Ask me anything. I don't bite.
Best part: meeting people in person and sharing their passion - for the game, for whatever they're into.
Worst part... hard to say. Not because there's lots of worst parts, but because some days one thing is the worst, other days it's something else.
I will say that often the worst parts of a community manager's job are not caused by the community or by themselves. :)
It's hard but it's not impossible. I like to think I'm smart enough to know which folk are just interested in the game and which are actually friendly towards me as a person. I also think I have a pretty good sense about who is 'creepy' and who isn't.
Generally speaking, by the way, very few people are 'creepy'. People are often different than the norm, but so are we (although arguably, not so much in today's geek saturated culture). I try to always remember that whenever I talk to someone, especially as generally speaking I'm not that much different from them myself.
You might just be looking at the last few years - then again, perhaps your definition of a long time differs from mine! In the games industry (and previously in the internet or journalism industries) anything above two years is generally seen as a 'long stint'. Before 2008, I had three jobs that lasted about 3-4 years each.
Since then, two things have usually happened to move me onto a new job - one, I find something else that I want to do, and two, I get laid off. The latter is depressingly frequent in the games industry and I'm never been the only one affected.
The former is what you're asking about - knowing when it's 'time to go'. In most cases that's going to be entirely personal. Generally I have started looking when, for whatever reason, I've felt that things are not going to progress much further along my own career track at that company. In the last few years I've been lucky to go to a few companies who've wanted me to join them. It varies.
Easy part first: there's one opportunity I really, really wanted and didn't get - but it was outside of gaming. I got down to the final rounds of being Editor of Total Film magazine in the UK, in something like 1996. My life would have changed quite a bit if I had gotten that job!
As for dealing with adversity, you talked about rejection and about changing jobs.
Taking rejection first. Rejection is an unfortunate and often frequent part of life for anyone who's looking to break into a creative industry of any kind, whether it's games or movies or TV or comics or whatever. There are never enough jobs to go around.
Everyone deals with rejection differently. The first thing is, you have to accept it's going to happen. It's going to hurt every time. But then you'll apply somewhere else and go through the process again.
If you can't do that, then you'll never break in. The world is full of people who try things, fail, and never try again. If you try, fail, try, fail and try a few more times you're already ahead of them and more likely (just by the law of averages!) to succeed.
In other words, the difference between success and failure is usually hard work. Luck is a factor, but not as big as you might think.
Apart from realizing that you just have to keep plugging away, one thing I would say is, it's vitally important to learn from your rejections. While sometimes you can be rejected by a company that just doesn't 'get' why they should hire you, often they have really good reasons. Here's the tricky part: they often won't tell you what those reasons are (and they have very good legal reasons to not do so, so don't ask!). So, you have to figure out your failings by yourself. You might fail at the application stage (get relevant experience, write a great cover letter), you might fail at the interview (practice, practice - but know you won't always 'connect' with people), you might fail at a job-related test. There's also the very real and frequent possibility that you just weren't the right person for the job. When that happens guess what? Apply again elsewhere. Sometime, the wheel will spin right for you.
Changing jobs isn't that hard, if you're the one who decided to change. Moving from one position to another is generally a step up and forward, so I don't see that as adverse. Changing jobs because you were laid off is very tough. That's really the ultimate rejection. Really though, in the end, you do the same thing as you do when first applying.
Moving? That's tough too, believe me. Ultimately in my opinion you've got to remember that home is where the heart is. Good friends go with you no matter where you move to. And that there are interesting people and fascinating opportunities everywhere you go in life.
I haven't been convinced of that in a long, long time.
Sadly, I think the project is dead. However, many of the original development team are still hard at work and are trying their best to get funding for a similar kind of game - Squad Wars. Check their website out here: http://squadwars.endgames.net/
Hey Torley, I'm afraid I don't think I have a copy anymore... maybe buried on a laptop somewhere. I'll look for it when I have a chance and if I do find it, will be happy to post it.
If we take my time 'in the biz' to start from when I worked for AOL, as I did recently, then I've lived in London, Brighton, San Francisco (well, just outside) and here in Austin.
It's tough pick. I'd say from last to first place though, probably London, SF, Brighton and Austin. All are good in different ways and I have great memories from everywhere I've lived.
