I genuinely had nothing to offer. This was offset since we further branched out to roles within classes. Later on, I moved to contributing to Raid Rx. Dawn and Fox Van Allen took over the Spiritual Guidance (Priest) column.

What helped me were these factors:

  • Writing regularly
  • Having ideas
  • Style

Writing regularly: I tell this to every new blogger who has ever asked me for advice – Bloggers who don’t blog aren’t bloggers. If you don’t blog or have any content, then you can’t really call yourself that. You can write a post a week, three a week, or write daily. It doesn’t matter. You set your own pace. There’s a fine balance between writing too often and overwhelming readers (like me) or writing too little like once a month and losing regular readers. Once a month is way too little. Writing three or four times a day is overkill for you as a person. Unless you’re producing a news and content blog with multiple writers, you will get overwhelmed.

Having ideas: People ask me how they can come up with ideas. You have to change your mindset by saying there’s no such thing as a bad idea. The reason why writers have a hard time coming up with stuff is that they have such a high standard built in and believe that no one is interested in their material or that some other writer beat them to it.  Any bad idea can be turned around into something that people want to read. There’s a ton of sites with posts about ideas and inspiration which you spin into a WoW theme. Any idea you get, no matter how dumb, you can write it down. Approach it from a different angle. There’s multiple sides to every story. You can figure out what slant to take.

Style: You can be conversational. You can be professional. You can be all artsy. You can write with a Canadian accent, eh? Whatever your writing style is, make it you. This isn’t academia. You’re not writing for a journal. You’re not writing a paper. You’re allowed to write a little loose and inject some personality into it. Don’t try to pretend to be some alter ego because you’re not going to have fun.

So have fun!

I have so much more I could teach you about the topic of blogging. I’ll mess with it and add  more later on. Maybe turn it into a regular weekly thing. Who knows?

Launching the Plus Heal Community

When we first started, there was a whole team of moderators. What I wanted was to create a place where healers could go specifically to discuss techniques and get help for different parts of their game. In an ideal world, they would be able to post their questions and discuss different aspects of a game where they couldn’t be ridiculed or flamed for their contributions (or lack thereof).

If managing a community is something you want to do, you need to just go for it. It wasn’t easy. You need to have some support staff to help you out. You have to find ways to promote discussion and growth. Someone’s got to draw up a set of rules and guidelines. Don’t be a jerk can only go so far because everyone has varying definitions of what a jerk actually is. Not only that, you need to lay out consequences for different violations. What constitutes a warning? When does a post get deleted or lock? Under what circumstances would users get banned?

Now the fort’s being held down by Gryphonheart who’s doing a damn fine job. Anna recommended him highly. I will never forget the day when she suggested that I give him a shout about it and will always be eternally grateful for her endorsement.

Lesson 2: If you actually want to be a community manager, having proof of a community you started is good start. Don’t just sit there. That other guy competing with you for the job might have the degree or the piece of paper. Remember that nothing beats actual experience. It’s an ever evolving lesson in interacting with community members. You’ll learn about moderation and setting rules, when and how they should be enforced. Managing a community means just that. It’s not as simple as sitting back. You have to get your hands dirty from time to time which means being polite to people you disagree with and laying the smackdown on people who are being trolls.

If you’re not willing to take action, then it’s not the job for you.

Alas, the healing community’s been split for a while now and everyone’s got their own different, dedicated class communities.

First foray into print

During the summer of 2009,  Dan Amrich got in touch with me to contribute two articles to the World of Warcraft magazine.

It was my first time dealing with print publications because I’ve never done anything like that before. I mean, we’re in the digital age now! Print’s not exactly dead yet but in the age of iPads and computers, information’s steadily moving over to online distribution. The pressure and stress isn’t quite there when it comes to digital platforms. But when you’re working with print, the fact that what you’re writing needs to get edited, copy edited, fact checked, page designed, then shipped really weighs in. You can maybe get by with an extension or so but that article needs to get in or else you’re toast.

Lesson 3: Nail those deadlines. I have an up and down streak when it comes to deadlines. Sometimes I’ll ace them easily. Usually, it gets down to the wire. It’s a nasty habit I picked up in school and it continues to be something I struggle with now. For me, the biggest igniting factor wasn’t the money. It was the off chance that impressing someone with connections might lead me to something better down the road.

When the editor in chief of a fairly major print publication asks you if those deadlines are okay, the correct answer is yes. You better find a way to make that happen. Making a good impression goes a long way.

Dan is now Activision’s Senior Community Manager. I have the following quote stapled to a board.

CMs are coming from two areas right now: long-in-the-tooth game journalists and superfans who prove themselves on official forums. More companies are getting the value of having someone dedicated to addressing their fans and critics. […] I would look for games or developers you admire and see if they already have a CM. If not, start leading by example.

The man has a point.

Whatever happened to Criminology?

To put it plainly, I got discouraged. I was getting depressed with what I was learning about. That spark that was in me those years ago and the desire to do something that could cause positive change? I just gave up. When you repeatedly see and hear situations like this from police:

Too many times I’ve responded to a domestic assault where the victim claims she fell down.

Too many times I’ve found a stabbing victim surrounded by a crowd of witnesses who claim they saw nothing. And too many times I’ve been snookered at the door of a shelter, a needle exchange or a supervised injection site by a staff member who claims my presence makes their “clients” feel uncomfortable.

I’ve never seen so many people who simply accept their role as victims. And I’ve never come across so many people who are willing to just turn, walk away and allow people to be preyed upon. It’s shameful. I don’t know.

It didn’t really sit well because I’m not sure I could get involved with a profession that seemingly does not make a real, meaningful change. Ethics? Justice?

How can you help people that don’t want to be helped?

How can you do change people who don’t want to be changed?

How do you help that Mage who is doing less DPS than the tank but is so blindly convinced that they’re at the top of their game?

You’re on the outside looking in. You know there’s a problem. You have a possible solution. But you can’t do anything about it. That’s what eventually got to me.

As much as academia goes, I’m considering going into project management. As much as I’m interested in marketing, I’m not smart enough for that (insane math skills required). Journalism? No chance I can get in there either. Communications is ridiculously difficult to get into.
I can’t seem to find a school or program in my area that deals with Community related stuff because it’s such a new field and all that.

With Enjin, the duties and responsibilities are more my thing. Getting to head down to events like Minecon and PAX, talking with developers, and users from different games and genres is a thrill. Can’t say for sure what’s really appealing but, it’s a foothold in the industry. Much of my time is spent creating newsletters, spotlighting communities, thinking of new tools and services for guilds and clans. Have to set aside parts of the day to supervise and moderate forums, but I don’t mind.

Like being a GM, you need to pay attention and spot conflicts before they become conflicts. Intervene when it’s necessary and appropriate. Having guidelines and rules that scale are practically a must. You do need to remain flexible and agile (and it doesn’t hurt to have someone to call really late at night in case the ultimate worse case scenario happens). You can’t just rely on Twitter, Facebook, and the like. It’s not enough anymore. There’s elements of image perception and controlling how the brand is perceived. Having a really diverse vocabulary because word choice matters. You can say the exact same phrase in a flaming, derisive manner or the exact same thing in a polite, understanding manner.

As they say in after taking lethal damage to kill your own guild’s leader:

Worth it.

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About Matticus

Matticus is the founder of World of Matticus and Plus Heal. Read more of his columns at WoW Insider. League of Legends player. Caffeine enthusiast.

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