Community: A Start
I’ve got a lot of little topics today, but the first I want to address is the idea of improving community. Spinks suggests that it could be done by making content easier. Tobold doesn’t think so. There’s a lot of back and forth about it, so I wanted to throw my answer in the ring for consideration. Before we can talk about how to improve a community, we first need to agree on what makes a community in the first place. I think I can sum it up in two words:
To have any kind of community, you need common ground. This can be done in a multitude of ways. Physical communities share a physical space, a literal “common ground.” College communities share “school spirit” or “love of academia.” Gaming communities share the game. So we need to start with a common ground, and, frankly, that right there is where we run into problems. WoW provides a lot of common grounds now – too many, perhaps. Wow’s become so diverse to increase the play opportunities that many micro communities, or subcultures, are springing up, and the result is what it always is when communities share a proximity: conflict.
The largest, most sweeping conflict is also the most obvious: the hard core gaming community conflicts with the casual community. Making the game easier would seem like a way to bring the casual gamers onto the “common ground” of the hardcore; they could, at least, talk about raiding. It’s not that simple, though, because the “common ground” that binds the hardcore community together is the struggle against difficult odds, the constant battle with numerical margins – a tiny more healing, a smidge more dps, a few more cooldowns blown; allowing others to experience raiding with simplified content, then, wouldn’t create any common ground. In fact, it would likely make the hardcore resent the “pretenders” to raiding.
How, then, do we increase common ground in WoW? I’ve got bad news. You can’t. With so many diverse options – this is just off the top of my head – hard mode raiding, casual raiding, LFR raiding, heroic dungeons, regular dungeons, general achievement hunting, pet battles, battlegrounds, rated battlegrounds, arenas, gathering, crafting, farming, dailies, there’s too many people for a single community to contain. Dunbar’s number – between 100 and 230 – is the average maintainable size of social relations. Each community, then isn’t going to get much larger than that. Consider the size of our little “blogging community.” I’d be willing to bet the number of readers you interact with and blogs you read comes out to about that. Consider also the implications of a blog growing; often it means less responses to readers and less time to read other blogs. As your personal community grows, the volume of interaction outside your personal blog shrinks.
WoW’s not much different. You may know a lot of people through your guild, but it’s not likely you know a ton of people that don’t share a common ground with you. The guild may be one. Maybe you know some other PvPers or raiders on your server, probably even other pvp or raiding guilds, but you hardly know everyone. We’re simply not built for it.
But that’s not really an answer, is it (man I hate tag questions that read like statements but require a question mark)? Okay, here’s what I’ve got. Let’s start with a story I read in Made to Stick, a compelling book about why some ideas succeed and others fail. It’s a good read, if a bit “obvious” if you’re in a job like mine where you have to make ideas stick all the time, but even then, it provides a vocabulary to talk about those ideas. That’s beside the point, though. Here’s the story, poorly relayed in short form.
A bunch of coaches noticed that their kids’ sport games were being polluted by bad sportsmanship. They couldn’t really figure out how to get back to good sportsmanship, though, because the term had been so overused as to become nearly meaningless. One finally figured out the core of their message, though, and it’s become the mantra of the Positive Coaching Alliance, a large non-profit organization that’s sprung up as a result of its success: Honor the Game.
It’s not about individual behavior, then, it’s about a community spirit that respects the enterprise that brings us together. It’s a common ground that everyone in WoW can share, because it’s simply about respecting the spirit in which WoW was formed. I have no idea how we can better communicate this message, of course; I’m no marketer or psychologist. But it’s a start, if nothing else.
Speaking of starts, one of my other pieces of news is that Stubborn is being leveled, slowly but surely. He’s specced and about 1/3rd of the way through Jade Forest. I’m enjoying getting back to my roots, to stealthy, silent kills and lots of kitty roaring.
Additionally, the collaborative project that Tobold and I are working on has really taken off. We’ve cherry-picked some ideas from those submitted and are working on a general story arc. We’re getting into the early encounter planning stage. I’ll write a whole post on it as we work through that stage. So far it’s been extremely fun to be planning D&D adventures again, something I used to do on a weekly basis, and Tobold’s been a great partner to collaborate with, providing ideas and insight and being wonderfully responsive to my constant deluge of questions and concerns.
Lastly, I feel I have to be fair and tell you about Dell. I wrote before about their ridiculous hiccups and poor customer service. It got worked out, sure, but it was still a grand annoyance over nothing. Because I’ve been very happy with my computer, I decided to get the same model for my wife for her birthday. It came in on time and we got it set up, and 16 hours later it died and wouldn’t come back on. Now, to be fair, that irritates the hell out of me, because that first 16 hours was a lot of work downloading, installing, and whatnot, which will have to be replicated. HOWEVER, since I was very critical of the custserv last time, I wanted to be fair and say I got the best Dell customer service I’ve ever had when I called. The guy actually let me (i.e. instructed me to) take apart the computer piece by piece and test various systems myself. Everything I’ve heard in the past has been “don’t open the box or it’ll void your warranty, but this time I got to do what I like to do: experiment.
After removing component after component down to just the motherboard, we decided what I’d suspected all along, that it was a simple power issue, not a component issue (the alienware don’t have an on-board power box; they have a power cord with a box on it, like an Xbox, so it was easy for me to test that it wasn’t the “power source” by switching the cables from my computer to hers). Either the on/off switch is screwed up, or, more likely, the power system itself is flawed. So I’m getting another one. It’s annoying that it failed, but at least I feel like I was treated as someone with SOME computer knowledge, and it makes a huge difference. After all, doctors who get sued aren’t more or less intelligent or accurate in their diagnoses; the doctors who get sued are the distant, cold ones who treat patients with condescension and disrespect. Doctors who treat people like human beings, friends even, hardly ever get sued. Imagine that – how you treat people matters!
Stubborn (and all over the place the last few posts)