Yes and no.
First thing to realize: you're obviously not 'gaming' when you're working. Working in gaming, while a lot of fun, is a lot like a lot of other office jobs - it just tends to be more lively and the end product is a lot cooler. So, you don't spend time at working playing your game, unless that's part of your job (and even then, most of the time no-one is really playing for fun).
Now to the 'yes' part of the answer. Yes, I still enjoy gaming in a wide variety of different settings and platforms. I play games quite a lot (although I do plenty of other stuff too). I'm always happy to play something good whether it's on console, mobile, PC or anything else. I also play quite a lot of boardgames too.
Sometimes though, because you're more aware of how games are made, you can get annoyed by games in different ways to other people. You can have a shorter tolerance for games too. That can break your 'immersion' and bring you out of the game, which is unfortunate. That's when you stop enjoying it.
Doesn't happen too often though. :)
If you have more specific questions be glad to answer them.
Gordon Freeman held down a job before all hell broke loose at Black Mesa, right? That. :)
Just like 'breaking into' Community Management, I sort of moved sideways, and again it's partially a tale of 'who you know'.
Of course, it also depends on what you define as being 'in the industry'. If you define being 'in the industry' as working for a publisher or developer, then I 'broke in' when I joined Sony working on PlayStation.com. However, personally, I don't define that as the moment for me.
For me, I 'broke in' when I went to AOL in the summer of 1999 to work on their Games channel, because that's when I went from playing games to reporting on them professionally.
I was moving sideways from magazine journalism. A year or so earlier I'd met people at AOL UK - widely regarded then as a 'school of hard knocks' for internet content producers - and I'd help them build an official channel on the service for the magazine I worked on (PC Pro). After I made those contacts, a year or so later, a friend there said "Hey, you should come work for us on the Games channel." I interviewed and I got the gig.
At the time, the Games channel was very much in flux. I came in and revamped it, basically making it into an editorial destination, which was my forte then. I learned a lot about coding and internet content in a very short period of time. The channel grew, I got to review a lot of games, I went to E3, and I got loads of abuse for not saying The Sims was the greatest game ever made. (I think it's good, but for particular reasons that people didn't agree with.)
AOL merged (or bought, depending on who you believe) with Time Warner in 2000, and I decided to move on then. About a year or so later after some time freelancing, I ended up going to Sony and taking on PlayStation.com. If you take 'working for a publisher' as the official first time that you break into the industry, well that was it.
In both cases - AOL and PlayStation.com - I got the jobs because I had the skills to do them. You might be wondering where the skills came from. Well, I could write and edit when I left university, but four years on a magazine honed those skills immeasurably. When I came to AOL I learned about content management systems, coding and management, to a certain degree. All of that set me up nicely to work at PlayStation.
Beyond all of that, however, it's important to realize that I basically wanted to be a magazine journalist from when I was about 14 - and then after I made that happen, the internet, being new and exciting, seemed like a next step. It's always important to try and keep yourself moving forward, to learn and grow, and that will generally lead to good things.
I am no economist, at all, and can't predict the future either. That said, from a common sense perspective...
In a recession of any kind the first thing to get cut in anyone's budget is going to be luxury items like entertainment. People want to spend less at the movies, on eating out, shopping and of course, games. With the average price of games quite high it's easy to look at a monthly budget and say "Let's get rid of those $60 purchases".
It's obvious from sales figures released earlier this year that people are buying less boxed copies of games, but then, that's not the whole story. While they're buying less boxed copies, they're spending more on digital items - and people who are thrifty (like me, as it happens) they're looking for value there. I'm positive we're seeing an increase in DLC an in the popularity of Steam / Origin sales because people want bargains, even more so now. The money's still there, although there might be less of it, but people still want to play.
As to when it'll recover, well obviously, that is tied to the economy itself. I think the vaunted 'next-gen' of consoles is going to cause a boost, but if I was Sony/MS/Nintendo I'd be very, very worried about launching new hardware in this economy - people are not going to be anxious to spend that initial big amount. I think that's also why free to play games are already thriving and will continue to thrive, especially those that can offer an 'AAA' experience while still maintaining good cash-flow through painless transactions.
I'm sure the games industry hopes that things will recover in 'months' but I'm not honestly sure they'll ever get back to, say, the glory days of PlayStation 2 / Xbox. With the growth of social games, F2P MMOs, cheap digital product and DLC, people will squeeze more entertainment from their wallets every day. Those habits are hard to break.
Read this for my story:
I cannot imagine what a course would teach you. Most people I know in Community got into it through either being a fan, or coming from a similar area like journalism, PR, marketing, customer service.
To get in 'cold' my best advice is to start a fansite. You'll learn a load of things about the 'job' of community management from handling your own forums, blog, etc etc.
I sort of half-fell, half-pushed my way into it. Crucially, when the opportunity presented itself, I was ready. Here's the details.
In 2004 I was working at PlayStation.com in London, UK and was relatively happy, yet at the same time didn't feel Sony was willing to really take risks with their strategy in communicating with players. We had Forums, but we didn't really interact there. I ran the editorial content for the website, but it wasn't really based around two-way interaction.
Then I read a book called The Cluetrain Manifesto. It posited a striking idea: markets are conversations, and therefore marketING is about conducting those conversations. Hence, conversations are marketing, in a way. What they were talking about was community management, essentially.
At the same time I was starting to play City of Heroes for the first time, and I could see immediately the sort of possibilities that could be available to anyone who worked on that game to communicate with fans. Being a huge superhero nerd helped too. I toyed with the idea of making a fansite, but a good friend of mine suggested that instead of doing that, I tried to work with the company that made the game.
Then, a lucky break. I read a press release about NCsoft setting up a European subsidiary, which mentioned the name of the CEO. Luckily for me I happened to know the PR person who wrote the press release, so I cheekily reached out to them and asked if I could be put in contact with the new CEO. He got me the email address I needed.
I polished my resume (or CV, as we'd say in the UK) and sat down to write my cover letter. To me, a cover letter is absolutely crucial to land a job if you're applying 'cold' (These days, I often know who I'm applying to in person), so I worked on it a long time (about half a day solid as I recall). I had my wife read it, my brother (who's a great writer) and so on. I really packed as much weight as I could into one page. But it wasn't enough.
I needed something extra. So, I wrote a document entitled "NCsoft should talk to its customers, because its customers want to talk to NCsoft". Clumsy, I know. Underneath the heading I listed out why gamers want to interact with the companies they're giving money to, and why it's important for companies to want to do the same.
I sent it, along with the cover letter and resume. I hoped. I got worried. I hoped some more.
Eventually the phone rang; it was NCsoft Europe's new CEO, who wanted to meet me. We got together, we chatted. He was very casual, I was very nervous. We met again with his new COO, who after we talked, suggested he wanted me to handle not just the 'content' side of things (ie, NCsoft's websites) but also the community.
Obviously, I said yes.
When I started at NCsoft the CEO brought me to his desk and pointed out a piece of paper he had stuck to the wall - my own 'manifesto', as it were. He told me it had really struck a chord with him.
I firmly believe I got that job because I knew without a doubt that I could do it well, and that what I was evangelizing was actually important for the business. That's what I wrote, and that's what helped me get in. There was luck there too, but ultimately if you really want something... you've just got to go and get it.
Nope. They might be disappointed with the answers, though.
Hey, considering I responded to your comment elsewhere, here's an expanded version.
Experience is easy to get. Getting paid is harder. In other words, if you really want to do something, and no-one will pay you for it - do it for free. If you can't do it for free, then the truth is deep down... you never wanted to do it anyway.
That's a very philosophical choice of course but it's one I strongly believe in.
Bottom line: do what you love and eventually someone will pay you for it.
(And I'm not sure but if you're asking about applying to the SWTOR team in Ireland, there are no open positions there right now I'm afraid.)
I am very bad at tracking when games are coming out. I tend to suddenly realize they're shipping like, the week before.
That said, recent stuff that's caught my eye... SimCity (reboot, whatever) is a must play; Guild Wars 2 (if only for my peeps at ArenaNet); Assassin's Creed 3, yah, enjoyed 2; NFS: Most Wanted (will play whatever Criterion does); Firefall (enjoyed Beta); everything I've funded on Kickstarter.
I'm really bad at future games though, as said. I just take them as they come, really.
I also have a huge pile of currently unplayed games so I'm never left wanting for something to try.